Those driving down Broad Street may have noticed the unkempt and overgrown state of the still active cemetery across from Dollar General. Covered in brush and trash, the resting site has become …
Those driving down Broad Street may have noticed the unkempt and overgrown state of the still active cemetery across from Dollar General. Covered in brush and trash, the resting site has become unkempt and disgraceful to those buried there. However, a local group of volunteers have been, and will be meeting on September 9 at 9 a.m. to continue, working on turning this eternal resting place back into a place worthy of respect.
First established in 1847, the 11-acre piece of land filling the area between Broad Street and Roger Williams Park has graves that date back as far as the 1700’s and is still in use today. Despite still selling new plots, the final resting place has fallen into disrepair. Graffiti covers the sides of buildings, bits of trash litter the ground and weeds have grown to the point of obscuring grave markers.
Pastor Russell Farmer became aware of the sad state of the cemetery while he was looking for a community service project for his church, Gateway Pentecostal Fellowship at 711 Park Ave. Having called the city in an attempt to see where his parish could be of assistance, he was immediately directed to Oakland Cemetery.
“I thought we might clean up a corner, the size of a small neighborhood playground or something like that,” Farmer chuckled. “I had never heard of the cemetery, so I said yes. I went on a tour a couple days later, and it was an absolute horror show.”
The project to clean up the area began over a year ago and garnered media attention then as well. The Providence Journal and WPRI 12 have both done stories on the cleanup, but despite a year of effort from volunteers there is still work to be done.
The land is privately owned, meaning that while the city and Mayor Hopkins are happy to help organize volunteers to clean the area, it is outside of the city’s purview to take any sort of control over the situation aside from removing collected trash.
Farmer said that he has tried multiple times to contact the owner about the awful state of the property, but, other than spotting him on a riding mower once this year, Farmer has been unable to get the owner to take control of the mess.
It is the hope of Farmer and Vice-Chairman of Cranston Historical Cemeteries Commision Paul Tognetti, who makes a point of stopping by to trim weeds and collect trash in his own free time, that with the help of groups across Cranston and local residents that the cemetery can be restored to a state that honors those buried there.
“You should have seen it,” Farmer said of their first tour of cleaning up the cemetery last year. “In the middle of the cemetery, against an old decrepit building, we’d stacked a huge pile of garbage bags. These 40 gallon bags, there must have been around 40 of them all the way up one wall. My wife and I went on a vacation trip and came back to find that the city had totally removed that whole ugly pile. Since then they’ve been great about removing yard waste and trash waste bags.”
With their next full-scale cleanup planned for September 9, Farmer is hoping that enough people will show up at 9 a.m. to volunteer and aid in the cleanup that this will be the one that leaves the cemetery looking like a place loved ones can be proud to see their family buried in.
The church group and Cemeteries Commission are looking for people willing to work and capable of using gas or battery powered string trimmers, rakes, chain saws, shovels, mowers and any other equipment that may be necessary. The work is expected to be a lot, but Farmer said the property has been divided into manageable work zones to be assigned to those who show up to help.
Hoping that this year’s clean up effort goes well, Farmer further said that, once the work is done, he hopes to find volunteers willing to “adopt” small sections of the cemetery to maintain and keep clean by volunteering an hour or two a week to check in on their section and keep it maintained.
For more information on how you can help please contact Pastor Russell Farmer at (401) 481-5552, or email him at email@example.com.