Park Considers Memorial for Parsons

Fans and some park staffers would like to recognize country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons as part of the history of Joshua Tree National Park in the Southern California desert, The Associated Press reports. Parsons died in 1973 of an alcohol and heroin overdose in a motel room near the park, where he visited often. His road manager, Phil Kaufman, and another friend, Michael Martin, intercepted Parsons’ casket at the Los Angeles airport where it awaited shipment to his stepfather in Louisiana. They drove the body to Joshua Tree and set the corpse afire, attempting to fulfill Parsons’ wish to be cremated at the park, but fled when they saw headlights coming their direction. The body was not completely consumed, and the singer’s remains wound up in a cemetery in New Orleans. Later, fans illegally placed a marker in Parsons’ honor at Joshua Tree. Now fans and some park staff members are asking the National Park Service to recognize Parsons and his connection to the park in a formal way. A makeshift shrine does not appear on the official park map and is not mentioned in park brochures, and rangers are not required to tell the story in educational programs. “It is one of the most deeply embedded pieces of Joshua Tree folklore,” says National Park Service employee Bob Van Belle. “There is not a climber in the country who does not know the story.” 07/24/01