History is the history we want to pass on to future generations, hoping they can find it somewhere. How we tell history to future generations is the responsibility of the current generation.
The green lawn that graphically frames the historic Bureau of Reclamation building is part of Boulder City’s north-south alignment that creates the Masonic symbol of the all-seeing eye was the vision of progressive city planner Saco Rienk de Boer. Like the reflection pond at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the lawn is integral to the design and part of the vision for the first planned community developed by the government. In Reclamation’s own words, “no building in Boulder City was complete until the trees and lawns thrived.”
The construction of the Hoover Dam was a unique moment in history when industry, art, engineering and science came together to deliver a unique and daring building project that changed the world and set the stage for the American century.
The history of water in Las Vegas could begin with the much-vaunted and famous springs that yielded just enough water to make it a two-block cobblestone city and a railroad water stop. Its growth and development truly begins with the first water pumped from the Colorado River and stored in the reservoir on our hillside, made drinkable by our ornate Romanesque water filtration plant, the Bureau of Reclamation which offered jobs during a brutal depression. and the construction of the Hoover Dam. , which has enabled the modern South West and propelled an incredible future, of which we are all now the beneficiaries.
Then there’s the story of Kentucky’s topsoil and how it ended up in Boulder City. The Boulder City Clean Green moniker didn’t happen by accident; it was a very conscious decision that took a lot of hard work.
The site chosen for Boulder City was once just another boulder of decomposed granite like the rest of the hills around us, dominated by creosote, cholla and a few agaves. And although horticulturist Wilbur Weed planted demonstration triangles that still exist, that was not what these pioneering utopian creators of planned communities had in mind. So they brought tons of topsoil from Kentucky, added 15,000 pounds of grass seed, planted trees – deciduous and select evergreens – and bushes and created a town that looked like America as it was. interpreted by the dreamers and builders of the time.
But this Kentucky soil is now the soil of Boulder City – a living thing (according to my soil guru and resident Douglas Merkel, who could excite anyone about soil) cultivated, integrated, transforming, evolving, and absorbing universe for over 90 years as an emerald sea around Salvation on the Hill: the Bureau of Reclamation administration building.
I saw the reclamation plans (xeriscape) at its open house on November 10th and I have to admit I was shocked at the reality of what was about to happen. The winding path with mostly non-native plants chosen more for palate, texture and Instagram moments had destroyed the simple geometry and freshness of the space. There was a lot of thought and professionalism in the presentation, but ultimately felt like another demonstration garden created by a committee.
The original design by De Boer and executed by Weed has been carefully cultivated and maintained. What we were shown was a paint-by-numbers concept that had little to do with the historical space.
I understand, Reclamation is in a delicate situation. They are the messenger of bad news to communities dependent on what until about 20 years ago had been the miracle of the Colorado River. The lake (Mead) is about to go dead and they have a nice green lawn that they don’t do much with.
The solution is to give the lawn to Boulder City. This same technique was used by the federal government in 1959 when it no longer wanted to run a city. We could call it a historic grass lawn habitat, because it’s probably the first public grass in southern Nevada (Las Vegas back then didn’t have any fountains, fake volcanoes, or parks). The city does a better job on the lawns anyway. While we’re at it, let’s invest the lawn of the post office for the sake of consistency.
Imagine expanding Art in the Park with a kids’ area where they can experience walking barefoot through the grass while competing in an ice cream making contest and being cleaned with a garden hose. Or lying on the lawn gazing at the stars above our city in the darkness of the Boulder City Outdoor Planetarium created by our new Dark Sky City Lights. The city’s first communal Thanksgivings could be held on the newly mown lawns of the Reclamation Building; We can do that too. This Thanksgiving, take a walk on the lawn before she’s gone.
Preservation starts at the local level. Let the citizens of Boulder City make the tough choices about what stays green. Personally, I would sacrifice a golf course for the grass on the hill. Contact our elected officials; I have. Everyone I’ve spoken to is supportive. All their contact details are in this document; it’s so convenient.
I have one last option. Restoring the earth to its native Mojave palette, Weed’s show garden triangles still exist on Park Street and Avenue I.
It will be harder to recreate than it looks and will require just the right amount of carelessness to achieve what is created in nature. And they should replace the sign on the hill at the intersection of Park Street and Nevada Way to read “Sorry, we got it wrong”.
The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited for grammar, spelling and style only, and have not been checked for accuracy of views.
Alan Goya is a former member of the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.