The area that is now Sparks was first inhabited by the Washoe people. Euro-American settlement began in the early 1850s, and the population density remained very low until 1904 when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch yard and maintenance sheds there. As the population increased a city was established, first called Harriman, after E. H. Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific, and then renamed Sparks, after John Sparks, then Governor of Nevada. Sparks remained a small town until the 1950s, when economic growth in Reno triggered a housing boom north of the railroad in the area of Sparks. During the 1970s, the area south of the railroad started to fill up with warehouses and light industry. In 1984, the tower for the Nugget Casino Resort was finished, giving Sparks its first, and currently only, high-rise casino. In 1996, the redevelopment effort of the B Street business district across from the Nugget that started in the early 1980s took a step forward with the opening of a multi-screen movie complex and the construction of a plaza area. This area, now known as Victorian Square, is a pedestrian-friendly district that hosts many open-air events. Under direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a comprehensive dynamic water quality computer model, the DSSAM Model, was developed (Earth Metrics, 1987) to analyze impacts of a variety of land use and storm water management decisions throughout the 3,120-square-mile (8,100 km2) Truckee River basin; this model was used to develop a set of surface runoff storm water management measures for Sparks in the 1980s.
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