Grass Roots Organization: BLUE DIAMOND: FRIENDS OF RED ROCK
article by Heidi Kyser, Desert Companion, April 15, 2015
They banded together to preserve the peace in their rural town. Along the way, the big city next door took up the fight, too
To city dwellers on the neon-lit side of Blue Diamond Hill, the small burg nestled in the western crux of the 159 might seem a bit eerie at night. So quiet, so dark. But to the 300 residents of Blue Diamond, it’s a peace worth fighting for — as is the family-friendly atmosphere that permeates the school, library, park, theater and swimming pool in the former gypsum-mine company town. “It’s so nice to have good people around you who know and watch out for each other,” says Heather Fisher, who’s raising four kids there. “We celebrate every holiday together. The store has regulars who sit on the front porch and have coffee together.”
A decade ago, a trucker shattered this tranquil tableau when he hit Metro police officer Don Albietz, who was riding his bike on the 159. His fellow Blue Diamond residents sprang into action, raising funds for the devastated family. After eight days in a coma, Albietz died, but the community channeled its grief into something positive: SaveRedRock.com. Fisher founded the site to promote safety for recreationists through lower speed limits, but it became a rallying point for anything that might threaten the area’s serenity — most notably Jim Rhodes’ planned high-density development on the defunct mine property.
“It was a 30-year construction project that would have introduced 45,000 car trips a day through the canyon,” Fisher says. “It started out that Blue Diamond was the watchdog for Red Rock, but it turned out that everybody in Vegas realized it would affect them, because they need a place to escape. So, instead of being a little town against a big developer, it became everyone who loves the canyon getting together to preserve its natural setting.”
Instead of being a little town against a big developer, it became everyone who loves the canyon getting together to preserve its natural setting.
Former state Sen. Justin Jones, whose kids attended school in Blue Diamond and whose district included the area, has remained active in negotiating a compromise with Rhodes since losing his seat in the 2014 elections. “The county made it clear that the project would be cost-prohibitive (because of required infrastructure),” Jones says. “We joined forces with Rhodes to press the BLM for a land-swap in the legislature. For the last couple months, things have been on hold, as the BLM has focused on its Resource Management Plan, but we’re keeping our eye on it.”
Meanwhile, the community is keeping its eyes on the BLM, which has included parts of Red Rock in a proposed “disposal area,” meaning they’d be open to development. “Red Rock is not disposable,” Fisher says, echoing a protest refrain. “It’s too sensitive to sell. You couldn’t develop it without impacting the tourism industry here.”