Monday, February 23, 2009

Coyote Springs--A Pipe Dream?

Out in an uninhabited valley about an hour north of Las Vegas, an incongruous sign and palm trees rise from the valley floor. This is the site of Coyote Springs, touted as a 42,000-acre master-planned community by developer Harvey Whittemore. The plan is for 159,000 houses to be built here, along with schools, fire departments, and shopping centers. Where would these people work? Las Vegas is oft-mentioned, but it's about an hour away, mostly on a two-lane highway with lots of slow-moving recreational vehicles. No houses have yet been built, with Pardee Homes announcing that the building has been delayed  due to a slowdown in the economy.

The first of 16 golf courses is completed. The Coyote Springs website begins "Coyote Springs is defined by a continuous valley of green." I couldn't quite find what they meant, since this is dry desert with lots of space between the cacti, creosote, and yucca, but perhaps that green is going to be the golf courses--if enough water can be found. There are no streams flowing through the area, no springs, no lakes, no ponds. Water has to be pumped out of the ground and piped here. In a desert area with little precipitation, it certainly raises the question: Is this kind of development sustainable? Or is it destined to become the next ghost town?

There were a few golfers on the fairways on the winter afternoon. For this opportunity, it costs up to $175 plus caddie gratuity. If you want to save some money, come golf in the summer, when playing under the sun in 110 degree temperatures will run you just $105 plus gratuity.

Another entrance further down the road has the big Coyote Springs sign, but the landscaping has yet to be completed. I find it rather interesting that every plant has its own irrigation drip, even the cacti.

There's an onsite nursery at Coyote Springs. The trees look outlandish in this place that gets just a few inches of precipitation a year.

This is the entry to the golf club. There were a few vehicles in the parking lot the day I went by.

In the foreground is some of the desert landscaping. It's nice to see them make some attempt to preserve some semblance of the desert, especially since most of this area planned to be developed is (was) desert tortoise habitat. 

I have to wonder who would want to live out here. People who like the remote desert aren't going to want to live with tens of thousands of other people. People who like living near other people are going to want to have more amenities nearby. And the site used to be owned by a Department of Defense contractor and was considered fairly worthless because it's downwind from Area 51 and Nellis Air Force Range, which has bombing practice. 

Recently the developers petitioned the county commissioners for a change in zoning so they could include a hotel-casino on the property. Again, from the Coyote Springs website: "In the town of Coyote Springs, schools are a primary focus." I've always thought schools and casinos to be an odd juxtaposition. 

Despite some xeriscaping, the developer just had to add palm trees. The nearest native palm tree is found hundreds of miles away.

Even worse than the palm trees are the fake rocks and pond--yes pond! planned at the grand entrance.

To the far left of the Coyote Springs is a man-made waterfall. The water will then pool below the sign. I guess this is to make it obvious that as the advertising proclaims, "an amazing desert oasis is taking shape."

It will be interesting to see if home buyers are as elusive as water in this dry, isolated place.

9 comments:

The Incredible Woody said...

Yeah, I'm thinking it is destined to be a ghost town!!

flatbow said...

That sounds like a great development idea! Hey, I've had my own great idea that maybe these guys can help fund: I want to create a great beach resort and tourist destination in Nome, Alaska! I'll ship in millions of tons of sand to create the perfect beaches, install heaters everywhere, and of course plant palm trees! Plus, the whole operation will be "green" because the power plant I will build to power this resort will burn renewable fuel - baby seals and polar bears.

I think I'll call my tourist community "Playa Del Sol"

Who wants to help me get it started and invest?

Anonymous said...

Me, me, me!!!!

Ed said...

I would be amazed if they could make it now that Vegas has imploded. I don't envy the owner of the one operating golf course.

Anonymous said...

I have driven through this area many times over the years---the Great Basin Highway---and the destruction of the desert there is abominable. No, this can't be sustained forever, but unfortunately there are just enough old-timers with golf clubs that love this sort of stuff to keep it alive. Witness: Palm Springs; nothing but golfers and weekend L.A. partygoers.

Gushue said...

Coyote Springs was the subject of my thesis for a Masters in Geography. I was actually looking at the cultural landscape of the development (mainly from the realm of both sport complexes and suburban development) under the guise of what is promised though not yet built. Given that this resort is situated within the Mojave, the rationalist in me agrees with the long term sustainability of such a place. However, Harvey Whitemore (the developer) is a man of gregarious proportions, which may provide short term results. From what I have heard from insider's to this place, so far so good. I never count out Vegas given its history to rise from rubble and rebuild (and re-imagineer) itself. Granted this is a cultural geographer's perspective on a place that has real world ecological implications, but I would not be so quick to throw around the word "Ghost Town". 116 years since Frederick Jackson Turner's the thesis the West continues to change, I am not sure Coyote Springs is the change we want but it may be the (temporary) change we get. It is nice to see more people looking into this behemoth village of the future, and I look for to reading more of this blog. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I think first, that this was very well written from a mother's and desert lover's perspective. Second, I was a realtor in Las Vegas for 3 years. During that time, I had 100's of inquiries from prospective buyers of Coyote Springs homes. I had the disgust of dealing with Pardee Homes to try and get information on this development. I strongly believe the builder will not succeed on this project for the same reason our world economy collapsed and its the simple result of G-R-E-E-D. When you have a developer that will refuse to give its supporters (realtors) the respect of giving information to our clients, and instead, delay and delay, not allowing any type of registration order what so ever, then the client ends up insulting us for our incompetence and lack of ability to gather even the simplest information. The the client goes to the developer and registers himself without the realtor. This is a form of greed to butt out the middleman, or not pay realtor commissions. Not to impose religion, but isn't there a saying "You Reap What You Sow"????
Eddie Stern
Former Nevada Realtor

Gushue said...

Eddie-

Where were you when I was researching this place!!! Could have used the realtor's perspective (and would have as well). I agree Coyote Springs was a secretive a project as anything in the area (sans Area 51 and the NTR) so I was always curious about how they were or are going to pull this off. It is interesting to see how a place shapes and effects all things in the world - ecosystems, to work places, to society. As I said before, say what you will about this place but it has us talking and that is a good thing. Ultimately I believe greed is a motivating factor in this place; well that and hubris. When man tries to conquer nature, bet on man in the short run and nature in the long run.

Mel Burke said...

One wonders what they'll do when the aquifer is gone! ! !

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