OAKHURST – Work is underway to rehabilitate 11 acres recently purchased by the Madera Cemetery District to expand the Oakhill Cemetery.
The newly-purchased property is due west of the cemetery and runs along behind Napa Auto Parts, beside the Raley’s store, behind Grocery Outlet, and over to the Manna House.
Since this land has been regularly used by the town’s homeless population as a camping area, the first order of business has been to clean up mountains of trash and clear vegetation that presents a fire hazard.
“We removed seven big three-yard dumpsters full of trash, compacted with a backhoe,” said Oakhill Cemetery foreman Robert Ellis. “It took four guys a day-and-a-half to get the job done.”
They hauled away tents and trash, mattresses and broken furniture, empty food containers and all manner of debris. They did raking and weed whacking, and were encouraged to see some new grass popping up in the cleared spots after the rain of a few weeks ago.
Ellis says crews have also been falling hazard trees, bucking up those that are already down, skirting up limbs, and filling in ruts in the dirt road to allow sheriff’s deputies clear access to patrol the property as needed.
The new addition to the cemetery is an exciting step forward for the Madera Cemetery District, providing space that will take them through the next 100 years. Also, the cleanup of the property will provide additional green space in the middle of town and help to reduce the fire hazard in the area.
The District began searching for new property nearly 10 years ago, and realizing this adjacent parcel would be out of their price range, they located 19 acres on the Wright Ranch, behind the new Sheriff’s Substation at the end of Westlake Drive, and purchased it in 2010.
However, there would be major costs associated with managing a property that was separate from the current cemetery, including infrastructure, a shop and an office, and the cost of transporting equipment back and forth for maintenance. So when the adjacent 11 acres came up for sale a few months ago, the District decided to made a bid on the land, and on Sept. 22, they closed the deal with Sacks, Inc., who had accepted their $720,000 appraisal.
“The Board of Trustees had to make a decision on what would be the best and the most cost savings for Madera Cemetery District,” said District Manager Belva Bare. “We are very excited about this purchase, and will begin our master plan for this additional property soon.”
Bare says the cost of operation will be greatly reduced, as compared to the cost of developing property in a separate location, and they will likely put the 19 acres off Westlake Drive up for sale.
The Oakhill Cemetery was established in 1875, and on May 3, 1955, it came into the jurisdiction of the Madera Cemetery District. It is currently comprised of seven acres surrounding the iconic “Little Church On The Hill,” which has been recently renovated. The cemetery is filled with historical information along with special burial locations, and is a “California Historical Point of Interest” and visitors from all over the world stop on their way to Yosemite.