Flooding damages historic cemetery

Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer

QCS photo: Thomas Garcia This entire burial plot has been filled with dirt possibly the result of a cave in after a heavy rain flooded the grounds of the cemetery.

QCS photo: Thomas Garcia
This entire burial plot has been filled with dirt possibly the result of a cave in after a heavy rain flooded the grounds of the cemetery.

Tucumcari Memorial Park cemetery reopened Monday after city crews repaired grounds damaged June 30 by flooding. Some grave sites were sinking, according to City Manager Doug Powers.

The decision to close the cemetery was made in the interest of respecting the deceased and for public safety, said Powers.

Powers said he surveyed damage July 1 caused by more than 4 inches of rain that had fallen the night before. He said stone walls and elevated streets reduced the drainage, causing rain water to pool in areas of the cemetery.

Powers said there was some sinkage in gravesites as a result of the flooding. He said the sinking occurred in many different sections, prompting the decision to close the cemetery.

“It was a hard decision, one of those decisions that comes with this job,” Powers said. “I have answered calls and spoke with people who have come in the office. I only hope they understand why I made that decision.”

Powers said with the sinking in various areas he wanted to ensure all the holes were found and filled properly. He said the damage also needed to be fixed to be respectful.

Betty Cooper-Coslett, president of the cemetery advisory board said, she understands why the city closed the cemetery, though she would like to see them take more care while repairing the damage.

“There are time marks over the graves and some headstones,” Cooper-Coslett said. “Now, I can certainly understand they are understaffed, though was driving a tractor over graves necessary?”

QCS photo: Thomas Garcia  This grave has been repack with fresh dirt at the Tucumcari Memorial Park Cemetery.

QCS photo: Thomas Garcia
This grave has been repack with fresh dirt at the Tucumcari Memorial Park Cemetery.

Cooper-Coslett said she went out to the cemetery to observe the damage after she had been asked if anyone had notified families of gravesites that had some sinkage. She said to her knowledge no families were contacted and she knows that because the grave of her first husband (Bob Cooper) was one of the graves that had sinkage.

Powers said city crews from every department worked at the cemetery, some of them giving up their holiday time working on July 4 to resolve the issue.

Cooper-Coslett said while sinking was addressed, headstones of neighboring graves were covered in the repair process. She said this has been a recurring problem at the cemetery. In several cases, she said, unless you know where the grave is you would never find it with all of the covered head stones.

Powers said city crews are working to complete the last of the sinking problems and resume the maintenance of the cemetery. He said the crews are also working to keep the headstones and gravesites clean.

Cooper-Coslett said continued maintenance and cleaning of the cemetery has been an issue the board and city has had to address. She said in some areas the weeds have overgrown headstones and in others the headstone was covered.

“This is more than just a cemetery,” Cooper-Coslett said. “This is ours and Tucumcari’s history.”

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