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Ridgeleigh Residents Ponder Solutions for Oakleigh Pet Cemetery

The community is willing to pitch in and help clean up the property, which an expert called 'neglected', but only if they can find others interesting in helping.

The long-beleaguered Oakleigh Pet Cemetery could be the focus of one community's efforts to beautify their neighborhood if they are able to partner with other organizations on the effort.

The cemetery, located at 8408 Oakleigh Road, has been declining for about 20 years—headstones are broken, vandalized or misplaced and graves sunken in—and is a serious concern for residents who live nearby and those who have pets buried there.

About 35 people with ties to the property, either neighbors or property owners, attended a recent Ridgeleigh Community Association meeting regarding the cemetery, where they heard from "Bigg" Jim Jones of the Paranormal Research and Investigative Society of Maryland.

Jones, who has 40 years experience documenting cemeteries "from Maine to Florida and Maryland to Hawaii," told the group that the condition of Oakleigh Pet Cemetery is among the worst he's even seen.

"I've been investigating cemeteries and working with genealogy groups for a long time, I've been around a lot of cemeteries starting back almost 40 years ago," Jones said in a video interview with Patch. "Pertaining to the Oakleigh Pet Cemetery, it is probably one of the worst cemeteries I've been to ... this by far is probably one of the top ten worst that I've been to."

Watch the video interview with Jones, as well as YouTube videos Jones produced documenting the Oakleigh Pet Cemetery in the gallery attached to this article.

"This is what we're facing, folks," Jones said while showing photos of the cemetery that included trash and broken headstones. "It's a sacred place for crying out loud. What would happen if Moreland [Park Memorial] were allowed to fall into disrepair like Oakleigh? Sacred ground is sacred ground."

But Jones cautioned against blaming the state of the cemetery on its current owner.

The problems at the cemetery began long before current owner John Williams took over its management and called on those with a stake in the cemetery: neighbors, the owners, those with pets interred there and even government officials to work together to restore the burial ground to its original beauty, Jones said.

"Improvements to the cemetery will increase property values, make the community safer and increase quality of life," Jones said.

Ridgeleigh residents are concerned about expending effort to clean up the property because they think it could be sold to a developer as a result of tax liens fines levied by Baltimore County.

Since 2011, the property has been subjected to nearly $50,000 in fines. County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler wrote in an email to Patch that the fines are either for property cleanup or as a result of civil citations.

In fiscal year 2011, Oakleigh Pet Cemetery received to civil citations for $500 and $20,000, respectively, and two property cleanup fines $765.43 and $4962.81, Kobler wrote. Plus accrued interest, the total for that year is $31,388.46 and the full year tax bill with accrued interest of $5,709.93 is still owed.

The same is true for fiscal year 2012--2 civil citations for $500 each plus accrued interest and the full year's tax bill brings the total to $6,513.76--and 2013--the property received one civil citation for $1,000.

Councilman David Marks, who has passed legislation regarding the property and restricted the type of development on the cemetery's 2.5 acres, has said that the county has agreed tentatively to waive some of the fines against the property.

"I had a meeting with [deputy county administrative officer] Arnold Jablon, the cemetery's owner, and Cindy Eisenrauch [a Ridgeleigh resident] and during the discussion [Jablon] agreed to waive some of the fines if an effort could be made to improve the cemetery," said Marks, whose district includes the cemetery

"I think that [the fines] have been a real stumbling block. Tens of thousands of dollars have accrued over the years," Marks said. "I thank the executive branch for considering this."

Marks said he is looking to the possibility of organizing a community cleanup with residents of the Ridgeleigh neighborhood.

For their part though, Ridgeleigh residents aren't aware of any action coming up in the near future--though they're willing to consider the possibility.

"As we are unaware of any current plans to restore the cemetery, we remain very interested in partnering with community members and other organizations on future efforts," wrote Ridgeleigh Community Association president Bill Deysher in an email.

Deysher asked that individuals or organizations interested in helping with the effort to restore the cemetery contact him via email (president@ridgeleigh.net) or by phone at 410-350-5282.

