Cemetery needs community support

Guest Editorial

By DEBRA HOLLAND

President, Desert Memorial Park

To the citizens of Indian Wells Valley — here are some dates and facts regarding the condition of local cemetery, Desert Memorial Park.

Desert Memorial Park was founded in 1960. The 9.2-acre property requires irrigation two times per day. In the past the cemetery has used up to 60,000 gallons of water each day for landscape irrigation.

As a result of the existing well failure in May 2015, a new well was drilled at a cost of $60,000. This new well is the only source of water for the property. Per the water analysis completed August 2016 and April 2018, the water can best be described as too salty to sustain the landscaping.

The mineral content of the cemetery water is 10 times higher than the water provided to my home. In addition, the arsenic level is toxic. The elevated amount of sodium in the water reacts with the soil and prevents water from moving through the root zone.

As a result the water cannot be used for drinking and should not be used for landscaping. However, it is the only water source existing.

I have sought out assistance from several sources in regard to the problematic situation at the cemetery.

I have written a letter to the city engineer to request use of wastewater at the cemetery. His response indicated that the use of effluent water is not permitted. He referred to Title 22 water quality regulations. The regulations of the health department do not permit the use of that irrigation with any public contact potential.

My cemetery contractor met with IWV Water Company to receive a quote for a cost to connect to the city water. Not including the cost to connect to city water, the monthly water bill would be approximately $9,000.

The astronomical price for city water far exceeds the cemetery income.

I have also written a letter to Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason, asking for assistance for a source of water at the cemetery. Unfortunately, the county could not be of assistance. He stated in his letter that Ridgecrest’s water basin was declared in “critical overdraft,” and the water for our residents and the Navy’s critical mission at China Lake had to be prioritized.

The cemetery does not have the funds to invest more money into a nonviable water supply.

The entire cemetery landscape has been noticeably impacted, but my staff is keeping the premises clean and as well maintained as possible.

The revitalization plan is to landscape with decomposed granite. The project will be done in stages as there is an enormous area to prepare and cover. The cemetery does not generate sufficient funds to pay for this expense. I am going forward with this plan, as I can, but the project can only be done in small stages.

The public is welcome to offer any constructive comments. I am requesting ideas and solutions for funding this massive project. Our community has many brilliant and talented individuals whom I am looking to for suggestions.

The cemetery is for our community where we all have many family and friends who have been laid to rest.

I am sure, as a community, we want to restore a beautiful final resting place and peaceful atmosphere to reflect and remember those we care about.

Please direct responses to desertmemorialpark@ gmail.com.

Copies of letters and reports are available upon request.

Story First Published: 2018-11-16