Monday, December 31, 2007

Chandler's farmworkers cemetery being neglected, some say

[Source: Edythe Jensen, Arizona Republic] -- A 90-year-old cemetery for Hispanic farmworkers, surrounded by the Fulton Ranch development, is being neglected in what preservationists worry is an attempt to justify moving the graves off valuable land. Two years ago, Fulton Homes fenced the cemetery and installed benches and trees at the entrance as it prepared to develop the surrounding land. The home builder doesn't own the cemetery, but investors who bought it following a tax auction have told volunteer caretakers to stay out. That has angered a Chandler police group that has vowed to intervene -- with weed-removal equipment to cut down the overgrown tumbleweeds.

"It's an ethical thing," said Chandler Police Sgt. John Shearer, who is organizing the cleanup as an officer in the Chandler Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 14. "The cemetery used to be back in a field. Now it's in the middle of Fulton Ranch behind a beautiful wall. The gate is unlocked; you walk in . . . and there's a mess." The cemetery is one of the few remaining links to Chandler's once-thriving Goodyear farming community. Shearer said he has been unable to contact current owners of the Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetery, northwest of Chandler Heights Road and Arizona Avenue. Pat Florence, a member of the Pioneers' Cemetery Association, said a representative of the previous owner ordered her group to halt regular cleanups because the land was private property. Florence said she feared she would be sued if she defied the order.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. To view Channel 12 video on the cemetery, click here. Photo source: Arizona Republic.]