Akron’s abandoned Mount Hope Cemetery moved a step closer Thursday to becoming the property of the city and, ultimately, a new nonprofit entity.
The Akron Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the donation of the 8-acre cemetery, on South Main Street in Firestone Park, from the city to the nonprofit.
Mount Hope Cemetery Association holds the title to the cemetery, which has been abandoned since last spring, with the city and community volunteers performing the only upkeep on the grounds. Akron filed a lawsuit, currently pending in Summit County Common Pleas Court, seeking a declaration that the title for the cemetery should be transferred to the city.
If the court deeds the cemetery to Akron, the city plans to transfer the title to a nonprofit organization being started by David Venarge, a longtime community member who owns APV Engineered Coatings, which is located near the cemetery.
“Forming the association and insuring compliance with the various regulations pertaining to cemeteries would be a substantial investment,” according to a planning commission document. “Mr. Venarge welcomes the opportunity to assist the community and insure that the cemetery is properly maintained well into the future.”
Donating the 10,000-grave cemetery to the nonprofit agency means the city can “avoid the maintenance cost associated with operating a cemetery” and ensure “the cemetery will be properly maintained,” according to the planning commission document.
The cemetery’s long history began with its creation in 1846. Its earliest graves were dug for Revolutionary War veterans.
Recently, however, maintenance has been lacking, resulting in 2-foot-high weeds and grass, piles of branches and dirt, and broken windows in the mausoleum.
The Akron City Council will need to approve the land donation after the court takes action and the nonprofit organization is formed, said Stephanie York, a spokeswoman for the city.
The proceedings involving the ownership of the cemetery don’t preclude people from visiting it.