For decades, Nevada’s wetlands were taken for granted as sources of flat, developable land and divertible water. But after a century of Western Nevada losing its wetlands, a joint project between the city of Reno and the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation is restoring more than 200 acres of native habitat.
The city and the foundation recently entered a 30-year lease to restore the city-owned, 219-acre Rosewood Lakes Golf Course to a natural wetlands area with a nature center and walking paths.
“This is a unique habitat in the area,” according to Elena Larsen, wetland restoration program director for the foundation. “We are the driest state, and we are losing wetlands pretty rapidly.”
Wetlands cover less than 1 percent of Nevada, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.

From the 1780s to the 1980s, more than half of the state’s wetlands were lost – about 251,000 acres. By the mid-1980s, Nevada had only about 263,000 acres of wetlands due to development, conversion of wetlands to cropland and water diversion for agricultural and urban use.
In western Nevada, a staggering 82 percent of wetlands were lost by 1988, and “the drought of the late 1980s to early 1990s further reduced the acreage of wetlands in western Nevada,” according to the report.

But the former southeast-Reno golf course, now named the Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area, as it is slowly restored, will allow people “to know what they are looking at and how special it is,” said Sarah Holcombe, development director for the foundation.
From 1990 to 2015, the city operated the 18-hole Rosewood Lakes Golf Course at 6900 Pembroke Dr.

But in 2012, construction of the southeast connector to link Sparks with south Reno split the middle of the golf course, and it closed in 2015.

Since then, the course, which is surrounded by waterways including the Boynton Slough and Steamboat Ditch, has dried up and been taken over by a host of invasive species.

Through fundraising and work by AmeriCorps crew members, the invasive species are slowly being removed. Bird boxes have been installed. A dilapidated bridge has been repaired. And the course’s old putting green is being converted to a pollinator garden.
When the roughly $2 million grant-funded project is complete, the goal is to have a nature center operating out of the old clubhouse and nearly three miles of paved and natural-surface walking paths for people to view the site’s native muskrats, egrets, herons, sparrows and a beaver the foundation has dubbed “Justin Beaver.”

That is still several years out, but “with any sort of habitat restoration, the grand scheme is to recognize the small successes,” Larsen said.

The short-term goal is to have a roughly one-mile path open to the public later this year so visitors can get a taste of what the final project might look like.