Keeping Up With Henderson

Photos Courtesy of the City of Henderson

With 57 parks and counting, and at least six parks and trails projects under way or nearing construction in Henderson, Nev., residents and officials in nearby parks and recreation agencies are scratching their heads wondering where the funding comes from. Over the last few years, Henderson has relied on two primary sources—the federal government and developers.

To date, the city has been awarded more than $238 million for 35 parks and trails projects. The funding was received from the Bureau of Land Management through the sale of public lands as authorized by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA).

SNPLMA is unique because it sets a standard for cooperative conservation, providing for the sale of certain federal lands in Clark County and for acquiring environmentally sensitive lands. SNPLMA has two purposes:

  1. To promote orderly development in the Las Vegas Valley

  1. To decrease the impact of urban growth on national recreation areas, such as Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

When specific public lands are sold, funding is set aside so local agencies may submit projects for funding consideration. Project proposals must be detailed and fit within SNPLMA’s stringent parameters.

Examples of projects that might qualify for SNPLMA funding are conservation and environmental-education initiatives on federal land, and the development of parks, trails, and natural areas in the county. Funding cannot be used for any other purposes or projects.

Henderson Cashes In

City staff has been quite successful in receiving SNPLMA funding for several projects, including some of the newest and most popular parks, such as Hidden Falls Park, Reunion Trails Park, and Cornerstone Park. This funding has allowed the city to keep pace with growth, even when the economy slowed, beginning in 2008.

When SNPLMA funding is granted, it comes with specific criteria, including a detailed account of how each dollar is spent and project updates to ensure a community knows what it’s getting. Each project also has a funding expiration date; failure to complete a project on time means a return of funds. Henderson officials use this criterion to determine the order that parks and trails projects will be built.

Under construction, SNPLMA-funded projects include the 11-acre Horizon Crest Park, which will feature public art, a playground, a basketball court, and a dog park. The park, which costs $4.5 million, is expected to be completed in summer 2013. The 5-acre Terrazza Park will feature a playground and a basketball court, while nearby Mountain Lake Park, also on 5 acres, will include bocce ball courts, a playground, and equestrian hitching rails and horse bibs.

Cornerstone Park, completed in May 2013, sits on 100 acres and includes a 31-acre lake (not intended for swimming), lighted basketball and volleyball courts, walking trails, exercise stairs, large pavilions with a catering kitchen, which can be reserved for special events and corporate functions. Funding of $16.4 million was received for the project. Future phases may include trail connections and a dog park if funding, perhaps through SNPLMA, can be realized.

SNPLMA-funded trail projects under construction include Amargosa Trail, improvements at Pittman Wash Trail, and the Lake Mead Parkway Trail and Wetlands Trail connections. These trails represent important components of the city’s extensive trail system, which currently totals more than 80 miles.

The Turnkey Trend

While the majority of the city’s newest parks and trails have been funded through SNPLMA, the first turnkey park since 2009 was recently opened. Turnkey parks are based on development activity, so the addition of Avellino Park in January 2013 is an important sign that new home construction is on the rise.

Developers can opt to pay a residential construction tax or build a turnkey park. If they opt for turnkey, each new neighborhood has a threshold for building permits, and once that threshold is reached, the developer must begin construction on the park. Turnkey parks bring tremendous value to the developer as well as to the residents. New parks give developers a strong selling point for their new neighborhoods, while new residents have a park within walking distance of their homes.

Turnkey parks must meet the city’s stringent park-construction criteria (e.g., building practices, products used, types of amenities offered), and city staff works closely with developers throughout the construction process. Once a park is complete, it is then dedicated back to the city and a grand opening celebration is held for the community.

Avellino Park is a good example of how the turnkey process works best. The builder, Ryland Homes, understood the importance of not just building a neighborhood park, but building one that neighbors would embrace. The 5-acre park includes amenities such as a basketball court, a walking course, an exercise course, a playground, and covered picnic shelters. The park is now heavily used by neighbors for picnics, fitness, and fun, and is a useful selling point for new home sales.

A second turnkey park is set to open soon. Built by Beazer Homes, the 14-acre Weston Hills Park near the development features a playground, lighted ball fields, a basketball court, tennis courts, a dog park, and an open grass area.

While there are other potential funding sources, SNPLMA-funded and developer-built turnkey parks continue to enhance the Henderson community. With the support of city leadership, city council, and especially the residents, the objective of having a park, trail, or recreation facility within a half-mile of most homes is well within reach.

Kim Becker is a Marketing & Communications supervisor for the city of Henderson Public Information & Marketing Department. Reach her at kim.becker@cityofhenderson.com .