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VIDEO VAULT: Fletcher Jones failed to build a housing development at Spring Mountain Ranch

Spring Mountain Ranch.jpg

One of the crown jewels of scenic beauty and family fun in Southern Nevada today was once the center of controversy, with dense housing proposed for Red Rock Canyon.

Today we know it as Spring Mountain Ranch. 50 years ago it was called the Krupp Ranch. The owner was in failing health, and was hoping to find a way to preserve her estate as it was.

“So when she decided to sell it in 1967, she approached Clark County Parks and also State Parks,” says Spring Mountain Ranch Supervisor Rick Keller.

German actress and industrial heiress Vera Krupp may have been interested in preservation, but she also wanted to recoup her investment. So she ended up selling to Las Vegas hotel owner Howard Hughes—though there's no evidence the billionaire ever set foot in Red Rock Canyon.

“Fletcher Jones bought it in 1972 from Hughes. This is one of the first divestments of the Nevada properties that Hughes was getting rid of.”

That's car dealer Fletcher Jones, who was riding high with his Chevrolet dealership on Decatur. For real estate purposes, he took on a business partner, William Murphy. They made no secret of wanting to build some houses on their latest acquisition. But in March of 1973, there was a change.

“The original plan for this area was one home for every two acres,” explains Keller. “They planned to rezone it to two homes per one acre. And that's where you'd get over 700 houses. This is only a 550 acre ranch.”

That did not sit well with nearby Las Vegas Valley residents.

“It was a public outcry. The Red Rock Advisory Board was against it. The Clark County Commission was against it. The State Park Commission was against it.”

The planning board felt the heat and gave the proposal thumbs down. Hours before a vote from the county, the application was withdrawn.

“The State Park Commission then started negotiations with William Murphy and Fletcher Jones to buy the property as a state park.”

Unlike the first attempt to turn it over to the public in 1967, a Clark County Commissioner had access to some cash.

“There was a bond issue at the time, so he used some of those bonds to come up with half the money,” says Keller. “And the other half of the money came from the federal land and water conservation fund.”

Jones and Murphy drove a hard bargain, and more than doubled their investment in under a year. Southern Nevadans got a scenic park with livestock, picnic areas trails a historic ranch house and more.

It cost the state $3.5 million. But there is certainly an argument to be made that it was money well spent.

“All this would have been condos, homes and bridle paths,” muses Keller. “It would have been a gated community so the public would not have had access to it at all.”

Some have speculated that Jones and Murphy were finessing the state all along, and never really wanted to build the houses, but there's no evidence of that.

Fletcher Jones passed away in 1994 at the age of 76. his son Fletcher “Ted” Jones, Jr. still runs car dealerships here and in several other states.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is available to the public, about twenty minutes west of town. Among other things, it is the setting for “Super Summer Theater” performances on Friday and Saturday evenings.

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