New life begins for memorial park

SIX months after purchasing the Western District Memorial Park, the Palmdale Group says it is following through on a promise to enhance the park while preserving the integrity of memorial sites.

Palmdale Group general manager Brad Kennedy said a plan had been drawn up detailing what improvements the park would undergo, and Dubbo local Lyn McDonald was employed as monuments manager.

"We made a conscious decision to source local goods and services," Mr Kennedy said.

"We wanted the people of Dubbo and surrounds to know that our company plans a long-term commitment to the park."

He said while the Palmdale Group would be guided by its plan, it was also flexible to adapt to the needs and demands of the local community.

An example was the decision to offer memorial burials for the first time.

Mr Kennedy said the rate of demand for headstones at Dubbo was much greater than it was on the Central Coast, and so the company felt it was important to introduce the service.

"Previously it was not possible to have headstones here, but we're now going to have 250 metres of beams laid along a treeline so that we can accommodate memorial burials for those who would like headstones," Mr Kennedy said.

"It also gives us an opportunity to provide local stone masons with additional work."

One of the first enhancement projects to be completed was the construction of an arbor that ran down the centre of the park.

"The structure is in place, and now all we need to do is plant it," he said.

"We're hoping that within six months we will have wisteria growing at the top that will provide a shaded walkway," he said.

Other upgrades, including a memorial rose garden, were also just around the corner, Mr Kennedy said.

"It is for the placement of ashes with plaques. There will be a small arbor leading into it, with a series of concentric circles and paths joining them."

Mr Kennedy said while Dubbo's geography presented several challenges, the Palmdale Group aimed to create a park of the same calibre as its Central Coast facilities that were renowned for their landscaped gardens and had won major prizes at prestigious garden competitions.

"Obviously we have to look at what's possible with Dubbo's climate and red dirt. We certainly don't have the rain in Dubbo that we have on the Central Coast so that might involve things like using native plants," he said.

"We wanted good advice about what works in Dubbo, and went looking for it," he said.

"Rhonda Millar from Old Ganarrin Nursery is helping us, and we have also used Turf The Lot for our lawn. A local builder, Pat McArdle, built the arbor," he said.

Mr Kennedy said members of the community had contacted the park to raise concerns there had been a rabbit problem at the lawn cemetery in the past, but he wanted to put their minds at ease.

"We'd deal with a rabbit problem if and when we get one, but we just don't have one," he said.

Mr Kennedy said the company had also fielded some enquiries about the state of the park's lawn.

"We definitely do have some significant grass problems here," he said. "However, we are upgrading irrigation systems now to pumps that will give us one-and-a-half times the power we currently have.

"We are also buying significant amounts of turf, using a different type of grass and taking advice from our local turf people, but it's not an instant fix. We have been told it could take between six and 12 months, in some areas where the grass has died, to bring that up to the standard we want."

Casuarina pines will also be planted along the park's fenceline to provide a visual shield from industrial buildings across the road from the park.

"Those pines will grow quickly to give the cemetery more privacy," he said.

Other upgrades had already been completed at the park, Mr Kennedy said, including new carpet and upholstery at the chapel, while new curtains had also been ordered.

The installation of television screens would allow people to view services from a shaded area outside the chapel in instances where so many people had attended a service that the chapel was full to overflowing.

"That doesn't happen often but we wanted to make sure that we had the ability to provide this just in case. Also, we aim to be able to videotape every funeral service so that families and friends can have access to it as a memento if they wish," he said.

angela.clutterbuck@ruralpress.com

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