Robert Noles/Opelika Observer
Local teen Kyle Graddy leads cemetery cleanup efforts
By Morgan Bryce
Opelika’s Kyle Graddy, a Lee-Scott Academy student and Boy Scout, began cleanup work last week at the old cemetery on India Road, commonly referred to by locals as “Ross Cemetery.”
Having had an interest in the property for a number of years, choosing to clean up Ross Cemetery as his Eagle Scout project was not a hard decision.
“I used to go to school at Trinity, and we passed this lot every day. I always kind of wondered why it was the only lot that wasn’t built on, and one day we saw a couple of markers and realized it was a cemetery,” Kyle said. “We walked out here one day and saw that there were graves all out here.”
Finding information on the cemetery has proved to be a challenge, but the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission provided information which links the cemetery to the old Ross plantation house. Other than that connection, Kyle said that much of history is either lost or unknown, and that there is no known owner or possessor of the property. The exact age is also unknown, but based on dates from some of the head stones in the cemetery, Kyle said he estimates it to be at least 100 years old.
Cleaning up the cemetery had already been a part of their plans for quite some time, and Kyle said he saw this as a perfect opportunity to do that, but that he would need the proper funding.
They started a Kickstarter account for the project in early July, and during campaign, raised more than $1,400. Thanks to social media and word of mouth, Kyle said news of the project “spread like wildfire.”
Kyle, along with help from his father Dirk, have been working closely with city officials in order to abide by the law and garner support in their cleanup efforts, with the city recently providing no dumping signs in front of the cemetery. Initial cleanup efforts consisted of spraying the property, to clear the weeds and undergrowth.
Currently, the Graddys, along with help from some of Kyle’s fellow troops and family friends, are using dead trees and cutting low-lying limbs in order to better mark the trail that runs through the cemetery, carved out from heavy foot traffic over the years. The next project will be the installation of a chain-link fence.
For the purposes of the project, Kyle and Dirk are only restoring an acre of the property, and hope to have that done by December. Money that is left over from the Kickstarter campaign will be donated to the LCCPC, in order to help complete similar projects.
Both said they hope that their efforts inspire others to come along and help finish what they have started.
“I’m hoping that the people around here will take it over, and keep it up once we get it cleaned out. We’ve talked to the cemetery commission about asking the city to take it over and keep it cleaned and do the rest of the work,” Dirk said. “I think it’ll bring some awareness to this, and bring awareness to the history that was here.”
In addition to raising awareness, Kyle said he hopes to respect the memory of those buried at the cemetery, with eight known veterans from both World War I and World War II being buried at the cemetery.
“Restoring this cemetery is just to honor the memory of the people that are buried here, the veterans that are buried here in particular,” Kyle said.
According to Dirk, future projects like headstone restoration and finding descendants of those buried in the cemetery are being planned, and they hope to begin that later in the restoration process.
For more information or to volunteer, email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.