GLENDALE â€” Grand View Memorial Park opened Sunday to friends and family, who got their first chance to visit their loved ones in more than seven months.
Earlier this month, a Superior Court judge approved a tentative public access plan allowing visitors to enter the cemetery grounds.
Gates to the cemetery have been locked since June, when city-funded visitations ceased because of safety concerns.
Sunday's opening brought dozens of people â€” some toting flowers, bottled water and gardening tools â€” who came to visit the grave site of family members, while others scouted the cemetery looking to find the graves of their loved ones.
Although much of the grass has been mowed and brittle trees have been trimmed, dry vegetation and debris still cover many grave sites.
Glendale resident Marcia Ketchum searched the area looking for her husband's grave. She found his marker, which was hidden underneath strands of twigs and overgrown grass, and placed a single red rose in the nearby vase.
â€œI just have to know that his cemetery is going to be taken over and someone is going to take care of it,â€ Ketchum said. â€œIt's not acceptable.â€
Ketchum had planned on moving her husband's remains when the cemetery's troubles began, she said. But it closed before she could take any action.
â€œIt will cost me close to $10,000 to move his grave,â€ she said. â€œIf I have the guarantee that this is going to be fixed, then I want him to be here.â€
On Sunday, the park remained open for four hours with the help of volunteers who guided visitors around the cemetery and distributed fliers regarding park rules and regulations.
Those visiting were adamant about having regular visitation hours.
â€œI just want it to be the way it was before,â€ said Nune Azaryan of Tujunga.
Nune, who was kneeling near her 22-year-old cousin's tombstone, used to come every Sunday before the park closed.
â€œIt was closed on his birthday,â€ Azaryan said as she wiped a marble flower vase with a rag.
Santa Clarita resident Corby Jones came with his wife and mother-in-law, who stood over the graves of her parents.
â€œIt should become an active cemetery,â€ Jones said. â€œAnd people should have regular visitations.â€
Jones had other ideas of what should be done to the cemetery.
â€œMaybe Forest Lawn could take over and sell off available property that wasn't sold,â€ he said.
Grand View has been involved in a series of lawsuits since October 2005, when a state inspector discovered about 4,000 bodies that were not properly interred.
In November 2005, the state prohibited the cemetery from conducting any new business, but the city stepped in and opened the site for limited visitations in response to public outcry after the park closed in June 2006.
The goal is to have Grand View open every month for visitation, said Paul Ayers, the attorney who represents the families involved in a pending class-action lawsuit against the cemetery.
â€œUltimately, we'd like to get it up to at least two times a month,â€ Ayers said.
?ANI AMIRKHANIAN is a news assistant. She may be reached at (818) 637-3230 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.