Sour state of Sweet Olive Cemetery
BATON ROUGE - Historic Sweet Olive Cemetery is in the heart of Baton Rouge. It was established in 1850 and is designated as the first African-American cemetery incorporated within the city limits of Baton Rouge.
The years are not treating Sweet Olive very well. Storms have damaged vaults and graves. And the patchy maintenance work has not been enough to keep the grass from overgrowing and the roots of trees from breaking through the concrete and vaults.
People living around the cemetery are worried, not only about the shady characters that like to hang out at the cemetery; but about the nasty smell that travels from the broken graves and exposed remains. To top it all off, some of the graves are water holes. Neighbors are concerned about mosquitoes breeding in the crypts.
"With the West Nile, you don't want to get bitten and end up sick," said Clara Spears. "Especially someone in my condition, and everyone else."
Spears lives behind the cemetery and says water runs from the cemetery drains to her front lawn.
"It's a hazard to my health," said Spears. "It's so bad I can't sit out in my porch, because of the odor and the gnats."
East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement treats Sweet Olive for mosquitoes in a unique way, because it's a historic West Nile hotspot.
"We actually started doing some surveillance here when there was a human fatality just a few blocks east of here," said Mosquito Abatement spokesperson Randy Vaeth.
The caretakers of the cemetery say Sweet Olive pulls at heart strings with no purse.
"Everybody on the board gives. No one takes, because there is no money here," said Sweet Olive Cemetery Board President W.T. Winfield.
EBR Mosquito Abatement says no West Nile samples have been collected at Sweet Olive this year.