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Colonial Williamsburg, government to help clean up Williamsburg cemetery

The National Park Service and The Virginia Department of Transportation will also get involved with the project.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — One local historic cemetery is getting some much-needed help.

Oak Grove cemetery in Williamsburg is in bad shape following years of existence and recent storms. Colonial Williamsburg has offered to assist with cleanup efforts.

Established in 1901, it covers approximately 1.2 acres and contains 170 visible graves with identifiable markers dating to 1907.

Ever since she was a child, Colette Roots has always visited the cemetery. She has many ancestors buried there.

“My mother brought me out here Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day and Christmas,” Roots said.

With the help of family, Roots tries to maintain the gravesite. Earlier this year, Roots stopped by the cemetery with a family member. They noticed trees down, overgrown brush, and damaged graves. They realized they couldn't maintain the property on their own anymore.

“My husband’s 96-year-old great uncle couldn't get in to see his mother and grandmother. Both of us had tears in our eyes,” Roots said.

Oak Grove Baptist Church originally bought the property. The government then seized the land during World War II. Colonial Williamsburg later bought the property from the government, and eventually gave it back to the church in 2003. Oak Grove Baptist Church doesn't have the money to clean up the cemetery.

Colonial Williamsburg still owns the area surrounding the cemetery, so that’s who Roots reached out to for help. Colonial Williamsburg agreed.

“Our reaction was we were praising God, we were singing, we were so overjoyed and tearful,” Roots said.

Colonial Williamsburg agreed to coordinate a clean-up project led by Oak Grove Baptist Church. Colonial Williamsburg will help remove downed trees, find undetected or unmarked graves and put up a fence around the cemetery. VDOT is also getting involved and plans to remove and thin trees and woody growth to improve sightlines for vehicles exiting the cemetery onto East Rochambeau Drive.

Cleanup begins Monday, October 12.  The work should be completed by the end of the year.

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