Officials discuss details of proposed state park

Heidi Bunch
Mineral County Public Works Director Eric Hamrey looks on while Nevada Division of State Parks Administrator Eric Johnson explains proposed uses of the Rafter 7 property at a public hearing last week in Hawthorne.

The Mineral County Board of County Commissioners met with Nevada State Parks to discuss the proposed East Walker River property acquisition.

Nevada State Administrator Eric Johnson presented a slide-show with an answer and question period to only a handful of Mineral County residents at a public hearing on April 25. The Walker River State Recreation Area encompasses the following ranches along the East Walker River: The Pitchfork, The Rafter 7 and The Flying M ranch. The units will be managed as four different parcels.

Johnson stated that the proposed area is relevant to Mineral County. The area encompassed over 20 miles of open river for public access as well as 12,700 acres of land that could be developed into a state park.

The history of the three properties was discussed. The Pitchfork, The Rafter 7 and The Flying M ranches were all purchased by Nevada Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), from willing sellers, solely for water rights for Walker Lake. With this project, NFWF will contribute $5.2 million dollars to help with the stewardship of the land, granted if the legislature grants a budget for the park.

Maps were shown for the areas of proposed recreational ideas including full hook-up camping, primitive camping, handicap access to the river, canoe landing areas, off highway vehicle camping and trails as well as sites for weddings and retreats.

The Nine Mile Ranch was discussed with emphasis on the ranch house that was damaged when three earthquakes ranging from 5.5 to 5.8 magnitude rattled Mineral County. The ranch house, known to be the oldest standing building in the county, could be repaired if this conveyance goes through, to the tune of $500,000. The idea would be to repair it sooner, rather than later, and turn the building into an interruptive center. The area around the Nine Mile Ranch also contains areas used by the Bi-State Sage Grouse. The area would be used for primitive camping, off highway vehicle use on the existing trails.

The Flying M Ranch main compound area was purchased with the condition that a “life estate” clause will be in effect during Baron Hilton’s lifetime. The area has an airport, cabins, a motel and a trap shooting range. This property will not be developed at this time due to that clause.

A dot exercise was used on map after the presentation to determine what activities, recreation and amenities that members of Mineral County would like to see developed.

Commissioner Garth Price asked about impact to the county budget. Johnson stated he doesn’t see a large impact on the sheriff’s budget due to the rangers being placed in the areas already.

It is to be noted that this proposed park is still in the dream stage until the Nevada State Legislature passes a budget. Those who have questions may contact Johnson at 775-867-3001.

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