Ten Things That Are Better In Carson City
It’s our nature to look back at the “good old days” and bemoan what is lost. True, Carson City’s more than doubled in size since I moved here in the mid-1970s and it’s nowhere near the small town it once was. But not all change is bad.
Here are some things where growth made Carson City and the region a better place to live (in no particular order):
- Mills Park: Way back when, Mills Park was a few acres on the south side on Highway 50 and it was notorious for drawing the worst elements in town. Today, it’s the flagship of the Carson City Recreation Division and the park can handle anything from a small family barbeque to a carnival to weekly farmers markets to hockey. Kids can use the skate park and families can fly kites in an open green field. It’s a great place to play.
- Better shopping: A little “Californication” is a good thing, in terms of shopping, anyway. What was once sagebrush and an abandoned movie drive-in theater on the Carson/Douglas county border is now dozens of stores and restaurants ranging from a Best Buy to Old Navy to Panda Express. The close location of these malls are essential in this age of $3 and $4 gas, saving us from a 60-mile round trip to Reno. Until our city fathers and mothers wake up and open the library up for the entire weekend, I’m spending a part of my Sundays at Borders.
- A bigger and better college*: When Liz first went to Western Nevada Community College back in 1982, it was a tiny building way up in the northwest hills serving a few hundred students. Today, it’s evolving into a cultural presence, a strong sports and recreation center, and an academic leader serving 6,000 students throughout western Nevada. And did I mention their baseball team nearly won its conference in their first year of existence?
- Diversity: When I graduated from Carson High School in 1980, there was one African-American in my class of 440+ students, and that was a fair representative of the entire community. Today, we’re exposed to other cultures and nations other than the lily-white U.S. of A. Are things better than they were 25 years ago? Yes. Is there a lot of room for improvement? Absolutely.
- A top-notch high school: There’s no doubt Carson City needs a second high school because the one we have is probably the largest in northern Nevada, population wise. It was too full in 1976, and it’s overflowing in 2006. Until the electorate finances a new one, we know our kids are getting some of the best education available in the Silver State because the school district focuses all of its attention on the one school. Again, is there room for improve? You bet, but for now, our kids go to a school that prepares them for real life and holds them to a realistic expectation of accomplishment. If the kids ain’t following through on their dreams, it ain’t the school’s fault.
- A modern hospital: The old Carson-Tahoe Hospital was housed in buildings from the Korean War-era where the rooms and hallways were small. The new Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare (center? hospital?) is an open, modern facility with a full range of services, including open heart and out-patient surgery. Locals used to have to go to Reno and California for specialists; the new hospital will ease many of these burdens.
- A freeway: One of the local newspapers recently had an insert that listed the few state capitals not connected to an interstate freeway. Within our lifetime, Carson City will drop off that list when the I-580 extension is finished. So what if the plans have been on the books for more than 20 years? So what if the contractor stopped working on it due to safety concerns? So what if NDOT needs to find a new company to finish the work? The freeway extension will happen because too much money’s been spent. Someday in the not-too-distant future, commuters from the four-county region in and around Carson will have an easier road to go to that Big City up north.
- A political presence: As Carson grows, so does our voice in legislative circles. We can’t compete with the populations of the Reno and Vegas areas, but we do stand at the front of the “rural” communities in Nevada. Having the state legislature meet in our backyard doesn’t hurt, either.
- A sense of community: As mentioned, we’re seeing more ethnic-based events, but that certainly isn’t the end. Carson has community theaters, an orchestra, renaissance fairs, and sporting events for kids of all ages. The list goes on and on. We’re building a better town together.
- A sense of history: As we grow, we’re trying to hold onto the things that make us special and remind visitors that Carson City once served as the gateway to the Comstock Lode. If anything, we hold onto to the old buildings long past their usefulness. It’s these little idiosyncrasies that makes us who we are.
Look how good we are without mentioning Lake Tahoe, the high mountains surrounding us, and the good people in this town. As we grow, we’ll get even better and we’ll do it right, unlike some Nevada cities, because we know we’ve got a special place here on the Sierra Nevada foothills. After all, Mark Twain used to live here.
* = For purposes of full disclosure, I freely and proudly admit I’m a part-time WNCC employee.