Discussion focuses on Nirvana Park

Intense discussion continues on how a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation will be used for restoration of Nirvana Park.

During the latest public meeting on May 23, about two dozen people attending posed questions and offered their opinions on how a Rasmuson Foundation grant for restoration of Nirvana Park would best be utilized.

The deadline for use of the funds is being extended to June 20, 2018. Advance notice of all meetings is posted on the city website, the Cordova Alaska Facebook page, and when possible in The Cordova Times.

Most of meeting participants have requested, suggested and/or agreed on the following:

  • Recognize and mark gravesites and Identify Nirvana Park and the Spit as Cordova’s first cemetery.
  • Restrict access by motorized vehicles via ice, land, water, air and snow routes
  • Allow swimming in the area.
  • Alcohol/Substance Prohibited
  • Interpretive signage and education are needed.

The core committee for the project began holding community conversations on the project last October.  The first items discussed were how the entire lake is used now and how it had been used in the past.  There have been a dozen meetings to date.

The core committee includes two representatives each from the Native Village of Eyak, Eyak Burial Caucus, Cordova Historical Society, the city of Cordova, the city Parks and Recreation Department and Commission, the public works department and Cordova Port and Harbor department.


The earliest recorded use of the Spit as a burial ground was in 1883, As the community developed at the turn of the century the upland area, known as Nirvana Park, was also designated and used as Cordova’s first cemetery.

In the 1920s, a German immigrant named Henry Feldman developed the area into a fanciful park with wood burls and local materials turned into bridges, fences, gazebos and fountains.

The area has been a popular swimming and recreation area for many years now.  Photos in the Cordova Historical Society collection show swimmers before Feldman’s arrival in the waters and near the Split.  In the late 1950s and 1960s the Parmeter family established a swimming area off of their property, west of the Spit and had a swimming platform and concession stand.

Most of the grave markers and all that remains of the Feldman era have been eroded over time.  The city Parks and Recreation Department began maintaining the area in the mid 1970s.  The park has also been used for an annual Easter egg hunt, reunions, weddings, birthday parties and other events.

Cordova has four officially designated cemeteries.  They are the Old Eyak Cemetery/Nirvana Park Cemetery, Lakeview Cemetery (commonly referred to as Pioneer), Baseball Park Cemetery (South Second Street), and the Copper River Highway Cemetery.

While it is impossible to tell without DNA sampling, the limited records within the city and the Cordova Historical Society archives show that the older graves on the Split are most likely Native burials. Within the Nirvana Park portion there are gravesites for both Native and non-Native members of the community.

The core committee has been asked to present a recommendation for the project scope at the Cordova City Council meeting on June 7. Since the land affected by the grants is city owned, the city council has the right to accept or reject the project scope developed by the committee.