Hello All Fellow Preservationists,
We have a preservation emergency on our hands! Signs have been posted at the historic Hillside Cemetery at 900 Nevada Street stating that disinterment of bodies will begin on September 30, 2016. Below is an explanation of what is happening and then a call to action and things you can do to help prevent this ultimate disrespectful act toward of our founding fathers. Please read and share! If you don't like to read, watch this video!
Reno's historic 1869 Hillside Cemetery has been owned by Sierra Memorial Gardens since 1993. They own the land in between the plots and the burial plots themselves have their own assessor's parcel numbers and are owned by the individual families. Many of these deeds have not been updated in over 100 years and ownership is difficult to trace. Some families, however, such as the descendants of the Goulds and Peckhams are very involved and aware of the numerous attempts over the years to develop the cemetery.
Sierra Memorial Gardens has never maintained the cemetery and are now citing NRS 451.070 and calling for disinterment and relocation of human remains because the cemetery is blighted, even though their lack of care is what has caused the blight. They are calling this a "restoration" project, but they have plans to prepare this prime real estate for redevelopment at a huge profit. Signs have been posted at the cemetery stating disinterment may begin as early as September 30, 2016. Their plans are to move the hundreds of bodies (800+) buried in the south end of the cemetery to the north end of the cemetery which is on the other side of the road. (10th/Floral Ave.) There is not room for everyone without mass communal graves.
Disinterment and relocation of the remains of our founding fathers is not a cemetery "restoration" project. This is about financial gain, not restoration. Hillside Cemetery is the final resting place of many notable and important founders of the Truckee Meadows including the Peckhams, Plumbs, Marshs, Mayberrys, Goulds, Browns, George Cassidy who was in the House of Representatives, 5 former Reno Mayors including the famous E.E. Roberts, veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, Mexican American War and even the Florida War are all buried here. Many of these people dug our irrigation ditches, farmed the land, planned and built our infrastructure, bridges and roads, developed our government, led us through trying times and made Reno what it is today. We would have no city without their hard work and dedication. Now, to move them because they are in the way of the financial gain of a couple of individuals is a despicable act. To call this a "restoration" project is even worse.
While NRS 451.070 may give Sierra Memorial Gardens the right to disinter remains if the cemetery is deemed blighted, (who deems it blighted anyway??) they still have a legal issue on their hands trying to reclaim the burial plots which are privately owned and deeded real estate. Hawkins Holdings, LLC, the developer, tried to introduce an amendment to a cemetery bill in the 2015 legislature that would allow them to take the land once the bodies were removed without having to file a quiet title action on each burial plot. This amendment was called The Grave Robber's Amendment by the legislators and did not pass. They will likely return to the legislature this next session in an attempt to introduce legislation which appears more "tasteful" and will allow them reclaim this land for development. The scary part for me is that they could conceivably remove the bodies since they already apparently have the right to do this, and then not get the right to reclaim the burial plots. What a mess that would be. There are evidently some issues with the health department and removing diseased bodies, but they don't seem to be worried about that. There are cases of anthrax and many other plagues that exist there. Those spores can live for hundreds of years. The Health Department claims their permits are all in place and I guess the blowing dirt full of anthrax spores is of no concern to them.
Hillside Cemetery has been maintained, cleaned and weeded by a a small group of dedicated volunteers for several years and is not considered "blighted" by many.
What can you do to help??
Share this youtube video far and wide: https://youtu.be/4yYScNgOiI0
Go onto Governor Sandoval's website and email him and ask him to intervene to stop this disinterment of an important cultural and heritage site.
Write to the state legislator whose territory includes Hillside Cemetery. That is Amber Joiner. She is already outraged but she needs to hear from people! email@example.com.
There appear to be some major missteps already with Hillside's interpretation of state law. They are citing NRS 451.070 which gives them the right to disinter if the cemetery is deemed blighted, but apparently the county is the one who must deem it blighted and they haven't done that yet. Where is the public process?
Call Congressman Mark Amodei's office at 775-686-5760 and ask to speak to a constituent representative. Let them know the families of the deceased have not been informed about the disinterment!
Email the Mayor and the council members of Reno and tell them to speak out against this.
Mayor Hillary Schieve firstname.lastname@example.org
Oscar Delgado Ward 3 email@example.com
Jenny Brekhus Ward 1 firstname.lastname@example.org
Naomi Duerr Ward 2 email@example.com
Paul McKenzie Ward 4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Neoma Jardon Ward 5 email@example.com
Attend a meeting of the Historical Resources Commission on Thursday September 22 at 3:00 pm in the McKinley Parks and Recreation Building at 925 Riverside Drive Reno, NV 89503. The developer and cemetery owner will be there.
Call the Washoe County Health Department at 775-328-2400 and tell them you are concerned about the spread of anthrax and other contagious diseases with the disinterment.
Contact Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation at 775-440-1495 or visit their website at www.hcpfoundation.squarespace.com.
Make a donation to help them raise funds to fight this. Donations can be mailed to HCPF 15070 Vega Street Reno, NV 89521. HCPF is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and all donations are tax deductible.
Call the office of the owner/developer who are calling this disinterment a cemetery "restoration" project at 877-247-4662 and let them know that you will be speaking out against them publicly.
This will be covered on News 4 and in the RGJ. Public outcry is the only thing that is going to stop this! HCPF is prepared to raise funds to purchase the cemetery and restore it into an interpretive heritage park.