LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The opening of a $30 million dollar library and community center in east Las Vegas is being hailed as a game changer. The East Las Vegas Library is located on Bonanza Road, which is just past Eastern Avenue.
The I-Team played a role in the library’s creation after nagging various agencies about some dying trees in the area.
The grand opening of the new library and community center is something that public officials and residents have wanted for 25 years but couldn’t accomplish. Gone are the gangsters and criminals who once plagued the same turf. It’s been replaced by hundreds of library patrons who flooded the new facility the moment it opened.
But none of this would have happened if it weren’t for the plight of some towering pine trees. For more than half a century, hundreds of the trees grew on 50 acres. The three lots are near Bonanza and 28th. To sum it up it was an urban forest.
The land belonged to the housing authority, but after the decrepit housing projects were demolished, the trees were essentially abandoned. Over time, the irrigation pipes behind the fenced off lots were broken, clogged, or stolen, which meant the trees were cut off from water.
By 2013, area residents told the I-Team they were sickened to see so many of the old trees dying of thirst in the desert heat.
The I-Team spoke with east Las Vegas resident, Arthur Earl, in 2013.
“In here alone, over 100 trees at least, because there were at least twice as many here,” Earl said. “They were just driving around knocking them over with tractors.
After the I-Team spent months pounding the phone lines of multiple agencies and officials, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, a lifelong resident of east Las Vegas, got to work. Like his predecessor Gary Reese, Coffin thought the location might work as a park built around the trees, but the city didn’t own the land, and the housing authority had no money for a project.
Coffin and city staffers came up with a complicated idea to do a grand land swap between five entities: The city, library district, school district, housing authority, and a private museum. Federal, state, and local dignitaries on hand for the opening praised coffin for pulling off the impossible, but the councilman says his inspiration came from the trees.
“The trees really did it because it got our focus on this land,” Coffin said. “We didn’t own it, but it looked like a place, and with your constant needling me, we got something done.”
The infusion of millions of dollars was possible because of a tax credit system approved two years ago by state lawmakers. Shannon Bilbray Axelrod, who grew up in east Las Vegas, is a member of both the state assembly and the library board and knows what this facility will mean to an underserved community.
“I know how important a library is and how it can really change lives; not only for young people but for older folks as well,” said Bilbray Axelrod. “We have hot spots; we have internet, we have workforce connections, homework help; you name it, this place will do it for the community.
Scores of the remaining pine trees tower over the library, like sentinels, and the few that had to be removed are still here as well because they were turned into benches on which library patrons can sit, think, or read.
According to senator Catherine Cortez Mastro, who was present for the unveiling Thursday, one in five Clark County residents lacks reliable access to the internet.
The new library is chocked full of computers and other technology to serve an estimated 111,000 people who live within two miles of that location.