Abandoned and neglected cemeteries generate concern

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Rundown and overgrown cemeteries are nothing new in Louisiana but some wonder if the problems continue to grow, instead of getting better, and one man wants to know why nothing is being done at one such burial site.

If you are determined enough to walk off the beaten path on North Flannery Road near Sugar Land Park in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, your search could reveal dozens of headstones and monuments that date back to the early 19th century.

"Want we found was just terrible," said David Cain.

Cain said he and his family first stumbled upon the cemetery more than 20 years ago while riding horses. Cain added although some graves date back to the 70s, the site has now fallen into total ruin.

"Why let a cemetery grow up like that?" asked Cain. "It's got probably 20 graves in there, 20 to 25 graves, I mean somebody ought to be taking care of it."

The abandoned cemetery near Central, like the Sweet Olive Cemetery in Baton Rouge, is privately owned and while some groups take it upon themselves to pitch in and help from time to time, it is never enough.

Shelley Roy operates Roselawn Monuments. He said there are dozens of small private cemeteries in disrepair in East Baton Rouge Parish alone and while some municipalities and parishes pitch in with funding, Shelley added rundown burial grounds are becoming the norm and not the exception.

"I spoke with an industry expert a couple years ago who said that within the next 100 years, probably 75 percent of all cemeteries private, public and municipal, are probably going to start falling in disrepair because of funding," Roy explained.

Neglected cemeteries do not sit well with Cain, who said some people will never get a chance to find where distant relatives are buried. He believes it's disrespectful to treat the caskets and graves of those who have passed on with little regard.

"You lay them to rest in peace. I don't know how they can be resting in peace, you know, because you don't know what's going on in there. The way it is now, you'll have people dig up a grave just for the fun of digging up a grave," said Cain.

Roy said private cemeteries that go unmaintained and neglected will ultimately become the responsibility of the jurisdictions where they are located.

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