The Sierra’s Biggest Little City is Growing Up

COMM Reno BrittanyBenesi 2015 10“So, how did you end up in Reno?” I repeat the question in my mind—end up—as if Reno is the nasty shore of murky waters; home to washed-up, rusty parts of an old, abandoned shipwreck. I’ve been in Reno for a year and 3 months now and never has the word interesting been used more accurately to describe any place I’ve lived thus far. However grimy it can be, though, I think it’s far from a nasty shore. What I have found has actually surprised me in many ways.

Reno is home to a vibrant and eclectic community— artists and addicts, burners and dreamers, conservatives and liberals, outdoor enthusiasts and club-goers, families and college students, the young and the poor, the old and the rich. It is a land of paradoxes, and like most other cities there is struggle and hardship among wealth and abundance. As I continue to explore Reno I’ve seen these ideas and experiences take shape in the form of passionate, everyday people like you and me. However these people ended up in Reno, they are an essential part of the changing culture in Reno and the Sierra Nevada region.

And boy, is the city changing. One of the most obvious agents responsible is the expected arrival of Tesla’s gigafactory. Washoe County population is projected to jump 7% by 2019 to 638,302 (Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada’s Economic Planning Indicators Committee Report), and with the cost of living in California skyrocketing to exorbitant levels, Nevada’s few taxes, regulations, and restrictions make it easy for people and businesses to migrate eastward.

This will undoubtedly impact the Sierra Nevada region. As more people move to Reno to fill the jobs that new businesses and factories (like Tesla’s) create, they will explore their city and surrounding areas looking for community and ways to relax and unwind. Luckily, Reno is just a stone’s throw away from Lake Tahoe, the Jewel of the Sierra—home to world class skiing, and access to backcountry wilderness and trails that lead to breathtaking scenery. In order for people to safely access and enjoy everything the region has to offer, it must be maintained and prioritized. As more people take part in recreational activities, the need for services to sustain the Sacred Sierra will also increase. We must prioritize those living in the rural communities that thrive on a tourist economy and are entrusted with maintaining recreational land.

So what’s next?

Well, for Reno this means planning for the future, not just in the city, but also in the high country, and allowing affected communities and those invested in the region’s wellbeing to actively shape that model. For the Sierra, this means understanding how this growth will affect them, and creatively accommodating those changes whilst upholding community and regional values. For both, this means cooperation to the utmost degree. The Sierra to the west and the desert to the east together create a unique community that has the power to change so much within the Golden and Silver states. As the largest city in the region, Reno plays a vital role in ensuring the Sierra Nevada has a voice that is heard and actively speaking, and I believe early COMM RenoColors KriseldaBautista 2015 copycollaboration and cooperation can ensure a sense of cohesive community as we navigate the oncoming development. I believe the City of Reno should plan for smart growth and prioritize the rich resources and natural assets that will create lasting benefits for Reno and the Sierra in fostering thriving communities.

As for me, well I found myself in Reno because I wanted to be closer to the Sierra. When roads aren’t icy and when drivers are tame I find my scenic Reno-Truckee commutes quite enjoyable and relaxing. I love being able to work in such a beautiful community, and go home to a city at the foot of the mountains that is still awake. I love driving less than an hour in either direction and being completely immersed in the wilderness, whether desert or forest. I love exploring the obscure shops and restaurants in midtown, talking to local business owners, and checking out the free concerts and events put on by Reno Artown. And I must say, I really enjoy talking to people in Reno and hearing how they ended up here. I cannot deny that I am a product of Los Angeles County suburban sprawl and the Orange County cushion, but my years in the concrete jungle leave me constantly craving a bit more grit. Working in Truckee and living in Reno has given me the best of both worlds.

Reno may be rough around the edges, but it is owning its past and working to build a better future. I believe we have a responsibility to smooth out the abrasive edges and help execute this vision in a social and sustainability-minded way. If you’d like to become more involved, I encourage you to get down to the roots of Reno and the Sierra Nevada. Tap into the issues that affect these communities, find the ones that you are passionate about, and use your skills to contribute to a bigger, yes, but also brighter future.

Local/Reno-based Non-Profit Organizations:

Sustainable Tahoe 
Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation 
Upper South East Connector Coalition 
Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful 
Washoe Valley Alliance 
Friends of Nevada Wilderness