The City of Sparks has something in common with the tale of the Ugly Duckling. Remember how the tiny “duck” later evolved into a beautiful, elegant swan? Think back to 1968 in Sparks when the Helms Construction Company operated a large gravel pit (north of I80, east of McCarran Blvd). The pit may have been a local eyesore, but it provided employment for the area and served a need for gravel in the construction industry.
As the years passed, the pit grew deeper and deeper, ending up 100 feet below the original land surface. The pit was closed in 1987 when it was discovered the ground was contaminated with chemicals and solvents seeping into the huge hole. Help! What to do?
Declared a Toxic Superfund Site, a cleanup ensued and the pit was finally declared free of contamination in 1996. City of Sparks officials made the decision to use the fine dollars received from pit contaminators for a small lake and recreational park to replace the gravel pit. The Sparks Marina “pond” and park were created.
Original plans were to fill the pit to a depth of 30 feet. Mother Nature had something else in mind, and the floods of 1997 brought the pond to a genuine lake depth of 100 feet deep, covering an area of 77 acres. (In fact, to maintain the lake level ever since the City of Sparks pumps about two-million gallons from the Marina lake into the Truckee river daily.) Sparks has an excellent record when it comes to creating public parks, and the new Marina bears that out. The area has two public beaches, picnic areas, volleyball courts, bicycle and hiking trails, a fishing pier, dog park, boat ramps, and a children's playground.
Special activities are scheduled year-round, including wake boarding competitions, water-cross races, community charity walks, and a kids free fishing day. There's even an Adventure Day at the Marina for people with disabilities. A walk (or jog) around the Marina on paved surface all the way is a comfortable two miles at an elevation of 4,413 feet.
Fishermen and women can (with a license) try their luck to catch spotted bass, largemouth bass, green sunfish, carp, catfish and four types of trout.