Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery workers in a truck sprayed hydromulch yesterday over 72 grave sites in an area where grass has died. The blue-green paper mulch also contains wood chips, grass seeds, fertilizer and other chemicals that speed germination. Freddie Viernes walked behind the truck and washed off the grave markers before the hydromulch could dry and stick to it. This is part of a major effort to renovate the cemetery.

Mulch brings
hope for life

The state uses a new spray
in an effort to get grass to grow
in barren cemetery areas

The state is switching to hydromulch to encourage grass growth on barren spots in the State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

Cemetery workers sprayed a 360-square-foot area yesterday with a blue-green paper mulch that also contained wood chips, grass seeds, fertilizer and other chemicals that speed germination.

"It's a faster and better process than seeding," said Miles Okamura, cemetery operations manager.

The hydromulch covered 72 grave sites and cost just less than $1,000. The state had tried to get grass to grow by spreading seeds, but birds ate most of them, Okamura said.

He said hydromulch is also better than sod.

In some areas of the cemetery being targeted by the hydromulch sprayings, graves have sunk and the grass has died. Because of the poor conditions, some people have planted their own grass over their relatives' grave sites. In such cases, Herring Kalua, left, and Freddie Viernes place plywood over the plots to shield them from the spray.

Soil from different parts of Oahu cover the cemetery grounds and might be a reason for the uneven growth of grass. But Okamura believes the main factor for barren spots is the activity from digging burial plots.

The area sprayed yesterday has the most recent burials. It is next to more barren ground, which will be covered with hydromulch after new burials are placed there.

"Eventually we're going to try it on the whole cemetery, but right now we're going section by section," Okamura said.

There are 6,300 people buried in the cemetery's 123 acres, which can accommodate 76,000 people.

The state Legislature appropriated $751,000 this year to repair some of the deteriorating conditions at the cemetery, which include sinking grave sites, cracking structures and a leaky sprinkler system. That money will be available when the state's 2006 fiscal year starts July 1.

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