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May 28, 2017

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Clark County commisioner pushes focus on local parks

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L.E. Baskow

Play structures at Lewis Family Park are in need of some repairs which is one of the things Clark County Commissioners will consider when they examine parks, their needs and what funding may be available early next year on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.

Joe Shoong and Lewis Family Parks

Joe Shoong Park is in need of permanent bathrooms, one of the things Clark County Commissioners will consider when they examine parks, their needs and what funding may be available early next year on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Launch slideshow »

By the numbers

• 105: Number of parks in Clark County

• 15: Urban recreation and community centers

• 323: Acreage of Sunset Park, the system’s “crown jewel”

They are green spaces where children can frolic, families can picnic and animals can stretch their legs, but some parks across unincorporated Clark County lack a basic amenity — a place to head when nature calls.

“Why would you build a park without a bathroom?” Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said while driving through her district, covering portions of central and eastern Las Vegas. “Sometimes you do things on the cheap and create other problems.”

That problematic policy has since been changed, and the county is adding bathrooms to parks that don’t have any. But as far as Giunchigliani is concerned, it’s not enough. She wants to see parks prioritized again and will request that the Clark County Commission discuss the matter during a meeting in January. She touts that they’re free for all to enjoy and promote a healthy lifestyle and social scene for kids.

Recreation centers, often situated next to parks, also provide low-cost programming that benefits residents of all ages, Guinchigliani said. “It’s the great connector.”

Unincorporated Clark County (areas not within the city limits of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas or Henderson) includes dozens of parks. In 2014, the county had 1.4 park acres per 1,000 residents. The goal is to reach 2.5 park acres per 1,000 residents by 2035.

The economic downturn in the late 2000s stymied much of the county’s plan for parks. Little by little, that began to change in recent years, with the addition of bathrooms, dog parks and shade structures over play sets.

But parks are at a disadvantage, Giunchigliani says, because the bulk of their funding comes from operational savings from prior years. Right now, the county has roughly $75 million earmarked for parks-related capital projects.

That money, which has been cobbled together from savings over multiple years, should go toward planning and construction of new parks or significant updates to existing ones, county spokesman Erik Pappa said. It ensures the county can move forward with approved projects as they progress, but the sum isn’t intended to be used up in one year.

Giunchigliani is hoping that funding can expand, which is why she’s asking for analysis and recommendations about how the county can fix up, finish building or create new parks.

She points to Lewis Family Park as an example of a green space craving some attention. Nestled among houses in the northeast valley, the 11-acre park draws neighborhood children after school but needs a new crosswalk for safety reasons and could use surface updates to keep it from looking drab, she said. An upgrade to the walking trail is underway.

Giunchigliani hopes to survey local middle school students about what they’d like to see at the park. She reasons that if teens have a welcoming place to hang out or bring younger siblings, they’ll steer clear of trouble.

But like all county services, it comes down to money. No extra revenue means fewer improvements, but Giunchigliani is optimistic they can secure some funds.

“We got creative with things like the stadium,” she said. “We should get creative with parks and recreation.”

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