These are your problems, City Council

Let’s get one thing straight: Nearly everyone in Reno loves the whitewater park and the Wingfield Park amphitheater and its arts venue. But there are two problems on the horizon over there, and both seem to have their roots in behind-the-scenes and lack-of-foresight actions by city government.

First, the topic of the risk of a drowning child at the Truckee River whitewater park came up again this weekend. Why isn’t there a lifeguard at the whitewater park? This question was posed to City Councilman David Aiazzi, and his reply was that the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over the river. He’s right, there are more federal agencies controlling the Truckee River than Carter has pills, but that’s beside the point. The city built that whitewater park, it advertises it, and the city removed existing warning signs.

The potential, as Aiazzi suggested, is by putting a lifeguard on duty, the city would be accepting liability. The city is already liable, and pretending anything else is ludicrous. Ignoring a problem the City Council is aware of may actually increase its liability. Perhaps City Attorney Patricia Lynch could offer the city some sound advice on this one.

The other issue is the chance of unintended consequences: The potential exists that the city can’t afford to pay lifeguards, install “dangerous waters” signs, and insure the swimmers, which could make it impossible to allow children in the water. Do we really want to wait until a child drowns to find out?

On other lines, a reliable source with local government says there is a plan floating around to remove that huge 80-year-old Austrian pine tree from Wingfield Park. The source says the city plans to get the applicable permits, remove the tree and apologize later.

Our source says this: Some members of the City Council think the tree obstructs the view of the stage, and shade structures could provide more shade and less obstruction. This idea is flawed on many fronts, but let’s stick with the most salient points. First, the tree is only a problem when the park is filled to capacity. Second, the city has plans for an amphitheater on the Mapes site, which will handle the larger crowds without destroying such a venerable life. Third, it takes 80 years to grow an 80-year-old tree; it isn’t something you can cut down and then apologize for—the very idea of this smoke-and-mirrors idea is disgusting.

That tree provides shade for the smaller daytime shows the park was designed for. Yes, removing it may make it easier for bigger Artown-type productions, but Reno people still live here from August through June, and we’d like to have a tree or two in our parks.