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TROUBLESHOOTERS: Woman questions maintenance at historic Peoria cemetery

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PEORIA (HOI) -- Springdale Cemetery in Peoria was founded in 1854.

“It’s very significant. First off it’s owned by the City of Peoria. Not a lot of people know that,” said Mark Matuszak, General Manager of Springdale Cemetery. 

The historic site spans over 200 acres.

Around 80,000 people have been laid to rest here including Lydia Moss Bradley, the founder of Bradley University. 

A woman reached out to the Troubleshooters to say she’s not impressed by the space. 

She wanted to stay anonymous. 

“As you pull in off the street to me it looks fancy, like they take care of it...then once you get down here I lost pretty much all respect.” 

Her loved one died in June and was supposed to be buried in the Valley of Devotion.

She said her family chose a different plot in another section of the cemetery because of the condition of the land. 

“They said I had to go through Management Authority. I emailed every single person and called every single person and finally somebody reached back like a day later.” 

She said she exchanged several emails with the board chair. 

The Valley or Devotion was in the same condition when Jessica Cook met her there over a month later. 

“They say this has happened for years, but obviously something needs to be done...I’m not trying to ruin the reputation of the place, but at the same time this is an important thing that needs taken care of.” 

Mark Matuszak, Cemetery General Manager, agreed this area needs some work. 

“The Valley of Devotion is a small section of the cemetery, but the location of it has been problematic from the very beginning,” said Matuszak. 

He said this damage happened over a few days when Peoria had several inches of rain.

Matuszak added, "It came down the path where we had rip rap to prevent the water from rushing down, but it came down in such force it...it took rocks and washed them down."

He called this and terrible incident and said he's not making excuses.

"We do not want under any circumstances to go back to the days where things were so bad that the public was in an uproar about getting this place repaired."

His reference is to the late 1990s before an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Peoria, Peoria County, and the Peoria Park District.

That agreement turned the historic cemetery into public land.

Matuszak explained that the reason the Valley of Devotion hasn't been fixed yet is because the site was without about 12 people for over 5 weeks.

He said they got behind because of the loss of those seasonal workers.

The woman who reached out to Troubleshooters said she not only advocated for her family, but others as well.

"I take care of the elderly and I think they should be treated the same way they are while they are alive after they're passed, just with respect."

Matuszak said, "I'm embarrassed about this, but I'm not worried. We'll get it taken care of. We just need some time."

He said this area is one of the top 5 projects, but couldn't say when the work will be done.

Matuszak added the publicly owned cemetery operates on a $400,000 annual budget which includes the business along with maintenance.

He said he'll reach out to the city to figure out the next step.

Heart of Illinois ABC will continue to follow this developing story.

Jessica Cook

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