Midian Ranch Blog

This is the web log for Midian Ranch, an isolated homestead in rural Nevada. It is owned by Jason and Tina Walters, whom are also its regular posters. This blog is exclusively for the enlightenment and edification of our friends, family, and colleagues.

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Location: Gerlach, Nevada, United States

Friday, September 25, 2009

We Have Built Jerusalem

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

-William Blake

This is the text of a post I made on Burning Man's official blog last week. The original text of the blog can be ready here.

I’ve never read this blog before but, as the things being discussed here will have a direct impact on my family, neighbors, and myself, it behooves me to comment.

My name is Jason S. Walters and, along with my wife and daughter, I live almost directly across the street from the Fly Geyser. We are some of the roughly thirty inhabitants of the Hualapai Valley. In fact, there are nine inhabited ranches, farms, or facilities in the valley: Granite Ranch, Midian Ranch, Black Rock Station (of course), Dog Ranch, Jackson Ranch, Orient Farms, the Fascio Ranch, and the Spoo Place. Though I am a relative newcomer having only lived there full time for three years, there are people who have lived in the valley for decades. The valley’s population includes two children, and that number will probably increase over the next few years.

I’m generally a fan and a friend of Burning Man. I’ve attended the festival ten times and have numerous friends that work full or part time for Burning Man LLC. The community of Gerlach (our town, in essence) benefits economically from the event, and its spinoff company of Black Rock Solar has done fine work putting up solar systems for the high schools in Gerlach, Nixon, and Wadsworth. I’ve also seen Black Rock Station evolve from what was basically an 80-acre junkyard into an organized, well-run facility… in part due to a bit of arm twisting from neighbors and Washoe County, but that’s water under the bridge, as they say. In the end the LLC put its money where its mouth is and built a great facility. And that’s what counts.

I like art too. Especially art that catches on fire and explodes. That’s part of what’s cool about living in the Black Rock Desert.

BUT… and this is a very big but… ultimately those of us who live in the Hualapai Valley do so because it is remote, seldom visited, and has a low-population density. Or, to put it another way, we live there because Gerlach is too crowded for us. So what sounds like a very exciting project to all of you sounds kind of threatening to our way of life, especially if the goal is to make the Hualapai Flats the permanent home of the festival itself. That’s…kind of hard to contemplate, though I know it’s been there before. I was at that one myself.

Still, Tina and I sacrificed everything to get away from San Francisco. Now it looks like arrangements are being made to bring the city we fled to our doorstep. #sigh# There’s probably a lesson there somewhere.

In any case, I’d like to ask a few questions of the Burning Man LLC, as once again this project could effect my family. What do you mean by a “conference center,” exactly? How big will it be? How much will the traffic on State Route 34 increase? How much noise will its (presumably large) diesel generators create? How many more people will live in the valley? How will it effect the antelope, mustang, and other animals that currently rely on the property for their water?

Is the Bright Holland Corporation selling you the water rights along with the property? If not, are you aware that there are very real long-term plans to pump the Hualapai Valley’s water to the Reno area via a pipeline? It’s not talked about publicly, but the “nervous politicians” mentioned in the post certainly know about it. After all, the Hualapai Valley is one of only two places in Nevada where basin-to-basin transfers are still permitted under state law: and if they do build that pipeline, that geyser won’t stay one for very long, no matter what they’re telling you.

In conclusion, there’s plenty of room in the Black Rock Desert for everyone. There may even be plenty of room in the Hualapai Valley for everyone who wants to actually live there. But with all of the discussion of “community” on this blog, I would like to point out that the Black Rock Desert already has a community of some 300 or so people, including those of us that live in the Hualapai Valley. What is being proposed on this blog will definitely impact that existing community. And, while we are generally neither “progressive” or even “interesting,” we do actually live there – and I fear that few of us were included amongst the beautiful people being fed appetizers and drinks under the moonlight.

-Jason Walters, Midian Ranch, 1287 State Route 34

So, what's my problem exactly? It's this: Burning Man as an organization exhibits exactly the same behavior as the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), an organization which they have close ties to, when it comes to the people that live in the Black Rock Desert. Both organizations operate as though we are naughty children whose input could not possibly be of any value, even though what they do often effects our lives. If fact, they don't care enough about what we think to even call us together in our own community center and lie to us. At least Washoe County does that!

It's arrogant and insulting.

I understand Burning Man's motivations. Every religion needs its Jerusalem, and they can take the one million dollars a year they spend on leasing the Playa from the BLM and spend that on building permanent facilities in the Hualapai Valley: housing, meeting spaces, stages, coffee shops, and the like. It's a free country and they have a right to do this. Maybe it will even be fun and cool. But why in God's name does it have to be across the street from us?


Blogger Alan said...

For the record, this is a good case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) policy being ignored for various reasons.

It disturbingly reminds me of Avalon Park, here in Orange County, FL, albeit in reverse--the nuclear/coal powerplants were there before the town was built around it. I already feel uncomfortable about attending the Avalon center for Exellence (a fine outbranch of Winter Park Tech despite being an hour's drive away!) and seeing the twin concrete stacks of the nuke plant in full visibilty across the town center. I'm glad I'm staying over there any longer than needed for the school season.

And that's not counting the proximity of the county dump, which is also next to the powerplants.

5:54 PM  

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