I might be a year removed from living in Summerlin and visiting Red Rock Canyon on a daily basis, but that canyon still runs deeps inside me.
When I said good-bye to Las Vegas a year ago, leaving Red Rock Canyon was the tough part.
I bicycled through that canyon or sauntered my way by foot along its meandering trails on most mornings before work.
No caffeine needed, thank you. Red Rock Canyon and its sheer natural beauty were all that were needed to ignite my day. And to think, it was just a mere 15 miles west of the Strip.
That's why Red Rock Canyon is such an essential part of Las Vegas' identity, way older than the Strip and way more inspiring too.
This is why I'm lending my voice among many others to oppose a proposed housing project that calls for building 5,000 homes and bringing 15,000 residents atop Blue Diamond Hill across from the small community of Blue Diamond in Red Rock Canyon.
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I decided to move to Las Vegas when I biked out of Summerlin, crested the first hill on State Road 159 at the Red Rock Canyon sign outside Summerlin and gazed at the canyon before me. Here's a picture of my first bike ride into Red Rock Canyon.
The view was mesmerizing. My heart sang as I soaked in the view of this magnificent high desert bordered by rugged mountains, sandstone peaks and foothills, with red stripes accenting the walls.
I pulled over and stopped pedaling. I took the time necessary to stare at this canyon that stretched out before me.
Right there and then, I uttered, "Deal," to myself about the decision to move to Las Vegas in the fall of 2012.
The Bureau of Land Management controls a major chunk of the canyon land, with housing limited to the old mining community of Blue Diamond and also Calico Basin Road.
Housing now sprawls all around the Las Vegas valley, a metro area of more than 2 million people. There are plenty of better locations in the Las Vegas area for housing than in Red Rock Canyon.
The Las Vegas area is lucky to have Red Rock Canyon in its market. It's a haven of natural wonder and attracts thousands of eco-tourism visitors who pump money into the local economy.
I could never understand elected officials who could not make the connection between their town's identity and inspiring geography that helps define that identity.
A plan for 5,000 homes and 15,000 residents in a place so special such as Red Rock Canyon would tarnish Las Vegas' identity and clash with the current use of the canyon as a natural gem, environmental haven and recreational resource.
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When I lived in Tampa, Fla., I could never understand why the local elected officials decided to demolish a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that spanned the Bay and connected the Bay cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa. The Bay was the natural feature that tied the region together and I thought it would be a priority for the Tampa Bay region to find the resources to fix this pedestrian and bicycle bridge that celebrated the market's iconic natural feature and that was used by millions of walkers, bicyclists, fishermen, tourists and roller-bladers every year.
Red Rock Canyon is Las Vegas' local natural gem adored by millions every year, too.
Elected officials in Clark County should be doing everything in their powers to protect Red Rock Canyon instead of trying to clamp down on the public's right to oppose this housing project.
I don't live in Clark County anymore. But you do.
So, you need to contact the seven county commissioners who will decide whether to preserve Red Rock Canyon's special role in the Las Vegas area or mar this natural resource that inspires so many and breathes so much life into so many.
Here is the county commission link with the contact info for all seven county commissioners -- Steve Sisolak, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Larry Brown, Lawrence Weekly, Chris Giunchigliani, Susan Brager and Mary Beth Scow.
Too much is at stake to not speak up and save Red Rock Canyon.
And don't forget to sign the petition.
For more info, log onto the save Red Rock web site.