CENTRAL POINT — Crater High School seniors Hayden Best and Adela Torres spent Friday morning smoothing fresh coats of white and brown paint over the old wooden sign that marks the entrance to the historic Central Point Cemetery.
Part of a group of four seniors who have adopted the old graveyard for their senior projects, the students began working at the cemetery in mid-April.
Located next to Don Jones Park, where Hamrick and Vilas roads connect, the old Central Point Cemetery was established in the 1860s.
Because it is a non-perpetual care cemetery, funding is nonexistent. In years past, members of the Central Point Masonic Lodge cared for the graveyard, but the aging membership dwindled in numbers and the property was transferred, for $1, to current owners Aaron Nadauld and Damian Idiart.
Local residents voiced concerns in recent months about broken headstones that still need repair two years after a case of vandalism, for which two local boys paid restitution.
Nadauld said Friday that funding was in place and that repairs would take place in two to four weeks, now that temperatures are warm enough for adhesives and repair techniques to work well.
A community cleanup is being planned for 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 11. Volunteers are asked to bring tools to use. For details, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
They will look to the community for a bit of added elbow grease and some needed tools at a community cleanup effort planned from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 11.
The students say they hope their efforts will increase community awareness and convince more citizens to keep the graveyard clean.
Best and Torres were joined Friday by Melanie Dengler and Karina Wahlberg, both 18, who weeded and cleaned around grave markers.
Best said the group of seniors hopes to have dead trees and bushes removed, the sign painted and have made enough improvements that cemetery upkeep will be easier for future work groups.
"Every time somebody drives by, all they see is a mess, and they don't actually even see what's here because of how bad it is," he said.
"I don't think a lot of people notice it's even a cemetery, so we thought if we cleaned it up, maybe the community would step up and help, too."
Torres said students saw news coverage of vandalism in 2011, when two teen boys damaged some four-dozen headstones, and they took note of the languishing condition of the cemetery.
"I think it's so important to do this because it's like one of the only historic sites in our whole community," said the teen.
"We met with (owner Aaron Nadauld) and got this whole list that included painting the sign, pulling weeds, mowing. I think this cemetery has become less important because there's so much work and because it doesn't look nice, but once it's all cleaned up, I think it will be important to the community again."
Nadauld said he was grateful for students' help.
"It is wonderful to see the community gather to work and serve with one another. It has been a very neat experience working with the four Crater High students who decided to take this on as their senior project," he said in an email.
"These students have been a pleasure to work with and give us great hope for the future. We greatly appreciate the entire Rogue Valley community that has gathered on many occasions to help maintain and beautify the historic cemetery."
A newly formed group, Friends and Families of the Central Point Cemetery, rallied community members last month to clear debris and remove downed trees.
Now that warm weather is here, weeds and grass will need to be kept at bay, Best pointed out, adding that he hoped local residents and fellow students would pitch in next weekend and even after graduation.
"Each year they have another class of seniors that have to do the exact same thing that we do and pick a senior project," he said. "We hope that maybe next year's seniors can realize what we're doing here and keep this going. I think once the community sees that people want this to look better, people will get together and help keep it that way. It just needs to be put before the community's eyes."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com