Tuesday, May 26, 2009

South Dakota volunteers work to preserve cemeteries

This article highlights the work of volunteers who help keep up cemeteries in South Dakota.

Old cemeteries meet new development

Here's a nice overview story from Arkansas' Morning News about the tug of war between old cemeteries and new development. Quoted in the article is Paula Marinoni, a preservation advocate and real estate executive broker:
It’s everybody’s issue, not just a developer issue. The onus is on the
entire community. It’s a matter of ethical responsibility for the

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Green means go -- and green should mean cemeteries

By Deborah Woodell
Whistling Past the Graveyard

THE WORLD is turning many shades of green as society struggles with a collapsing economy and strives to build a new, sustainable, 21st-century economy.

President Barack Obama is leading the charge for green jobs and a new green economy. No longer is green solely the purview of leftist, tree-hugging types. Now, green is being embraced by all walks of life as we strive for a new way of living.

Within this conversation is an element that still takes green in the most literal sense. All over the country, communities are recognizing the value of green space and taking steps to create new green spaces and/or preserve what's there. And very often, what's there is a cemetery.

Cemeteries were at the heart of the earliest communities in America; in Philadelphia, where I work, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin's grave is in a cemetery in the heart of Old City, offering passers-by the opportunity to enter this small sanctuary of solace. The rural cemetery movement of the 19th century sent many graveyards out into the countryside, where visitors communed with nature while mourning the dead. Now, many of those same places -- which once were in the middle of nowhere -- are in the middle of sprawl.

Now, as communities strive to make "green connections" within their "gray communities, cemeteries should be integral parts of the process.

In some places, they are. Philadelphia includes cemeteries in its GreenPlan Philadelphia project. Lowell, Massachusetts, includes cemeteries in its plan for the Concord River Greenway. Salisbury, North Carolina, includes the Memorial Park Cemetery in its Greenway project; this portion of the Greenway is sponsored by a funeral home and "includes a bridge and encircles a scenic lake with visible wildlife." Indeed, a Google search of cemetery and greenway produces more than 43,000 hits. But unfortunately, the results seem mostly anecdotal; a town here, a neighborhood there.

It's time to make cemeteries a key component of all greenways projects. Studies indicate that property values remain higher for homes near all kinds of open space, including cemeteries. In addition to the open-space value, cemeteries also provide cultural, historic and community links, become havens for wildlife, and, in some places, offer the only green space in the neighborhood.

Some criticism and fears of cemeteries are legitimate. Left unattended, cemeteries become sites of neglect and disrepair, or even vandalism and criminal activities. But fully incorporating cemeteries into greenways projects brings them into the mind-set, keeps them from becoming unattended, abandoned sites. Cemeteries become abandoned when no one cares; make them integral to your community's plans, and they won't become abandoned.

Less than two weeks from now, cemeteries will be front and center in our nation's consciousness, as we celebrate Memorial Day. Even the shabbiest ones get spruced up for this annual ritual. Yes, cemeteries are there for us to honor the dead. But cemeteries are for the living, too, and should be part of all plans to make our communities more livable.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Georgia town to take control of abandoned cemetery

Bainbridge, Georgia, is taking over an abandoned cemetery. Work has begun to begin condemnation procedures to take over the property

Archeologist wants to "locate Louisiana cemetery

An archeology professor from Michigan wants to use remote-sensing equipment to locate the graves in a pauper cemetery in Shreveport, Louisiana, that dates back to the Civil War.

Property rights vs. historic preservation

Greenville, South Carolina, is wrestling with historic preservation issues that could affect cemeteries. Funding is available for preservation measures -- but only if local standards match those of the states. Property-rights advocates say that this could give local historic preservationists powers even greater than eminent domain.

Ohio college students tackle cemetery project

A professor and students from Wooster College in Ohio are taking on the task of finding the actual location of a long-abandoned cemetery that holds the remains of early Mennonite members of the community.

Idaho cemetery desecrated by clearing project?

Law enforcement in Idaho is investigating whether a farm desecrated a cemetery by uprooting trees and performing other clearing tasks.

Ga. county finds itself struggling with abandoned cemetery

Officials in Bibb County, Ga., just discovered that they have no rules on handling abandoned cemeteries. The state has rules, which counties are free to adopt on their own. In this case, an abandoned cemetery has snarled plans to construct "a planned 1,000-acre residential and commercial development." Descendants of three of those buried in the Civil War-era graveyard object to moving graves.
Here is an opinion piece on the matter.