Is it a cemetery … or a park?

June 3, 2009

Spot the gravemarkers ... the only indicators that Ventura's Cemetery Park is actually a real cemetery.

Spot the gravemarkers ... the only indicators that Ventura's Cemetery Park is actually a real cemetery.

The debate over what to do with Cemetery Park is dragging on for so long it’s like one long funeral.

A funeral, I say, because it seems everyone involved on both sides of a heated redesign proposal for the Midtown Ventura parcel is already mourning the loss of something that hasn’t happened yet.

Those who want to keep the park as it is — a recreational space for dogs and residents — are mourning the possibility of their play space being taken away. Those who want it restored back to a cemetery have been mourning the interred there for over 40 years. And neither wants to see the $4 million memorial project go through. The former group even has 960 signatures stating so.

This debacle is also like a funeral because, like so many are, it ends up becoming more about the people grieving than it does about the deceased being buried.

With the exception of one man in Ventura who’s dedicated all his passion to restoring St. Mary’s back to its religious graveyard roots, everyone seems to forget there are over 3,000 people in the ground at the park. They’re under your feet as you run and play Frisbee with your dog, or volleyball with your mates.

It’s just an observation, and not meant to malign. I walk by Cemetery Park almost daily and enjoy the green space for what it is. But if you do pass on by, spotting the sparse amount of markers is like a morbid game of “Where’s Waldo.”

Excepting this contentious issue, I have to give credit to our city council for thinking of other people’s needs first. They decided to defer their decision on the park redesign on Monday because there wasn’t enough time left in their meeting. Better to drag on the problem than make a hasty decision that will only end up being divisive to Venturans.

I do hope that the council, whatever they decide, can consider that Cemetery Park, by name, is contradictory and needs a new moniker. It’s a cemetery, yes … but is is a park? Well, sort of.

My suggestion? If you keep the park as is, rename it something new and snappy, like “Poli Park,” or “Midtown Center Park.” Obviously, by maintaining the status quo, you’re further ignoring the dead under the ground … the “Cemetery” in Cemetery Park would sound so insignificant at that point.

If you revert it back to a graveyard, bring back “St. Mary’s Cemetery.” Because it’s never been anything but.

And by approving the new memorial project, “Cemetery Park” becomes more appropriate, because it strikes a good balance between the cemetery and the park.

It’s the least we could do for making this problem less about us … and more about them.

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