BATON ROUGE - Every few months, volunteers donning gardening gloves meet at Lutheran Cemetery to help pull weeds, bring branches to the curb and do what they can to help spruce up the area.
Following the most recent volunteer effort last weekend, volunteers found a growing problem that needs to be addressed. The ground is eroding under multiple tombs and some of those grave sites are falling into a drainage ditch.
The Historic Lutheran Benevolent Society Cemetery sits on about eight acres of land on Eddie Robinson Drive in old South Baton Rouge with a lot of history.
Tall trees offer plenty of shade, where loved ones drop off flowers and other tokens. Some tombs date back to the 1800s and time has taken a toll.
Baton Rouge volunteer Parry "Matt" Thomas is taking on another project to help beautify the city. Thomas, the founder of nonprofit The University Lakes Improvement and Preservation Association Inc., or TULIPA Inc., has organized volunteer efforts all around Baton Rouge, specifically around the LSU lakes. Now he's helping with another project, to help beautify the city.
"You hate to see an old cemetery go to waste," said Thomas.
As Thomas walked around Lutheran Cemetery Tuesday morning, he pointed out locations that need some extra TLC. He says the drainage ditch that goes through the cemetery needs to be built up with rocks, limestone or bricks to help keep the land from eroding further. He's in need of materials to get this accomplished.
"This is going to continue to get worse and worse," he said.
According to Thomas, the cemetery doesn't have anyone managing it right now. There's no money to address the issues, which is why volunteers are so important.
Many of the tombs at the front of the cemetery have been taken better care of. Near the rear, there are broken burial sites and some are under water.
There are also a number of dead trees that need to be taken down by a professional tree service.
Lutheran Cemetery was placed on the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation in 2004. The trust raises public awareness and support for preservation of historic places. Financial support comes from sponsors, grants and memberships.
Metro Council member Tara Wicker says she toured the cemetery last week and is trying to contact some people who may be able to help. While the City-Parish will not use tax payer dollars on a private property matter, it says it would also like to tour the area to help connect volunteers with the right people.