By Carolyn Callahan | WLKY
This story was reported by WLKY and is reposted here with permission.
A group of people said one of Louisville’s oldest cemeteries is being treated more like a playground than a final resting place.
Eastern Cemetery on Baxter Avenue dates back to the 1840s.
Right now, it technically has no owner, and a nonprofit group that maintains the cemetery says that’s led to some people thinking they can do whatever they want on the property.
“They’re setting up a slide, and they’re putting stakes in the ground and running ropes around graves in a cemetery where families come and visit on a daily basis. They’re not stopping to think about how that affects people,” said Andy Harpole, creator of the group Friends of Eastern Cemetery.
Harpole started Friends of Eastern Cemetery as a way to clean up the grounds and show respect for the bodies buried at the nearly 30-acre cemetery.
“It was disgusting how horribly they’ve been neglected over time,” Harpole said.
Sunday, after volunteers spent hours cleaning up, they noticed an inflatable slide being set up in the front of the cemetery.
“Just disgust. I mean, you work for six and-a-half hours and then you see the fruits of your work, and you’re not happy to see it misused,” said Wayne Miller, a volunteer with Friends of Eastern Cemetery.
On top of the disrespect, Miller said the party was also a safety hazard.
“The kids were ducking in and out of the tombstones, which is very dangerous because there are very heavy tombstones that could fall over on them. It is not a safe play area for children,” he said.
The man who hosted the party, Brian Gaughan, said it was a birthday party for his son.
Gaughan lives in the building at the opening of the cemetery.
“This is where we live. We bought the house. I don’t mind living here, but it was part of the cemetery. I guess if there was such an issue with this, they should have never sold the house off,” Gaughan said.
He said the slide was inflated in the grassy area, but moved to the concrete once the slide was ready.
He said he meant no disrespect, and that people are in the cemetery nearly every day.
“You’ll see kids playing, you’ll see people walking through here. A lot of people treat it like a park. As long as you’re respectful, I don’t see any problem with it,” he said.
Gaughan owns Spinelli’s Pizzeria, a company that donates to Friends of Eastern Cemetery.
“They’ve really cleaned it up, because for years this place laid dormant and nobody did anything with it. So they’ve definitely cleaned up the cemetery. It’s a hundred times better than it was,” Gaughan said.
He said Spinelli’s Pizzeria will continue to support and donate to Friends of Eastern Cemetery.