Leash your dog! Too Little, Too Late

City of Ventura Manager's Blog

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Leash your dog!

Thanks to the Associated Press and Fox News, people all over America are hearing that Ventura has turned a cemetery into a dog park and a local Parks and Recreation Commissioner is quoted as saying about the grave of a Medal of Honor winner: “We are treating him pretty darn well, except for the poop.”

Except it's not true.

Cemetery Memorial Park is not a dog park. Ensuring that it isn't treated like one was exactly what Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sharon Troll was complaining about when she made the comment that is now making the news.

Anyone who knows Sharon Troll knows that when it comes to honoring the spirit of veterans, no one in the country takes a back seat to her. Her point was exactly the opposite of how it is being portrayed. Like her colleagues, Commissioner Troll has long urged the City and County Animal Control to better enforce our leash laws (a problem at all our parks and beaches.) She wants the law enforced so the departed at Cemetery Memorial Park get the respect they deserve.

Ventura does have a dog park, but it is not at Cemetery Memorial Park. Unfortunately, not all dog owners obey the law or give appropriate respect to the unique history and presence of the graves there.

Retired Marine Sgt. Craig "Gunny" Donor has made a request to move the remains of Pvt. James Sumner, who was decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Indian wars and died in Ventura with no heirs in 1912. Donor would like Sumner's remains re-interred at a National Veteran's Cemetery.

That request is under consideration by the Parks and Recreation Commission. Over the past three years, the Commission has devoted countless hours to reassessing the decisions made over half a century ago to turn the dilapidated and largely abandoned cemetery into a "memorial park." Their goal has been to appropriately memorialize the unique nature of the site where 3,000 Ventura pioneers are buried. In reacting to Sgt. Donor's request, some local historians and next of kin say they don't want the site disturbed. Others want it restored as accurately as possible to its original condition instead. Last year, the City Council approved a design to repair some damaged historic walls, improve the Veteran's memorial on the site and create a fitting memorial to the memory of all who remain buried there.

There's an old saying, "it's an ill wind that blows no good." As people of good will talk about the best way to honor the spirit of the departed at Cemetery Memorial Park, including the remains of Sgt. Sumner, one hopes that the casual strollers who bring their dogs to the beautiful area will take respectful heed of the ground they are walking on. At their last meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved the design for three signs that will be erected next week to remind visitors of the hallowed ground they are walking on.

One hopes as well that the remains of Sgt. Sumner aren't exploited for cheap sensationalism to fill talk show airtime. A brave soldier, his spirit deserves to rest in peace, wherever his earthly remains are ultimately located.


Tanker said...

As a retired SGT in the US Army I have to say; What the hell is the problem with moving the frigging grave to the Veterans Cemetery. Spend some dollars and get it moved. Whether this park is a dog park or just a park, dogs should NOT be crapping on the grave stone. That is why there are FENCES around Veteran grave markers in many cemeteries around the world. Whether Troll made the statement she is being accused of or not makes no difference. If you continue to allow the CMOH winner's head stone to pissed and crapped you might as well grab an orange flag and stand there and direct the animals and their idiot owners to the stone. Why not get some old wrought iron fencing from the city yards and place it around the stone until the problem is solved...HUH?

David Matteson
SGT, US Army (RET)

dlantrip said...

I've spent many enjoyable hours walking this park and admiring the view, the kite flyers, musicians, the kids playing in the trees, couples on their blankets, and yes watching the dogs play with childish abandon. I love reading the many memorial stones and am reminded of the long history of our community and it's pioneers. This is such an alive and lovely place in so many ways and a real tribute to Ventura and the folks buried there. Can we all just get along and enjoy the park in our own way, clean up after ourselves, and give thanks for having such open spaces to enjoy?

Mike Johnson said...

Well, it's hard to imagine Fox News quoting somebody out of context to gin up some outrage.

Anyhow, it can't be a surprise that people think the city has been dragging its feet on this issue. I avoid Cemetery Park, and I don't even like gathering for the Independence Day Parade there, because I always witness some thoughtless act of desecration. It breaks my heart.

There should be no Cemetery Park, period. Some residents in the area will be upset at losing a park. But shoot, the nearest park to my house is 1.7 miles away. We can't all have everything at our doorstep. On this end of town, we've lost a library and a fire station. The city managed to close those over local objections.

Redesignate the park as a City Cemetery, with no dogs allowed, no frisbees, no Boot Camp. If people want to sit and eat lunch at the cemetery, or watch the sunset, that's fine. You see people picnicking at Ivy Lawn; you don't see them playing smashball.

By the way, is it any less offensive when an unleashed dog poops on the grave of somebody other than Private Sumner?

Kathy said...

I find it interesting that the first issue to be addressed in this blog entry was to lay blame for who disseminated the information, rather than the issue.

A cemetery containing 3,000 burials is hardly "largely abandoned" and, whether formally designated as a city park or otherwise, should be contained and offered the respect deserved of the "Ventura pioneers" who are still interred there.

