View from the fray

Who cares?

The “Nevada is Not a Wasteland” event, with music, speakers and information booths, takes place from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 29 at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno. Call 827-4200 to learn more.
We heard gunfire in the distance, but it wasn’t terribly troubling. The shooters were at least a mile away. And probably they were shooting into the mountain—not at hikers walking along the road. Probably.

We did a family hike last week, heading out the front door of our new home just off Vista Boulevard in Sparks and up into the hills. We hiked up and up and up, then down and down and down, thus turning a simple eight or so miles into what felt like 80. My mountain-biking husband Dave had found some petroglyphs, etchings possibly of Native American origin, on a rocky outcropping high over a dry lakebed.

When my family moved to Nevada more than a decade ago from the moist Midwest, we’d have called this treeless landscape “desolate” or even “godforsaken.” These days, we’re awed by the beauty of vast stretches of open space.

Even more amazing than expansive scapes and possibly ancient petroglyphs were the bullet-pocked artifacts left behind by more contemporary outdoorsfolk. We walked past a rusting safe, a decaying armchair, a couch, a water heater, a refrigerator, parts from cars, an ancient washing machine and a mattress.

“Why do people think they can drag this stuff out here, shoot it up and then just leave it?” Dave wondered.

“Because Nevada’s a wasteland? Because it’s a Nevada way of life? I really don’t know.”

I thought of the mess at an enclave on Peavine Mountain, just above the new Rollan Melton Elementary School at the end of Robb Drive. The area used as a shooting range had contained several decades’ worth of accumulated trash. Recently, though, the area’s been cleaned of targets and raked by volunteers assisting the U.S. Forest Service. It’s likely that shooters no longer feel invited to carry, say, boxes of ceramic tile or small cars up there to use for target practice.

How does a cleanup like this happen?

Well, it takes some effort. On Peavine, change is being sparked by the relentless complaints, record-keeping and petitioning of James Calkins, a resident of northwest Reno. Calkins began an awareness campaign that led to an extension of Peavine’s “congested area boundary,” the area in which it’s illegal to discharge firearms, whether it’s for hunting bunnies or shooting at discarded appliances.

Despite this small victory, the work continues. Northwest Reno residents will meet to tour Peavine at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 26 in the parking lot of the Caughlin Ranch Scolari’s Food Market.

If you’re looking for activism with a broader perspective, a “Nevada is Not a Wasteland” event is being held 12 to 3 p.m. Sept. 29 at Wingfield Park. There’ll be music and info from about 18 different environmental and political organizations on what you can do to “discover the beauty within” the place we call here.

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax, a tale of greed, thoughtlessness and destruction. The book ends with the advice of a depressed former murderer of Truffula trees: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not."