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Sin City's Serious Side

Known far more for debauchery rather than ecology, Las Vegas recently welcomed the Las Vegas Springs Preserve to its luminary list of attractions. With 180 acres of museums, botanical gardens, galleries, trails and entertainment venues, the preserve hopes to fill an underdeveloped niche in Las Vegas as an off-the-Strip cultural hub.

“The Springs Preserve represents to Las Vegas what Central Park represents to New York,” said Springs Preserve director Francis N. Béland. “Not aesthetically, but in what it means to the community from a historic and cultural perspective.”

Over a decade in the making, the preserve is seen by locals as a cultural and educational gathering place, and a return to the city’s roots. Thousands of years ago, the preserve was the site of the first water in the valley, and where Las Vegas (Spanish for “the meadows”) derives its name.

4 miles from the Strip and a world away from its glitz, the preserve can be seen as part of a city’s search for its identity. An ironic prospect, considering the wildly successful “Only Vegas” ad campaigns of recent years. The question must be raised. Is Vegas growing up?

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