Friday, March 19, 2004 | 11:24 a.m.
Whether people choose to launch a boat at Lake Mead or swoosh down snow-covered Mount Charleston slopes on skis or snowboards, the time for spring activities has arrived.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the perfect blend of balmy temperatures and calm weather brings a welcome respite between winter's cold and summer's heat.
Although spring begins at 10:49 tonight, it may go unnoticed because most people in Las Vegas have enjoyed shirtsleeves-and-shorts weather this month as temperatures hovered about nine degrees above normal.
Daytime highs in the upper 80s and low 90s could break records this weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Maker said.
Today's temperature, expected to be in the low 80s, is not expected to match the 88-degree record set in 1939, Maker said.
But Saturday's temperatures could flirt with the 88-degree high set in 1997, and Sunday's could break the 88-degree record high for the date set in 1997, Maker said. Some forecasts predict a high of 90 for Sunday.
That's expected to draw people out to Lake Mead this weekend. Boaters, hikers and visitors to Lake Mead can enjoy more exposed shoreline as the lake's level continues to drop because of five years of drought, National Park Service spokeswoman Roxanne Dey said.
Lake Mead's water temperature reached only 59 degrees Thursday and won't warm up for awhile.
But the comfortable weather allows people to hike, picnic, boat or visit the lake's marinas with few crowds except on weekends, Dey said.
"The lake is like glass," Dey said Thursday, referring to the lack of wind.
The National Park Service offers nature programs and ranger-led hikes, Dey said.
On Saturday, March 27, Keep America Beautiful's Great American Cleanup will take place from 9 a.m. until noon at Lake Mead's Government Wash.
Signup begins at 8:30 a.m. at Government Wash.
Such hands-on cleanup activities have attracted 200 people in the past, Dey said. Volunteers should bring gloves, water, sunscreen and a hat.
Many Las Vegas residents didn't wait until spring arrived to enjoy the outdoors, as they gathered in parks across the valley Thursday night.
Crystal Perri, 29, a Summerlin resident, went to Desert Breeze Park at Spring Mountain Road and Durango Drive to celebrate her 7-year-old daughter Brynn's birthday.
"It's always a beautiful springtime in Las Vegas and everyone's always looking forward to it," Perri said.
"You're ready for it to warm up, but it's not all-out hot yet. The nights are nice when it cools down. Everyone should take advantage of this weather before it turns 100 degrees."
Andrea Garza, 32, with her daughter, Christine, 8, attended the birthday party that included with balloons and music.
Garza's 12-year-old son, Alex, was at soccer practice at a nearby soccer field.
"Sports start up in the spring," Garza said. "Things get busy for me. My son and daughter both play soccer."
While it's almost unbearable to sit in the stands without a fan or spray bottle in the summer, Garza said, the spring weather is enjoyable.
"It's nice to get the kids outside," she said. "It's healthy for them to get exercise and not be cooped up inside the house anymore."
North Las Vegas resident Jorge Paucar, 38, walked toward the dog park with his German shepherd named Mika.
"I love spring," he said. "I always come to the dog run after work in the spring. Mika's been waiting for it to warm up so we can start coming out here every night."
Summers are too hot for Mika and winters are too cold for Paucar, he said.
"Spring is uplifting," he said. "You start noticing the palm trees and the sunshine and it just lifts your spirits. The winter gets depressing, being inside or always trying to get inside to warm up."
Becki Bunell, 47, a northwest Las Vegas resident, took her white Pomeranian, Bambi, for a stroll in the park at Rock Springs and Vegas Drive.
"We had such a great time today," Bunell said, lifting her little dog into the air. "Mommy had the afternoon off."
After spending almost $60 at the store on cleaning supplies, Bunell took that walk before tackling cleaning tasks at home.
"Spring to me means cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning," she said. "It's that time to clean everything and let the sunlight into the house. Get some fresh air in, open the windows before it gets too hot out where you can't do that.
"Today was just right, wasn't it?" Bunell said. "Not too hot, not too cold. I wish it would stay like this."
So do local skiers and snowboarders.
At the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort in the Mount Charleston area the snow is starting to melt at a faster rate.
Bu the flipside is "crowding is not a problem right now, there are no lines," said Craig Baldwin, who works the slopes at the resort.
Skiing is scheduled to continue until April 11 as long as the snow holds up.
"You can ski in shorts up here, then go home, spark up the barbecue and sit back and relax," Baldwin said.