Eagle-eyed reader Renee Schroeder believes she has uncovered the solution to the ongoing maintenance problem at Mount Hope Cemetery.
As we told you a couple of weeks ago, the association in charge of running the historic 8-acre burial ground in South Akron has essentially vanished.
The city rolled into the cemetery the first week of September and spent two days grass-cutting and weed-whacking growth that had reached about six times the city’s limit of 8 inches, but a long-term solution seems highly elusive.
In view of that, Ms. Schroeder forwarded a wire story about a similar maintenance issue at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
“The bleating of goats didn’t disturb the residents of Congressional Cemetery, a burial ground for hundreds of senators, congressmen, a couple of vice presidents and iconic figures such as FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and composer John Philip Sousa,” a McClatchy reporter wrote.
“For the next week, the 70 goats — known as ‘eco-goats’ — will eat the vines, poison ivy, dense vegetation and anything they can reach in a densely vegetated parcel on the cemetery grounds.”
OK, maybe that’s not the ideal solution for Mount Hope. Even the most talented local goats would probably have a tough time digging graves and keeping the books.
But at this point, nobody seems certain what is going on there or what will become of the place, which is the final resting spot for as many as 10,000 local people, some of them soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
In the short term, a volunteer cleanup day has been organized for Oct. 5. For more information, contact Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer (330-812-6600 or Ward7@akronohio.gov) or Akron Customer Service Director John Eaton (311 from a land line; 330-375-2311 from a cellphone).
Nearly a dozen readers sent me solid suggestions for ongoing maintenance, such as enlisting the help of: juveniles detained at Dan Street, clients at Oriana House’s Glenwood Jail, other nonviolent adult offenders or people collecting welfare who ought to be giving back to the society that is footing their bills.
A Barberton man with relatives buried at Mount Hope offered to assume the maintenance himself.
But even if one or more of those concepts is workable, we still have a glaring problem: Who is responsible for the overall operation — burying those who prepaid, selling the remaining 550 plots, maintaining records and all the other things that go along with operating a large cemetery.
“This is going to be in my ward [after redistricting], and I don’t want it to be an eyesore,” says Kammer. “So I’m going to do whatever I can in my power to make sure it’s presentable, whether it’s the city — I know they don’t want to hear that — or somebody else.”
The city’s cleanup cost for the early September blitz will be assessed to the property owner, the Mount Hope Cemetery Association. But there no longer appears to be a Mount Hope Cemetery Association. So what happens now?
A couple of callers insisted the Ohio Revised Code, specifically Section 759.08, requires a municipality to take over a cemetery if no one is left to run it. But city spokeswoman Stephanie York says that applies only to a public cemetery, and Mount Hope is private.
“The situation at Mount Hope Cemetery is still being investigated and the legal issues researched,” she says.
The city certainly isn’t eager to add another ongoing expense to its annual budget. But if not the city, who?
A line often attributed to Benjamin Franklin seems appropriate for the situation: “One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead.”
I would have thought an educated man such as Franklin would have said you can judge a culture “by the way it treats its dead,” rather than “the way they treat their dead.” But it’s the thought that counts.
And that thought is right on target.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.