Families say graves are being covered up at neglected Pompano Beach cemetery

(WSVN) - It’s one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in South Florida, but family members say it’s so poorly maintained, some can’t even find their loved ones. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

They come to Westview Community Cemetery in Pompano Beach to remember relatives long gone. But figuring out where their loved ones are is a problem.

So they dig … finding the concrete vaults and headstone buried beneath the ground.

Princess Daniels, family member: “It makes you feel sad that you have to come out here and you can’t put flowers down because you don’t know where your loved ones are at. So that’s sad, that’s hurtful.”

Princess Daniels came out with her family on Mother’s Day — and had to search for their grandmother’s grave.

Another family sent us video where they used shovels and rakes to find gravesites.

Family member: “They were buried. I just digged it up. I digged it up.”

Westview is a historic cemetery. It first opened in 1952, when African-Americans weren’t allowed to be buried in white cemeteries.

But over the decades, parts of this old cemetery have fallen into disrepair. Many of the tombstones are broken, some of the vaults have spray paint on them, and others have been covered up with dirt.

Michelle Bryant, family member: “I’m hurt. Every time we come out here, it’s already enough that families have to come out here to see their loves ones. We’re going through that, but then to come out here and see it like this…”

So who is responsible for maintaining the cemetery? Turns out, it’s a little complicated.

It’s not owned by a private company and it’s not owned by the city. It’s actually run by a nonprofit.

Walter Hunter, Westview Community Cemetery business manager: “Money is an issue. Period.”

Walter Hunter volunteers as the cemetery’s business manager. He says they’re the cheapest in South Florida, charging only $1,000 per burial.

But the limited money they have is used on keeping the grass cut and keeping the lights on.

Walter Hunter: “In today’s world, without having the funds, there is only so much you can do.”

As for the graves covered up with sand, Hunter says the vaults sink into the ground.

Brian Entin: “Is anyone purposely covering them up?”

Walter Hunter: “No. Oh, absolutely not. We do not allow that. Will not allow it.”

Hunter says the record-keeping has been historically bad. They don’t even know who’s buried in 30 percent of the graves.

Princess Daniels: “I have my uncle, my auntie, my mom. And, you know, that’s not good that we’re stepping on top of other people’s graves.”

The cemetery manager says he’s looking into fundraising and other ways to pay for upgrades and maintenance, but there’s no plan yet.

And that’s frustrating for families who just want to visit their relatives’ final resting place.

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