Friday, April 15, 2011

THE LAND I LOVE: National Parks Week

It’s National Park Week, and I’m declaring my love of our very own Lake Mead National Recreation area, which is entrance fee free this week. I’m rejoicing that for us…wilderness begins at our city’s edge with hardly a transition. Not everyone is surrounded by such land riches. Many international visitors prize us, in part, because wide open spaces on our scale don’t even exist back home, for them. I love that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, because for me that means there’s hardly anybody out there when I get off the beaten track or go off road. There lies my refuge, where I can feel the explorer, become the one who can brag about the huge tortoise she nearly tripped over, who escapes her stress by walking it off on the trail. This year, thankfully, our shores will finally rise at the rate of two-to-four feet of water a month, because of stellar snow pack in Colorado. But, I’m diving in right now….figuratively. It turns out that what grows in Lake Mead is supposed to stay in Lake Mead. Quaggas, to be specific. And, they are surprising scientists. On the positive, they have made our water 13% clearer. But the dreaded quaggas are clogging water intake pipes and valves. They’ve even covered the B29 lying at the bottom of Lake Mead, according to Diving - Biologist Bryan Moore, who tracks these invasive hordes. If final approval come, Hoover Dam’s managers will test Zequanox downstream, in May, as a possibly effective quagga killer. Lake Mead is working hard to keep the quaggas from hitchhiking on boats to foul other freshwater ways. These pesky muscles are Mainly a problem for the thousands of boats moored at marinas. Not so for the day or weekend use boats, who, usually, aren’t in still waters long enough for quaggas to attach. Its volunteers who’ve been pulling the invasive Sahara Mustard plant throughout the early spring to give our native wildflowers the room They need to grow. During National Park Week, Lake Mead’s 4000-plus volunteers will be honored for their contribution of donated labor. My admiration grows for those who bend their backs for conservation, while I only lift my fingers. From my perch in Boulder City, I recall my favorite time on the Big Blue Below: Shore camping with friends on a remote site reached only by their boat. You, too, can turn your next visit to Lake Mead into a favorite memory. You’ll find it Entrance fee free during National Park Week through Sunday, April twenty-fourth. Or you can challenge your boundaries, as I am planning to do, by walking across the 900-foot high new bridge. That unique perspective is free year round. # # #

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