The ground-breaking for the new $23 million facility took place last month, an event that was carefully monitored by the U.S. Interior Secretary, four members from Nevada's congressional delegation and a host of local aficionados. With all these big titles in attendance it had to be an important happening for Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. And it was. By the way, the center will sit a foot or two north of the old one and is slated for completion late in 2010.
The canyon was chosen by Congress in 1990 to be the first national conservation area in Nevada. Its high desert beauty draws annually tens of thousands of visitors and it has also turned into a must-go recreational park for scores of rock climbers, cyclists and hikers. The now famous attraction is less than an hour's drive away from the Las Vegas Strip.
One of the major players in Red Rock Canyon's advancement over the years has been the Howard Hughes Corp., the developer of the Summerlin master-planned community which lies just east of its spectacular rock formations. Years ago Hughes traded over 5,000 acres of land in the park for roughly 3,000 acres elsewhere that were more appropriate for large-scale housing and commercial development. The Nature Conservancy was instrumental in getting the exchange done. Early in this decade Hughes did it again, this time swapping land with U.S. Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, where about 1,100 acres were transferred over to Red Rock.
Hughes' action is proof of how private and public entities can find common ground in efforts to satisfy their business and environmental ambitions and it can sensibly be designated a role model for other corporations regarding preservation of important nature areas.