FARMINGTON — Some residents are concerned about the condition of the grounds at Memory Gardens cemetery in Farmington, including prairie dog holes by the graves, open trenches and dead grass and shrubs.
A cemetery manager said a broken irrigation system is behind the state of the lawn and the issue will be addressed in the coming month.
Aztec siblings Blanche House and Bill Everett are dismayed by what they believe is a lack of care at San Juan County's largest cemetery. Their parents, Henry and Louise Everett, and Blanche House's son, Michael "Dale" House, who died last year, are buried at Memory Gardens.
The siblings purchased matching headstones for their parents eight years ago, but they are upset about a gopher hole, half-foot-tall weeds and sloppy edge work around their parents' grave marker.
"We were promised that this would be perpetual care, which means they have to keep up the grounds, but that isn't what it's looked like to me over the last few years. This looks like crud," said Bill Everett. "I planned on being laid to rest beside them, but I'm not sure I want to be in this one. I kneel down on the lawn, and it feels like pine needles. There's sandy soil on top of graves. No grass will grow in that. And they don't trim the edges around gravestones. It's clumpy and uneven. Sloppy. It surprised me. I don't remember it ever being this bad."
Blanche House said she visits the cemetery once a month to pay down the balance on her son's grave site, and she sometimes comes by once a week. Starting last year, she said she noticed the cemetery starting to show signs of poor care.
"I've been here 44 years, and it's never looked this bad," said Blanche House, who is originally from Mississippi. "It just looks like crap everywhere you look, excuse my French. We're sorry to complain, but something should be done about this."
She said she was so dismayed by the condition of her son's grave that last year, she had her other son bought and put down fertilizer and grass seed purchased at a nearby Lowe's.
The siblings are also dismayed by large piles of dirt beside two open trenches with exposed broken irrigation pipes along driving paths on the east side of the cemetery, they said.
"These open trenches have been here over a month," Blanche House said. "The pipes in them just froze and busted because they didn't drain the pipes before winter. It don't take a college graduate to know what happened here."
On Monday, two portable sprinkler heads attached to hoses running city water from the cemetery's office building were the only noticeable water supply for the cemetery's hundreds of grave sites.
Elizabeth Conlee, manager at the cemetery for the last three years, said problems receiving irrigation water and broken irrigation pipes are responsible for the sun-bleached lawn.
"Up until this week, we have been waiting on the ditch water. There was nothing we could do," Conlee said. "From what I understand, some pipes filled with mud and debris, froze and then broke. We had to cut out five or six spots with 30 to 40 feet of pipe each for repair."
Conlee said concerns over green lawns this time of year are not unusual. She said the cemetery's two full-time and one part-time groundskeepers will begin seeding and mowing soon.
"People forget how it goes around here," she said. "It's not any new issue. In a month, it'll green up. It only takes a few days, but this isn't a golf course. It won't ever be a golf course."
The cemetery draws its irrigation water from the Halford Independent Ditch. On Monday, Joe Jacquez, ditch director and ditch rider, said the ditch has been full of water since April 1, the start of the county's irrigation season.
"They may have a problem with their lateral ditch, but that's their responsibility," Jacquez said. "The last few years I've heard they've had some problems like, they forgot to drain their pump or drain the lines there. But there's plenty of water in the (Halford) ditch."
On Monday afternoon, Linda Montoya, who lives in Bloomfield, came by to add new flowers to her father's grave marker. She also was checking on her three uncles' plots. Montoya was surprised to see the conditions at the cemetery.
"This is awful. We're coming up on Memorial Day weekend. This is sad, all these weeds," she said. "I've lived here 30 years and never seen it like this. It's always been groomed and very neat, but everything's dead and not kept up."
Montoya, who cares for her 85-year-old mother, has been planning to bury her mom next to her late husband when the time comes, but now she's not so sure.
"I don't think I want my mom here looking this way," she said. "It almost looks abandoned. It almost makes you want to cry."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.