Monday, December 29, 2008
So, in the spirit of gentle prodding, I suggest:
> Visit cemeteries on some other occasion than to bury a loved one. One of the root causes of our problems with cemeteries is that too few people visit unless they are there for a funeral. When I began my research in 2007, the owner-operator of Manahath Cemetery in Glassboro, N.J., told me that our society pushes off important decisions such as burial arrangements - sometimes until never - which, among other things, leaves a tremendous burden on the surviving loved ones.
Well, it also leaves a burden of another type - onto the owners and operators of cemeteries. People don't notice if a graveyard has fallen into disrepair until they go there to visit their loved ones. Maybe if we all spent a little more time in cemeteries while we are alive, we'd see another way to help our communities.
It also might give society a greater sense of respect for the dead. Yes, some of the vandalism that occurs is caused merely by bored teens, but some of it shows a particularly destructive side to human nature. Perhaps if we thought more about cemeteries, we'd show greater respect for the sacred grounds and pass on this sense of respect to our children.
> While there, take pictures. Many genealogical, historical, landscape architectural, etc., organizations would be interested in your work - and you just might pick up a new hobby in the meantime.
> Urge your local cemetery owner-operators to consider natural-burial options. State regulations differ, but many states don't absolutely ban such practices; rather, conventional burials, with wooden coffins, concrete or steel vaults, and finely (and expensively) manicured lawns have become a standard business practice for the convenience of those owner-operators. The non-profit Green Burial Council estimates that enough metal is buried in the ground each year to build a new Golden Gate Bridge.
Likewise, urge owner-operators to consider native plants for their grounds. Natives are - naturally - more resistant to disease and drought conditions and take less work to care for them.
> Urge your local wildlife and nature organizations to form partnerships with cemeteries. In Camden, N.J., observers to the Harleigh Cemetery have recorded dozens of animal and plant species; most cemeteries can do the same - and, with the help of nature organizations, can help replenish what's gone and restore what's trying to get a foothold.
Birdwatching groups, especially, have plenty of options for bird counts; don't forget to include cemeteries as the location for your count.
> Get involved with your local historic preservation organization; many of them are involved at some level in keeping old cemeteries attractive, and all of them can use the help.
> Get involved with your local zoning, planning, redevelopment, etc., organizations. As research has shown, someday, sometime, somehow, we'll have to find room for the 350 million-plus souls in the U.S. alone. The communities with foresight will have ideas on where and how to expand existing cemeteries and where to build new ones. Such organizations also are well-versed in ways to incorporate cemeteries into local "greenways" programs; sometimes the cemetery is the only patch of green in town. These organizations also should be at the forefront in planning for such things as stormwater runoff, drainage, flooding protection and other items that fall under the banner of "urban planning," and folks with knowledge of this particular area of focus would be welcome.
> Commit yourself to one service project a year. If you can get involved with an organization, that's all well and good, but you can also devote some time to your own, personal good deed. You don't need to work under some community banner to be a good citizen. Maybe it's cleaning up some trash around the entrance. Maybe it's buying some American flags to place on veterans' graves, or working with a local vets organization to help them with their projects.
For help in making any of the above resolutions, see the first one listed - visit cemeteries - to get started.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Here's something worthy of thanks: A Boy Scout in Cape May County, N.J., worked to restore an old cemetery and tried to make it vandal-proof.
And here is a request for help from Berlin, Conn., specifically serving in an unpaid position on a cemetery board.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to purchase the 5-acre
Lafayette Square apartment complex at 2200 Lafayette St., north of Beaufort
National Cemetery. Another bill calls for the VA to conduct a land availability
study and report its findings.
Meanwhile, in Waukesha, the Prairie Home Cemetery is planning for green burials.
From the article:
Seven years in the making, the database contains basic information about
cemeteries in the commonwealth, including many names and addresses of the
burial sites, the names of people of historical interest that are buried at
the cemeteries, and much more.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
From the report:
The council decided unanimously to expand the cemetery by 400 plots and to
accommodate as many as 800 more people. The council agreed with the city's staff
report to install 200 double-depth plots and 200 double-cremain niches to the
Pleasanton Pioneer Cemetery.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Photo, caption from EastbayRI.com: Photo: Christine Hochkeppel
The sinkhole that formed at St. Mary's Cemetery is 10 feet wide in spots, more than 70 feet long and as deep as three feet.
