Andrew Gardner, Chozen Pierce and Jos Fagundes look into neighbor disputes over the growing presence of wild horses roaming around Reno’s Hidden Valley neighborhood. From neighbors afraid horses will be run over, to manure piles, mountain bikers damaging fencing, lawns destroyed and stores stopping to sell carrots, the disagreements are coming to a boil.

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Wild horses in the Hidden Valley a community in Reno, graze on the grass of home owners and its private golf course. A battle has been brewing for years on what to do with the horses.

Nuisance and Loathed or Welcomed and Majestic?

What is one thing people think when the subject of horses is brought up? Is it horses majestically filmed for a movie? Or the races people dress up for just to watch horses run in a circle? And who could forget equestrian sports where horses jump over obstacles for points and glory?

Yet for a certain group in the Hidden Valley neighborhood of Reno, Nevada, the horses have led to a large amount of money spent to keep them out and neighbors arguing amongst each other about what to do with them. The Hidden Valley community southeast of the airport behind the recently built Veterans Parkway has been split into those who say they “loathe” the horses for destroying their properties and causing their drive around Hidden Valley to be filled with horse manure and having to brake to avoid the horses and those who find the beauty in the horses walking around streets and backyards. …

Saralynn Lindsay, Linnea Soerensen, Kate Behring and Seanna Simpson report on restaurant struggles and restrictions in the Silver State during the ongoing pandemic. How have restaurants been able to keep their doors open with slower business, while still following guidelines? How are restaurant workers faring?

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As Butcher’s Kitchen Char-B-Que on Virginia St. in Reno has dealt with new restrictions, they have taken new precautions for their customers as well as their employees, while remaining open for dine-in and making extra money with takeout and no contact deliveries.

Constant Restrictions and New Guidelines to Follow

It’s no argument that the worldwide pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks. This halt affected everyone differently. Restaurants depend on people in order to make their business successful, and with lockdowns and capacity restrictions, it has been tough for restaurants to get people through their doors.

Not only did restaurants see a decline in business post-lockdown, but they were also hit with new restrictions that they must follow in order to avoid getting fined.

With these new guidelines and restrictions, the environment at restaurants has changed entirely. With limited overall capacity and people at each table, the experiences people desire when going out are not the same as they used to be, adding to overall negativity and downturns everyone is going through. …

Samantha Degnan and Marisa Sachau report on the closure of the university’s dorms which took place before Thanksgiving, derailing many students and RAs. Amid confusion and uncertainties, some students have decided to return when dorms reopen, some are staying away and at least one RA (resident adviser) decided to leave her job.

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On October 9th, there was a school wide email sent out by President Brian Sandoval letting students know about changes for the upcoming spring semester and a new dorm closure.

An Uncertain Time to Decide Future Plans

In early October, President Sandoval notified the student body that because of the continuously high numbers of COVID-19, a viable solution to keeping our university numbers of cases down would be to close the dorms after the mini Fall Break. In other words, right after Thanksgiving.

The exception to students staying in the dorms would be extenuating circumstances, including some international students, some without any other housing options and those who needed to stay in Reno to keep jobs they need to pay their bills.

One RA complained students had been irresponsible for a while while other students expressed confidence in being able to return for the start of the next semester, a scenario university housing says will be safe despite the current surge of cases in Washoe County. What follows is Reynolds Sandbox reporting from social media to university administration, from refunds to packing up and going back home, with some students keeping a positive attitude, and others feeling discouraged for the future. …

Reporters Holly Kuhl, Ian Cook, Neith Pereira and Kennedy Vincent take a look at Reno’s Human Rights Commission and its ability to help with pressing issues like homelessness, racial violence, and LGBTQ+ rights in the Biggest Little City. The commission has been meeting since 2018, but it seems to still have little power to create change.

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Amid a global pandemic and mounting calls for change, human rights is at the forefront of this year’s most pressing conversations. Visual by Merisse Garcia for the Reynolds Sandbox

A Broad Scope Addressing Narrow Issues

Tackling issues like renaming parks and controversial holidays, Reno’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) has tried to stay busy this year despite all the added challenges of the pandemic. After a tumultuous year and still surging COVID-19 cases, racial violence and homelessness loom ominously over Reno. Many in Reno’s community, some Commission members included, say they want more out of the HRC.

Reno’s Human Rights Commission is modeled in the image of national groups like the Human Rights Campaign. Based in Washington, D.C. and three million members strong, the Human Rights Campaign is the largest advocacy group and organization for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. …

Alina Croft was initially approached by a former Lake Tahoe Community College Soccer player and then dug deeper to find out more about dashed dreams involving the California team, including for foreign recruits. The current athletic director says it’s all in the past, but affected players have not forgotten.