Jones, whose Paranormal Research and Investigative Society of Maryland has a program directed at saving cemeteries like Oakleigh, has started a Facebook page for those interested in helping with the effort.

"There is a solution, we need to work together: the community, the owners, the land holders and even, at times the government," Jones said. "It's not that hard to get it back to a reasonable state of affairs ... it only takes one person to stand up."

Do you or someone you know have a pet buried at Oakleigh Pet Cemetery? Do you know an individual or organization that would be interested in helping to restore the cemetery? Tell us in the comments.

Editor's Note: This story contained an error in the spelling of the name of Ridgeleigh resident Cindy Eisenrauch. That error has since been corrected. Patch regrets the error.

Joe Tragesser March 08, 2013 at 03:50 AM
Cindy, so if we have pets buried there, we are NOT ALLOWED in to take care of plots WE PAID FOR? Your attack on Jim is unfounded. Where has he misled anyone? I too have seen this cemetery in the current state. I am glad that my father isn't here to see this. I see Oakleigh everyday. And it sickens me to the core. It sounds like there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. I see the personal attacks through this thread on not only Jim, but on Vice President Fitze. We want the cemetery cleaned up. Just get the thing done. Now why waste all this hate filled banter on an emotional tug of war? Who is the biggest losers here? The owners of the pets buried in Oakleigh. All cemeteries are privately owned. But I have the right to visit the grave of my deceased. My parents bought the plots. We bought the headstones. We bought the caskets. We have a voice. And we will not be silenced. I expect professionalism when it comes to aftercare. What we have endured for years is less than professional. And with the comments made by you, I sincerely doubt that you are a true agent for the property. Last time I checked, Azure Capital Management owns the tax liens on the property. I pray to God my pets are not going to wind up in a landfill anytime in the future......
Joe Tragesser March 08, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Concerned Parent: So what happens to all the graves of the owners who are no longer alive? Allow them to be bulldozed? I too live in this community, and the cemetery is a peaceful place. I don't want another batch of Section 8 housing, or another useless convenience stores or shops. God knows we have way too much crime around here. If the cemetery is cleaned up the way it was supposed to be, we wouldn't be talking about this. I say we bulldoze all the crack houses, the failed convenience stores, and move forward. That's how we can take back our community. The cemetery was here before our community. Let it remain. By your logic, if the Shot Tower was in the neighborhood, would you call for it's demolition? Please.....
Suzanne Boellner March 08, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Why are we still arguing over this issue? Ridgeleigh community has tried time and time again to get this place cleaned up only to be kicked off the property every time we have tried to help in the past. Instead of everyone bickering over who is in charge.... how about we all just come together clean it up and be done with this issue. People have spent a lot of time and money to bury there family pets and they deserve to come back to see there beloved pets in a clean well maintained place. Not the eyesore that is located there now. So lets stop all the finger pointing and stay focused on the real issue at hand and that is cleaning up this place once and for all...
dsentz March 08, 2013 at 04:47 PM
My biggest issue with what Cindy (on behalf of the owner) is asking, is WHY should anyone give free labor to benefit an owner who has neglected this property. Let's say all of the fines are removed and let's say I come help clean the property. Then what? Will the owner maintain it or will he expect free grounds keeping annually? It sounds as though the property is already in tax arrears. Will the owner pay the back taxes or after all this work is done will it just go to auction again and possibly get sold to a developer?
Joe Tragesser March 08, 2013 at 05:46 PM
My issue with the owner is why have an alleged "agent" to "organize" a cleanup. Why isn't the "owner" more involved in the process? But he bought the property originally as "an investment". I have other issues with Cindy. But to unilaterally state that we cannot be on the property, which we have paid plots on, and that we cannot take photos. Really? What do they have to hide out at the cemetery other than the neglect and the abuse? If they have nothing to hide, then open it up for all to come in and help out. Like I said before, the owner needs to accept responsibility for the care. What is more important? The cemetery, or someone's over inflated ego? I agree with Suzanne, it's time to put up, or shut up.

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