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Families upset about tall grass at cemetery takes matters into their own hands

PETERSBURG, Va. -- As the sun beats down on the second largest cemetery in Virginia, some like Howard Withrow have taken it upon themselves to come to their relatives’ grave site and cut the grass

“Should you have to come out here and cut?” asked senior reporter Wayne Covil.

“Not with perpetual care I shouldn't… But if I don't [cut the grass] it may not get cut the whole summer," he responded.

Howard Withrow

The oldest grave at Blandford Cemetery dates to 1702. There are veterans buried at the cemetery from every American War. The cemetery covers about 175 acres or 847,000 square yards.

Dave Dudley was also on the premises Thursday cutting the grass on his relative’s graves.

He says he has seen the city on the premises working but notes problems still persist.

“It’s never enough, not for a place of this magnitude," said Dudley.

Financial problems in the City of Petersburg in recent years is part of the reason the cemetery isn't in the condition it was once kept.

Howard Withrow

"It was a beautiful cemetery back in the day," added Dudley.

But in 2018, there is high grass in many areas.

While crews try to keep up, there are other tasks such as removing fallen trees.

But it's the grass that's the one constant complaint from loved ones.

"You rode through here yourself, you've seen how tall some of the grass is, and then when it does get cut it looks like a hayfield," said Dudley.

There are many families who pay someone to cut to their families plots or who do it themselves even though Blandford Cemetery is a perpetual care cemetery.

Family members said they hope the city can do a better job keeping the cemetery in good condition.

"I would love to not have to come out here and take care of my people’s place, just because it's been neglected," said Ed Spain.

CBS 6 reached out to the City of Petersburg about recent complaints on the condition of Blandford Cemetery. They sent a statement that read:

“The City has a dedicated team of full-time and part-time employees focused on Blandford Cemetery. The historic cemetery is close to 200 acres. Areas with large concentrations of headstones, require the use of only push mowers and weed eaters. Within the last month, Petersburg City Manager has approved the hiring of 12 additional temporary part-time cutting positions to increase the efficiency at Blandford Cemetery.”

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