As if you needed another compelling reason to escape the Valley floor when temperatures soar, Mount Charleston in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area has a new Visitor Gateway. The Kyle Canyon site opens May 30 and includes an education building, two amphitheaters, group picnic areas and more than 40 miles of new adjoining trails.
Replacing an easy-to-miss 40-year-old center, the new site fulfills the U.S. Forest Service’s mission to simultaneously serve the public and the land, project manager John Harris says. “If I inform the public where its needs could be met, I’m serving the people, and if I spread the load of people out among all the trailheads and don’t over-concentrate in one area, I’m serving the land.”
Harris adds that his challenge was to build a center that accentuates the experience of the land while not overshadowing it. “If a visitor comes in for information, they discover they can have their picnic, they can go on an easy trail, [experienced hikers] can go on a hard trail and grandpa can sit by the visitors center,” Harris says. The new facility has a geothermal heating-cooling system embedded in the floor, thermostatically controlled windows that open and close automatically to regulate the temperature inside, and reclaimed wood from obsolete picnic tables and benches in the Spring Mountains Recreation Area.
He said his favorite place so far is the smaller amphitheater, where a docent can speak to up to 40 visitors. “It has beautiful sandstone seats that were carved locally. It’s got handmade art and a tile floor with each piece artistically hand-formed to make gorgeous colored tree rings. If you stand in the [middle] and speak toward the visitor center, it naturally amplifies your voice. It’s an amazing experience; it’s magical.”
Harris expects the new venue will have more than triple the traffic of the old visitor center, which attracted 25,000 annually. The visitor center, including 128 acres acquired by the Forest Service, was paid for with $45 million in funds through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998.