Nevada veteran cemeteries offer xeriscape option

FERNLEY — Until now, the graves of Nevada veteran cemeteries were mandated to be groomed with green grass, an adornment deemed fitting to show respect and reverence for those who served their country.

But a new state law authorizes the state‘s two veteran cemeteries in Fernley and Boulder City to set up separate areas for desert landscaping.

The state Veterans Services Division pushed for the option, citing the region‘s lingering drought, escalating irrigation costs and a desire by some to be buried in a place that reflects their love of the arid climate and its unique flora.

Not everyone embraces the concept. Some fear it will leave the cemeteries looking like abandoned sandlots littered with wind-blown debris.

The challenge for state overseers of these hallowed grounds is to show that the final resting places for veterans can be tastefully done with water-saving xeriscape.

New territory in Nevada

Three national veteran cemeteries –€” in Phoenix, Bakersfield, Calif., and El Paso, Texas –€” have adopted xeriscape landscaping, though not all were without controversy.

Nearly 10 years ago the National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs replaced grass at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso with xeriscape. The move was met with outrage from family members and city officials who are still urging a return to grass.

Officials don‘t foresee such intense opposition in Nevada but do concede it could take a while for people to get used to the idea.

"€œI do believe there‘€™s a cultural aspect to be water wise," said Kat Miller, director of the Nevada Office of Veteran Services. "There are a lot of different things that can be done that will be respectful of our veterans and their families."€

But Miller and others stress that xeriscaping will be optional in Nevada. And they believe it will catch on, especially among younger generations as they grow old and ponder where they will spend their eternity.

The cost of green

Keeping grass green under a scorching desert sun isn‘t easy or cheap.

Boulder City utility records show the veterans cemetery there pumped 76.3 million gallons of water for irrigation during the fiscal year that ended June 30. That‘€™s enough to fill roughly 115 Olympic-size swimming pools. In 2013-14, usage was nearly 78 million gallons.

The cost of irrigating the cemeteries has steadily increased, from $147,393 in 2008 to $247,757 in 2014, a 68 percent jump. The cost per acre in 2013 was $9,496 in Fernley, $8,468 at Boulder City.

"€œLet‘€™s be realistic. We‘€™ve got a problem here,"€ said Chuck Harton, a World War II Marine and chairman of the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery Advisory Committee.

"Neither one of these cemeteries are full yet,"€ he said. "In Fernley, what we’€™ve been fighting about is the cost. And we‘€™ve only got a tiny little bit under grass. Then you’€™ve got to look into the future. Hell, the water bill would look like the national debt."

Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery has 18.5 irrigated acres and more than 25,000 markers surrounded by turf, said Chris Naylor, cemetery superintendent. Another 11,000 are interred in columbarium walls.

Officials said costs at both cemeteries will keep escalating as water rates rise and the cemeteries expand to accommodate more veterans.

Maintenance challenges

It‘s tough to keep that much turf in tip-top shape when summer temperatures soar into the triple digits and desert winds approach dragon breath. The challenges are especially difficult when new grass is seeded on a fresh grave; the tender blades need frequent watering so as not to shrivel and die.

"We seed twice a year, in the spring and the fall depending on when the temperatures are right,"€ Naylor said. "The seedlings, we keep them damp,"€ he said. "€œWe water them a lot more often, but for less time."

Established lawn is watered at night to maximize retention and minimize evaporation. Special fertilizers and organic material is used to promote root growth and enhance water absorption.

Both cemeteries are maintained to adhere to the "€œshrine status"€ outlined by the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

"€œA national shrine is a place of honor and memory that declares to the visitor or family member who views it that, within its majestic setting, each and every veteran may find a sense of serenity, historic sacrifice and nobility of purpose,"€ the guidelines read. "€œEach visitor should depart feeling that the grounds, the grave sites and the environs of the national cemetery are a beautiful and awe-inspiring tribute to those who gave much to preserve our nation’€™s freedom and way of life."€

At Fernley, about 35 miles east of Reno, recent rains made the grass grow quickly. On Tuesday, a grounds keeper weed-whacked around each in-ground plaque. The edging will take two full days to complete. In Boulder City, with more than twice the amount of grass as Fernley, it‘€™s a never-ending job.

Offering desert landscaping isn‘€™t about reducing labor intensity. Xeriscape still needs to be maintained. Instead, it reflects an environmental consciousness some veterans want to carry with them into eternity, Miller said.

"Saving money was part of it but not the main part,"€ Miller, a retired Army colonel, said of xeriscaping plans as she showed a visitor around the Fernley cemetery. "€œIt‘€™s the desire of veterans."€

Right now the department is in a "€œresearch and exploration’€ mode, she said. Outside the Fernley cemetery administrative offices on a small plot covered in decompressed granite, or DG, are two "€œtest"€ grave markers. One is a flat plaque on the ground; the other an upright monument. Cemetery officials want to see how they weather. Also being discussed are markers slightly raised at an angle to allow easier viewing.

Miller said it could be a year or two before the option is offered. Xeriscape grave sites will be in separate cemetery areas to avoid checker-boarding of turf and desert.

Tough sell for some

State Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, is a skeptic. Manendo was the primary sponsor of a 2007 law that required Nevada’€™s veteran cemeteries to ’€œensure that the area immediately and surrounding the interred remains "is landscaped with natural grass."€

"€œI‘€™m against that because I think the cemetery should stay green,"€ said Manendo, whose parents are buried at the Southern Nevada cemetery.

He remembers taking his mother to his father‘s grave and wondered how frail people will be able to navigate rocky pathways.

"€œMy mom used a walker and was legally blind,"€ he said. "€œIt‘€™s very dangerous."€

Some cemetery visitors also like to recline on the grass or take a picnic when they visit the graves of loved ones. "Can you imagine trying to do that on rocks?"€ Manendo he asked. "€œI get the fact that we try to conserve water. There’€™s just certain things that need to stay green."

Changing public attitudes will take time, officials acknowledge.

"Everybody that I know of with the exception of some family members who have their loved ones there are pretty much open to at least looking at it,"€ said Charley Smith, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who also serves on the Northern Nevada cemetery‘€™s advisory committee.

"€œWe have to look out for our environment,"€ she said. "€œWe have a lot of veterans like myself who love the desert. And I‘€™m OK with being in a burial plot that is beautifully xeriscaped."

Contact Sandra Chereb at or 775-687-3901. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Dennis Hof's Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like