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Graphic designed by Lauren Turner.

Shiny Promises In the Recent Past

Josh Anderson is a 2018 graduate from Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) located in Lake Tahoe, California, where he was recruited by then head coach Benjamin Wade, coming all the way from Portugal.

In a series of messages, Anderson writes he was promised comfortable housing, a spot on the soccer team as a starter and captain, and opportunities to be recruited by a semi-professional soccer club which could eventually lead to an offer on a professional team. …

Does UNR really need its own ANON group? Faith Evans, Sydney Oliver, Catherine Schofield, and Lauren Turner uncover the controversial history of Coffin and Keys, and examine their level of success in living up to their mantra: existing “solely for the betterment of the University of Nevada.”

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The twists and turns of C&K’s history, lead to frequent blank screens and dead ends, weaving shadows into their mysterious backstory. Their questionable antics and vulgar language have structured their controversial but intriguing traditions. Graphic by Sydney Oliver.

Masked Men at Mackay on Dead Day

The tune of clinking glass rings out on a bone-chilling December night. Through the dark, students march in small groups, toting backpacks, suitcases, and even the occasional shopping cart. Northern Nevada wind bites at their noses and pulls at their hair, while grass crunches under boots, sneakers squeak against concrete.

Light licks the sea of translucent shells. Jack Daniel’s, Smirnoff, New Amsterdam, and Barefoot bottles sit neatly together, arranged proudly beneath the John Mackay Statue. Some eyes roll as another stray frat boy attempts to scale the statue in hopes of ten seconds of Snapchat fame, or a poorly executed shotgun. …

As local mandates become more strict in Northern Nevada, Jesse Stone reports on a few workers who now have to arrange expenses around reduced hours and the possibility of another lockdown. Many say they feel economically precarious in these uncertain times.

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With the state of Nevada topping 150,000 casesfrom the novel coronavirus, the state introduced more restrictions on gyms, restaurants and casinos.

Listen to Jesse Stone’s audio feature here or below:

One local worker, Andrew Hermansen, is an assistant manager at a local movie theater. He says that the large staff on hand is a mixed bag- on one hand, they easily have enough workers to cover shifts so that nobody is encouraged to show up sick.

On the other hand, the lack of business means that a lot of staff members, including Hermansen himself, see reduced hours, which means less take home pay. …

Sydney Oliver reports on a university student with a most unusual journey to The Biggest Little City.

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Wisconsin-born, Gracie Boykin lived most of her life on hunting land in Alabama.

After spending a summer on Mackinaw Island in Michigan and an impromptu flight, Boykin found herself calling Reno, Nevada her new home. After studying natural resource management, she is now hoping to get a degree in wildlife preservation and ecology at UNR.

Listen to an audio documentary about her here and below:

I was born in Greenbay, Wisconsin and I lived there until I was 5 years old and then I moved to Lisman, Alabama. …

Samantha Degnan reports on how a university student is now helping her older brother run one of the most popular nighttime spots in the Biggest Little City.

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Tayelor Leppek enjoying a night on the patio at Pignic Pub and Patio. Photo credit Samantha Degnan.

Moving to Reno and Helping a Successful Older Brother

Tayelor Leppek moved up to Reno, from her hometown of Grass Valley, two years ago to attend school at the University of Nevada Reno. She remembers being particularly drawn to the stunning landscape surrounding the city, everything from the mountains and forests to Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake.

She also enjoys the college town aspects and the variety of opportunities for young adults to start their careers here.

“Reno is a good place to start your life without getting majorly overwhelmed,” Leppek said.

Tayelor’s older brother, Trevor Leppek, is a perfect example of this. Trevor attended the University of Nevada, Reno, 20 years ago and is now known around the city for his co-ownership of two restaurants, Pignic Pub and Patio and Noble Pie Parlor. …

It’s happening all over the nation. A couple meets for a socially distanced date, it goes well and they decide to go home together. Their clothes come off, but do their masks? Alina Croft and Catherine Schofield report on how dating is changing in Reno and elsewhere.

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Listen to an audio version of this story here or below.

Taking it Slower Virtually

New Canadian health guidelines say that masks should stay on during sex or intimate actions. In the United States, and the city of Reno, it seems like that hasn’t been the case, but people are taking other precautions when it comes to dating.

The number of virtual matches has surged these past few months. Match Group, the company that owns many dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, and OK Cupid, reported increased downloads and earnings since March, showing that many people are looking to find new partners virtually.

Kayla Kwan is a 21-year old journalism major and senior at the University of Nevada, Reno who has been using dating apps in self-isolation. …


Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.

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