The City Council voted Tuesday to close the dry lake bed during the July 4 festivities. The dry lake bed will be closed from 6 a.m. July 3 to 6 a.m. July 5.
The decision was made at the advice of public safety officials who believe July 4 festivities at the dry lake present safety, crowd control and liability issues. An estimated 3,000 partyers gathered on the dry lake bed for a Fourth of July celebration last year, according to city officials.
“It is growing bigger every year,” Police Chief Bill Conger said. “Ultimately, we’re going to have to make it a party … or shut it down.”
Part of the problem is an unregulated fireworks show that reportedly occurs during the celebration and is so large that it “rivals the Damboree fireworks show at Veterans Memorial Park,” a memo from City Attorney Dave Olsen said.
There also have been concession trucks at the event operating without city permits, city officials said.
“There has been a lot of irresponsible activity out there, and I know it stresses police on their routes when they need to pay attention to the city,” Mayor Roger Tobler said.
Boulder City’s official July 4 Damboree celebration traditionally lasts all day, beginning with a parade on Nevada Way and ending with a fireworks show at Veterans Memorial Park.
City Councilman Duncan McCoy questioned the feasibility of closing the dry lake bed, stating it would be an “interesting assignment” for whoever is in charge. However, he said he supports attempting the closure.
“I think we’ll have to give it a shot because someone will get hurt and we’ll get sued,” he said.
Conger recognized the difficulty of the proposal but said it was possible.
“I think if we get there early enough and prevent it, then word will get out,” he said.
Conger said the city would use signage and manpower to turn partyers away.
Boulder City Police also will request assistance from Las Vegas police, Conger said.
Councilman Cam Walker requested that city staff put a public information plan together regarding the closure. By closing the dry lake, city officials realize people will need somewhere else to go.
Tobler expressed concern that people will try to park along U.S. Highway 93 or along desert access roads maintained by Clark County.
Conger, however, said police will attempt to keep partyers out of unauthorized areas.
“We’re going to try and send them up to Veterans (Memorial) Park where they can take part in some legal fireworks,” he said.
The Damboree celebration already attracts 10,000 to 15,000 people, according to Roger Hall, the city’s parks and recreation director.
The city owns the dry lake and, under its Public Land Use Ordinance, has the ability to regulate its use just as it would any city park. However, the council realizes that the public will likely be unhappy about the closure.
“People are going to be mad at us, but that’s too bad,” McCoy said.