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2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the formal establishment of our state parks system.
Photo: Rachid Dahnoun (Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park); James Phelps (Valley of Fire)
Seventy-five years ago, on March 26, 1935, the Nevada Legislature passed two momentous bills pertaining to state parks. SB 88 created the nucleus of the state parks system by specifically designating four state parks: “Beaver Dam,” “Cathedral Gorge,” and “Kershaw Canyon-Ryan” in Lincoln County and “Boulder Dam-Valley of Fire” in Clark County. The four sites were “set aside for all times for state park and recreational purposes.” Also, cutting timber, destruction of buildings, and removal of artifacts were prohibited.
SB 94 provided for the creation of a state park commission consisting of five members to be appointed by then Governor Richard Kirman. The commissioners were to serve on a strictly gratis basis, but they were authorized to make and enforce park rules and regulations. Of the commissioners, Colonel Thomas W. Miller of Caliente was elected chairman. Miller came to Nevada in 1933 as superintendent of the Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Nevada and parts of Oregon and California. He is known as the founder of the state parks system and served as chairman from 1935-36, 1953-59, and 1967-73.
Before Miller, there was Governor James Scrugham, who began a progressive campaign for promoting recreation in the 1920s. Realizing the state had become heavily dependent on mining and agriculture, Scrugham saw the need to diversify Nevada’s economy. Thus, along with a push to improve the state’s roads, he passed a 1923 bill meant to set aside certain areas for recreational use.
By March 1925, 15 sites were designated as “state recreation grounds and game refuges.” Interestingly, only one of the 15 sites, Cathedral Gorge, would be incorporated into the state park system. Today, thanks to the hard work of people such as Miller and Scrugham, generally speaking there are 25 state parks in Nevada, a number derived from a combination of State Parks, State Recreation Areas, and State Historic Parks (explained below).
As much as some love the Silver State for its world-class casinos and resorts, others cherish it for its wide-open spaces. The state parks system ensures that these spaces are kept pristine, and 2010 is about celebrating the luxury of having so much beautiful land. “Nevada is fortunate that forward-thinking people like Miller, Scrugham, and others saw fit to set aside so many treasured places,” says Dave Morrow, administrator of the Nevada Division of State Parks. “It’s up to us not only to protect these special places for residents and visitors, but to find innovative ways to expand on the state park estate.”
STATE PARK DESIGNATIONS
The Nevada Division of State Parks manages three general categories of sites: State Parks, State Recreation Areas, and State Historic Parks. There are 25 such sites statewide, which are explained in detail and shown on a Nevada state map below.
STATE PARKS are primarily established to preserve and protect exceptional or unique natural features of ecological, geological, scientific, or similar nature, or exceptional scenic qualities. Cultural features of historical, archaeological, or other significance may exist on the site. On the map, the title “State Park” has been omitted to save space.
STATE RECREATION AREAS typically possess unusual natural or man-made features suitable for a variety of outdoor recreation activities. Such features may include topographic, open space, streams, lakes, or reservoirs. On the map, the title “State Recreation Area” has been omitted to save space.
STATE HISTORIC PARKS preserve and protect historical and archaeological resources and are intended to provide a direct link for the park visitor to Nevada’s past. Such areas can include public or private historical buildings or a group of historical buildings, battlegrounds, town sites, significant sites of native culture, historical trails or routes, arts, or other sites associated with a significant person or event. On the map, the title “State Historic Park” has been omitted to save space.
CELEBRATE OUR STATE PARKS
Throughout 2010, the Nevada Division of State Parks is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the formal establishment of Nevada’s state park system. Special events are planned throughout the year in various state parks. parks.nv.gov, 775-684-2770
DESIGN CONTEST WINNERS
At left is the Nevada State Parks 75th-anniversary logo designed by Western Nevada College student Bethany Surber. She won the Nevada Division of State Parks logo design contest in late 2009.
View the winners of the Nevada Division of State Parks 75th-Anniversary K-12 Poster Contest here.