Friday, February 26, 2010

Pinyon Park, Sparks Nevada

This past October, KOLO, a local news channel, reported on a small park in southwest Sparks that had been built over a cemetery. It seemed outrageous to me that a park would have been allowed to be built over bodies that remained interred on the property and I wanted to learn more; what I found was sad and  tragic.
From 1882-1947, approximately 600 patients from the nearby State Mental Health Institute have been buried on an adjacent piece of property with little or no ceremony. If there were any markers placed, they have long disappeared. In 1959, the city leased a portion of the land and built a park; no bodies having ever been removed. For the past 41 years, children have played, families have picniced and basketball games have been played over the graves of anonymous inmates of what was formerly called the Nevada Insane Asylum.
In 1977 road construction on 21st street unearthed several coffins. The Nevada State Journal reported that bones were discovered by children playing in the sandy area of the park. The bodies were reburied in the known area of the cemetery, the park reopened and construction continued. There were no reports of any archeological survey being done to determine where the cemetery boundaries lay, although there are historical maps that show the areas where bodies were buried.
While researching her family's genological record, someone discovered a relative among the forgotten dead. Distressed by the history of neglect, she started a non-profit organization called the Friends of Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Cemetery whose mission is to preserve and restore the historic cemetery. In May of 2009, the Nevada State legislature passed a bill giving the cemetery protected historic status.
I drove over to the park/cemetery recently to have a look around. The playground equipment and picnic tables have been removed, and there is a sign on the street marking this as a historic cemetery. As I wandered around the small park, I discovered a small coffee can with the remains of a plastic floral arrangement. A small memorial left by descendants.

I considered doing some recording, but the freeway noise was extremely loud...maybe in the early morning hours before dawn when traffic is light. I had taken a few pictures when a carload of teenagers pulled up. They watched me for a few moments, decided I was cool, took out their skateboards and headed to the cement slab that was once the basketball court.
The sun was beginning to set, and I was feeling chilled. I made a mental note to return to this site again...maybe to do a little recording, maybe a little dowsing... maybe just to pay my respects.
The cemetery is located on 21st Street and Frazier in Sparks; next to the Nevada Adult Mental Health Institute. Please be respectful when you visit.
To learn more, visit: You can access maps, photos, newspaper articles and other related items about the cemetery at this site.


Anonymous said...

A new monument with 767 names (and acknowledging that there are likely up to 400 more unknown) has been installed in the hospital cemetery. It will be dedicated this Friday, January 21, 2011 between 2-4 pm. This event is open to the public. After the outdoor dedication there will be refreshments and historical displays inside the new Agriculture Building adjacent to the cemetery. For updated information on the cemetery and dedication, please visit the website

The Haunted West: said...

Thank you for the up[date! I will post this on my blog. Here's hoping the weather holds and the day is beautiful for the memorial dedication. See you there!