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Restoration begins for St. Patrick's Cemetery - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Restoration begins for St. Patrick's Cemetery

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More than six months after a KSBY investigation about the dilapidated conditions at a historic Central Coast cemetery, a restoration project is finally moving forward.

Some people have considered the old cemetery, which can be seen just off Highway 101 in Arroyo Grande, to be an eyesore. But after enough people urged the Catholic Diocese of Monterey for change, that is exactly what is happening now. 

In the abandoned graveyard, Sharon Rude looks patiently for a tombstone covered by weeds and grass.

“And right now I can't find them. I don't know where they are,” says the Arroyo Grande resident.     

Looking more like an empty field every day, weeds cover what is left of local pioneers' final resting grounds.  

“If this was cleaned out, we would be able to find the graves,” says Rude as she rips weeds out of the ground. 

Rude is no relation to anyone buried at St. Patrick's Cemetery, but she says she can not let their memories be dismissed. She is part of the Save St. Patrick’s Cemetery Facebook page, urging the community to step forward in the restoration efforts.

“Twenty years ago, when I first walked through here, is when I first fell in love with the cemetery, and I have been trying on and off since then to try to get some of the concern over this cemetery,” explains Rude.  

It was during that first visit when Rude found the gravesite of a newborn, buried at just 20 days old in 1914.

“It is a baby, a baby. That always touches my heart,” says Rude.   

The memory of Ellen Costa, a baby she never knew, sparked an interest that would never fade.

“We want to bring it back to life, to the beauty that it once was over 100 years ago,” says Rude.

Two decades later, as spring settles in, after years of asking the Catholic Church to restore what is theirs, the Catholic Diocese of Monterey began work this week. 

“I think the immediate goals are to create an attractive, respectful environment for people to visit if they so desire,” says Shana McCormick, who was hired by the Diocese as the project contractor.

McCormick, of Great Gardens Landscape Design of Cambria, says she has plans to restore this cemetery quickly. 

“It's wonderful to have the opportunity to come in and transform a space from a very neglected, unappealing, something that you see from the highway, you see when you're driving by,” says McCormick.

“History is important to us. We should never let history die. We should go back, revisit it, bring it alive, remember how things were, and that is the reason I do it. I am in love with this cemetery,” says Rude. 

Physical changes can already be seen at the cemetery. The weeds are gone and plans for gardens with pathways are in store. The beginning stages of this project should last until summer. However, funding to do anything more dramatic is another hurdle for those who want to see more changes.

According to the Save St. Patrick's Cemetery group, they have been asked by the Diocese to wait until they have finished to then begin their fundraising efforts for further beautification and to fix the fence. They say they will need support from the community to fund those projects.  

Related links:
KSBY Investigates: Saving St. Patrick's Cemetery

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