Weeds overgrow historic Clay Street Cemetery

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Weeds have so overgrown the Clay Street Cemetery and its unmarked graves that it's impossible to tell whether one grave contains the body of Mary Pedro.

She was the wife of Felix Pedro, the Italian who discovered gold just north of what is now Fairbanks. A clump of dandelions now grows where a cross once was placed identifying the grave as hers.

''The cross I remember was a white cross with a metal plaque with her name on it,'' said Karen Erickson, Clay Street Cemetery's history buff. She doesn't recall seeing the cross after 1986 or 1987.

Frank Turney, a community activist, said when he noticed some German tourists trying to locate Mary Pedro's grave, he tried to help. But no one could find it.

''They were disappointed when they came here and they couldn't find her marker,'' he said.

The tourists had learned of Clay Street Cemetery and Mary's grave through the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau's self-guided downtown walking tour brochure.

The Downtown Association of Fairbanks had been taking care of the cemetery until 1998, when the responsibility was transferred to the city of Fairbanks.

Larry Crouder, the city's acting public works director, said the lack of maintenance has occurred because the city budget had so little put aside for the cemetery. The 2000 budget included $1,000 for vandalism fixes and maintenance for both the Clay Street and Birch Hill cemeteries.

''I drive there every day going to work and every day coming home, and it doesn't look that bad,'' said Mayor James Hayes.

Try telling that to Marion Larson who lives across the street and is tired of seeing the weeds.

''It's so terrible now that I don't even know what kind of equipment you'd need to cut it,'' he said.

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