ST. PETERSBURG — It took four days, but in the end, Greenwood Cemetery, the historic resting place of city pioneers and Civil War veterans, is now fairly presentable.
The cleanup began days after an article appeared in the St. Pete Times about the neglected burial ground at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 11th Avenue S.
Marian McGrath, president of the Greenwood Cemetery Association, said last week that money to keep up the cemetery dating back to 1892 is scarce. A fund established at Bank of America allows only income from the investment to be used, she said.
"You don't get much income from investment funds these days," she said. "We mow when we can mow."
With almost a year since anything had been done at the cemetery, believed to be the city's oldest nonchurch burial ground, landscaper Jim Cameron said he collected about four truckloads of brush, garbage and makings for firewood from the property.
"It was just a lot of work," he said. "One thing that was shocking was the tremendous amount of litter we picked up."
Greenwood, resting place of David Moffett, the city's first mayor, John A. Bethell, an early pioneer in the area that is now the Driftwood neighborhood, and Capt. Zephaniah Phillips, a Civil War veteran who homesteaded on Pass-a-Grille in 1884, has been vandalized over the years.
McGrath said the cemetery might have to be secured. "I don't want to have to do that, but it always is something we may have to consider," she said.
Kai Warren of the Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association, who worked with his neighborhood and the MLK (9th Street) Business District to clean up the grounds about a year ago, helped Cameron with this month's effort. "I think we need a more concerted effort from the neighborhood," he said. "We used to do cleanup efforts twice a year."
Warren said Roser Park and the MLK group plan to work on the cemetery again in September as part of the annual citywide CareFest campaign that enlists volunteers to help with projects such as home repairs and painting. More than 1,200 volunteers participated last year, said Susan Ajoc, the city's director of community services.
McGrath said she hopes descendants of those buried at Greenwood Cemetery will become involved with its upkeep. "Some families have taken the initiative on their own, which is very much valued," she said.
A lawyer, McGrath said she was asked to help with Greenwood by the late Frank Ryll, who had inherited the responsibility from the cemetery's original secretary-treasurer.
"I am a native of St. Petersburg and I value our history," said McGrath, who is volunteering her services.
"I think too many of our historical landmarks disappear, and I know a lot of these families."
Mary Askew's husband, Walter, who died in 2001, is one of the more recent burials at Greenwood.
"If there is an organized group to do a cleanup, I would be happy to come down there," the Largo resident said.
For now, Eric Sweat, a Greenwood neighbor, is pleased with the progress.
"It looks so much better," he said. "I am so excited and I have talked to a lot of people, and they are glad something has been done. And hopefully, it will stay that way."
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283.