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Apr 15, 2013 10:06 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

West side pauper's cemetery no longer buried in trash

TUCSON- It started as a simple idea to pick up some trash.

But now the Pima County Cemetery, located at the back of Evergreen Cemetery, has gone from a piece of disheveled dirt in the desert, to a place of peace and dignity.

"It just felt really disrespectful and it had to be fixed," says Vickie Berg.

Berg is from Minnesota, but now lives in Tucson. When she first visited the cemetery more than a year ago for the county's annual memorial service there, she knew she had to do something to clean it up.

After months of pestering county leaders, Berg convinced the county to get on board with plans for a renovation. "A cemetery is completely unlike any other landscape I have ever dealt with," says Jessie Byrd.

Byrd is a landscape designer who often works on projects for the county.

She helped bring in more than 200 new plants to the cemetery. "I was trying to mimic the things you see in the desert, where there's a collection of vegetation and then some open space," Byrd says.

Local artist Ray Rizzo also designed a sculpture for the cemetery, which reads "Gone But Not Forgotten". "I've had the chance to meet quite a few of the families who visit the cemetery and explain what we're doing," Byrd says. "They're all so incredibly appreciative."

Of course there is still more work to be done. Berg has to figure out who is going to maintain the grounds.

But now it shows there is someone who cares about making sure the more than 4,000 people buried at the cemetery are not forgotten.

"I'm just really happy for what we accomplished here," Berg says. "It's really special."

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