Aug 31, 2014 12:27 PM by AP

Cemetery conditions draw concern

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Conditions at a cemetery in Lafayette is drawing criticism from family members of people buried there who say management needs to clean it up.

The Advertiser reported grass at Gethsemane Gardens Cemetery is so high that it conceals some graves. Trash cans are overflowing, spilling out near tombstones.

Officials of the cemetery's manager, Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, said maintenance is paid for from burial fees.

But the church says upkeep is difficult because area residents litter the grounds.

The Louisiana Board of Cemeteries said Gethsemane is not a perpetual-care cemetery - meaning it is not required to fund maintenance. Officials said it is up to family members of those buried there to police the grounds.

Joann Trahan said the conditions are disheartening.

"It totally breaks my spirit that she's buried there," Trahan said of her mother, Rose Belle Trahan.

Trahan lives in Galveston, Texas. She visited her mother's grave in 2013 and discovered the cemetery's state.

She said she contacted the church.

"I was told that they'd take care of it, and I'd get a call back," Trahan said. "Neither of those things happened."

In July, Trahan returned to find conditions unchanged. She spoke to Bishop Roy Winbush at the church.

"He assured and reassured me something would be done," Trahan said. "I couldn't take it when I went back home. I could feel nothing had changed. So, I went back and still nothing."

Winbush said money for maintenance comes from burial fees, but he couldn't say how much was in the upkeep budget.

He said other factors complicate the cemetery's condition.

"The weather affects it, and unfortunately the neighborhood doesn't appreciate it, so they trash it," Winbush said.

Trahan said the cemetery "looks like a trash dump." She said she has considered organizing cleanup crews and posted pictures on social media to raise awareness of its condition.

Ultimately, Trahan said, it shouldn't be her responsibility to take care of the burial site of her mother and more than 700 others.

"What's it going to take?" Trahan asked. "What's it going to take to make sure we never have to worry about this again?"


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