High grass and lack of maintenance are drawing complaints from family members of loved ones buried at Mount Ararat Annex Cemetery in Shelbyville.
But a member of the owner’s family says the cemetery is well kept.
“No way,” Brandon Nelson, son of owner Albert Nelson, said Tuesday of complaints of high grass and chiggers at the cemetery off West End Avenue. “That cemetery was just mowed recently.”
Brandon Nelson cited a document showing the last mowing was Aug. 16.
The main, well-kept Mount Ararat Cemetery is owned and maintained by the city. It was Bedford County’s historically-Black cemetery before integration and continues in use today.
Mount Ararat Annex adjoins, but is separate from, Mount Ararat. The cemeteries are separated from Willow Mount Cemetery by an iron fence and accessible only from a gravel path off West End Avenue. The Annex was described by Brandon Nelson as “just a little roundabout circle.”
Grass was above ankle-high Tuesday when Sheila Batts was among a stream of visitors to the cemetery.
“It wasn’t like this when I was here last year,” said Batts as she visited her father’s otherwise well-kept tombstone.
“The cemetery’s in the process of being donated to the city because there’s no one being buried there and no money for upkeep,” Brandon Nelson said.
“No one’s been buried there in a long time.”
A member of a visiting family Tuesday pointed out a tombstone of a loved one buried in 2021. Several other fairly-recent tombstones and many recently-placed flowers were visible through the high grass.
A City of Shelbyville spokesman said donation of the Nelson portion of the cemetery has been proposed but is still under discussion, No formal proposal has been brought before Shelbyville City Council.
The Annex portion adjoins a lot on West End Avenue where duplexes are under construction.
Batts, who once lived near the cemetery, said she believes unmarked graves are in an area next to the Annex directly behind the new construction. That area is separated from the Annex by a fence and bears a “no trespassing” sign. Brandon Nelson said no unmarked graves exist.
Albert Nelson and his sons operate Nelson Memorial Chapel in Shelbyville and another funeral home in Murfreesboro.