Monday, December 15, 2008
This is, by no means, definitive, but here is a sampling of links about the program to lay holiday wreaths at the graves of veterans across the United States:
> San Francisco Chronicle
> Houston Chronicle
Note: Photo is from Associated Press; Pam Hines of Edgewater, Md., walked though Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia during wreath-laying on Saturday.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A later item here shows that an ad hoc committee examining the proposal will recommend against selling.
Monday, December 8, 2008
The vast complex of public and private cemeteries throughout San Francisco
would eventually comprise between 60 and 70 blocks of prime land. This
realization astonished the City Fathers of San Francisco and they passed a law
that would forbid human burials within the City after Aug. 1, 1901.
Here is another piece about one of the suburbs, which is overwhelmingly filled with cemeteries.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Here are a couple more cases:
> 42 headstones toppled in El Paso cemetery.
> Morgan County, Alabama.
> Teens punished for Sumner, Washington, vandalism, including $170,000 in restitution.
What do these cases have to do with land use? Perhaps nothing directly, but they put added stress on already-stretched government, law-enforcement and judicial resources, along with those who operate cemeteries. These crimes also have a negative impact on quality-of-life issues. All of these factors affect overall community living standards.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I recently posted an item about the Catholic Cemeteries of Brooklyn filing a civil complaint against the city over flood damage to St. John Cemetery, in Middle Village, because of poor drainage.
For my class work a couple of years ago, I found a story about a very old cemetery along the Chesapeake Bay that, because of rising waters/climate change, is now seeing some of its graves washed into the bay. The video is particularly poignant.
What I am seeking now is similar information -- anecdotal or scientific -- about other cemeteries, so that I can compile some data and perhaps start analyzing it with GIS.
Some folks may be familiar with a landmark study from Temple University, dated August 2006, where they used GIS to determine that FEMA maps for the area of Pennypack Watershed in the Philadelphia area were inadequate, and that flooding potential was actually worse than what FEMA data would indicate. While much of the Temple study involved roads, businesses, housing, etc., I'm sure that overdevelopment can impact cemeteries, as well, with runoff and other problems.
I appreciate any leads you can send my way.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
This is an interesting dilemma, because some cemeteries, most notably the historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, "rents" its grounds to dog lovers in order to help ends meet.
"We've restored about 40 grave sites -- cleaned up or repaired the stones. It is a pleasing project that is really going well."
The flooding has damaged the cemetery gate, a number of trees and maybe
even graves, said Father Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Our first post on this subject brought attention to Wreaths Across America.
Besides the funding woes - $36,033 lost the last four years - the city also has concerns about how it can buy more ground to expand the 25-year-old cemetery when necessary, and even whether the city can cut upkeep expenses by spraying chemicals on the lawns.
This latter idea is one bad idea,because such spraying could have a harmful impact on wildlife and plant life in the area - not to mention the possible harm to the citizenry. There must be a better way to care for Galva Cemetery. Officials will discuss the cemetery further on Dec. 15.
Ideas out there? Can anyone help?
Among the notables buried at Oakland are "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell and golfing legend Bobby Jones.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Lonely Planet's top travel destinations for 2009 include its picks for the world's top 10 "places of rest."
Friday, November 21, 2008
This story is a little old, but it bears mentioning anyway: Dozens of caskets unearthed during Hurricane Ike have not been reburied. This site includes video.
And here is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing some of the problems in Louisiana.
In December 2007, 286 participating locations hosted Wreaths Across America
ceremonies overseeing the placement of 32,553 wreaths on the headstones of those
who served and sacrificed for our freedoms.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
But in one county, Bibb County in Georgia, they must not think they need cemeteries at all -- because county commissioners there have pretty much put the kabosh on any new cemeteries there, and seem to have particularly targeted a green cemetery. Among the regulations are significant setbacks from water sources and the requirement that bodies be buried in a “leak-proof casket or vault.”
While perhaps well-meaning, the commissioners are woefully shortsighted. How do they think their Founding Fathers were buried? What do they think of current Jewish and Muslim practices? If they are worried about contamination of water, what do they think of the risks of formaldehyde? Or arsenic, which was part of the embalming practice from the Civil War days through the early 20th century?
The vote already is drawing criticism, including an editorial in the Macon Telegraph, which notes the commissioners' ignorance of burial practices and shortsightedness.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Says cemetery trustee Bob Morden of the dedicated volunteers:
"We all have a good level of pride in our cemetery."
Here is the If You Go information from the article:
HISTORIC NEW ORLEANS TOURS:
http://tourneworleans.com/cemetery_set.html or 504-947-2120.Two-hour Cemetery Voodoo Tour, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.;Sundays at 1 p.m., $15 cash and traveler’s checks only ($13 forstudents, $7 for children 6-12), starting at 334-B Royal St. in thecourtyard of Royal Cafe Beignet.
