After years of setbacks, Coalinga cemetery is improving with community's help

Just outside of Coalinga sits "Pleasant Valley Cemetery."

The final resting place for many people in Western Fresno County took a turn for the worse in recent years.

Gina Lopez has been on a mission to make things green again for the cemetery and to make this final resting place a beautiful one.

"Knowing how my parents raised me and the work ethics they taught me. I just couldn't stand by and see the cemetery where they are laid to rest I just couldn't do it leaving it like this," said Lopez.

Every time she paid her respects to her late parents and brother she noticed the green grass was fading away.

The recent drought, a failed well and a lack of money all played a role and a recent theft of maintenance equipment didn't help.

For the last few years Lopez has been collecting donations for pay for new sod.

"Sitting here today on the tractor that I began the project on and looking at this I'm just unbelievably happy," said Lopez. "I'm just so excited about the progress we're making."

She's volunteered her own time and equipment for the ground work and asked for help from the community.

Thursday the Cal Fire Coaling Station along with officers and inmates from Pleasant Valley State Prison were there to help roll out new sod.

"So they actually have to come forward and say I want to help out in the community," said Scott Frauenheim, Warden of Pleasant Valley State Prison. "And that shows me they are headed in the right direction toward rehabilitation and they are really are moving forward and not coming back to prison," he added.

Coby Dychen a Cal Fire Captain thinks the effort by Lopez is fantastic.

"I think Gina has done a good job from the front leading us. It gives us a great opportunity to beautify the community and make it look good again," said Dychen.

Lopez said donations are still needed to help out with the maintenance once all the sod laid out and to build a rod iron fence with a lock for security.

Lopez expects to finish laying out all of the new sod by the end of May.
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