As one actively researching my family's genealogy, I routinely attempt to find where my ancestors are buried and discover new information in that regard regularly. It is entirely possible that the descendents of those buried in your park/cemetery have no idea that their ancestors are buried there, consequently not being able to offer an opinion as to how they feel about it. Sadly, if those graves are not marked, it's likely that anyone searching for their ancestors will be unable to find them. At some point, that information will be lost to history. It has happened in countless abandoned cemeteries countrywide.

As to the issue of Pvt. Sumner's situation, if he died without heirs, he has no one to speak to him. I applaud GySgt. Donor and other veterans for stepping forward to speak on Pvt. Sumner's behalf. I hope that your city will respect their wishes and, if the city has no intention of cordoning off the cemetery within a designated space, allow those people to move Pvt. Sumner's remains to a more appropriate location.

I live in a midwestern city that houses a large municipal cemetery within its midst. While I know that the city struggles to find the money in its budget to maintain it, they do a beautiful job maintaining the almost 20,000 (yes, 20,000) interments and cemetery grounds, in addition to the 28 city parks (and it should be noted that our city is 6 square miles smaller than Ventura). On veteran's day, full-sized American flags flank the avenues of the cemetery, one for each veteran buried there. It's a site to behold. It also proves that where there's a will, there's a way. If the City of Ventura wants to honor it's "3,000 pioneers" in a separate cemetery, it can be done.... without kites flying or dogs frollicking.

And finally, speaking to the "exploitation" of Pvt. Sumner's remains to fill air time..... Seriously? Do you really think that is what's motivating the attention this issue is receiving... A slow news day? Could it be possible that Americans really do care about those who came before them, not to mention those who fought for this country and want to see them treated with the respect they deserve?

Steve Schleder said...

The City Manager of San Buenaventura, CA, is running around the country trying to do damage control on one of the worst mass grave desecrations in the history of our country.
All headstones (600) were removed from the 3,000 local American pioneer graves and thrown off a cliff up in the hills by the City. The cemetery was then called a "passive park." (?).

"They forgot to remove the bodies!"

If you were to remove all the headstones and flush markers from the graves at any cemetery, would it not be a cemetery?

In a cemetery, people are buried in the ground.

St. Mary's, Presbyterian and the Hebrew cemeteries are now a 'dog' park because the City has made it so and after repeated requests, have refused to do anything to enforce the dog 'leash' problem let alone even consider the two organized attempts by the local pioneer descendants to restore the cemetery, and to abid by all state and federal cemetery law.

When 150 year old local pioneer graves can have their headstones stolen by the City and ok'ed by the same City Council, you have to realize that the scum in our society has risen to the top and now calls themselves the our elected leaders.

The City was charged to the upkeep of the cemetery and stopped maintenance to merit the coming mass grave desecration. It is against the law what the City did. We have 81 total veterans buried here, amongst the 3,000 civilian graves, not just one MoH recipient.

....The City of Ventura got so bold at grave desecration, they exported their talent to the City of Whittier, CA and their Mt. Olive and Broadway Cemeteries, renamed Founder's 'Memorial' Park with it's now 2,380 desecrated graves. Another dog park: http://tinyurl.com/yzp4gb7

And as soon as they could, they went down to the Calvary Catholic Cemetery at the invite of the City of San Diego, CA and with the help of the Archdiocese of San Diego desecrated another 4,000 known graves there: http://tinyurl.com/dypxxn

If you include the 3,850 desecrated graves beneath the Holy Cross School next to the San Buenaventura (Ventura) Mission on Main St.(just dumb old native American graves), the City of Ventura has their desecration fingerprints on a whooping total of 13,230 desecrated graves throughout Southern California.

These were tired and war torn Americans mostly, leaving behind the horrors of the Civil War and moving to California for a fresh start and a better life.

Little did they dream that their very graves would be hunted down by the City of Ventura and robbed of all dignity and respect.

There are 3 city governments and 2 Catholic Archdioceses, here in California, that DO NOT want anyone to know what has happened to our pioneer Americans and their graves.

For those of you in San Buenaventura or elsewhere in the country, that would like to join in on the cemetery restoration cause see contacts:



Craig "Gunny" Donor said...

For the record I did tell the AP reporter that the park was a “Dog Friendly Park” and not a Dog Park.

However he choose to use journalistic prerogative by saying “Dog Park” He was trying to make a point in as few words as possible. In stead he could have said that Pvt Sumner is buried in a Dog Friendly Park that requires all dogs be leashed at all times. However this Leashing is mostly ignored and NOT enforced. Though the posted signs state that any dog found unleashed will be confiscated. NO dog has ever been confiscated.

I personally have seen at least 30 Dogs in my 5 visits to the Park and I don’t remember seeing even one dog a leash.

However if the omission of the word “Friendly” changes the fact that Ventura has since December 1964 desecrated (1) to violate the sanctity of (2 ) to treat disrespectfully, irreverently, or outrageously) the hallowed (Holy, scared, consecrated, revered) ground of a Cemetery (a burial ground) of a Medal Of Honor Recipient in favor of a Park (a piece of ground in or near a city or town kept for ornament and recreation) then I will stand down.