Public lands for Public Purposes: Community in the Outdoors

by Heather Feeney, Public Affairs Specialist 

Southwest, Northeast + Places in-between   

Near the intersection of West LeBaron Avenue and South Lindell Road in the Las Vegas Valley is a parcel of public land that Clark County (Nevada) envisions as a neighborhood park. 

An aerial view of land in Enterprise NV proposed for lease under R&PP Act
Enterprise, NV is an unincorporated community southwest of Las Vegas. Its population grew from 14,676 in 2000 to 108,481 in 2010. BLM-Las Vegas FO


More than 1,760 miles to the northeast, agencies and community groups are partnering to enliven Lake Huron’s maritime culture and history offshore of Alpena, Michigan, centered on Thunder Bay Island.  

Thunder Bay, Michigan
The survey plat for Township 31 North Range 8 East of the Michigan Meridian – Thunder Bay, Michigan – February 12, 1841. A lighthouse had been operating on an island at the north end of the bay since 1832.  BLM General Land Office Records


The BLM has a key role in these projects and many others like them under the Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) Act, which first became law in June 1926 and which Congress updated in 1954.

The Act authorizes the Bureau to lease or sell certain public lands to states, local governments, or qualified non-profit groups for recreational use or other public-purpose projects. 
 



Present, Past & Future 

LeBaron Lindell Neighborhood Park is the latest of over 130 R&PP Act projects in Clark County, which continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S.  The “public purposes” of the Act are projects that support community expansion and local economic development. 

Left to right: Las Vegas NV in the 1920s and 2010
The City of Las Vegas in the 1920s, when the R&PP Act was first passed, and in 2010. UNLV Digital Collections; Deror-avi/Wikipedia

The BLM Las Vegas Field Office is processing the County’s application to lease and later take title to 10 acres of public land for the municipal park. 

 

In northeastern Michigan the Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse Preservation Society is working to enliven the past while building community and access to the outdoors in the present. The non-profit group is restoring the lighthouse on the southern end of Thunder Bay Island as an integral element in the National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve and the Alpena Blueway, a water trail designated by the State of Michigan.

Left to right: Roof work at the Thunder Bay lighthouse and an aerial view of the lighthouse
Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse Preservation Society members restore the roof on the fog signal building to return the site to historical condition. The Society leases the buildings seen in the aerial photo at-right from the U.S. Coast Guard, and the local government of nearby Alpena, Michigan has title to the surrounding land. TBILPS


The BLM conveyed title to the 43 acres surrounding the lighthouse to Alpena Township and the State in 2014. Preservation Society volunteers are stabilizing and restoring the lighthouse and other structures so visitors can safely tour the site. In the meantime, visitors to Alpena can view the lighthouse from the water while exploring the wrecks of ships that sank around Thunder Island before they could reach safe harbor.  

A paddleboarder explores a shipwreck off Thunder Bay Island in Lake Huron
Several shipwrecks off Thunder Bay Island are viewable from the surface. Bryan Dort/USFWS

 


June is Great Outdoors Month 

In proclaiming this month ‘Great Outdoors Month,’ President Biden noted that the outdoors are central to our National identity and important for local communities. The R&PP Act supports access to the values of the outdoors at the local level, community by community.

The architect's drawing for a proposed municipal park in Enterprise, NV
Architectural drawing for the proposed LeBaron Lindell Neighborhood Park
A map of blueway trails in the Thunder Bay, MI area
Thunder Bay Island and sunken ships in the surrounding waters are points on a blueway water trail.

 

Places to find unity and forge common bonds   

President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative is a decade-long challenge to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, centered on locally led conservation efforts of all kinds and collaborating to ensure access to the outdoors now and for the future. 

Landscape of Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Photo by Bob Wick/BLM
The Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, southeast of Enterprise, NV  BLM/Bob Wick
The shoreline of Thunder Bay Island, Lake Huron, Michigan
The Thunder Bay Island shoreline, Lake Huron  BLM-Eastern States


As the manager of programs like R&PP, the BLM supports cooperation at all levels to meet the challenge of ‘giving every person in America – present and future – the chance to experience the freedoms, joys, bounties and opportunities that the nation’s lands and waters provide.’  

 

COMMUNITY | Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse Preservation Society : Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (NOAA) : Alpena Blueway/Heritage Route 23 : Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

BLM Links | R&PP Act webpage : Thunder Bay Island storymap : BLM-Las Vegas Field Office