Buried under trash,cemetery sinks into‘deplorable’ state

By: Gavin Stone - Staff Writer
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.
Gavin Stone | Daily Jourmal Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.
Gavin Stone | Daily Jourmal Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — Here lie hundreds of Dobbins Heights family members and loved ones. And over here lie a few mattresses, TVs, toilets, tires, and piles and piles of discarded bottles and cans.

This is the scene when visitors come to the cemetery at the end of McLendon Street, the only cemetery within city limits.

Harold Riley of New York has eight relatives buried at the cemetery and — disgusted by the state of the grounds — took his concerns to the Town Council to see what could be done.

Apart from an effort by an alumni organization that gathered residents to help clean up several years ago, nothing can be done to create lasting change because the cemetery is private property, and those who took care of it in the past have since died.

“When I come to visit, I can’t even find my own family,” Riley said Friday. “If the owner can’t keep it clean, compensate me so I can move my family …

“Don’t have it where I have to pull a mattress off my mother. This is where we put them to rest in peace not to rest and smell garbage.”

But the owner, or at least one of the few still involved in managing the plots that have been purchased, isn’t neglecting the cemetery out of laziness.

“I’m not doing it (because) I don’t have the money to do it,” said Jane Mask of Hamlet, whose father used to sell plots for the cemetery and paid out of his own pocket for people to keep the area presentable.

Mask’s father died in 2010, and Mask had made it known previously that once he was gone, she didn’t know what would happen to the cemetery.

The responsibility to keep it clean is on “whoever owns the plots,” she said.

The cemetery is a “perpetual-care” cemetery, meaning that each plot is purchased with the understanding that it is the owners’ responsibility to keep their plot clean, not the cemetery’s, Mask said.

Mask can’t remember the last time a plot was sold, and her only involvement these days is when she gets phone calls from people asking about plots purchased decades ago. She uses her father’s ledger — with its yellowing pages — to help people their plots.

Riley asked the Town Council to do something — perhaps cleaning up with taxpayer money and billing the owner — but Mayor Antonio Blue said that’s not in the cards because the land is private. For example, the area across the street from the town’s community garden was a dumping ground until recently, and the town was able to have someone clean it.

“It’s an old problem,” Blue said, adding that it’s “a difficult situation,” but he couldn’t do anything as mayor.

Now, Riley, with the help of Debra David of the Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, plans to start a petition to garner support for a new cleanup effort. Mask hadn’t heard about the petition when reached Friday, but since the alumni organization’s cleanup didn’t last, she is skeptical about a new one.

“You go up there and you clean it out and then what?” she said. “The only way to control it is to fence it in and lock it.”

Blue has asked the town to report to the police anyone seen dumping trash.

No one seems to know where the trash comes from.

Town Council member Angeline David said the town’s residents all left their trash on the street to be picked up.

Compounding the issues is that no one wants to be buried in the cemetery anymore because of the state it’s in.

“There’s no money in it,” Mask said, calling the state of the cemetery deplorable.

“Who wants to take on a project if there’s no money involved?”

She said her father tried to give the land to the city back when a different mayor was in control, because with if the land were publicly owned, the city could arrange cleanup.

“If the city wants it, that’s the only option,” Mask said. “For one dollar you can have it.”

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_bottles.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_bottlesbw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

Beer bottles and other beverage containers have been dumped behind a gravesite, which also is overgrown with foliage.

Gavin Stone | Daily Jourmal
Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_dresser.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Jourmal
Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.

Gavin Stone | Daily Jourmal

Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_dresserbw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Jourmal

Two TVs, a mattress, a dresser and other assorted trash lie on the path to graves at the Dobbins Heights cemetery.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

One of the larger piles of trash can been seen by those who walk through the back rows of the Dobbins Heights cemetery. Discarded window shutters, pieces of wood and a large pile of other assorted garbage are included in the mess.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_wood.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

One of the larger piles of trash can been seen by those who walk through the back rows of the Dobbins Heights cemetery. Discarded window shutters, pieces of wood and a large pile of other assorted garbage are included in the mess.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

One of the larger piles of trash can been seen by those who walk through the back rows of the Dobbins Heights cemetery. Discarded window shutters, pieces of wood and a large pile of other assorted garbage are included in the mess.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_woodbw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

One of the larger piles of trash can been seen by those who walk through the back rows of the Dobbins Heights cemetery. Discarded window shutters, pieces of wood and a large pile of other assorted garbage are included in the mess.

Gavin Stone

Staff Writer

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]