Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Dozens upon dozens of parks dot the Las Vegas Valley, providing small green oases in an otherwise-barren desert landscape.
Most of these are smaller neighborhood parks on the scale of five to 10 acres, offering a convenient place to let the kids out to play or to walk the dogs after work.
But for residents seeking a grander experience, a handful of supersized regional parks offer huge green expanses, lots of places to play and even a few lakes to help while away the dog days of summer.
Regional parks have seen significant investment in recent years, with major, multimillion-dollar upgrades to Sunset Park in Clark County and Lorenzi Park in Las Vegas, while Henderson recently opened its 100-acre Cornerstone Park, and North Las Vegas plans later this year to open its largest park ever, the 150-acre Craig Ranch.
This recent spate of construction represents the final wave of projects approved when local governments still were flush with cash from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, which directs proceeds from federal land sales in the valley toward parks, trails and other projects.
But as land sales dried up with the economy’s crash, the stream of funding to build and expand parks has slowed to a trickle. Local governments now are left with few options to keep expanding their parks systems.
The decline in funding means it could be a while before the valley sees another project on the scale of Craig Ranch or Cornerstone Park. Ground recently was broken to develop 15 acres in the first phase of Mountains Edge Regional Park, the next planned major park in Clark County. The rest of the work on the 220-acre site will be finished as funds become available, although it’s unclear when that will be.
Until then, here are six existing major parks, and one that’s soon to open, to explore:
One of the valley’s oldest and largest, Sunset Park has been offering residents a place to play outside since 1967.
Featuring the signature pond and disc golf course, the park, at Sunset Road and Eastern Avenue, offers an unmatched range of activities — whether you enjoy volleyball or tennis, jogging along scenic nature paths or lounging by the water.
The park is also a community gathering point and plays host throughout the year to large events, ranging from beer festivals to renaissance fairs.
The 325-acre park, of which only 185 acres have been developed, has been in various stages of construction and renovation as the county poured $11.7 million in upgrades in 2011 and 2012.
The county celebrated the completion of the work, which included improvements to the parking lot, the addition of walking trails, and new shade and picnic structures, in May.
Desert Breeze Park
The second-largest park in the Clark County system at 119 acres, Desert Breeze offers a convenient spot and plenty of fields for residents in the southwest valley wanting to play soccer, baseball, football, basketball and more.
The park, at Spring Mountain and Cimarron roads, offers unique amenities that include a skate park and a roller-hockey rink, plus it sits next to the Desert Breeze Recreation Center, which has an indoor gym and an aquatics complex, including an outdoor water park.
The latest major addition to Henderson’s reputed park system, Cornerstone Park made a splash this summer when it opened.
The 100-acre park revolves around a 30-acre pond at Stephanie Street and Wigwam Parkway that used to be the site of a gravel pit.
The city spent eight years planning for the park and with $16 million of SNPLMA funding set about turning it into a desert oasis.
Although the water isn’t safe for swimming, there are plenty of opportunities for fun at the park, which is the second-largest in Henderson. Amenities include basketball and volleyball courts, walking trails and picnic pavilions with scenic lake views.
The site also includes a plaza area and catering kitchen that can be rented for special events and gatherings.
With 160 acres to work with, Henderson officials have set to work making the largest park in their system unlike any other.
When it opened in 2009, the park’s major features were its $11.7 million senior facility, a $14.5 million, 43,800-square-foot aquatics center and a five-acre dog park.
A second phase of construction wrapped up late last year and saw the city spending $20 million of SNPLMA funding to install 13 new multipurpose athletic fields, two lighted baseball fields, an amphitheater with a shaded stage, and more picnic and play areas.
With room to grow and more improvements still planned, the park, near Racetrack Road and Burkholder Boulevard, is already being hailed by city officials as the “largest multi-use sports complex” in the valley.
One of Las Vegas’ most historic parks, Lorenzi has received a $30 million face-lift in recent years that will be unveiled Saturday.
The park, near Washington Avenue and Twin Lakes Drive, has been a staple of the community since 1926 when it opened as the private Lorenzi’s Lake Park with a pool, dance pavilion, lakes and orchards. It later operated in the 1940s as the Twin Lake Lodges, a 48-room hotel resort that was a popular place for divorce-seekers waiting to obtain their Nevada residency.
Recent upgrades, which divided the park in half during construction, include new tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields and a new band shell on an island in the middle of one of the park’s two lakes.
The park’s signature rose garden and gazebo remain on the property’s northwest corner. Newly installed historic markers help tell the park’s story.
The city has scheduled a reopening and back-to-school celebration with food, music and games starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at the park.
Centennial Hills Park
Las Vegas’ largest park, Centennial Hills offers everything you’d expect of a major regional park.
There’s 10 sand volleyball courts, two fenced areas for dogs, soccer fields, playgrounds and a walking path around the park.
Unique features include an educational fossil wall and a grassy amphitheater with seating for 3,000.
Craig Ranch Park
North Las Vegas’ first foray into major regional parks, Craig Ranch is expected to open this year.
Getting the $126 million park, which was paid for through SNPLMA funding, open has been a challenge for the cash-strapped city, which is still struggling to figure out how to pay for Craig Ranch Park’s long-term operation and upkeep.
When it opens, the lush 150-acre park, at Craig Road near Revere Street, will provide a host of new amenities for North Las Vegas residents, including ponds, athletic facilities, playgrounds, a skate park and plenty of green space.