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.