Cemetery's growing problem

June 25, 2009 4:55:49 PM PDT
One of the oldest cemeteries in Camden is fighting for its life. A lack of upkeep has turned the property into an eyesore of overgrown grass and hidden grave sites. It's the final resting place for countless souls, but so much of Evergreen Cemetery in Camden is overgrown that it's hard to find the gravestones.

Gaston Headen went to visit his mother's grave at Evergreen Cemetery, but it wasn't easy to find. The grass in much of the 85 acre site hasn't been cut in a long time.

"I was speaking with my friends about coming out here and cutting the grass myself," Headen said.

Evergreen has some beautiful old monuments with graves dating back to the early 1800's. According to the New Jersey Cemetery Board, Evergreen's board went bankrupt years ago. In 2004, the board of Harleigh Cemetery, located about a mile or so away, became responsible for Evergreen's upkeep.

Sections of Evergreen are cared for, according to the New Jersey Board of Cemeteries. 15 percent of the cost of a burial goes into a maintenance fund and only the interest on the fund is used for upkeep. At Evergreen, that's about $19,000 a year.

The maintenance budget is clearly not big enough to take care of a cemetery this size, some think it might be a good idea to make it a community project.

Some have taken to care for the individual gravesites of their own loved ones, but many of the graves are very old and there may not be any family left. Those graves just may be forgotten.

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