Overgrown Cemeteries….need some help

Posted at 1:17 PM, Sep 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-16 15:17:37-04

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    Shreveport, LA (KTBS) — All cemeteries are not created equally…..and all cemeteries are not kept up equally. We’ve received a number of complaints recently about the condition of some local cemeteries. We’ve also seen some people stepping up to the challenges faced by some of these burial grounds.

“Look at this! Here you go. Here’s you a marker right here. I’m showing you right here, see it’s grown over. You see this? This is pitiful!

Charles Aklen has six relatives buried at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport, including his mother and father.This is the older section of Forest Park on the western side of St. Vincent Avenue.

When you think about your final resting place, this is probably not the scene you envisioned for you or your loved ones. By the way, this is not a tree or a plant of a shrub that was planted here. This is just an out of control weed and there’s actually a headstone right back here.

“There’s no sense in this. This is a for profit cemetery. People pay to have their relatives and stuff put out here,” said Aklen.

He’s contacted Forest Park Cemetery about his concerns. He said they tell him they’ll get to it but nothing much happens. You can see that by the video I shot here recently. I also contacted Forest Park to see what was going on. My phone calls and e-mails were not returned.

Similar scenes out in Mansfield, Louisiana at the Highland Cemetery, the city’s largest burial grounds. Grass knee-deep, grave stones toppled, graves themselves fallen in, shrubbery shrouded grave markers….you get the picture, in fact you’re looking at pictures from earlier this summer

The property owner reportedly had fallen on hard times and was unable to keep it up.

Those who had loved ones buried there got the word out and held a community meeting from which Friends of Highland Cemetery evolved with new leaders. They formed a nonprofit corporation, purchased the property, created a new board and were off and running to restore the land that’s a final resting place for hundreds.

But, that’s not the only success story we’ve heard about lately. When you think of the Krewe of Centaur you probably think about mardi gras fun! But, recently about 40 of them were spotted doing this at the St. Luke’s Baptist Church cemetery.

“We try to give back to the community as much as possible and you know St. Luke’s Baptist Church it’s an older church and older members and they couldn’t really take care of it….and we’ve got the manpower and that was just one way for us to give back to the community and help them get it cleaned up,” said Brian Hammons, Krewe of Centaur Captain.

So why is there such a need these days for groups not even connected with a particular cemetery to get involved and help keep some of them from becoming wastelands that nobody cares for?

“In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries people would go to cemeteries to keep them clean, to keep them pristine and to go visit their dearly departed,” said Gary Joiner, Director of the History and Social Sciences Department at LSUS.

Notice he didn’t say anything about the 20th or 21st century. That’s because a lot has changed in regards to cemeteries over the years.

“Today, with commercial cemeteries, perpetual care, that’s a different story. You have to rely on the company that owns the cemetery and hope they do it even if you’re paying a fee,” said Joiner.

“And, these poor people right here, I don’t know who they are….but, their monument is just about tilted over, the Randale monument. And, then you got this tree growing up into this monument right here,” said Aklen.

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