A back road to Burning Man could be in the works in Pershing County. The Bureau of Land Management has offered to help the county with road improvement costs to reduce traffic congestion on State Route 447, now the main road to and from the festival north of Gerlach.
There’s little traffic on Porter Springs Road and Ragged Top Road but they are not suitable for many of the vehicles driven to Burning Man such as motorhomes and heavily-loaded trailers.
Sheriff Jerry Allen said some locals support a road improvement project that could attract more Burning Man participants to Lovelock and benefit businesses as well as increase tax revenues.
“There’s a couple of people in town that want us to pave or somehow improve the Porter Springs Road and the Ragged Top Road especially for when Burning Man comes around for emergency evacuations and a possible monetary incentive for the county,” he told county leaders. “I’m not sure what the cost of that would be but it’s probably way cost prohibitive.”
County Commissioner Rob McDougal confirmed that the BLM could assist with the costs.
“We’ve actually been offered BLM money to assist in doing that so we have asked (County Road Department Supervisor) Mr. Dan Hill to look into what it might cost to do some of that work,” he said. “And then, we would go back to BLM and say we’ve identified these two routes, for example. How much can you help with this?”
Ragged Top Road could be less costly to upgrade and maintain and is a more direct route to SR 447, Gerlach and the Burning Man site than the Seven Troughs/Porter Springs Road, Allen said.
“I’d say the Ragged Top Road going over to Winnemucca Dry Lake would be the most beneficial. It’s the most direct route to the 447 and it needs the least amount of work,” he said. “Porter Springs, although it’s a good road, it has a lot of sharp shale and a lot of things that will need to be mitigated that Ragged Top wouldn’t need. That’s just been my previous experience with blowing two tires on Porter Springs Road. It’s a good thing we carry spares.”
County resident John Heizer supports the idea for economic reasons. He believes a good back road would draw more Burners into Lovelock, helping businesses and generating tax revenues. More fuel, groceries, meals and rooms could be sold in Lovelock and less in Fernley or Reno.
All back roads in Pershing County are unpaved with no services for miles, sharp rocks that flatten tires, few signs to guide drivers, intermittent or no cell phone service and GPS signal.
The roads are for adventurers well prepared with directions, maps, spare tires, plenty of fuel, water, food and warm clothing in case they are stranded in some remote place for a long period of time. Even locals have died or nearly died before search and rescue teams could find them.
Recent search and rescue missions demonstrate the risks of the county’s backcountry.
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had two successful search and rescue missions and one that was tragic,” Allen said. “HGH had to fly their helicopter because we could not access folks that rolled their vehicle in the Sonoma Canyon area. They were up high enough that we couldn’t get ATV’s, UTV’s or anything up there so HGH looked at it. They said they couldn’t land then they ended up landing a mile away, hiked in, got the people out and to treatment.”
HGH helped deputies rescue other people whose motorhome got stuck in the backcountry. A victim climbed a hill and found a cell phone signal so he could call the sheriff’s office for help.
“HGH Air has been very beneficial to the county over the last couple of years,” Allen said. “They’ve helped us fly a lot of missions. They helped us with one of the successful search and rescue missions where there was a class A motorhome stuck in an area of the county it should not be in and it’s not even Burning Man yet. Motorhomes are more prepped for paved roads and not dirt unless you lift them and put big tires and stuff on them.”