LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — They say that good fences make good neighbors, but apparently the kind of fence is just as important to horse owners who live along the border of the new Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

An informational meeting Thursday night about how to make suggestions for the budding park bogged down in a debate about the National Park Service’s fence design. The meeting played out at the Clark County Shooting Complex at the north end of Decatur Boulevard, with a handful of vocal residents sitting alongside volunteers from a group called Protectors of Tule Springs.

Longtime area residents complained that their access to favorite riding trails is being lost as fencing goes up to try to keep ATV and motorcycle riders out of sensitive areas. The park was created to preserve fossils, including mammoths, ancient camels, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, ground sloths, bison, North American lions — and horses. And now, as the park service looks ahead to recreational and educational uses of the monument, horses are a big part of the discussion.

Post-and-cable fences used by the park service for decades are an important part of preserving the fossils now, but residents say they aren’t safe around horses. Many of the fences were originally put in place by the Bureau of Land Management before the national monument even existed.

If a horse bolts, the fences aren’t that easy to see — which can result in severe injuries to the horse and danger to the rider. It has happened already, according to people who were at Thursday’s meeting. They say the park should use chain link fences to keep ATVs out.

But representatives of the park service said chain link fences are often cut, opening the way for motorized vehicles and trash dumping.

Accusations leveled at park managers amped up at that point, with residents looking to cast blame. Protectors of Tule Springs volunteers tried to diffuse the conflict by inviting residents to use established channels to provide input to monument staff, and to volunteer for patrol units.

Volunteers and monument officials emphasized that the meeting was set up to get public input. To comment as the “General Management Plan” is devised, submit your feedback on this webpage. A draft of the plan is due early next year, with final approval in the spring of 2024.

More information about the park is available in a recent newsletter:

The national monument covers 22,650 acres in the north valley, stretching along the upper Las Vegas Wash. The Park Service knows it has a lot of work ahead as the valley continues to fill up and housing developments continue to expand along U.S. 95., including housing that’s currently under construction at the exit for Mt. Charleston.

But Thursday’s meeting pointed to more pressing problems presented by people who have lived next to the site for years. As officials tried to move on to other topics they needed to cover in the two-hour meeting, it was clear that the argument wasn’t over — at least, not as far as horse owners were concerned.