New location needed for annual Easter Egg Hunt

Nirvana Park Committee’s future plans highlight culture and history

People swim in Eyak Lake. Eyak spit was used frequently as a swimming area.

 

A task force comprised of pastors, the Cordova High School Problem Solvers, Parks and Rec, and the U.S. Forest Service, has been formed, in hope of finding a new location for the annual Easter Egg Hunt traditionally held at Nirvana Park.

They are assigned to help Linda Ecolano and her family find a new location for their annual Cordova tradition.

If they are unable to find a new location, Ecolano says that this will be their last year.

“As the Easter bunny would say, ‘That’s all folks!’,” she said.

That’s because of plans to make Nirvana into a cemetery park.

A Tier 1 Rasmuson Foundation grant of $25,000 was awarded to the city on July 31, 2016 for renovations and upgrades to Nirvana Park.

After surveys of the land in 2016 and 2017, more than 40 additional burial sites were discovered.

In the fall of 2016, the Nirvana Park Committee was formed, comprised of representatives from the city of Cordova, Native Village of Eyak, the Parks and Rec Department, the Cordova Historical Society and Eyak Ancestors.

The committee, “through a series of public discussion, are working to go back to the gracious, respectful uses of the area,” said Cathy Sherman, director of the Cordova Historical Museum.

“In the ’20s and ’30s, with Henry Goldman’s creations of bridges, gazebos and bath houses, it developed into a gracious park and swimming area,” Sherman said. “The two uses blended well, until the development of cars, jet skis and trucks.”

“Henry Feldman, a local hardware store owner and German immigrant, transformed the cemetery with fanciful woodworking made out of burls and local wood,” Cathy Sherman said. This photo was taken around the 1920s and 1930s.

Although the Nirvana Park Cemetery and Eyak Burial Grounds Heritage Area has seen recreational use for nearly 100 years, the type of recreation evolved with the use of motorized vehicles. This led to a more disruptive environment and furthering erosion to the land, Sherman said.

“As our lives have changed, it’s not just the little swimming hole anymore,” she said.

The Nirvana Park Committee made the decision to no longer allow motor vehicles or live fires on Eyak Spit.

The volunteer committee has plans to finish grave markers, gentle trails and benches located throughout the park this summer, in hopes to make it a respectful cemetery park.

Through interpretive signs, photos and grave markers, they also plan on highlighting the history and culture of the area and the cemetery.

Meanwhile, Ecolano and Sherman are trying to find a new location for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

Comments, questions, concerns or ideas for Nirvana Park Cemetery and Eyak Burial Grounds Heritage Area are welcome and may be emailed to cordovanirvanapark@gmail.com.

“This is one of the earliest photos we have of the cemetery,” Cathy Sherman said. “You can see how the spit has changed over the years. It was once as wooded as the main part of Nirvana is now. You can see the spirit houses and grave markers on the spit in this photo.”
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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.