Bill proposes creation of Clark County Off-Highway Recreation Park

A proposed Clark County Off-Highway Recreation Park came one step closer to becoming a reality Aug. 2 with a bill introduced by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

The “short” title of Senate Bill 1475 is the Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act of 2011. As a congressman, Heller introduced the Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act of 2009 (H.R. 765), which didn’t become a law before the end of the congressional session. The new Senate bill continues the process.

As written, the bill would carve 1,000 acres out of the 10,000-acre Nellis Dunes Recreation Area, currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and hand it over to Clark County to create an off-road park. The newly created recreation area would become the largest park in the county.

The Nellis Dunes are an open area with few hard regulations on off-highway vehicle uses. The county park would provide several tracks for specific types of vehicles, along with parking for riders and observers, viewing areas and restroom facilities. There also would be a hard-surfaced road leading into and out of the park that would be usable by all vehicles.

“The passive use areas would remain unchanged,” said Mike Popp of Clark County Comprehensive Planning. “The active-use area would provide opportunities for pay-and-go on a track particularly suited for their needs.”

An advisory committee that includes representatives from off-highway vehicle groups, the county, the city of North Las Vegas, Nellis Air Force, the BLM and environmental groups has carried out the planning and shaping of the county park.

“We want people to be able to use the area as they have for years,” said Terri Robertson, vice president of the Friends of Gold Butte.

“We don’t want the new park to detract from that.”

In the two years since the congressional bill was introduced, some slight changes have been made, but the basic plan remains the same. One major proposal that went by the wayside was a large expansion of the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area north of Las Vegas Boulevard.

The area bordered by Las Vegas Boulevard, Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is part of land that extends well into the Nellis Dunes that was annexed by North Las Vegas in the early 1990s.

The most recent planning map includes three paved parking areas along Las Vegas Boulevard and three sections the BLM plans to cede to Nellis Air Force Base.

“One section is to clean up a border, and another provides an added buffer between a live ord nance area and the public,” Popp said.

“The third area is actually a section of the Nellis Dunes and another piece of property that isn’t a part of the dunes which is right under their flight path that they’ll be able to more closely regulate.”

An additional 200 acres adjacent to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a proposed economic support area that would be used for off-highway vehicle support services and facilities.

“The plan is to make the project cost-neutral to the taxpayers,” Popp said. “Money would come from the economic support area and track fees.”

While Popp said that the project doesn’t have any major detractors, the initial proposal met with resistance from some members of the off-highway vehicle community, and there are some who doubt the scope and intent of the county plan.

Popp is set to present the county’s plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Friends of Gold Butte monthly meeting in the Mesquite Community Theater at 150 N. Yucca St. in Mesquite.

“The room is open at 6 for conversation,” Robertson said. “There are several off-road groups in Mesquite that have a misconception that the bill would close the dunes. We are hoping to change their minds.”

For additional information, visit clarkcountynv.com.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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