VIRGINIA CITY - A $350,000 grant was recently awarded to the Comstock Cemetery Foundation and Bureau of Land Management for preservation of cemeteries in the Comstock Historic District.
Candace Wheeler, president of the Foundation said she is very excited and the money will be used primarily for stabilization, planning and erosion control for the Comstock's cemeteries.
Because most of these cemeteries lay on a steep hill, erosion is a serious problem. Tourists and visitor traffic destabilize the dirt as they walk over grave beds, ultimately causing major shifts as the earth gradually slides downhill. Caskets at the top of the hill are often inches below the surface while at the base, gravestones are covered. This will be the primary concern, but others will be addressed as the budget permits.
"We asked for $850,000, but we were given less," she said. "Since we didn't get all the money we will be talking with the Bureau of Land Management, the lead applicant, to redefine the scope of work."
Chartered in October of 2000, the Foundation is comprised of both operating and advisory boards, and works in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. With the Bureau's help and cooperation from the people of Storey County, the effort is starting to move forward, according to Wheeler.
"People in Storey County understand the cemetery. There is no continuing drama," she said. "We're very lucky. We don't waste time having problems."
Obtaining grants for the project, however, has been the challenge.
"The preservation community in general does not understand money for a cemetery," she said. "A lot of people will give money to preserve a house, but not a headstone. But over 100 people visit Silver Terrace every day, so somebody gets it.
"People take away a part of history in addition to a human experience," she said. "This is more that just a historic thing and we don't want to change that."
A landscaping firm, Wiss and Associates of Dudwood, South Dakota, will handle the landscaping and help develop master plan so critical to obtaining future grants, according to Wheeler.
"They won an award for landscaping design of historic cemeteries," she said. "We were lucky to find them."
About 60 acres of cemeteries, including the Gold Hill Cemetery in Gold Hill as well as Silver Hills in Virginia City, are included in this project.
The Nevada Division of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management will start clearing the sage and stabilizing the grounds this fall. Restoring some of the irrigation as well as nine different gravesites are planned and fencing will follow, once the land is stabilized. Wheeler said public input would be sought once the gravesites are completed.