Community cleans up overgrown Piedmont Memorial Park cemetery in Greensboro

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The grass is so overgrown at the Piedmont Memorial Park cemetery it covers the front sign and the cemetery is easy to mistake as a vacant lot. Buried beneath the weeds and waist-high grass lies hundreds of graves, the stones barely poking out from the entangled mess.

"What's the point of putting flowers on your family's grave when you can't even see em, with the grass grown up over the top?" said Marian Harris, whose parents are buried at the cemetery off McConnell Drive in Greensboro.

One of the major caretakers of the cemetery, Charlie Dye, passed away in March 2016. The property's owner, O'Dell Beasley, hasn't paid property taxes since 2009, according to Guilford County tax records, and owes the county nearly $4,000. The property has been in the foreclosure process since 2014, and the case case remains in court to finalize that transition.

In the meantime, the unkept grounds are causing distress and disgust for families. A massive tree fell over time in the middle of the plot, burying dozens of graves.

Since Mother's Day, folks have been coming out to find their loved ones and mothers, and some gave up looking, not being able to navigate the overgrowth.

The city sent a formal notice to the owner after a complaint filed May 8 for violating a city ordinance with the height of the grass. The owner has until May 22 to clean up the cemetery or the city will come in, do the job and bill him.

But for folks like Larry Scott, the issue shouldn't wait. He arrived at the cemetery at 10 a.m. with his weed whacker and got to work. Many joined him throughout the day, bringing lawnmowers and making whatever dent they could.

"There's trash everywhere but I cut a little bit of grass and do the best I can," said Lester Westbrook, who was out mowing.

"I want to do my part in bringing this place back to where it's supposed to be," said Thomas Dixon, also pitching in to help.

"It should have never gotten to this level, but it has so the only option is to take care of it," said Sherry Idol, who started up a Facebook event to clean up the cemetery. The group will meet on Sunday, May 21, at 1 p.m. to continue to clean up the grounds.

Once the foreclosure process for the cemetery is finalized, the property will go up for auction. Whoever purchases the property will have to also pay the nearly $4,000 in taxes owed to the county.

If there are no bidders, the City of Greensboro legally has to purchase the property, where it could maintain and operate the cemetery or decide to sell it at fair market value.