200 Park St, Boulder City, Nevada 89005 702-293-9256
“The assignment to turn the raw desert green was handed to a thirty-one-year-old landscape designer from Oregon with the comically inappropriate name of Wilbur W. Weed. The difference in climate between Weed’s rainy native Northwest and his barren new home must have made a strong impression, for his first instinct was to dress Boulder City with cactus and other native flora on the principle that the most practical approach to desert horticulture was “cooperating with nature rather than opposing it.” This plan was vetoed by his Reclamation bosses, who informed him that “we have enough desert, glaring sand and cacti in the surrounding area without having to be further reminded of it.” Their preference was for “normal development,” by which they meant importing trees, shrubs, and grasses from temperate climes into the desert ecology by the thousands. They bureau had promised the dam workers a healthful settlement, and it regarded the shade of trees and park like green of an idealized small-town America as a covenant of that promise.” Page 258
In Real Life:
And so – as a covenant of the promise the Bureau of Reclamation made to the dam workers – we have have Wilbur Square Park. No, the park was not named after Wilbur Weed – the guy from Oregon Michael Hilzik talks about in Colossus – but Ray Lyman Wilbur – the Secretary of the Interior – who named Boulder City and Hoover Dam. The park opened in 1931 – it must have seemed like a gift – a big swath of green right in front the Reclamation building where dam workers could get some fresh air and enjoy a “healthful” environment. Now – it’s a place where people relax and walk their dogs and go to festivals. As I walked through the park I couldn’t help but think Weed nailed it – you know – turning the desert green. It’s interesting to note – however – when you stand in the park and look at the Reclamation building these days – the landscaping of that building is nothing but “glaring sand and cacti.” It’s beautiful too. It appears somewhere along the way Reclamation decided to be a little more water wise on its own grounds. Oh – and that’s not a flying saucer sitting there in the park – although Area 51 is not far away – it’s a turbine from the dam.