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LA County cemetery's plan to beat the drought: let the grass go brown, return to its roots




August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Headstone at Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Headstone of a soldier from the War of 1812 in Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. New mulch surrounds a headstone at Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to replace the grass with mulch throughout much of the park.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. A memorial surrounded by new mulch at the Savannah Memorial Park, where groundskeepers are letting the grass go brown and bringing in native plants, rocks, and mulch instead.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California. The Board of Directors decided to let the lawns go brown and turn to drought-tolerant landscaping.
August 25, 2014. Savannah Memorial Park, where groundskeepers are letting the grass go brown and bringing in native plants, rocks, and mulch instead.


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Cemeteries rely on a lot of water to keep grounds nice for the departed. But when a water main thief shut the water off at a historic memorial park in Rosemead, California last year, the groundskeepers, fearing a worsening drought on the horizon, decided to leave the water off and let the grass go brown.

Joanne Russell Chavez is the President of the Board of Directors of the Savannah Memorial Park. It's the oldest non-sectarian cemetery in Southern California, and was established by some of the first settlers in the San Gabriel Valley.  

The cemetery's Board is implementing plans to beat the drought by decreasing grass on the property by at least fifty percent. They're bringing in native and drought-tolerant plants, more trees, and mulch instead. In the process, the board of the non- profit park believes it will cut the water bill by 60-70 percent.

Don't people expect to see green, plush lawns at cemeteries, though? Yes, says Russell Chavez, but looking to the future, "if we no longer have any water, what can we do to still have a beautiful cemetery and preserve its historical value?"