The Twentynine Palms Cemetery District Board of Directors will meet at 4:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 19. Due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the meeting will not be open to the public. The board will hear updates on: public gathering restrictions; the 2018-19 audit; Carl Moyer grant; estimates for repairs on the cemetery grounds; and the placement of flags on the graves for Memorial Day by a Boy Scout troop. Stacy Lee’s restitution hearing for embezzlement has been rescheduled to August 10. Under current business, the board will be asked to approve a proposal for the 2020-2021 budget. The board will also discuss the development of a 501C-3 non-profit for the cemetery. To submit public comments on the meeting, email email@example.com.
We recently reported that the Twentynine Palms Cemetery is battling a vicious weed problem. Naturally, they are having the same challenge over at the Joshua Tree Memorial Park. Reporter Heather Clisby has the details…
If any life source is truly winning in 2020, it has to be the weeds. Over at the Joshua Tree Memorial Park, the unwanted, unplanned plants are tough challenge for the staff, especially this year.
Office Administrator Ken Darney stated that the late rains brought a second round of noxious weeds and the staff is working diligently to keep the invaders at bay. While the Park employs a regular landscaping crew of four, Darney says he and others often pitch in on some mornings, before the heat settles in.
Darney stated that the Park is currently developing a plan to alleviate the weed problem in a more permanent way so as to avoid facing the same battle every spring.
While internments are still being conducted at the Park at an average rate, social distancing rules allow for just one family member at the burial site while other mourners are asked to stay in their cars. Darney stated that these rules will remain in place until they receive instruction from the governor and the county.
Though it appears weeds have overtaken the Twentynine Palms Cemetery, the staff is keenly prioritizing many long overdue projects—such as repairing damaged graves after years of neglect—and is asking for the publics’ help. Reporter Heather Clisby has the details…
Twentynine Palms Public Cemetery District General Manager Emily Helm is well aware of the site’s weed problem but must prioritize more urgent issues. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Helm was forced to cut back staff hours but most will return to full time starting on Monday, May 11. Due to recent rains, faulty internments and age, at least a dozen full body (casket) graves have “con-caved” and need to be re-interned—a lengthy process. This grave repair work is deemed priority number one. When the previous manager, Stacey Lee, was arrested for embezzlement in January, Helm was brought in to address many lingering issues. Helm learned that Lee had hired Desert Arc to clear weeds and bushes last year but never paid them. Helm is now working with Arc on a payment plan to cover the $10,500 bill but in the meantime, Arc is likely not going help with weed containment.
So, Helm is developing a program called, “Adopt-A-Row” where volunteer teams would weed and care for a row that may include a loved one. “We only have two groundskeepers right now so we could use the help,” says Helm.
Helm envisions a time when, eventually, the cemetery would host a BBQ for the teams during the first weekend of May and the last weekend of October so the site would be pristine for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But with the current COVID-19 shutdown, that may have to wait.
“We have a lot going on,” says Helms. “I understand the weeds are an issue but right now it’s more important to get the inner workings going. We still don’t even have an audit for fiscal year 2018/2019. I just bought myself a pair of gloves for myself and my admin and when we have time, we’ll be pulling weeds too.”
Helm stated that they just applied for a grant through the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District for an electric all-wheel vehicle for grounds work. The cemetery’s main building is also getting a much-needed new roof and is need of a new paint job. Local metal sculpture artist, Simi Dabah, had donated 10 of his works and eight have been installed, and the other two will be affixed to the main building once the fresh repaint has been completed.
“There’s been 11 years of mismanagement and it cannot all be corrected in 12 weeks,” says Helm. “We would like the public to give us one full year to improve the only cemetery we have in our community. We’ve got a lot of work to do and I’ve got a committed team and we all have the same goal: To make this cemetery a gem in our community. This is a place of eternal rest and we do not take the responsibility lightly.”
If interested in volunteering, contact the cemetery at 760-367-9316.
Due to the uncertainty of when the COVID-19 virus quarantine period will end, the Twentynine Palms Cemetery’s Memorial Day committee has decided to cancel the formal Memorial Day ceremony—to include the wreath presentations—for this year. Twentynine Palms residents are encouraged to honor and remember departed veterans in their hearts and prayers. It is hoped that the Mojave Viper Young Marines will still be able to place the flags on the veterans’ graves but this will depend on the status of the quarantine on Memorial Day.
The Twentynine Palms Cemetery District Board of Directors will meet at 4:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, April 21. Due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the meeting will not be open to the public. The board will hear updates on: the public gathering restrictions; the 2018-19 audit; the Carl Moyer grant; estimates for repairs on the cemetery grounds; and the cancellation of the Memorial Day service. The board will then be asked to approve the repairs for the cemetery grounds. To submit public comments on the meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.