Local cemeteries keep green despite drought

Local cemeteries keep green despite drought

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - It may not seem like the most sought-after job, but Dave Hepburn is happy making his living managing cemeteries.

“I like helping families and I like running a good business,” Hepburn tells 23ABC.

He manages Bakersfield’s Historic Union Cemetery, a century-old resting place for everyone from civil war soldiers to generations of Kern County families. 

But with the drought hitting California harder than ever before, most people would think that big cemetery fields would be the first to fizzle out.

But not for Hepburn. 

Historic Union cemetery installed two water wells over 50 years ago for emergencies like droughts.  The wells run with electric pumps after 9:30 pm and before 6:30 am. With nearly 60 acres of burial space, it takes nearly 600 sprinklers to keep the grave site looking green.

The cemetery also installed special drought resistant “Bermuda Grass,” and restored over 1,100 trees, which helps cut back half its watering from last year.

“They all comment on how beautiful the place looks and were happy about that,” he says.

And while the drought is forcing many other California cemeteries to start xeriscaping their land (substituting their grass for gravel) Hepburn takes pride in keeping the grass greener for those on the other side.

“People want to know that they're loved ones that have passed are taken care of.” 

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