Summer Guide: The Marina—They should call it Lake Breslow

The Sparks Marina fosters community in the Rail City

Brian and his dog hang out at Lake Breslow. He’s keeping an eye out for dog-busting cops, you know.

Brian and his dog hang out at Lake Breslow. He’s keeping an eye out for dog-busting cops, you know.

Photo by David Robert

Lorenzo Donati is my Sparks neighbor and a fisherman extraordinaire. Many mornings, I see him get out of his truck, loaded down with fishing poles, tackle and a plastic shopping bag.

“Brian,” he calls from his corner house across the street. “Look here. I catch in fif-teeen minoots.”

Lorenzo has a thick Italian accent, and when he talks about his vegetable garden, I only pick up only one word out of three. But when he talks fish, we speak a universal language.

He dumps the contents of the shopping bag onto the ground, and usually two or three big, fat, firm rainbow trout, with an occasional German brown, glare up at me. Believe it or not, those fish are one of the linchpins of our neighborhood.

Sometimes, he gives me the fish. Sometimes, Ray and Bobbie Waski, our neighbors down the street and across the way, get them. I’ll bet Gordon and Nancy Townsend occasionally get a fish or two. Sometimes, Lorenzo’s daughter gets them. Every once in a while, he’ll keep them until his freezer gets too full, and then he’ll knock on the door with a bag full of frozen (but gutted) rainbows.

I’ve eaten many of those fish, as have some of my friends, and I haven’t heard of a single case of toxin poisoning.

I remember when I first heard reports, during the flood of ‘97, that the Truckee River had filled the old Helms Pit, which had been polluted by the Interstate 80 tank farm. My first thought was of environmental disaster, complete with images of Pyramid Lake lighting up like the Cuyahoga.

So when the Sparks City Council decided to make the pit into a centerpiece park, I was a little skeptical. How could one flood wipe away the petrochemical flume that had been spewing from the nearby tank farm for decades? Would the underground river of chemicals keep reaching the Marina and begin bubbling up like the black stuff in the intro to The Beverly Hillbillies? Had some slick attorney told the Sparks City Council a fish story as nebulous as the one offered to the Reno City Council by Max Baer Jr.?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I can tell you, every time I eat a grilled trout from that billion-gallon reservoir, they percolate up in my mind. On the other hand, I probably add as many chemicals to my fish with my fourth dose of charcoal lighter fluid.

RN&R columnist and local radio icon Bruce Van Dyke has sampled those charcoal-smoked Sparks Marina trout. Last week, he and I ran into former Sparks mayor Bruce Breslow at a function up at Truckee Meadows Community College. Later, Van Dyke mentioned that Breslow had asked him, “How do you like my lake?”

“I like it a lot,” would have been my answer, if he’d asked me. In fact, that lake could be the single best thing about living in Sparks.

If it were left up to me, I’d rename that pond “Lake Breslow.”

That lake, more than any other thing in the city of Sparks, fosters community. It creates a setting that practically begs people to interact with one another in a pleasant manner. Those effects extend far beyond the lake’s shores.

I was walking my dog, Simone, around the lake the other day. A woman I recognized from Albertson’s stopped to ask me about the dog. We chatted for a few minutes, and as I walked on, the next guy I passed said hi. As I walked out of the public, non-Porta-Potty restroom, another man held the door open for me and offered me another pleasant greeting. And when Simone and I went down on the public beach to get our feet wet, a cop spent almost as much time chewing the fat as he did kicking me off the beach, where dogs are not allowed. (Now, tell me: Why can the Sparks City Council spend millions on a park designed to attract families, but it can’t put up a fenced beach where I can teach my puppy to fetch a Frisbee from the water?)

Conversations with neighbors simply don’t happen at the Century Sparks 14. After all, you would get peeved if someone held a five-minute conversation during the movie. They may happen at the Hometowne Farmer’s Market, but not in such a leisurely manner—and not during winter at all. Just as the park has given Lorenzo and I a fish-based friendship, the Sparks Marina has given many Sparks citizens a feeling and focal point of community.

I don’t think you’ll find another place where families can have as much fun in such a concentrated area. Heck, you can’t even find a real restroom in Reno’s centerpiece, Wingfield Park. The Sparks Marina has two swimming beaches, two sand volleyball courts, picnic tables and gazebos and a lighted trail system. There’s boating, SCUBA diving, sunbathing and a paved trail for a noontime power-walk. There’s a playground for the kids. Soon, there will be paddleboats and pedal surreys.

Sure, the park isn’t perfect. An outdoor amphitheater for plays and concerts will be a welcome addition when Sparks’ money situation gets straightened out. And I can’t believe a duffer like Breslow missed putting in a driving range like the one at the Reno Hilton.

There are only two big activities scheduled for the Marina this summer, although Brian Beffette, Sparks recreation superintendent, says there are more in the works for next year.

This year, the Mutt Strut, a joint effort between the city of Sparks and the Nevada Humane Society, will kick off the summer season at 7:30 a.m. on June 2. This event will raise money for NHS and will hopefully show the powers that be that pets have an important place at the lake. Information can be had from the Nevada Humane Society at 331-5770.

Star Spangled Sparks will be on July 4. It starts at 7:30 a.m. with a volleyball tournament. This event closes at 5 p.m., so everyone can move to Victorian Square for drinking, gambling and fireworks. I can’t offer an explanation as to why we don’t get the double whammy of fireworks reflected on water, although I have a nugget of a suspicion.

At any rate, if you see my neighbor Lorenzo sitting on the Marina’s banks, wish him luck (not that he’ll need it). And if you see our former Mayor Breslow, and you can get him to put the cellular on hold, tell him you like his lake.