NORTH LAS VEGAS - A forgotten piece of the Las Vegas valley's history is on the road to restoration.
North Las Vegas's Kiel Ranch Historic Park is a work in progress. An $8 million project at Commerce Street and Carey Avenue.
But the renovation efforts only became serious in the last few years.
The old Las Vegas Mormon Fort and the Springs Preserve are the two well-known windows into the valley's past. But there's a third one -- Kiel Ranch -- and North Las Vegas is trying to save it.
That effort comes after decades of neglect.
A natural spring feeding a babbling brook. Winds rustling through poplar leaves.
Kiel Ranch is a serene spot in a city that grew up around it.
"This is our newest park in our park system," said Director Cass Palmer, North Las Vegas Parks and Recreation.
Palmer shows off the city's efforts to save an important part of southern Nevada's history.
"The building in front of us is the adobe house, constructed somewhere around 1880. It's the oldest standing structure in southern Nevada, and we believe in the state of Nevada," Palmer said.
The artesian spring served as the life blood for the southern Paiutes for centuries. Mormon pioneers established the ranch in the 1850s after building the fort just a mile-and-a-half away.
Conrad Kiel bought and homesteaded the property in the mid-1860s. The fertile land provided a lush bounty.
"The animals came here, the Indians came after the animals because they were watering, and then the farm actually started for the raising of crops," Palmer said.
Over the years, the 240-acre homestead was sold to the railroad, then turned into a dude ranch.
It began to fall into disrepair in the 60s. And all but two of the buildings on site are now gone.
"There was a mansion over there, there were several ranch houses over here," said Bob Stoldal. Preserve Nevada board member.
He is one of many who have advocated for decades to preserve the site.
"What we have now is something that's very beautiful, it's very nice, it is serene out here, but also, there are memories of things that should have taken place that didn't take place," he said.
North Las Vegas used federal bicentennial historic grant money to buy the remaining 25 acres of the ranch in 1976.
But a year or so later, the city sold off most of the land to a commercial development. Then for 30 years, the site sat in disrepair.
"It had become a garbage dump, history was now just covered with crap, in the literal sense," Stoldal said.
The city used it as dumping ground for what was dredged out of duck ponds. The public and its trash, not far behind.
In 2006, frustrations boiled over after the I-Team shed light on the issue. Concerned citizens spoke out.
"How would we know? I drove past something that had fencing around it, and it looked like a dump."
In the decade since that meeting, policies have changed. Current Mayor John Lee has pushed for the restoration to move forward.
The city is securing funding for restoring the artisan spring and an overlook on the northwest side of the property.
And North Las Vegas is in the process of buying back the 7-acre parcel on the southwestern side of the property as a buffer between the park and any future development.
An interesting fact about the new parcel is that the Kiel brothers were buried there until the 1970s, when they were exhumed to see if they died in a murder-suicide or double murder.
Their remains are at UNLV.
Stoldal would like to see them re-buried on what was their ranch but the city says they will build a family park there instead.
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