Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

Dogs Owners Disregard Cemetery Signs

On Monday, September 18, 2006, the Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA), met at the St.Stephens Lutheran Church on Turner Street to address concerns over defilement of one of the city's oldest cemeteries. The Old Allentown Cemetery at 10th and Linden streets in center city Allentown, although signs are posted to the effect that the cemetery is off limits to dogs, is being defiled by pet owners who simply choose to ignore the signs and apparently do not have the courtesy to even remove the dog feces.

In response to the situation, CUNA assembled a number of city employees to address concerns over the conditions at the cemetery and to solicit the cooperation of various city agencies to solve the problem. Approximately 110 concerned citizens were in the audience representing a number of different churches and other community organizations in the area. Also in attendance at the meeting were five members of the board of the Union and West End Cemetery Association. The U&WE board members were there to support CUNA and to benefit from there approach to the problem as the Union and West End Cemetery Association is experiencing similar problems.

Although the city of Allentown has an ordinance against dogs trespassing and the ordinance prohibits dogs from running loose anywhere in the city, it has not been enforced by the authorities. The law further stipulates that no owner or any person having control of any animal shall permit the same to discharge or deposit any fecal matter upon the property of another without immediately removing such matter and disposing of it in a sanitary manner. But the more grievious problem is that the dogs are prohibted from entering the cemetery for any purpose and there are signs posted indicating such.

Unlike The Old Allentown Cemetery, which is open, the Union and West End Cemetery is completely enclosed by fencing which helps to limit the number of dogs in the cemetery. Signs, in English and Spanish are prominently posted at every entrance to the cemetery clearly stating the dogs are prohibited from the cemetery premises. Only on occasion is it necessary to remind dog owners that the cemetery is off limits. However, there is a grassy area outside the fencing where dog owners walk their dogs and the dogs deposit fecal matter. Many of the dog owners in the neighborhood pick up the feces deposited by their dogs, but some do not. This strip of grass outside the fenced area is the property and responsibility of the cemetery association. Accumulated feces is a health hazard and extremely messy when the volunteers encounter it with a lawn mower or a line trimmer. How could anyone believe that they have a right to ignore fecal matter deposited by their dog?

At the CUNA meeting, several speakers on the agenda voiced concerns for the health and welfare of the community and the defilement of sacred and historical ground. They called attention to the failure of the city to enforce existing laws. In response, city officials pledged their support and agreed to assist in anyway possible to ensure that this problem is brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Ann Saurmann of the Bureau of Solid Waste and Recycling pledged to have a SWEEP (Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program) officer patrol the Old Allentown Cemetery at least once each day for the next ninety days. They will appear at various times and will issue citations to violators. Gary Ritter, another city representative, agreed to send a letter to the residents in the surrounding neighborhood reminding them of the existing laws and letting them know that the laws will be enforced. The area to be covered includes the streets surrounding the Union and West End Cemetery.

Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna also committed to have officers patrol the area watching for violators. The city plans to install surveillance cameras at various locations in the city and Hanna indicated that one such camera will be installed at 10th and Linden where the Old Allentown Cemetery is located.

It is believed that more rigid enforcement of the pet ordinances will also deter other criminal activity in the area. Other problems that both cemeteries have to deal with are vandals, vagrants, and littering. The litter problem along the Union and West End Cemetery is atrocious. Even though the city provides receptacles all along the sidewalks, people seemingly prefer to toss their litter on the ground along the cemetery fence. How could people be so callously irresponsible with regard to the appearance of their own neighborhood? I, for one, simply do not understand.

The volunteers that maintain the cemetery, inside and outside the fence, try to maintain it in reasonably good order, although it is an ongoing struggle. We need the people that live in the neighborhood to take pride in their neighborhood and to help by stopping the littering that goes on outside the cemetery.



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