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Time to decide what to do with the lagoon park

November 14, 2018

LAUGHLIN — With the Laughlin Lagoon project well underway and nearing completion, deciding what to do with the river park is the next focus for the community.

A community meeting was held Nov. 7 at the American Legion Richard Springston Post 60 to gather input from residents about what they would like to see on the land adjacent to the lagoon.

Part of the lagoon project process includes a land transfer from the state to the county, which has not happened yet, according to Bob Bilbray, strategic development advisor for the Laughlin Economic Development Corporation.

“Senator (Joe) Hardy got the State Lands (Division) prepared to donate (the) land to Clark County for recreational purpose,” said Bilbray. “That’s where we’re at now.”

The county is looking for details of what the community wants and in what order, he said.

The clearer the picture the community gives the better off they will be, Bilbray continued.

Bilbray made it clear to the audience that whatever happens, they don’t want to put anything on the property that will hurt Big Bend State Park’s revenue.

According to Bilberry, park rangers said their big money maker is jetski launches so that type of launch site shouldn’t be included in the plan, he said.

Whatever is put on that land has to be able to sustain itself, Bilbray said, but with 2,000 feet of beach front that leaves many options.

“There is a lot of concessions that can be in the park, that can make money for the park, that can give us a better park and to provide us economic income from the park,” he said.

Bilbray provided ideas for what he believes is doable, viable and will last, including creating a walkway along the jetty.

Ideas tossed around on Facebook include an amphitheater, a dog park, and concessionaires offering paddle boards and kayaks.

Bilbray warned the audience not to limit themselves to things they’d want to do as retirees.

The park is an opportunity to bring in a wide range of visitors and should be a revenue driver that can pay for itself, Bilbray said.

“The lagoon consists of 150 acres of still water, back water,” he said. “It was done in 1962 by the Bureau of Reclamation and is part of the levee maintenance system all the way to Mexico. This is by far the biggest and only still water here. The key to the opportunity here has always been still water.”

According to Bilbray, in the early years some development and promised maintenance didn’t happen.

There weren’t any cattails or other material in the lagoon and it was frequently used by jetski users, Bilbray said, but without maintenance, a slow degradation set in, cattails began to grow and it became a habitat for various endangered species.

“Because it was then an artificially created habitat for threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife took the position of ‘I don’t care how it became wetlands, it is now wetlands and we’re going to keep it,’” he said. “That created a stone block between the private sector, Clark County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.”

Those feelings were compounded by the fact fish and wildlife didn’t maintain it, he said.

The dredging portion of the project has to be complete by Dec. 1 because of the endangered bird and fish species that live in or near the lagoon, Bilbray said.

Some comments from the group who attended included asking questions about logistics such as liability. There were a few questions about other projects such as the property known as “the birdcage.”

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