Mayor Fulton Steps in Dog Poop

Fulton Graveyard

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Default Re: Veterans Outraged After Army Hero's Grave Site Turned Into Dog Park

Here is his reply. I'll post on what I think about it tomorrow, but at least you can have a look. I give him credit for responding. Especially since he knows I can't vote for or against him.

Dear Mr. V,

Thanks for writing about Cemetery Memorial Park. Here in Ventura, this is an important issue to us and has been for many years. As a former journalist, I know that sometimes the full story doesn’t get reported in a sound bite, so I’d like to offer a couple of facts and a bit of perspective to clear things up.

Most important, Cemetery Memorial Park isn’t a dog park, as reported in the media. We do have designated dog parks, but those are elsewhere in town. Cemetery Memorial Park is still a cemetery, but it is also designated as a City Park. As in our other city parks, dogs are permitted on leashes and owners must clean up after them.

I live only a few blocks away from the park, and like most residents I regard it as a semi-sacred space, best used for quiet reflection. It is only a short distance from our busy downtown, and the serenity and spectacular ocean views are well-suited for this purpose, which I believe is in keeping with its status as a cemetery.

The history of Cemetery Memorial Park does, indeed, has its shameful aspects, but I believe we must recognize both the good and the bad as part of its history. The cemetery began to deteriorate during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when its owners – a local Presbyterian church and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles – stopped maintaining it. The City took over maintenance at that time and new burials in the cemetery ceased.

Almost half a century ago, when I was a little boy on the other side of the country, the City Council made a series of unfortunate decisions. Unable to maintain the cemetery (headstones were falling over, etc.), the City removed the headstones. The City offered descendants the option of removing their loved ones and/or taking the headstones. Even so, there are some 3,000 persons still buried in the cemetery, including many of our most important early residents, and many headstones are in private possession in Ventura and elsewhere. Some graves are marked with flat markers.

In recent years, we have devoted a lot of effort to figuring out how we can honor those still buried in the cemetery and also acknowledge the good and the bad about the cemetery’s history. Anyone can commemorate a grave by purchasing a flat marker for $300; if the request comes from a direct descendant, the City will provide the marker for free. In addition, the City is preparing a memorial to those buried in Cemetery Memorial Park that will including a listing of their names and some of the headstones. This has been a very difficult and emotional issue in our community and I am glad that we are taking these steps to honor all those concerned.

Regarding the remarks of Sharon Troll, our Parks and Recreation commissioner, let me just say this: Sharon has been a dedicated and beloved member of our community who has provided us with great service for many decades. She has devoted her life to improving the lives of children in our poorest neighborhood, including the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of veterans. She does speak bluntly; but from your vantage point elsewhere in the country I would ask you to judge her not on one ill-advised remark which happened to be reported in the national media but on a lifetime of remarkable service to my community. I would hope that all of us wish to be judged by that standard.

Although I am not personally a veteran, I have great respect and gratitude for those who have served our nation. My brother and two of my nephews have served our nation in times of war. Thank you very much for your service.

You can learn more about the background of this situation by reading our City Manager's blog here:

Bill Fulton
City of Ventura, California
(805) 654-7827
@MayorFulton on twitter