JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Neglected and forgotten.
That’s the way members of a Jacksonville church say they feel about an overgrown African American cemetery in Spring Park, where nearly 200 people are buried, including World War II veterans.
The cemetery recently received a designation as one of Jacksonville’s oldest African American cemeteries. Church members say they simply want some guidance from the city of Jacksonville on how to move forward with cleaning up and gaining access to the gravesites.
African Americans were buried there as far back as the early 1900′s. A local veteran says the condition of their graves is unacceptable, especially here in Jacksonville, a military town.
“I come out come out here, and see the trash over patriots, long time servicemen and women,” said Veronica Kight.
She served 24 years in the Army National Guard, and when she looks at the unkept graves of the men and women who came before her, it’s hard for her not to get emotional.
″Disrespect,” she said. “Beer cans. Bottles. No one cares.”
Kight and Pastor Carl Patterson, of the St. Nicholas Bethel Baptist Church, say this is the final resting place for more than 150 people dating back to the early 1900s.
Patterson pointed out that he couldn’t read the year of one man’s death because the trees and brush cover up that part of the tombstone.
“What we’re trying to do is bring attention to this, so the cemetery can be brought up to where it should be, respectfully for the people that are buried here,” Patterson said.
“The solution first is let us get access to the cemetery to clean it up so we can get closure for those family members who might have loved ones here,” Kight said.
Church members are looking to the city of Jacksonville for answers.
“We’re not looking to take anyone’s land, but we are looking for access, some type of roadway to get in, so people who have loved ones here can pay their respects.”
News4JAX reached out to District 5 City Councilwoman Leanna Cumber Thursday and then again Friday about next steps, but we hadn’t received a response by publication of this article. '
We did speak with At-large City Councilman Matt Carlucci, who said that typically studies are conducted in areas that are designated historical.