June 17, 2010

Sadly, animal cemetery is in the weeds

The county's Humane Society is still struggling to care for Asp[e]n Hill Memorial Park, the historic cemetery for celebrity and local pets on Georgia Avenue. Waist-high grass blankets many graves laid decades ago among cedars and oaks on the 8-acre tract, which is also an oasis amid asphalt for deer occasionally seen loping around the grounds. Concerns about neglected maintenance at the site led county officials to insist last year that buildings there be repaired or boarded up, which the Montgomery County Humane Society has done as it seeks a way to preserve the property that it once imagined could be a center for humane education.

After a story in The Gazette last July, landscapers mowed and trimmed the cemetery for free. But weeds have outgrown donations again, and maintenance is not always regular, said Jo Ann Hoffman, the society's chairwoman. The society is looking for ground maintenance help, particularly from a company that would donate or deeply discount services, said Cris Bombaugh, the organization's president. In 2007, the county Humane Society became the third animal welfare group to take on responsibility for the property after Dorothy M. Shapiro of Potomac, who purchased it in 1988 to prevent it being developed, sought someone else to care for the cemetery, which had fallen into disrepair.

"They are under an obligation to preserve that property and restore it — that's a sore point," Shapiro said Tuesday.

Other charities have shown interest in taking over the property but have balked because of overdue maintenance that they would have to take on, while donations are lagging with the economy, Shapiro said. SOURCE: Gazette

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