SAVE OUR CEMETERIES TOURS: http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/ or504-525-3377. One-hour tours of Lafayette Cemetery in the GardenDistrict, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (meetat the Washington Avenue gate on the 1400 block of WashingtonAvenue), $6 suggested donation; and one-hour tours of St. LouisCemetery, Sundays at 10 a.m. (meet in the first floor of the BasinStreet Station Visitors Center, 501 Basin St.), $12 suggesteddonation.
Monday, November 17, 2008
(Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Photo credit: Chuck Snyder/The News Journal
Sunday, November 16, 2008
You will soon be able to add 1 to Pennsylvania's total, with the dedication of a new cemetery outside of Philadelphia. The issue of creating this cemetery has gone on for years; here is a link to a story from June 2007; the issue involved a local school board, a developer and a land swap.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
As the price of precious metals rose, so did the rise of thefts of ornamental markers at cemeteries.
"There's definitely an uptick; you might call it a rash," Bob Fells, general counsel for the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, told USA Today in August. "This seems to happen any time the price of metal goes up."
Among the crimes detailed in that USA Today article:
•1,000-pound bronze gates stolen from two mausoleums at a cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.
•More than 200 brass urns stolen from two cemeteries in Cumberland, Maryland.
•$500,000 worth of brass urns and ornaments stolen from Chicago cemeteries.
The scrap-metal industry has issued guidelines for its members to follow regarding acceptance of suspicious materials, but those guidelines are only as good as the moral compasses that guide scrap-metal dealers.
Meanwhile, looting is only part of the economic trouble facing cemeteries.
Hardly a day passes when there is not some news about cemeteries falling into disrepair and needing financial help to right themselves. Many churches operate on shoestring budgets in the best of times, and when times go bad, they are the first place people turn to for food and comfort. Those church cemeteries often can be left in the lurch. Other, privately run cemeteries run into similar cash-flow problems, particularly in a culture that thinks more about defying age than planning for the afterlife (whatever your religious or non-religious bent).
And then, there are the senseless vandals who have nothing better to do than to deface and destroy? You can bet that cemetery vandalism is low on the list of priorities for ever-squeezed law enforcement.
So, how can we fix this? As we approach the 145th anniversary of the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, it is time for us to rededicate ourselves to treasuring our sacred ground.
Get involved in your local historical and/or genealogical society. Form a task force in your community. Plan nature outings in cemeteries. Include cemeteries in "greenways" projects. At the risk of making a terrible pun: Make cemeteries a vital part of your community's life.
Founding Father Ben Franklin once noted: "Show me your cemeteries, and I will tell you what kind of people you have."
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The first is from National Geographic in June 2007, and the other is from Arlington Connection, from August 2008, which indicates the problems are not getting any better.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Their response was as quiet as a cemetery. I think they thought I was a bit of a loon, who had slipped into their midst.
In reality, I simply was a budding GIS student, coming off my first class in the subject: Land Use, at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. For my research project, I discovered that while cemeteries might be one of the most common land uses in a community, they are definitely under the radar when it comes to planning, smart growth, development and other related fields.
I didn't leave them squirming in their seats for long -- I basically told them what I just told you: that cemeteries are not much talked about in planning circles.
Cemeteries, in fact, are very much a part of the community fabric in many ways:
> They often take up prime real estate, and many are tax-exempt, which makes it tougher on ratable-starved towns.
> Without proper care, they can fall into disrepair and become havens of neglect and criminal activity, which costs countless hours for caretakers, community organizers and law enforcement.
> In some urban areas, they can be the only green spaces on the landscape.
> Older cemeteries can be potentially hazardous to your health -- arsenic was once the embalming substance of choice, and there are stories that some archeologists wear hazmat suits for their work.
> Some of the newest are returning to the oldest ways, via the natural burial movement.
> Cemeteries, particularly the expansive, landscaped ones, can be havens for myriad forms of wildlife.
> In many communities, cemeteries hold an important place in the historic, tourism and cultural landscapes.
In short, they are essential. We, um, can't live without them.
In the last 18 months or so, I've read and gathered a number of articles and links about cemeteries. As this blog gets up and running, I will add some of the best to this site, as well as offer new reports.
My goal is to offer both original content and the best of cemetery reporting from around the world. If I'm capable, I'd like to expand this to offer calendar items and other news of interest to my fellow taphophiles.
Photo credit: New York Times