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Thread: Cemetery preservation

  1. #1
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    Cemetery preservation

    I'm dealing with an issue right now of a private graveyard being overgrown, vandalized, and there are illegal activities like drug dealing and prostitution going on in it because of its secluded location. The site is filled with prominent black southern politicians and is on the National Register. The graveyard was left to a trust filled with older people who have done nothing about its upkeep. Now a group has started to make a big stink about it and numerous groups, including the historic preservation dept representing the city, have become involved.

    With some money from the city and other grants and such, the cemetery is back on its feet again.

    Here's the problem: How do we stop this graveyard from degrading right back to where we found it?

    The city could push for dissolution of the current trust in favor of another, but that doesn't guarantee anything. The city could push for the donation of the site from the trust to be looked after in perpetuity, but the city doesn't want any financial responsibility it doesn't have to take. I would argue that the city may spend less money with constant upkeep rather than doing major work every five or ten years.

    What do you think? Have you ever had any problems with older private or public cemeteries? What city dept. should be responsible for it?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    If it is a trust, does it have funds which it holds for maintenance of the cemetery? If so, do you have a property maintenance code? If so, cite them when the grass gets long, and handle it just as you would any other property owner. I suspect the real issue is that there are no funds. If so, then it looks like the city will need to assume the responsibility.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    In New Orleans, the non-profit group, Save Our Cemeteries, has been very instrumental in restoring and maintaining a lot of the older, historic cemeteries.

    Check out their website. www.saveourcemeteries.org
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    This is a very out of the box way to dealing with it but Congressional Cemetery is in part now protected by making it a dog park

    http://www.mdw.army.mil/news/man_best_friend.html

    I have been with my hounds and its a fantastic place full of history, the locals seem to take good care of it and pick up after their animals well.

    http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerGirl
    This is a very out of the box way to dealing with it but Congressional Cemetery is in part now protected by making it a dog park
    I brought up the idea of the Parks and Recreation possibly taking possession of the land but he kind of shrugged me off. I knew there were instances where cities turned old cemeteries into viable parks and greenspace. He argued that people wouldn't use it. I'll use the dogpark example with him, thanks for that.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerGirl
    This is a very out of the box way to dealing with it but Congressional Cemetery is in part now protected by making it a dog park

    http://www.mdw.army.mil/news/man_best_friend.html

    I have been with my hounds and its a fantastic place full of history, the locals seem to take good care of it and pick up after their animals well.

    http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/
    I agree with trying to make it into a place that people want to visit. I know it seems odd initially, but if you can add trails and ammenities such as garbage cans and benches, it could become a great place for dog folks as well as joggers/walkers and such. And if people want to be there, they will find a way to maintain it.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Yes the dog walkers have put in places to water their "kids" and little poop bag stands along with trash cans to throw the bagged waste into.

    The day I was there a older couple came to visit and grave and were very loudly talking about how disrespectful it was to have someones "damn dog taking a cr@p on so and so's grave" I asked my friend, hows a park member, about this sort of reactions to the dogs. Seems the reaction comes now and then from older folks who come from out of town to visit a grave and dont realize 1) what shape the area was like before 2) that its now OK and encuraged.

    The only sizeable problem my friend knew about was if a crypt came open and a dog went to check out the space...lots of bones They have been trying to repair and keep the above ground crypts sealed better as of late.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I like the park idea and think the concept could be abstracted beyond just recreation (a cultural/historical park with interpretive signage such as they have done in Taos). We have had similar problems/issues here in the Albuquerque area. With the first Spanish settlers entering this area in 1600 and with many Native communities occupying it long before then, we've got a lot of bodies buried around here. For the Spanish especially, many of these sites are small, extended family plots that have ended up in bizarre locations (like right next to the highway, or bordering land into what are now private residences - don't dig too deep!).

    The most successful projects here have simply centered on finding a group (either local residents or descendents of those interned at the site) to keep the place picked up. This alone tends to discourage a lot of unwanted behavior. In one case (the one next to the highway), a small cemetery of perhaps 50 graves has a new fence, crosses have been repainted, and is regularly visited by descendents to keep things picked up. I'm not sure, but the group responsible may be attached to a church and this is part of their community service mission). All of this interest was spurred by a study to identify all the cemeteries in the area which in turn generated a lot of local interest.

    In other cases, dilapidated churches have been converted to community centers and the cemeteries used as a park, in others picnic tables have been added and are a lunch destination for workers in the area.

    I was wondering, since the site has many notables from the African-American community, if there was a local culture/historical organization interested in simply picking up the grounds and mowing on a regular basis. Perhaps it could be a joint enterprise with the city (they do the mowing).

    I love cemeteries, so the idea of celebrating the space as a cultural resource seems like a great way to tell a story that might not otherwise be heard.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian time+space's avatar
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    Ditto on making it a place to go to. Also, engaging the public in cemetery conservation efforts/ research helps give a community some type of ownership of the place. The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training has been involved in this
    http://www.ncptt.nps.gov/cemetery/

    Also, a former archeology prof. of mine, now teaching at San Diego State started a gravestone research project covering San Diego County.

    http://cal.sdsu.edu/faculty/featured.php

  10. #10
    Cyburbian IlliniPlanner's avatar
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    One of our three cemeteries in town happens to occupy probably the the best piece of real estate on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Unfortunately the residents occupying the cemetery aren't able to take advantage of the views. But this was a cemetery taken over by the City in the early 1950's and within the last ten years has really become a place to visit. Many well-known founders of the community are buried there and every year there is a cemetery walk where volunteers portray those who are buried there and give attendants a sense of who these people were and how they shaped the city. Very interesting.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I just remembered the work the Institute for Southern Jewish Life has done in restoring Jewish cemeteries throughout the south. I have some friends who grew up attending their summer camps where they went to sites and cleaned up these old cemeteries from Jewish settlements up and down the Mississippi which are now largely defunct. Very cool stuff.

    A good example of getting an organization behind this kind of thing in order to marshall the energy and time needed to maintain such sacred places.

    here's a link: http://www.isjl.org/history/preservation.htm

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerGirl
    The day I was there a older couple came to visit and grave and were very loudly talking about how disrespectful it was to have someones "damn dog taking a cr@p on so and so's grave"
    That's a problem my advisor brought up to me, especially since it is an African American graveyard. In the south in particular African Americans are extremely proud of their heritage, and I have a feeling the dog park idea may not fly with the trust in charge of the site and with the community in general. Its such a good idea though, to make a site like that financially self-sustaining. I'll bring it up at the next meeting this group puts together, if anything they may think of alternative ways to achieve both a site that people will want to visit and will be able to stay self-sufficient without help from the city (which is apparently what everybody seems to want once they help clean it up now).

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