Thursday, November 20, 2008

BLM Land Sales Down in Nevada; Developers say no to top dollar auctions

Southern Nevada Land Management Act, which governs land sales by the Bureau of Land Management, say land sales down so park funding tanks.

Bureau of Land Management isn’t selling, so funding for parks tanks
Local governments request less, shift focus from new projects to renovations

Las Vegas has asked the Bureau of Land Management for $4.2 million for improvements to the park, near Lake Mead Boulevard and J Street. A complete refurbishing would cost $7 million, which is not in the picture this cycle.

By Mike Trask

Tue, Nov 11, 2008 (2 a.m.)

Steve Marcus

Sun Archives
Lawmakers celebrate land act’s 10th anniversary (10-23-2008)
Bureau of Land Management reorganizes (9-30-2008)
For years, Southern Nevada has developed its expansive parks with proceeds from the sale of federal land to developers hungry to build sprawling housing tracts.

The more we expanded into the desert, the more money from government land sales was set aside for parks.

But with the real estate market tanking, developers are no longer asking the government to put its land up for top-dollar auction. There’s just no demand for it.

And as a result, the stream of money for parks has turned to a trickle.

Look at what’s happened over the past two years.

In early 2006 more than $461 million was awarded to municipalities for major park projects, in accordance with the Southern Nevada Land Management Act, which governs land sales by the Bureau of Land Management.

Next year that amount will likely be less than $10 million.

The act allows counties and cities to ask the BLM to sell parcels at public auction if developers are waiting in the wings. The proceeds are then used to fund parks and trails projects. Since 1998, the process has funded more than $3.2 billion in major public projects, including $1 billion for parks.

In anticipation of the next round of BLM funding next year, municipalities nominated their projects in October — without knowing how much money will be available.

“The BLM is very vague,” said Connie Diso, a Las Vegas project engineer. “They said as high as $10 million and as low as $5 million.”

The four major local governments — Clark County, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson — have nominated $11.2 million worth of projects for the next round of funding.

The local projects will compete for funding with projects in Lincoln and White Pine counties.

The BLM has stowed $57.6 million for future allocations. But it’s unclear how much of that will be used for parks and trails.

The money is also used for the acquisition of protected land, capital improvements, conservation initiatives, Lake Tahoe restoration projects, the proposed Ivanpah Airport and an education fund.

Local governments have revaluated which projects to focus on, aiming mostly to renovate existing parks.

“The big dream projects are not so much the target,” Diso said. “Now we’re able to focus on some of the smaller details and address some of the smaller projects.”

Las Vegas has received more than $245 million over the past decade. This includes $49.4 million for the Las Vegas Water District’s Springs Preserve project.

It is asking for $4.2 million to renovate Doolittle Park near Lake Mead Boulevard and J Street, add a trail head to the Las Vegas Wash Trail at Marion Drive and Harris Avenue, and add markers and kiosks to regional trails.

The Doolittle Park request is for only one phase of planned improvements. Completely refurbishing the 18-acre park would cost more than $7 million.

North Las Vegas has received $154 million in funding since 1998. It nominated only a pair of projects — both small park renovations — totaling $1.5 million for the next round of funding.

The city is asking for $985,000 for improvements to Walker Park and $600,000 for renovations to Eldorado Park.

North Las Vegas is working under the assumption that about $8 million will be awarded.

“There’s definitely a concern that there is such limited funding and how long it is going to continue,” said Michelle Menart, a park planner for North Las Vegas. “We’ve tried to tailor our projects to what we think we can get. The reality is that there’s not enough funding for new park development.”

It’s the same elsewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.

Clark County has nominated $4 million worth of projects. The county wants $561,750 for new restrooms at Sandy Valley Peace Park, $839,000 for improvements to Horseman’s Park near U.S. 95 and Flamingo Road, and $947,430 for a restroom at Hollywood Regional Park along Hollywood Boulevard on the east side of the valley.

Also, the county is seeking $739,000 for improvements to Boulder City’s Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park and $1 million for a second phase of Mesquite Regional Park.

It’s far cry from the $69 million used to acquire the 1,200-acre Warm Springs Ranch in the Moapa Valley last year.

“We’ve been fully aware of the limited budget for quite awhile,” a county spokesman said. “As with all grant programs, we applied for multiple projects and are hoping for the best.”

Henderson has received more than $235 million since the program started. This year it is adjusting expectations, asking for about $1.5 million for two projects: improvements to the River Mountain Loop Trail and construction assistance at Paradise Pointe Park on Horizon Ridge Parkway.

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