CURRENT STATE OF CARE AT WOODLAWN - November 2021
In November 2021 Woodlawn Celestial Gardens, a religious based nonprofit organization, became the owner of Woodlawn Memorial Park. At the time of acquisition, Woodlawn's appearance was similar to that of other pioneer cemeteries in California.
“A pioneer cemetery is a cemetery that is the burial place for pioneers with founding dates spanning from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. As a general rule pioneer cemeteries tend to be more rustic and informal. Typically Pioneer cemeteries are not irrigated and plantings are limited – often only having an eclectic collection of trees with few shrubs and no lawns.”
Woodlawn Memorial Park had suffered decades of mismanagement and neglect. Maintenance had not been performed in years It was no longer a place of honor for the deceased nor a lush grass covered respite for surviving family. Woodlawn has not been licensed to inter the deceased since 2000. Consequently, there had not been any contributions to an Endowment fund for decades..
FUTURE CARE AT WOODLAWN
Woodlawn Celestial Gardens can not guarantee sufficient funding to return the cemetery to the condition it was when your deceased was intered, nor is it legally obligated to do so.
However, Woodlawn Celestial Gardens commits to pursue opportunities, including soliciting public and private donations, grants and corporate sponsorships to fund maintenance activities.
Woodlawn Celestial Gardens is implementing a conservative maintenance program to ensure the Cemetery remains open and safe for access to the friends and family of those interred at Woodlawn.
Our plan is to:
It is our goal to incorporate these objectives:
While some like the spartan look of a pioneer cemetery, most are more familiar and comfortable with the garden cemetery look. Unfortunately, at this time it is neither fiscally prudent or financially possible to restore green lawns to Woodlawn. We understand this may be distressing to family members and we empathize.
Plot owners or the legal representatives of the deceased are encouraged to contact Woodlawn Celestial Gardens with any questions or concerns about maintenance of the cemetery in general or your deceased's lot specifically. We will gladly address your concerns. We ask that when expressing concerns to the staff you do so courteously and respectfully, remembering they are volunteers, giving of their personal time to care for your loved one within the constraints of funding and time.
Please refer to our Maintenance Plan for how we plan to address maintenance.
THE HISTORY OF CARE AT WOODLAWN
In 1870 Woodlawn Memorial Park was first established as Compton Rural Cemetery, privately owned. The cemetery was situated on open land, without fencing or landscaping, about three miles from Compton proper. There was no endowment program and families were responsible for maintaining their own lots. This was the norm for rural pioneer cemeteries in arid areas.
In 1909 Woodlawn Cemetery Association purchased the cemetery and introduced perpetual care for new interments. The new owners were convinced to extend perpetual care to existing interments, even though they had made no contributions.
In 1955 California established a law mandating endowment care for all new privately owned cemeteries. Because Woodlawn was already providing endowment care it was required to continue doing so.
In 1960 Sunset Cemetery Association (also known as Evergreen) purchased Woodlawn. We now estimate the cemetery was at or near full capacity, severely limited the new owners ability to generate income and contribute to the Endowment Care Fund.
About 1967 the owners were permitted to remove all roads but one within the cemetery. This space was replotted to allow for new single and multiple level burial plots. These new plots allowed the cemetery to continue operating, generating income and contributing to the Endowment Care Fund.
By the 1990s the rate of interments dropped significantly. The owners became embroiled in multiple civil and criminal lawsuits.
In 2000 the State prohibited all interments and ordered Evergreen to sell Woodlawn due to decades of mismanagement.
In 2011 the cemetery was finally purchased by Woodlawn Compton Corporation. Without income, maintenance of the grounds declined and the hours of operation were irregular and limited. Ultimately all maintenance was halted and the gates chained shut.
In 2020 One Section At A Time, a nonprofit, volunteer based organization was allowed access to the Cemetery. They began a year-long effort to clear the property enabling family members to return to visit their loved ones. This was made possible solely through volunteer labor, in-kind donations and money donated through private contributions and public crowdfunding.