The remains of thousands of people are buried in the Washington Park Cemetery in Berkeley, Mo. Nearly all of them are covered in tall, thick weeds. Some are hidden deep in small overgrown woods that are scattered around the grounds.
The condition of the cemetery outraged Tammy Roby, who can't find the grave of her great-grandfather. The picture at the left shows Ms. Roby standing in the center of the cemetery. She asked us to look into the problem.
The city of Berkeley, which is responsible for enforcing building and property codes at the cemetery, has done a lousy job of holding the owners accountable for the condition of the site.
Five months ago, the city found the property was in violation of city codes. The cemetery had been owned for many years by WPC Parks Inc., which had cleaned up much of the cemetery during the late 90s. But the company ran out of money and sold the property to Amazing Grace Enterprises LLC over the summer. The new owner, Kevin Bailey, says he's concerned about the property because his father is buried there. Bailey told me he bought Washington Park for $2 so he could clean it up.
So far, he appears to have done virtually nothing. The day after we contacted the city of Berkeley about the cemetery, it issued a notice of violation to Bailey's company. Acting City Manager Frank McCall insists the city is "on top of it," and will do what's needed to make sure the cemetery is cleaned up.
The disgraceful condition of the cemetery isn't lost on any of the people I interviewed for this story. Kevin Bailey seems genuinely interested in turning the property into a respectful burial grounds and is trying to raise the money needed to do it. He has his work cut out for him.