Q & A
Transfer of the East Walker Properties and Establishing the Walker River State Recreation Area
Q: How large is the property donation to the State? What is included in the donation?
A: The donated property consists of more than 12,000 acres of land, about 28 miles of the East Walker River corridor and Bureau of Land Management grazing permits on approximately 252,000 acres of BLM land. Together this property will be known as the Walker River State Recreation Area.
Q: What makes these properties so unique?
A: The East Walker River flows through these three properties (Pitchfork, Rafter 7 and Flying M) and includes some of the most pristine river corridor in the Walker Basin and in Nevada as a whole. The Flying M property also includes portions of Rough Creek and Bodie Creek, tributaries to the East Walker River. The properties are historically significant to this remote portion of Nevada and for the most part have been publicly inaccessible for generations.
Q: What are the plans for the new Walker River State Recreation Area?
A: An extensive recreation planning process, provided by the donor, was undertaken this past summer and fall. Phase one plans for the properties include, in part, a full-hookup campground and cabins located at the former Pitchfork Ranch, and other day use and primitive camping locations at the former Rafter 7 Ranch and at the river “elbow” at Nine Mile on the southern section of the former Flying M Ranch.
Q: What is the timeline for the new State Recreation Area to open?
A: At this point, the transfer of all properties to the State of Nevada should be complete by summer 2017 and groundbreaking activities and a transfer ceremony by the State are expected by fall 2017.
Q: When will the public be able to visit?
A: The start of public visitation will vary by park unit. Dates and locations will be available in detail at the time of the official transfer and state “groundbreaking.” Public access to designated portions will begin by fall 2017 and continue to expand as Nevada State Parks completes various infrastructure and trail improvements.
Q: What are some of the wildlife species found on the properties?
A: Portions of the former Flying M Ranch include prime habitat for the Bi-State Sage grouse, a species of vital concern to the State of Nevada. Other key species found in the area include bighorn sheep, mule deer and multiple riparian and upland bird species.
Q: What does the State plan to do to enhance the existing Bi-State Sage grouse habitat?
A: State Parks intends to work closely with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the existing Bi-State Sage grouse working groups to follow the approved Bi-State plan already in place for the benefit of the species and the habitat.
Q: Will the State be stocking the river?
A: State Parks will work with the Nevada Department of Wildlife on fish and wildlife management. The State intends to stock the East Walker in a manner to support an active fishery.
Q: What will happen to the water rights associated with these properties?
A: The surface water rights will be retained by the Walker Basin Restoration Program to achieve its program goal of restoring Walker Lake. Prior to the use of the water for the instream benefit of Walker River and Walker Lake, water will be used on the properties by the Walker Basin Restoration Program for revegetation activities focused on soil stabilization and mitigation of fugitive dust.
Q: Who will be responsible for stewardship of the former agricultural fields?
A: The State of Nevada is working with the Walker Basin Restoration Program to achieve continued stewardship activities on the properties. The Walker Basin Restoration Program has committed significant funding, staff and planning to this effort. The detailed plans are currently under development and will be a collaborative effort by both parties.
Q: What will happen to the previous cultivated fields when irrigation is discontinued?
A: The Walker Basin Restoration Program is committed to soil stabilization and weed control on lands that were previously irrigated. The Program and the State will work closely on plans that make sense with the long-term use of the properties and will look to enhance habitat where appropriate, especially with regard to the Bi-State Sage grouse habitat.
Q: Will there be sufficient water that remains with the properties to handle park operations?
A: The properties will come to the State with all of the groundwater necessary to meet State Parks’ needs both now and into the future when additional facilities and amenities are added to the Walker River State Recreation Area.
Q: Will the main compound at the Flying M property be accessible?
A: Not at this time. As a condition of the sale of the Flying M property to the Walker Basin Conservancy, the main home site and adjacent buildings and facilities (such as the airstrip and hangers) on the Flying M will not be accessible until the lease with the previous owner expires. The bulk of the Flying M property, including what will become the Nine Mile park unit at the “elbow” of the East Walker River, will be managed by State Parks upon conveyance in summer 2017 and available for public use. Future plans for the main compound at the Flying M, the subject of the life estate provision, will still be included in comprehensive planning for the entire recreation area.
Q: Will any area(s) be available for grazing leases?
A: The BLM grazing permits associated with the properties are currently leased and those lease agreements will transfer to the State. At the end of the lease agreements, the State will go through a public bidding process for future leasing. It is the State’s plan to keep the leasing permits in good standing.
Q: Will there be fees when the new park units are in operation?
A: Yes. As with all Nevada State Park units, fees are charged and, in part, help cover Nevada State Park operational expenses. Entry fees are $7 and camping is $14. Nevada Residents receive a $2 discount off entry fees and annual permits are available for $65. For more information on fees, discounts and permits, visit parks.nv.gov/fees
Q: Will there be hunting allowed on the properties?
A: Yes, waterfowl, small game and upland bird hunting will be permitted in specified areas beginning in fall 2017. The acquisitions include hunt units 201-204 and big game hunting will be permitted, although State Parks is currently working with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to determine particulars.
Q: Can I ride my OHV in the new state recreation area?
A: OHV travel is prohibited within the park units, with the exception of traveling from approved OHV campsites or trailheads onto adjacent federal lands. Throughout the State Park system it is expected that OHVs will be properly registered with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Q: Is the new recreation area near any historic ghost towns?
A: The Walker River State Recreation Area will provide a good base location from which to visit the ghost towns of Aurora, Bodie, Fletcher and Pine Grove.
Q: Will there be public meeting space(s) available at the park units?
A: The properties do have opportunities for indoor/outdoor meeting and classroom spaces. Specific uses, fees and how arrangements may be made is all information that will be made available in greater detail at the time of state groundbreaking.
Q: What private concession opportunities may eventually exist at the park units?
A: Examples of future concession opportunities that may become available for bid include archery equipment rental, archery lessons, etc.; equestrian events and destination gatherings, guided horseback tours, equine therapy and related other equestrian-related activities; guided fishing; guided kayak and canoe tours and rentals; bed and breakfast facilities; catering; sporting clay and trap lessons, events and related activities; and weddings and corporate gatherings. In addition, in the future the airstrip may prove to be suitable as a base for glider flights and helicopter tours.
Q: How will I be able to get a job at Walker River State Recreation Area?
A: Full-time and seasonal positions will be announced on the State Parks website as they become available, which will not be until July 2017 at the earliest.