Local volunteer group tries to save Riverside Cemetery from vandals

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

The historic Riverside Cemetery is known as one of the most storied locations in Demopolis. Unfortunately, it has also been one of the most vandalized and neglected. In the past few years concerned citizens have decided to do their part to make this historic area a pleasant place to visit again.

Wednesday morning the newly formed Beautification Committee headed to Riverside to continue the project they began two years ago.

Louise Reynolds, who helps coordinate the cleanups, said the group has already done a lot in the cemetery.

“We have done some beautification,” Reynolds said. “We have taken down old dead trees, and limbs and in the last two years we have really been working on this project.”

Reynolds said the group has taken special measures to locate new plant life in the area to give it a more attractive appearance.

“We planted new trees at the gate,” Reynolds said. “We took up the old shrubs that were there and we planted some crape myrtles and live oaks along Griffin Street.”

The group has put a lot of elbow grease into the project. Unfortunately, other groups have put in just as much work to keep things in disarray. Reynolds said the negative forces have made things go slower than a normal clean up.

“Right now we have gotten kind of sidetracked because there are some tombstones that have been moved,” Reynolds said. “There also some that have been broken and we are trying to figure out where they should go. The vandals have just come in here and moved tombstones and stolen tombstones and stolen gates and posts. We are going to do whatever we can to fix it.”

Another bump in the road came with the arrival of Hurricane Ivan last fall. Reynolds said they have recovered from the hurricane with the exception of some minor repairs.

“There was some damage done from Ivan, but they cleaned up most of the limbs,” Reynolds said. “Now there are just some smaller limbs and things that need to be cut down.”

The clean up crew had a lot of help Wednesday and plans to get more assistance from heavy equipment. Reynolds said the main goal of this week’s effort was to make things easier for the machinery.

“One of our hopes today is to come in and kind of clear up the edge of where they had already done some clearing and make it where when they come in with the backhoes they will not have to come near the grave sites,” Reynolds said.

A major project in the polishing of Riverside is the clearing of land to provide a view of the backside of the cemetery form the street. Reynolds said this would help deter some of the vandalism that has been easily concealed by bushes and trees.

“We want to finish the clearing and beautify this area here so that vandals cannot hide in the woods,” Reynolds said. “That way the police can see who is out here when they ride by doing patrols. We hope that will deter the vandalism.”

Reynolds added the committee had placed trashcans around the cemetery and hoped people would remember to use them for pots and old flowers.