BENTON, Ark. – In a place where people are laid to rest, lately it’s been anything but quiet.
One of the oldest cemeteries in Saline County is being damaged by people riding four-wheelers and ATVs through the gravesite and even over headstones – something that’s been going on for some time but has ramped up for the summer.
Hughes Cemetery is the final resting place of Saline County’s ancestors, with graves dating from the 1800’s to 2003.
Mike Parks was drawn to the cemetery the moment he first saw it and for over 6 years, he’s been one of its only caretakers.
“I like it out here,” Parks said. “It’s peaceful, it’s nice.”
But the peace he’s come to love doesn’t last. For years, Parks has seen cars and ATVs damage the gravesite. This summer, he says the chaos hit high gear.
“This road that they drive, this isn’t even supposed to be here,” Parks explained, pointing to a worn trail in the cemetery. “One truck went through there, where the stone’s at with the stuff near it. It came through and went over top all those.”
ATV tracks litter the ground, headstones are broken in half or toppled over, and the main gate was even bent in half at one point, the chain doing little to keep people out.
Parks says he’s been told by Benton Police nothing can be done since the location is abandoned with no official owner, and there are no injuries to report. For him, that answer isn’t good enough.
“I’m not going to sit around and let someone come out here and destroy a cemetery,” Parks said. “Just leave it alone.”
Parks says his goal is to get a new gate for the gravesite and says he’s fine with visitors reflecting in the cemetery as long as they’re doing so respectfully.