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Kiel Ranch still the worse for wear

It’s been a year since North Las Vegas officials pledged to clean up and begin restoring historic Kiel Ranch, home to one of Nevada’s oldest buildings and the site of two infamous local murders.

But after a failed legislative attempt to get millions in state funds to help rebuild the site, the future of the long-neglected ranch on Carey Avenue near Commerce Street is still up in the air.

The city has begun cleaning up the site, which had over the years become a weed-choked blight and sometime homeless camp.

North Las Vegas allocated $55,000 this year toward work on the ranch and has been clearing nonnative vegetation there.

But "there’s still no consensus on how that project should look and function," said Michelle Menart, a city planner. "Some people think it should be a traditional park site. The other end is to make it a living laboratory."

Whatever the city decides, it will take money. Officials have said it will cost about $8.5 million to fully restore the ranch and make it accessible to the public.

The city has long had $450,000 earmarked for Kiel. It also has applied for and received some grant money, including $356,000 in Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act funds.

Where the rest of the money will come from is anybody’s guess.

City officials committed to doing something about the ranch last year after preservationists and other community members took them to task for allowing Kiel to deteriorate.

The ranch is home to a natural wetlands and a lot of local history.

It’s believed to have been settled either in 1855 or in the 1870s by American Indians with help from a group of Mormons.

The ranch was the site of the 1884 shooting death of neighboring landowner Archibald Stewart, husband of Nevada matriarch Helen Stewart. No one was ever prosecuted in the case.

The 1900 shooting deaths of ranch owners and brothers Edwin and William Kiel also took place there. The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide at the time. But local anthropologists later determined that the brothers were instead murdered by another person.

Kiel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of the ranch’s original 27 acres were sold off and covered by industrial development. Seven fenced-in acres remain and belong to the city.

North Las Vegas planned a restoration of the site in the 1990s, but a fire destroyed the ranch’s main building, the White House, in 1992.

All that remains is the ranch’s crumbling adobe building and a small structure built in the 1920s called the "Doll House."

The site is closed to the public.

Some preservationists have credited the city for beginning a clean-up of the ranch and allocating some money in city funds toward it this year.

"Given the condition that Kiel Ranch was in — it was in a pretty raw, neglected state — certainly they have made progress," said Corinne Escobar, president of the Preservation Association of Clark County. "Given the sensitivity of the site, they could not move fast."

Still, she said, she wishes the city would show a bit more commitment to the ranch.

"I’m sensitive to the fact that they are busy with developing other parks in North Las Vegas and their time and energy is stretched in other directions," she said. "I don’t think they are as focused on Kiel as I’d like to see, but I think they are moving right now at the pace they can handle."

But local historian and author Michael Green thinks more progress should have been made by now.

"I realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but more could be done to rehabilitate Kiel Ranch in a year," he said. "There comes a point when you have to quit talking about it and start doing it."

North Las Vegas Mayor MIchael Montandon said earlier this year that the city won’t again make the mistake of letting Kiel sit deteriorating for years. He did not return calls seeking comment for this report.

A few years ago, the city withdrew its bid for $2.4 million in U.S. Bureau of Land Management funds meant to spruce up the ranch because the city couldn’t find any partners to shoulder the rest of the financial burden for operating and maintaining the site.

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