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Still broken

Four years after two local boys vandalized the historic Central Point Cemetery, most of the more than 50 headstones they damaged still lie broken in the dirt.

The damage was carried out by a 10- and-11-year-old in March 2011, and although their families paid nearly $5,000 in restitution ordered by Jackson County Circuit Court, very few of the stones have been repaired.

Walking the aisles of the seven-acre cemetery Friday, Medford resident Kathy Hoober shook her head in frustration. She began spreading community awareness about the cemetery's lingering condition two years ago. She and a small band of volunteers spend the second Saturday of each month mowing, weeding and hauling out landscape debris. Hoober hopes more local residents will take an interest and that the cemetery owners will pay for the promised repairs.

Owners Damian Idiart and Aaron Nadauld, lawyers in Medford, purchased the cemetery in 2007 for $1 from the aging and dwindling membership of the Central Point Masonic Lodge, with plans to use the help of local churches and families to keep up the property.

For the past eight years, cleanup efforts by a handful of volunteer groups have been sporadic, though Hoober said the law firm provided a trash receptacle for at least one volunteer work party.

While she's proud of efforts to clean up the cemetery, Hoober said she's gone from curious to angry about the broken stones that greet cemetery visitors.

"I just think the public needs to be notified that the work has not been done. A lot of people just assume that it has been fixed, so I feel like it needs to be brought to the public's attention so the owners will come to the plate and do what they said they were going to do," Hoober said.

"If it was their family members, they would want it fixed."

Idiart said he was "actively pursuing" relinquishing ownership of the old graveyard but declined further comment.

In past interviews, Idiart voiced frustration with limitations that weather placed on headstone repair and lack of interest by community groups to participate in cleanup efforts. In 2012, Idiart approached the city of Central Point about taking ownership of the property, but city officials were divided over the idea, especially with so many broken headstones.

Last week, City Administrator Chris Clayton said City Council members have been "firm in their position that the cemetery should remain privately owned," though the city removed debris and dangerous trees there last year.

Dirk Siedlecki, of the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, said he was "at a loss" over the fact that four years have lapsed since the vandalism occurred.

Siedlecki said information on the status of the nearly $5,000 in restitution is nearly as hard to come by as a new owner for the property.

"We're all just kind of at the 'What more can you do?' point. I know the condition of all the broken stones are a real turn-off to anyone who goes out there, but at the same time it is looking much better than it has in a long while, thanks to the efforts of these volunteers," he said.

"We try to focus on what we can do. We can try to keep weeds down and we can do work parties. I don't let it eat away at me like it did those first two years because it's unhealthy to dwell on it, but it is extremely frustrating that these repairs were paid for and no one can find out why they haven't been completed."

Siedlecki said he wondered how the families felt about paying restitution for the still-languishing graveyard.

"The families whose kids were involved, I'm sure, were not wealthy people. Somehow they were able to come up with the money and gave that to the owners with the understanding that the money was going to go toward making the repairs," Siedlecki said.

"How do those little kids who were involved, who are now four years older, feel about that? And the moms and dads or aunts and uncles who helped pay the money? What kind of message is that sending?"

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Kathy Hoober, 64, ofMedford, points out tombstones that were vandalized four years ago at the historic Central Point Cemetery. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch