Closing Nevada state parks difficult in most cases
Tribune News Service
MINDEN, Nev. – It would cost almost as much to close Nevada’s state parks as it would to keep them open.
Nevada Division of State Parks Administrator David K. Morrow said attempting to mothball the park system would cost $2 million the first year and an additional $1.4 million a year if the state didn’t just abandon the parks.
Morrow said that under the governor’s budget proposal, state parks would receive $3.1 million in the first year and $3.2 million in the second to operate.
“It costs half what it costs to operate them to keep them closed if you don’t walk away,” he said.
While the state plans to pull its support of the Dangberg Home Ranch, there isn’t much else to cut, Morrow said.
That includes Mormon Station State Historic Park in Genoa and Lake Tahoe State Park, located at Spooner Lake.
He said studies have shown that state parks generate revenue beyond what they raise in fees.
“When you look at public parks in Nevada, you have to look beyond what they generate in revenue,” he said. “Very few park systems generate revenue, but they do have an economic benefit to the state that is often overlooked.”
Morrow cited a 2003 study that showed that state parks generate $62 million a year in revenue thanks to tourism,” he said. “If you look at it, that’s 20 times the value that parks bring to the economy. Even if you question that number, if parks just cost half what they contribute to the economy you’re still way ahead.”
Morrow said the state parks department has taken some substantial hits over the past few years and finding places to cut has become more difficult.
“We’re down to the point where we’re hanging by a thread as an agency,” he said. “In the last few years our budget from the general fund has been reduced by 60 percent. When the last round came about we were down past the point where we could reorganize our way out of it. We’re down to where we can’t afford to run what we’re running.”
Parks officials examined the entire park system in preparation for the latest budget process and looked at each part to determine who owns property and what the cost of mothballing it would be.
Morrow said they came down to Dangberg and Lake Lahontan.
“But at Lahontan, the Bureau of Reclamation stepped up with $250,000, so that helped,” he said. “That left Dangberg and a couple of other sites.”
The state leases the Dangberg Home Ranch from Douglas County. Another factor was whether there were any grant assurances connected with the property.
Nevada has taken federal conservation funds raised from off-shore drilling for years for outdoor recreation projects.
“The state park system gets a percentage of that,” he said. “But the downside is that it encumbers the park for perpetuity. If the park’s closed then the state might have to repay that money.”
Morrow said Dangberg was not encumbered under that program, which made it more susceptible to closure.
“The crying shame is that the ranch has the potential to be a very valuable site just from the standpoint of the history of the Valley,” he said.
“The history of water use there predates the water law in Nevada. It has the potential to be a significant tourist draw. I’d hate to see it sold, or turned back to the original owners, but I don’t know what we can do. There’s no money.”
Morrow said the state parks will work with the Friends of the Dangberg Ranch in an effort to rescue the property.
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