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Pioneer Park/Calvary Cemetery
West Washington and Randolph Street,
Mission Hills

Some picnics are spoiled by ants or drizzly weather. But festivities at this park, located about a mile from Old Town, can sour when the search for a perfect picnic spot yields several dozen tombstones. Visible to anyone walking the length of the ten-acre park, most headstones are damaged and lying on the ground sideways or upside-down. The engravings, however, can be read by anyone curious about the folks who remain buried at this former cemetery. In 1873, the land was purchased and named Calvary Cemetery, a privately owned and operated graveyard. After its occupancy limit was reached, visitations dropped off, the owners migrated from San Diego, and caretaking was abandoned altogether in the 1930s. The city bought the land and converted the area into a park in the 1960s. However, their budget did not allow for the cost of digging up and relocating the nearly 2000 residents interred six feet beneath the park grass. No official sign declares this history, no souvenir stands or tour buses make it evident, and few contemporary maps allude to the headstones, coffins, and corpses.

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