Cemetery Damage

POSTED: Thursday, February 26, 2009 - 8:13pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:57pm

A Plaquemine cemetery is shut down because the city says it’s in such bad shape it’s become a public safety hazard. NBC 33's Lauren Unger got a firsthand look at the problem. Broken tombs, downed trees, and trash were everywhere, and that’s just the beginning. For the people with loved ones buried there, it’s almost more than they can take.

Whenever she can, Tanya Harmason comes to her son’s grave at Magnolia Cemetery. She tries to keep the area clean, but it’s an endless fight against the weeds and trash. “The weeds will grow high and it’s getting to the point that sometimes you can’t even see the graves in here.” Now that she’s moved away, “You see the weeds and you see that nobody is coming to take care of the tombs.” Then Gustav and Ike struck, making a bad situation even worse, breaking open some tombs and knocking down trees.

While it is clear parts of the cemetery have definitely fallen into disrepair, what’s not so clear is whose responsibility it is to clean it up. The city says it’s private property, they can’t afford to keep it maintained. Meanwhile, someone has been charging people hundreds of dollars for burials at the property, but not keeping up the land.

Mayor Tony Gulotta says, “If there is an organization or an individual that’s collecting money then they should step forward and take care of those graveyards.” Not the city has shutdown the cemetery, no more burials until things are cleaned up. That is heartbreaking news for Carolyn Harmason, “Most of my family is buried over there and if anything would happen to me I would want to go over there myself.”

For many people, other cemeteries aren’t an option. It is a community hoping for change and praying their loved ones will finally rest in peace. City officials say it looks like the graveyard may have had multiple owners, they’re having a hard time tracking down nay of them. In the meantime, the City Council will meet tonight. They’re recruiting volunteers to cleanup the site.