Coalition Fights For Open Space In Region

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A movement to protect ravines, gullies and canyons in the Reno area from development and preserve open space is gaining momentum.

"For southwest Reno, this is about the only open space left," said Lori Wray, a southwest resident leading the cause.

Backers recently won the county's support to list the Rosewood Canyon and Rosewood Wash in southwest Reno as top priority for obtaining grants or other funding for buying drainage routes.

And the City Council recently made preserving drainage one of its top two planning priorities for the year.

"To save the drainage ways, we need the county's help to find ways to purchase what's left," said Wray,

The push to save the last gullies and canyons is one of several grass-roots efforts that have sprung up in the last year to preserve access to open lands around the Truckee Meadows.

Janet Carson and more than 100 volunteers are working to link 40 miles of trail this year for the first phase of a bigger plan to create a Truckee River bike route from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake.

The Washoe County Backcountry Coalition is working with the county to keep all public roads open and create a law requiring new subdivisions to dedicate land for trail heads to access public lands.

This new activism is much more organized and regional in scope than past efforts among residents pushing for more open space, said Bill Whitney, the county's open space planner for the past 10 years.

"It's just awesome," Whitney said. "There's always been a push and urgency to save access to public lands. What's happening right now is more of it is in the forefront."

There are several forces behind the new activism.

As more Californians move to Northern Nevada, they bring their expectations with them.

Carson and other volunteers are retiring baby boomers, who now have the time and energy to devote to their favorite cause.

Carl Adams, of the backcountry coalition, came here from the San Francisco area where frequently visited the open coast or headlands north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"We came to Reno because of the public lands," he said. Then he said he found they were all locked up.

Cindy Adams, not related to Carl, is a lifelong Reno resident and another supporter who has a different reason for wanting to preserve the ravines.

"Native Nevadans are tired of seeing an ugly town," she said. "We want to see open lands protected for future generations."

And Chris Henry, a geologist, said the race is on to preserve these sensitive lands before builders gobble them up.

"Reno is booming. It's absolutely astounding how many people are moving here," Henry said.

As housing prices have shot up, building is now profitable in canyons once overlooked because of steep development costs.

In some ways, the region is ahead of its time in preserving open space and behind in others, said John Hester, Reno community development director.

For decades, rural southwest residents have fought to preserve a stretch of foothills from the Mount Rose Highway to Reno's southern border for wildlife and people.

The Protect Our Washoe group is struggling to put the last piece in public hands - the Ballardini Ranch. Whitney said the Reno-Sparks area is rather unique in being surrounded by public lands.

And after 10 years of planning work with federal officials, the value of that land has been recognized.

Last year, the county rezoned 194,000 acres of federal lands around Reno and Sparks as open space, meaning it won't be developed, mined or sold.

Wray, Cindy Adams and others also credit elected officials in efforts to boost the quality of life, which also is good for recruiting business.

"You can fight city hall," Wray said. "They are listening to the community. It's an amazing time."