Danville should be protecting cemeteries

Published 4:36 pm Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dear Editor,

City Commissioner Rick Serres, in Wednesday’s article on purchasing land for Bellevue Cemetery, says he is not sure the city should even be in the cemetery business.

Sorry, Mr. Serres, but we have seen the results when the families of those buried die off or move away — abandonment.

Email newsletter signup

Groups of volunteers from local schools, the community at large, and I have been working for four years, as of today, to restore the Shelby City African-American Cemetery, because there is no one else left to do it. The cemetery had been desecrated since at least 1961.

I come from a state where, “once a cemetery, always a cemetery.”

Within city limits, Meadow Lane Cemetery sits abandoned in West Danville. Apparently, no one is doing anything at the city level to rectify this, even though Kentucky law requires the city to maintain cemeteries within city limits.

In the early 1990s, despite community members urging the city of Danville to do something about Meadow Lane, city commissioners took no action on acquiring Meadow Lane because no one could figure who owned it, and it would have taken much time and money to research deeds going back 200 years. According to the research I have done for four years, several African-American cemeteries in Danville and Boyle County have NO recorded owners, and NO recorded deeds. The PVA offices and deed registries in Danville and Stanford could not locate deeds either.

A few pertinent cemetery laws might be of interest:

KRS 97.540 — Cities may condemn land for cemeteries if they are unable to contact the owner of the property (2015). Lincoln County Fiscal Court basically did this, and vested title in the Shelby City cemetery with the Central Kentucky African American Cemetery Association, LLC — we now HAVE a deed.

KRS 381.720 — Whenever a cemetery within city boundaries has been abandoned … the city or county may declare the cemetery abandoned, and vest title thereto in said city (2015). Again, Lincoln County did this for us at Shelby City.

KRS 381.690 — When burial grounds lie within the corporate limits of a city, the city shall protect the burial ground … (1942). What has Danville done to protect Meadow Lane African American Cemetery?

Michael J Denis