California cemeteries are struggling to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a statewide reduction in water use while continuing to maintain the appearance of their grounds.
In Sacramento, Lisa West, the community outreach director at Sierra Hills Memorial Park, has to struggle for balance between reverence and conservation. Sierra Hills Memorial Park comprises more than 30 acres and approximately 27,000 people are interred there.
“We have a responsibility to families to keep the cemetery looking nice at all times,” West told CBS13. “So we have a challenge ahead of us.”
She says the cemetery has cut water use by 65 percent since 2013 through conservation efforts such as turning off fountains and restricting lawn watering to 30 minutes a day, every other day. The cemetery also has replaced some turf with drought-resistant landscaping, including rock gardens and mulch.
Groundskeepers tend to areas of parched grass by placing portable hand sprinklers on the sites several times a day, a practice known as spot watering.
Whether Sierra Hills has struck the right balance between aesthetics and conservation is a matter of opinion among cemetery visitors. Travis Greer told CBS13 his late fiancée’s gravesite has lost some of its sense of peace and serenity.
“She’s worth more than this,” he said. “Everybody is trying to conserve – and I understand that. And yet, there’s something in my mind that my loved one needs to be respected and I don’t see that being respected.”
Gail Laxo, on the other hand, told television station she’s still pleased with the grounds surrounding her mother’s headstone. “It looks really good. I’m impressed,” she said. “I’m surprised, because I expected to come out and see it a little browner.”
Unfortunately, whether visitors approve of the changes is a moot question, as the state water restrictions are mandatory.