A Public hearing was held at the White Pine County Commission meeting Wednesday to determine the final ranking of Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act projects.
When all was said and done, the commission prioritized park projects downtown and on the south end of town that would be linked by trails.
Several members from the community who were seeking priority for particular projects were in attendance for this portion of the agenda.
The county commission was requested to re-evaluate and make final rankings of the proposed projects according to Elizabeth Frances, the director of financing.
“They are looking for larger projects and have asked us to consider expanding our scope. So, we reopened this round of projects so people can resubmit their projects,” Frances said.
Mark Bassett, director of the Nevada Northern Railway, was asked to speak first.
“When I first took over as president of the railroad, we were on the verge of some of our buildings collapsing,” he said. “When I was asked about the McGill Depot I had to ask where it was. I went to McGill, and discovered the depot was on the verge of becoming a pile of rocks. Through another program, we have been close to stabilizing the building.”
Basset noted it is desired to put the track back in service to McGill. “The history of the railroad has served as a transportation system for the county.”
The Star trains just last year went from five trains to 18 trains a year after being featured on national television human interest newscasts.
One of the portions to the railroad’s proposal was to relocate a train depot from Currie, Nevada, to the star pad area by the industrial park area. “Sixty percent of the people in the U.S. don’t have the view of the stars like we do, we could install restrooms, educational and presentation areas, and make it the star center,” Bassett said.
Bassett also explained having a trail riding area that is parallel to the track. Currently, several ATV and other off-road vehicles are utilizing the dirt area alongside the train, causing life safety issues. A trail would provide further varieties for tourist and local outdoor recreational activities.
This project has an estimated value of $8 to $10 million for the first phase, and $12 to $16 million for the second phase.
The second presentation was a collaboration. Kyle Horvath, executive director for the Tourism and Recreation Board, spoke before the commission.
“I feel this is very exciting, the project itself, has the ability to change the look and the feel of the function of Ely and White Pine,” he said. “We are in a good time right now where we are faced with a lot of expansion for businesses, housing and regardless where your loyalty is for the expansion, is that the area south of town, where that Love’s gas station, the judicial center, power is where a lot of new growth is going to grow. The other truth is that the downtown is going to be the other center of economic development.”
The collaboration of the two projects, downtown and the park in the south end of town, will link the two together by trails, whether it was for walking or riding a bicycle or all terrain vehicle.
“I think the main one we need to realize is that any property next to a park raised the property value by 20 percent.” Horvath said.
Mike Wheable, district attorney, also spoke in support of the park project.
“I have a letter in support from the Ely Shoshone Tribe,” he said.
Wheable explained the reason he felt so strongly for this project to be considered.
“Leading in development, economic development and changing the culture of our community in a post mining era,” he said. “We are trying to diversify our economy and increase development and invest in our communities so we can survive over the next 100 years.”
It was suggested to doing something radical in the community to change the culture, which includes changes in appearance.
It is reported that about 10,000 people drive through White Pine County every day from north to south.
Wheable said, “What’s the first thing people see when they drive into town? Not much, they see a gas station, dilapidated buildings. By putting these two parks together, into one project gives SNPLMA exactly what they want, a large comprehensive culture changing project that emphasizes trails, green space, culture and completely changes the look of our community coming in.”
Several letters of support from local residents, the White Pine County School District, the Ely Shoshone Tribe were included in the park proposal.
Wheable said, “I’m being blunt, you come into to town from McGill, and it’s like lets get through here as fast as we can, stop and get your gas at this gas station, and keep moving until we get to civilization. We need to have more pride in our community.”
A one mile lighted paved trail, picnic pavilions, softball, baseball and skatepark are all part of the proposal. The downtown portion would include a splash pad, amphitheater and ice skating rink.
The project has an estimated amount of $12 million. It is also estimated that another position would need to be provided to maintain the parks.
“Both would be done at the same time. A project can be phased, and we can make it work,” Wheable said.
The AG 13 Board spoke of the desire to have the White Pine County Fairgrounds updated with a 90,000-square-foot facility that would be able to accommodate other activities besides the annual horse races. Letters of support were included with their proposal as well.
The grandstands would be replaced, replacement of track railing, north arena lighting, which does not exist, RV hookup were just a few things mentioned for the five-phase proposal. The entire cost of all five phases is $14 million.
Each commissioner voiced their thoughts on prioritization of the 3 project.
Several members of the public spoke encouraging the commission to select the park project, and some were in support of the fairgrounds.
Commissioner Ian Bullis spoke first. “I hate to prioritize, I really feel that the park process needs to be a priority. I feel like our front door is not welcoming, driving into a place that’s less than undeveloped, doesn’t communicate well. I would like to see this as a priority.” Bullis selected the fairgrounds as the second project.
Travis Godon chose the fairgrounds as a number one priority, with the parks being second. Laurie Carson chose the parks as top priority and the railroad number two.
It appeared as thought it was a difficult decision for all commissioners, noting each project was presented well, and had a lot of dynamics to each one.
Commissioner Shane Bybee said, “First of all I’d like to compliment everybody. Downtown revitalization has been a desperate situation as long as I have been involved, I really firmly believe this program does it. It covers our two major interests into town.”
For the second prioritized project, Bybee selected the railroad. “I lean to the railroad that’s a business that draws business 365 days a year. The fact that is not so much weekend events, it’s a open draw year round, tips me to that one. I’m comfortable with each project.”
Commissioner Richard Howe was the last to speak. Howe had a lot to say about the downtown corridor expressing his thoughts on the property owners, and questioning what stake they had in the efforts of revitalizing downtown.
“The adding of all the parks makes a difference,” he said. “The fairgrounds are used a lot, but it’s seasonal. The railroad by far brings more money than anything, the train is running every day, that railroad is working. As I look at it, the downtown part of it, I was for it.”
Howe questioned what would happen to the softball and baseball fields? No answer was given. Howe selected the railroad as the first priority and the park project as second.
The vote was unanimous for the Park project being Number One. When it came to selecting the second, the railroad was voted upon 4-1, with Godon opposed.