MERCED -- After being closed more than two years, Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park is back in business.
The state Department of Consumer Affairs' Cemetery and Funeral Bureau on Monday approved a funeral license for the cemetery, according to Kim Brown, a representative for the department.
The once-beleaguered burial ground (previously known as Evergreen Memorial Park and Funeral Home) was shuttered in June 2007 after the cemetery's operator surrendered its licenses to the bureau.
Since last year, the cemetery has been under new management, in the hands of a group of Bay Area investors called DSC Inc.
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The funeral license will allow Evergreen to conduct funeral services at the business. Still, the business will need to apply for a cemetery license to sell burial plots. A crematory license will be needed before the business can conduct cremations.
Burials can be conducted at the cemetery on pre-owned burial plots, according to Laura Singh, Evergreen's funeral director.
Singh said it's unknown when the new management will apply for the cemetery and crematory licenses.
Grounds got a makeover
Conditions at Evergreen went south after it closed in 2007.
Broken headstones, knee-high weeds amid dead patches of lawn and unkempt graves represent only a few of the complaints.
Today, the cemetery's lawns are verdant and freshly cut. The crimson carpets in the mausoleum are vacuumed and clean. The weeds and overgrown grass have been trimmed away from the headstones, and coats of new paint grace the cemetery's main office.
Singh described conditions as "scary" at Evergreen when she arrived eight months ago.
The cemetery now uses five groundskeepers, one full time. The business passed a recent facilities and fire inspection by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
After the cemetery fell into disrepair in 2007, a group of families took matters into their own hands, trimming the lawn and taking care of the premises.
Ralph Sharp, a 47-year-old Merced resident with nearly a dozen relatives buried at Evergreen, including his grandparents and brother, said the reopening of the business is encouraging.
"I think it's a step forward," Sharp said. "I think the cemetery looks great. They're doing a good job out there. I'm truly encouraged that they've come this far."
Evergreen's problems began stacking up in June 2007, after the cemetery's operator, Sunset Services Corp., surrendered its business licenses to the state.
The cemetery also had $2.1 million in loans and eventually went into foreclosure.
The state had denied Evergreen's applications for operating licenses twice because Michael Wallace, who the state maintained was the previous owner of the cemetery, owed the state more than $44,000 in fines and fees.
In July 2008, inspectors with the city's code enforcement division visited the cemetery, where they found a water-logged section of carpet in the mausoleum from a leaky pipe. Four people were living in the business office, authorities said.
Last September, the cemetery went up for sale at a public auction. No one bought the property, and it ended up in the hands of the investors.