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Nov. 07, 2007

Death Valley may choose Hafen Commercial Center for offices



Death Valley National Park Superintendent J.T. Reynolds said the park service plans to locate some park offices in Pahrump and establish a partnership with the town.

The General Services Administration has approved the leasing of office space in Pahrump. The park service is currently considering five locations, Reynolds said while attending the dedication of the Timbisha-Shoshone tribe community center in Furnace Creek last weekend.

"We have a lot of employees who live in Pahrump and right now we have a government shuttle," Reynolds said. "Because we have more employees than office space we're talking about expanding."

The employees working in Pahrump would be mostly scientists working on the Devil's Hole project, but the plan is to also have a tourist information center where visitors could start planning their trip before driving down to the park, Reynolds said. He anticipates about 15 to 20 employees stationed in Pahrump.

Reynolds confirmed reports one of the properties the park service is looking at is the Hafen Commercial Center, at 1321 S. Highway 160, which he said would be a preferred location.

"If we're successful at getting the Hafen property, it's right next door to the chamber of commerce. That would be a good partnership I think," Reynolds said.

The Death Valley National Historical Association, a non-profit group, would like to have a book store in the park offices in Pahrump as well, he said.

The Hafen Commercial Center has some office space after Hafen and Hafen Realty relocated to the Artesia subdivision at 6250 Hafen Ranch Road and Pahrump Utilities moved to 5250 Hafen Ranch Road. There are still offices in the rear of the building; Chicago Title, Family Chiropractic, Scott L. Baker architect and Country Insurance.

Reynolds said the park service would like to have more visibility than the Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce, with a big sign displaying the park service arrow head. The chamber only has a question mark in front of the Nevada State Bank building where it has its headquarters on the second floor.

Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Kari Frilot said its exciting news.

"That's probably the number one thing we promote outside of our town for obvious reasons. So I think any way we can partner just enhances tourism for the area," Frilot said.

Tour buses often make pit stops in Pahrump en route from Las Vegas to Death Valley to let passengers use the bathroom and grab some supplies at local supermarkets. Local officials weren't exactly sure what the park service means by partnering with the town, but thought it left lots of possibilities. The park service estimates 800,000 tourists visit Death Valley National Park annually.

"That's really good for Pahrump. Then they will be advertising through their funds and media that Pahrump is associated with the park so people will have a better idea of the proximity of Pahrump to Death Valley as a provisioning headquarters and a place to stay," Frilot said.

An assistant marketing manager for Xanterra, the Death Valley National Park concessionaire, often promotes a special rate for Pahrump residents at the Furnace Creek golf course at chamber functions.

Death Valley National Park has been included in the Pioneer Territory section for promotions by the Nevada Commission on Tourism, even though it's located in California, she said.

The park service still has to prepare a marketing survey for the General Services Administration to get an idea of the things the parks service wants in the Pahrump offices, Reynolds said.

"I think more and more we'll be playing a more active role in Pahrump," he said.

The parks service will be using about 2,000 square feet in Pahrump, Reynolds said. There will still be about 80 to 85 employees stationed in Death Valley, he said.

"We don't have enough office space in the park and we're not in line to get any more built," Reynolds said.

The park service has had a small information office in Beatty, which bills itself as the gateway to Death Valley. Pahrump Town Manager Dave Richards doesn't see why Pahrump couldn't promote itself as a gateway. Reynolds called Pahrump "an entry station" to Death Valley National Park.

Karen Stolle, an employee at Death Valley National Park, sits on the Pahrump public lands advisory board and has talked about setting up an informational program in the schools, Richards said.

Reynolds said he's had talks with Richards about setting up a partner relationship with the town.

"We met about two months ago. It was kind of a meet and greet type of thing and we talked about potential areas of cooperation," Richards said.

The conversation included linking up the Death Valley National Park web site to the town of Pahrump web site, Richards said.

"I think it's a natural. We need to work together regardless of who claims to be the gateway to the park. There are several gateways," Richards said.

Frilot thought the completion of a western town at the fairgrounds would be another way of getting the tour buses heading to Death Valley to stop in Pahrump. She said the Nevada Commission on Tourism identified cowboys and Indians as the third most popular destination for foreign tourists after the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.

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