BROOKSVILLE — For Alyce Walker, any help to improve conditions at the Spring Hill Cemetery is appreciated.
The longtime caretaker considers it a godsend that members of a local motorcycle group have offered to bring muscle and equipment to help clear away dozens of downed trees in the historic African-American graveyard.
Dan Spell, vice president of the Freedom Chapter of ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education), a statewide bikers rights group, said this week that he first heard about Walker's ongoing efforts to maintain the cemetery when he read a St. Petersburg Times story last year about an incident involving the theft of a skull by two Ridge Manor teens.
When he read another Times story about Walker's struggles to find help clearing away the trees that were felled by volunteers to make way for the installation of security lights, he was eager to lend a hand.
"She's been through so much already," Spell said. "I felt we could do something to help her out."
After visiting the cemetery off Fort Dade Avenue last week, Spell said he and club chaplain Buzz Boyd began calling other members who have trucks, chain saws and heavy equipment.
So far, about a dozen members have signed up for a scheduled cleanup at about 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27, and Spell expects to get commitments from more members.
Other community groups should consider pitching in as well, Spell said.
"The more people we get, the easier it's going to be to finish," he said.
Walker, who has overseen the cemetery since 1991, said she was overwhelmed by the club's offer to help clear away the trees, which were taken down late last year at her request by friends who had little experience in doing such work.
The cut trees damaged several grave sites and a wooden fence surrounding the cemetery.
Walker said she has no money to pay a professional tree company to cut up and haul off the trees.
Walker said that once the trees are removed, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative workers will install security lighting that she hopes will thwart the vandalism and late-night parties that have been going on for years.
"Right now, you never know what you're going to find when you drive through the gate," she said. "It shouldn't be that way. No one should ever have to be afraid to go to a cemetery to visit their loved ones."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.