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Fat chance for Last Chance? Not a chance, officials say

Though it’s been off the town’s radar lately, Last Chance Park remains a work in progress for town board members and staff.

Discussions on the proposed park go back as far as 2005, when plans were first being made for the phased, multiple-use 1,520 acre recreation area on the valley’s northwest end.

At the time, board members had several options to consider with varying degrees of costs.

Initial development costs were estimated to exceed $43,000 for infrastructure including restrooms, picnic tables, signage and fencing.

That estimate may prove to be a very conservative figure as the project slowly moves along.

Pahrump Town Board member Dr. Tom Waters who was not on the board when the park was initially conceived said this week that he does support the project and hopes to see it move forward in the not-too-distant future.

“I would really like to see something done with Last Chance Park. I don’t want to just drop it. There are some pros and cons about spending money for Last Chance Park. I have asked the new Interim Town Manager to look into it and try to make something happen for Last Chance Park,” he said.

The original plans for the park called for the division of three 10 acre parcels near Bell Vista and Bannavitch which would be connected by horse and bike trails.

Waters said the town was forced to scrap the first plan in favor of embarking on a more realistic scenario.

He also said the park can easily serve as a place for travelers to stop by before moving on to other nearby destinations.

“It can’t be what we first envisioned it to be some time ago, but I still feel that we should have something. We had three locations and since we knew that we couldn’t work all three locations at one time, we decided to settle for one. It was really going to be parking space for buses and cars as they came through Pahrump before they got to Death Valley. It wasn’t really supposed to cost a lot of money as far as having bathrooms and other things. Those are some of the things that our Interim Town Manager Susan Holecheck is going to be working on,” he said.

Funding aside, Waters said there were several other roadblocks that had to be addressed in order for the project to proceed accordingly.

“The Bureau of Land Management was really the party responsible for holding the project up. They found some small Native American artifacts and as long as they were there, we couldn’t proceed. We learned that they had cleared some of it up but that was the official holdup. If BLM would clear it, and I think they have already then Susan will move forward and try to make something happen for Last Chance Park,” he said.

Waters also noted that there have been differences of opinion among local residents about the park which also created additional delays.

“Some felt that it was just money being wasted and others felt that we should do something because it is an area that we have and we may as well use it. It’s something that will make a name for Pahrump so when people drive through here on the way to Death Valley, they don’t just say that they drove through Pahrump. They could say that they actually stopped and they had something nice,” he said.

On Monday, Holecheck said she had a recent meeting with BLM officials and the town’s Public Lands Advisory Board about the park proposal.

She noted that all parties agreed that the project would be more feasible if it was slightly scaled back.

“Instead of going extravagant on the park right now, we thought it would be better if we did it in a way to keep costs down. What I saw in the files, I think we might have invested a lot more in Last Chance than maybe was necessary at this time. That doesn’t mean that in the future we can’t expand and enhance it. I was pleased that the board decided to step back and do a little less. We do need more parks especially on the south end of Pahrump like Kellogg Park. We are also trying to do basketball courts at Simkins Park. We are really trying to get a nice blend of recreation here in town and at the same time we are trying to be careful with taxpayers’ money,” she said.

The town manager also said the town needs to communicate with county officials regarding some of the details on the project.

“We need to get with the county to find out what they are going to need as far as permitting goes. Do we need an asphalt parking lot or can we get away with a chip seal. There are a lot of logistics that we have to go through,” she said.

Holecheck also said monies for the project have already been set aside.

“We have been saving money in the general fund. Last Chance has been in the works for a long time so it’s part of our Capital Improvement funding,” she said.

Waters, meanwhile, said it is unclear when the project will appear before the town board again.

“I know that it is still one of the goals and objectives for the town manager and I know all five town board members are tasking her with several things and she is trying to get those done. As far as when it’s going to come back to the town board, I would hate to even guess at it. I would say that Last Chance is not dead and hopefully we will be able to let the residents know what we plan to do in the near future,” he said.

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