While cemeteries across the country have come under scrutiny due to the spook factor, there is no denying the fact that cemeteries are an important part of a city’s historical culture. Whether you are visiting the Jimi Hendrix memorial in Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Wash., searching for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., or just meandering through Confederate Graves in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Ga., all cemeteries have one thing in common: They provide a tangible historical account of their respective cities.
Because of today’s fast-moving and ever-growing society, cemeteries have often garnered a bad reputation — almost taboo to have the dead be in close proximity to the living. While we celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), integrating the lives of the dead with those of the living is reserved specifically for those holidays and usually nothing else, with cemeteries often relegated to the outskirts of cities.
But the city of Ventura has an opportunity to mesh the two to create a unique asset that residents and visitors alike could respect and come to appreciate: the Cemetery Memorial Park improvement project, located on the corner of Main Street and Aliso Lane.
For many people who drive by or go for a walk and enjoy the sensational panoramic views at the park located just minutes from the heart of downtown, restoring the historical ambience of what used to be gives Ventura and its residents a sense of place.
Those who frequent Cemetery Park have established their own sense of place by utilizing the destination as a communal dog park, but no one can deny the fact that the dead buried there deserve our respect. With more and more people opting for cremation and land prices skyrocketing, generations of families that have passed away in the last several decades and into the future will be left with little to remember. To create a memorial for those who died in this city eons ago, including planting copper grave markers with names and lifespans, constructing a veterans’ walk and repairing the historic rock wall is the least we can do to keep our history a part of our future.
While many maintain the price of the improvement project, slated at $4 million, is a hefty price tag during this economic crunch, Anne Hallock, spokeswoman for the city of Ventura, said there are no plans to implement the project without funding, of which there is none available at this time. Once the economy stabilizes, the city would have the opportunity to implement the plan in phases, spreading the financial burden over a longer period of time. The city would also apply for state and county grants, alleviating some, if not possibly all, of the taxpayers’ cost. In order to be eligible for grant funding, the city needed to hire consultants to draw up a tentative plan, $25,000, in which the planning process for the improvement project began four years ago. The current plan can be adjusted, depending on what residents feel is appropriate.
The cemetery will never to be able to regain its full glory as it was decades ago with thousands of century-old marble headstones and granite grave markers, which were discarded into the Hall Canyon riverbed many moons ago. Nonetheless, the city of Ventura is heading in the right direction. We encourage our readers to look at the plans and read about the history of the park. Our cemeteries are an essential part of our historical culture, and we support the plans to judiciously restore what was lost so long ago, to respect those who have passed and to provide knowledge about Ventura’s past for those who are living.
E-mail Michael Sullivan at email@example.com
For more information about the tentative plan, go to www.cityofventura.net/public_works/parks/plans. Scroll down to Cemetery Memorial Park Improvements and click on the slide show. Also, attend the Cemetery Park meeting Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church, 1555 Poli St.