Volunteers sought to join in cleanup at Oak Grove

MARIETTA – Oak Grove Cemetery is in dire need of some tender loving care, according to Marietta Councilman Roger Kalter.

He’s hoping for a massive response from the community next week to help clean up the 55-acre graveyard that still bears the scars left by last June’s derecho windstorm.

“We want as many as 100 volunteers to come out during the annual Community Service Day on March 23. It’s a mammoth job, but it can be done,” Kalter said. “And this will be a good start. If we can clear away some of the leaves and other debris, city crews will be able to get to other jobs in the cemetery, like repairing brick drainage swales and setting toppled gravestones back on their base.”

He said it’s difficult for cemetery crews, usually consisting of only two or three workers, to catch up with the amount of work that needed done in the wake of the June storm.

Tom Kunz, Marietta’s public facilities superintendent, said volunteer help is always welcome and appreciated in the city’s cemeteries and parks.

“But Oak Grove is the cemetery that was hit hardest during last year’s storm,” he said. “It impacted at least three to four sections of the cemetery. Our guys worked very diligently for weeks and weeks after the storm to clear fallen trees and clean up the debris. And I can’t tell you how many gravestones we’ve reset. And the crews were still responsible for doing their regular jobs on top of that.”

Kalter said the Community Service Day volunteers won’t be setting gravestones or other heavy work, although they may do some cleaning of leaves and debris from around grave sites.

He said a big part of the work will be raking and removing leaves from the historic hand-built brick-lined drainage ditches in order to keep cemetery storm drains from clogging which results in stormwater overflows that can erode soil and even move grave markers away from their original locations.

“Volunteers should wear work shoes and bring leaf and garden rakes to do about three hours worth of safe work and community improvement,” Kalter said, adding that everyone is welcome to meet at the Eighth and Wooster streets corner of the cemetery at 9 a.m. on March 23.

Those who cannot climb the hillsides of the cemetery will be working in the more level areas, he said.

Kunz said the Marietta Tree Commission will be moving through the graveyard and will do some tree trimming next week in the days prior to the Community Service Day event.

“The volunteers can then pick up the trimmed limbs and pile them by the cemetery roadways,” he said. “I’ve reserved the city chipper machine for Monday, March 25, so our crews can grind up the limbs and haul them away.”

Kalter said the cemetery is one of about 30 Community Service Day projects that will be taking place across the city March 23.

Friends of the River Trail will clear winter debris and vegetation from the 2.3-mile hiking and biking pathway along the Muskingum and Ohio rivers. Marietta College fraternity members will join members from the First Unitarian Universalist Church to spruce up areas of East Muskingum Park.

Other organizations and volunteers will be working on projects that include preparation of the Harvest of Hope Community Garden for gardening season, installing posts at trail heads along Greene, Hart, Aurora and Euclid streets, and clearing vegetation and debris from city sidewalks.

“Anyone is welcome to volunteer but I’m also asking people to let us know in advance if they plan to show up so we’ll know how many to expect and what tools we’ll need,” Kalter said.

Anyone interested in participating can contact Kalter at rogerkalter1@yahoo.com or call 373-1784.

Marietta College students are encouraged to register with Cristie Thomas at 376-4000.