Thursday, January 21, 2016

Police Patrols at Mount Moriah Cemetery

This was back in the summer of 2015, when I was exploring some of the more heavily forested regions of Philadelphia's Mount Moriah Cemetery. I was with one of my usual cemetery traveler companions, Robert Reinhardt, and we were back in Section 149 on the Yeadon, PA side of the cemetery. (See map link for reference.)

That's my car parked against the trees in the photo above. You might think this was the border of the cemetery, since the grass is cut in the foreground. However, one step into the woods would show that the grave markers continue on for quite some distance. Here's a photo of Rob (at right) in one of the mildly overgrown areas.

John McCullough monument in Section 149
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the current state of this massive, formerly abandoned cemetery, only about 35% of the grounds of Mount Moriah have been rescued from nature's wild abandon. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. stepped into the picture in 2011 when the cemetery was officially abandoned. While most of its hundreds of sprawling acres are currently uncut and unmaintained, the all-volunteer Friends group (along with thousands of volunteers and contributors) manage to keep (as of this writing) about 35% of the grounds cut and maintained. This leaves an immense area open to exploration.

Forested area of Mount Moriah Cemetery
For a map showing the state of restoration efforts, click here.
For a current status report (as of Dec. 18, 2015) of Mount Moriah Cemetery, click here.
See daily progress at the cemetery on The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Facebook Group Page.

Cut and maintained area of Mount Moriah Cemetery

After about an hour climbing through the heavy undergrowth, knocking through tall stands of Japanese knotweed, and photographing monuments and other grave markers deep in the woods, we heard the distinctive and somewhat close "Bwoop! Bwoop!" of a police car. You know that sound - its the one they use to get you to pull over. I wasn't too concerned because this is one of the few times that I've been caught exploring an abandoned site where I actually had a legitimate reason to be there! I just tell people I'm on the Board of Directors of the The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. About every thirty seconds, another "Bwoop! Bwoop!" This guy is serious - police are obviously trying to get our attention, and the sound is coming from where my car was parked.

Japanese knotweed encroaching upon a grave

Navigating the terrain at Mount Moriah
Rob is about thirty paces ahead of me moving toward the clearing near section 142 – another "Bwoop! Bwoop!" I lose sight of him as I stop to make photographs. As I enter the clearing, a police cruiser is parked near my car, and Rob is standing next to the officer. Officer looks at me and says, "Ed Snyder?" I say, “Yes.” He says, "Just checking. Have a good day.” Gets into his car and drives away though the cemetery.

That was odd – I assumed Rob told him who we were and what we were doing there. Later, I come to find out that this Yeadon, PA. police officer had asked Rob if he was Ed Snyder! He had already run my plates and knew whose name under which my car was registered! To see me, he had no idea who I was – he just wanted to make sure my car hadn’t been stolen and/or that I was up to no good there in the woods!

Kudos to the Yeadon Police Department for patrolling the back areas of the cemetery looking for evildoers! I have encountered them on a few occasions – the Yeadon police on the Yeadon side of Mount Moriah and the Philadelphia police on the Philadelphia side (photo above). Routine patrols send the message to people that the cemetery is safe and if you are considering committing a crime here, you will be caught.