Blair County prisoners create Oak Ridge miracle

An amazing miracle is in progress at Altoona’s Oak Ridge Cemetery thanks to the efforts of those you might never expect to be involved.

Unless you’ve driven north on Tenth Street from Pleasant Valley Boulevard toward downtown Altoona, you’re probably not aware that the graves of more than 13,000 people have been hidden by grass and weeds that have completely enveloped the cemetery in recent years.

The city of Altoona has numerous blighted properties, and this cemetery has been one of the worst.

Groups of volunteers, many of whom have family buried in the cemetery, have attempted to keep some areas of the steep, overgrown grounds trimmed up, but it’s been a losing battle for the most part.

Record rainfall over the past two years has made a bad situation even worse.

Since right before Memorial Day, a crew of workers from the Blair County Prison has been working tirelessly to restore the cemetery to immaculate condition. Unless you’ve operated a weed eater on steep terrain with weeds and grass at eye level for hours at a time, you can’t appreciate the job the prisoners are doing.

Suddenly Oak Ridge is looking as good as St. Mary’s Cemetery on the other side of Tenth Street.

If you have family and friends who are buried at Oak Ridge like I do, I encourage you to drive by and take a look. You might even consider planting a flower or two on your family grave for the first time in years.

Now that you can find your grave(s) once again, perhaps you too will be motivated to take your own weed eater or mower along from time to time to assist with the effort.

Most importantly, thank Blair County Commissioners Ted Beam, Bruce Erb and Terry Tomassetti for allowing this project to take place. The men from the prison and the staff who transport and monitor them are tackling this next-to-impossible task with immense pride.

The prisoners are paying back their debt to society in impressive fashion.

Thomas M. Bradley