Nevada Properties: What are they, and why are they there? Burning Man maintains a 200-acre work ranch near the Nevada event site that is home base for all the storage containers, trailers, and vehicles used for the production of the event. The ranch also incorporates several shops used for pre-event construction and year-round maintenance of the Black Rock City fleet public infrastructure.
The Gerlach office is staffed all year, though it’s used most heavily during the event. The accounting office was remodeled for 2005, and more is slated to be done in the rest of the building, which underwent many changes from 2004 through 2005. It is now open at least 4 days a week during the winter months and remains toasty warm since the installation of a propane heater in late 2004. The office seems to field more calls than last year, probably because the outside world is getting used to someone answering most of the time. People drop by quite often all year, if for no other reason than to satisfy curiosity or gather information on both the event and surrounding areas.
Like the changes from 2004, most physical updates in 2005 are not very apparent at first glance, but they add up to a big improvement, with more to come. The biggest change during 2004 was the remodeling of the purchasing office to provide two built-in desks with shelves, good lighting, lots of cork boards, and a fresh coat of paint. These additions make a huge difference, and the space has become a much more pleasant, efficient work area.
The large room in the back of the building seems to take on a different appearance each year, and the reception area continues to be improved. The main project in store for 2006 is the re-organization and cleaning of the shelves, storage cabinets, and desks in the reception area and back office.
Helen’s House, the little house behind the office, looks great. With a good scrubbing, some general fixing-up, and a few gallons of paint, it’s a new place altogether. Helen’s House accommodates staff visiting from out of town and can be used for meetings where a little quiet is needed.
Burning Man’s Reno office was closed early in 2005, and those operations moved to Gerlach.
The Nevada Properties include the Black Rock Social Club, a building used in off hours to relax, check email, catch a movie, or shoot some pool. It also housed the sign shop this year. The club was busy all day and well into the evening. More repairs are planned, and more space will be added to sit and relax, surf the web, or grab a snack.
The Burning Man Project is considering future uses for the Showers property, just outside of Gerlach. A commanding view of the playa and its existing bath house make it an excellent location for a staff/volunteer trailer park. Used again this year to stage equipment and as a source for potable water, the Showers is a valuable addition to the Nevada Properties.
During 2005 Bruno’s trailer park again housed pre-event workers before they took up residence on the playa. This is also part of the Nevada Properties. Many workers bring their own trailers or sleep in tents, in addition to those who share rooms in the existing mobile homes. Bunk beds once again made for interesting sleeping arrangements, and the “Train Wreck,” a trailer in need of a little TLC, became the nightly entertainment center. Yoga, movies, poker, and occasional choir practice in the desert kept the off hours enjoyable… not that the construction crew experiences many off hours…
We gained many improvements in 2005. The auto shop was completed with the help of volunteers who showed up for work weekends alongside the regular crew. They braved wind, rain, snow, and hail for a few weeks while bolting 50-foot steel hoops together. The inside of the shop is still being set up with parts areas, tools sections, and vehicle work space. Ample concrete pads on each end of the shop allow mechanics to work on vehicles without crawling around in the dirt. The electrical contractor tied the shop into the new power system, and running water is available at each end of the building. While these amenities may seem insignificant to a city dweller, when you are out in the middle of nowhere, running water and electricity are kind of cool.
Along with the new auto shop building, we built a bathroom to handle crews during the season. They will enjoy sinks, toilets, a couple of showers, and of course running water! Built in the style of the other structures on the ranch, the new bathroom is a welcome addition.
Many teams used Black Rock Station this year. Café crews built more furniture, Lamplighters worked on some new structures, and the sign shop hosted work weekends. The Man Base team, building the Man’s platform, used the entire shop and half the yard preconstructing the base, decks, and anything else they could send on a truck the 12 miles to the playa.
The yard went through a transformation again this year with things getting shuffled to different areas. Semi-trailers were moved to the far end of the yard, and portable buildings needing work were stored closer to the shops. Travel trailers were actually lined up by number and owners, and some fear that they might someday be carrying bar codes on them. Art cars have their own area, looking like a BRC used car lot. Storage containers are now in one row along the fence line, and they should be much easier to load out next year.
Clean-up continues with piles of various materials always being sorted. Waste oils, antifreeze, tires, batteries, all must be handled by recyclers or waste haulers. Wood gets sorted, vehicles get winterized, and everything gets tied down for winter.
Of all the construction permits pulled for the property, we are down to our last two, the auto shop and the bathroom. We also have a new one for a communication tower, but that hasn’t been started yet. The Washoe County staff feels really good about having most of the permits signed off, with only a couple left to do.
The park is looking great. Many animals are using the grounds. The crows are very happy with the Bone Tree in the art garden. Many creative pieces have found their way into the garden and make for an interesting view for people driving down the ranch road.
Work weekend support from the Nevada Properties crew was a great success. The BRICK (Black Rock Instant Camp Kitchen) made short work of setting up dining facilities. Three Barrels Camp, the playa-based work weekend camp, was named for the three fire barrels that lived there during the summer. It hosted groups at least once a month. Crews worked at cleaning up the playa, which was difficult due to all the rain and the ever-moving lake. Crews also spent time picking up MOOP (matter out of place) at the ranch itself, working in the garden, and taking care of the projects that stacked up all winter. The Black Rock Saloon benefitted from the wet playa and offered many truck loads of stuff for the dumps as well. The Saloon is an ever-present source of cleaning and sorting, but it will be dry this year. Last year’s rain closed the deal on a new roof for the Black Rock Social Club saloon. The Nevada Properties crew spent a couple of days scampering over the roof with screw guns putting down a new metal standing rib roof. This design should make the building cooler in the summer, and some report that it is noticeably warmer right now, with snow on the roof.
One of the most visible tasks completed this year was the new roof and paint job for Gerlach’s water tower, one of the last two railroad water towers remaining west of the Mississippi. The tower had been known for years to need a new roof, but until we climbed up to take a good look, no one knew how bad things really were. Now, in true Department of Public Works (DPW) fashion, the tower has a new roof and a new coat of paint, and the State of Nevada is planning to spend money to fix up the park around it. Many thanks to local businesses who supplied equipment and material for free or at cost. Your ice monies from 2003 and 2004 were donated to help the effort.
In 2005 Burning Man finally finished the capital expenditures required by Washoe County. The bathroom facility is the last open permit required for compliance with county regulations. Black Rock Station (BRS) now offers a fully equipped woodshop, metal shop, automotive shop, and lots of space to work. Many work weekend participants learned new skills in these well-equipped shops. From making burn barrels and wooden benches to building art cars and laying irrigation lines, the work ranch always has a challenge waiting. Through the dedication and commitment of its users and visitors, it will continue to grow and help fill the need for a place where people can learn, experience, and belong to our community.
David Pedroli, Nevada Properties Manager
with contributions from Sherry Carter