August 21, 2008
Author: Jackie Bergquist
Photographer: Matt Quirey
Today our group visited the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, only 10 miles from the heart of the “Strip.” The purpose of our trip was to study the organization’s water smart gardens. Before we entered the site, its drought resistant landscape, prominently displayed solar panels, and unique architecture hinted to our group that we would be in for an experience that we had not yet encountered on the North American Experience to date. It turns out that the gardens we had come to visit make up only one component of Springs Preserve; anthropological, historical and sustainable exhibits are also highlighted.
The site on which the Springs Preserve is located has been an oasis in the Mojave Desert for thousands of years. This is due to the presence of a spring mound, a mound of soil that accumulated naturally on land surrounding a spring. For many years, local Native American tribes flourished from the water and wildlife that was found at/near this spring. Spanish explorers were also attracted to the area by the water and its resources, and gave Las Vegas its name, which means “the meadows” in Spanish.
The spring mound is still intact, and has beenplaced on the National Registry of Historical Landmarks, given the Native American artifacts that have been excavated from the site. Springs Preserve is comprised of 180 acres of land surrounding the spring mound, which is currently on long-term lease from the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The mission of Springs Preserve is to promote the importance and impact of water in this community and to engage people in efficient water usage; it relates this message in a myriad of interpretive, instructional and interactive ways that make this institution incredibly unique.
The three areas of Springs Preserve where we focused our attention were the Gardens, the Ori-gen Experience and the Desert Living Center. Director Jay Nichols, Peter, Russ Harrison and Linn Mills were our hosts and provided us with background information on the site, the project’s planning and construction, and maintenance of the facility. The Gardens of Springs Preserve showcase desert-adapted plants, mostly Mojave and Sonora Desert natives, to teach visitors about the importance of sustainable landscaping and efficient watering practices. Site interpretation is excellent and conveys this message successfully. The Ori-gen Experience is an interactive museum, which presents the Mojave Desert in great detail and communicates water usage in historical and current societies. The third area of the Preserve that we toured was the Desert Living Center, a complex of buildings that is used for demonstration and instruction on sustainability in the home and landscape in the desert environment.
Water at this site has provided a fountain of life for many previous generations of plants, animals and people in the region. The Springs Preserve is in a unique position to to teach local residents about the importance of water through its sustainable message; a message of water conservation in the desert that will enable future generations to live and thrive in this “Miracle on the Mojave.”