Nirvana Park/Spit restoration begins after Memorial Day

Work to expand swimming, recreation areas is already underway

This sign, at the headway of the blocked off road, indicates that Nirvana Park is the home of the Old Eyak Cemetery. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

Editor’s Note: This article is updated as of press time Wednesday. A meeting was held Thursday at the Cordova Center.

Efforts to restore and preserve Nirvana Park as a community investment will begin at the end of May, with signage to be put in place at the park and the Spit, recognizing the area as the first cemetery in Cordova.

As part of the reclamation project, there will be no motorized access permitted on the Spit in the future, to protect and honor the gravesites, city officials said.

Swimming, fires and other activities will not be permitted, as the area will be treated like any of the other four cemeteries in Cordova.

Work is already underway to expand the swimming and recreational areas at Skater’s Cabin. Swimming platforms and potentially a dock, fire pits and picnic areas are being planned.

Once gravesites are marked, work will continue in Nirvana and the Spit to create gentle walking paths and put historic signage in place.

Designated as a burial ground before the turn of the 20th century, the Spit and Nirvana Park were burial grounds for Natives and non-Natives alike in the early days of Cordova. Over time, many of the old wooden markers have eroded.

With the assistance of the Eyak Corp., Chugach Corp., the Native Village of Eyak, and the Cordova Historical Society, ground penetrating radar surveys are being conducted in this area and at other sites.

The first survey identified eight gravesites on the Spit. A second survey, to take place this summer, will focus on Nirvana as a burial site. All graves located will be marked by the end of summer.

Funding for the restoration and preservation of Nirvana Park came in a $25,000 check from the Rasmuson Foundation, which was presented to the Cordova Historical Society last July.

Public meetings were held to discuss how to best use that money.

Coordinating the effort is a core committee, with representatives from the city of Cordova, Cordova Historical Society, Eyak Burial Caucus, and Native Village of Eyak.

Given its precarious position on the lake, the Spit/Nirvana Park area has always been in transition.

In December of 1935, Lake Eyak flooded and eroded the embankment in the area, and 28 coffins were retrieved and reburied in the Lakeview Cemetery. The Civilian Conservation Corps also removed and reburied graves as the CCC built a revetment to protect the land.

For additional information and comment on the restoration project, contact Cathy Sherman, acm@cityofcordova.net; Brooke Johnson, brooke.johnson@eyak-nsn.gov;

And Susie Herschleb, bidarki@cityofcordova.net