Las Vegas Sun

June 16, 2019

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Las Vegas asks city’s residents to ‘open up the dream box’ on parks downtown

Downtown parks

C. Moon Reed

Kuang Xian, right, a landscape architect with consultants Design Workshop, talks with a resident about Las Vegas’ plans for expanding parks downtown during a recent public meeting at the Municipal Pool.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas community members examine the maps of proposed improvements to downtown parks at a public meeting Wednesday at the Municipal Pool.

Katherine Duncan, a resident of the historic west side, is blunt when describing the parks in her downtown Las Vegas neighborhood: “Probably has the worst parks in whole city.”

Downtown covers 13 square miles, but only about 1.3 percent of it is dedicated to parks. City planners would like to change that, increasing to about 9 percent in the next 25 years.

They envision turning underutilized areas and wide roadways into park areas to create shaded corridors that are easy to walk and inviting for recreation. More important, the Las Vegas Downtown Open Space and Trails Master Plan aims to make downtown park areas safe and welcoming for all.

The project area includes a range of diverse neighborhoods, from the resort area and Fremont East to Symphony Park and 18b Arts District to the west side to the Medical District and the Gateway to downtown.

“We’ve done pretty good at letting people open up the dream box,” says Michael Howe, a planner and urban designer for Las Vegas. “How do we manage vagrancy issues while trying to design something that competes with Park at MGM and the Linq? We want downtown to deliver the same caliber of urban space as the Strip. What does it take to do that?”

City planner Maria Jose Norero says that feedback — based on a September public meeting and an ongoing online survey — reveals that residents mostly want safer and more well-maintained parks.

“We need increased green spaces downtown … we need more parks and we need to do better managing them,” Norero said.

About 30 Las Vegans turned out Wednesday night to offer their answers. Large-scale maps and architectural plans lined the walls of a classroom at downtown’s Municipal Pool, and attendees were given Post-It notes with which to mark up the maps.

Amber Sigismondi and Raniel Aspillaga attended the meeting as representatives of a calisthenics group, LV Barstarzz.

Sigismondi is advocating for parks to have more bars, such as pull-up bars and parallette bars, as well as better park maintenance. She says that better parks could “get people interested in the fitness lifestyle.”

“Downtown could be an awesome attraction,” Sigismondi said.

Aspillaga would like to see outdoor workout areas in parks. A former Strip concierge, he said guests would often ask him where they could exercise that wasn’t an indoor gym, and he wouldn’t have anywhere to really recommend.

Rut Laureano, single mom and special education elementary school teacher, would like to see playground areas be integrated with workout options for adults. “What I see are playgrounds surrounded by passive areas for parents to sit around to watch kids, but no joiner of the two.” She’d also like to see trails that could better accommodate running with a stroller.

Duncan, a board member for the Harrison House, would like the city to develop the west side’s Pioneer Trail by adding lighting, streetscaping, outdoor furniture. There were large maps depicting improvements to Fremont Street and Third Street, but no obvious maps for improving the Pioneer Trail.

“We can connect North Las Vegas and Las Vegas, bring more commercial and tourism to our neighborhood,” she said.

Duncan also would like parks in the historic west side where children could play soccer, ride bikes and roller skate or skateboard.

“There are very few trees in my neighborhood,” Duncan said. “I know I live in a desert, but there’s no place where you can go walk, so we’ve been looking at ways to transform the community ourselves as residents.”

Attendee Cathy Brooks owns and runs the Hydrant Club, a private downtown dog park. She says outdoor green space is critical to happy urban living but that downtown Las Vegas lacks outdoor spaces that feel safe and comfortable.

“I happen to run a private park, and one of the main reasons my clients are members is because of their desire to have a safe, clean space, where they’re not worried about garbage, needles and that kind of stuff.”

She says that many of her “wish list items” for downtown open spaces are already on the table, such as turning Fremont Street into a walkable drive with “places to rest and big trees that give shade.”

“I like the idea of micro green spots, and I love the park connector from the Arts District to Downtown,” she said.

Brooks initially was skeptical of the parks plan, but she says that she’s only seen positive movement.

“I think of downtown like a patchwork quilt, but none of patches were ever stitched together. This looks like an effort to not only improve the patches, but actually stitch them together with connective tissues.”