Pleasant Rest Cemetery isn't so pleasant

Pleasant Rest Cemetery in Towson can't seem to get a break — unless it involves a tree branch.

Hurricane Irene took down five huge trees last week near the borders of the property on Bosley Avenue at the corner of Kenilworth Drive. She left them on the property, obliterating gravestones, tangled in live wires and blocking the circular cemetery drive.

The irony is that Mt. Olive Church, which owns the two-acre historic African-American cemetery, is still in debt after hiring a contractor last fall to cut down trees on the property that were deemed dangerous.

The work performed last summer "cost thousands and thousands of dollars," said the Rev. Avery Penn, Mt. Olive's pastor for 25 years. "They were dangerous and needed to come down before they fell down."

But the cutting, which was partially precipitated by cemetery trees on two occasions falling on cars parked on Kenilworth, was controversial. Considering that Kenilworth is a gateway to Towson, the stumps and disarray were not an inviting sight, and residents of Morningside Drive said their homes were left exposed and no longer protected from the glare of the lights from the Baltimore County Detention Center.

The county stepped in, removed the stumps and planted new trees to make the area look better from the street.

If nothing else, Irene vindicated the church.

"I'm just thankful we had cut down all those trees," Penn said. "Otherwise, they would have wiped out a lot of cars."

He thinks of it as "divine intervention," he said.

But now Mt. Olive has to find a way to get the huge trees that Irene felled cut up and removed. Luckily, they fell away from houses, but in most instances they took down wires.

"I'm just sorry for the people who still don't have electricity," Penn said last week.

There's a lot to be cleared away, he said, and people who have loved ones in the cemetery won't appreciate the trees lying across their graves.

He's not sure who is responsible for doing what, he said, and any effort will have to wait until Baltimore Gas & Electric declares the affected area safe and free from live wires.

"The church is still laboring under the burden of the last trees we took down, and would welcome anyone willing to step in and help," he said.

County Councilman David Marks said he would see if the county will provide assistance, considering its vested interest in the appearance of the corner as a gateway.

"I will certainly make the effort," he said, "but if it's not a public safety hazard, I don't think anything will be hauled away for weeks."

The church can be reached at 410-321-8831.

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