By Ryan Middleton

Special to The Ely Times

Ryan Middleton photo
Ely Mayor Melody VanCamp says signage is the city’s biggest obstacle to growth.

Great changes can be expected for the city of Ely in 2017 and beyond, said Mayor Melody VanCamp.  New signage, improved infrastructure, new fire department equipment and more activities to bring new life to the area.

VanCamp recently sat down with The Ely Times, along with her two dogs, at her shop “Sew Krazy.” She spoke of bringing in tourism and new residents to increase revenue and population.

She enjoys the weather. “The weather doesn’t bother me, but I like [that] it’s so peaceful and calm and it’s nice. There’s so much to do. I think the only time between the nice weather and the cold you’ve got a point where…it’s too cold to kayak, you can’t bicycle ride and there’s no snow to ski…You’ve got that lag there…but…there’s always stuff to do around here.”

She mentioned the Rotary Fishing Derby during the first week of January, the Fire and Ice Sculpture at Cave Lake during the third week of January, the Bristlecone BirkeBeiner Ski Race, big game hunting and the TransAmerica Bike Trail.

She said the biggest challenge facing Ely is signage. Nobody knows what Ely has to offer. Nobody knows where they are coming in to. “We’d like to be more of a destination than a place to stop, get gas, grab something to eat and go forward…We have a lot to offer for the tourists who wants to stop and stay a few days.  I think the biggest problem we’ve had—nobody knows about us. We’re not out there for people to get the facts about what we have to offer. But we have no signage. I have been beating that drum to death this past year.”

The biggest issue about signage (besides money) is to convey the necessity of signage, particularly to those in the service industry. This includes the hotels, motels, restaurants and convenience stores. They will be able to share what is available with their customers and guests.

As businesses boom and tourism grows, cost of living may go up. It’s also important to ensure affordability for service industry workers. Infrastructure must be in place to handle the increase in tourism. VanCamp said the most major thing about building the infrastructure is repairing the roads.

“In 2017, we’ve got an new county commission, which will put the county in a new and better direction. We are also getting a new tourism and rec board…Thank you, thank you, thank you for those folks that have served on that board forever; but forever has come to an end. We want new eyes, new ideas, new thoughts…new people.”

If she could wave a magic wand and get whatever she wanted for Ely, Van Camp responded that all the roads would be fixed. Also, that the new tourism board will bring in new ideas.

So, what’s in store for Ely in 2017? She said there will be more signage and a jumpstart to tourism. There should be something going on every weekend. Downtown and City Hall will get a facelift. Starting in 2018, DOT will redo Great Basin Boulevard and Aultman Street with better parking, bike lanes and stop signs. There will be a greenbelt around the city. Storm drains will be redone to remove Ely from the flood plain. The fire department has a new ambulance, and will have a new fire truck in the near future. Fire Chief Ross Rivera declined to comment on the fire truck, but details will be forthcoming.

Tony Berendsen of Tahoe Star Tours will also be doing star tours at the Great Basin Observatory.

Ryan Middleton is an Ely-based freelance writer. His writing can be viewed at

For more information:

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail

Bristlecone Birkebeiner Ski Race

Great Basin Observatory

Tony Berendsen, Star Guide and Poet