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Cemetery repair to cost about half-a-million

Date: 8/8/2011

Aug. 8, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM — The Wilbraham Board of Cemetery Commissioners is going to have to start their preservation planning for Adams Cemetery from square one.

The board has been working with landscape architect Martha Lyon in developing a preservation and management plan for Wilbraham’s three cemeteries, but because of the significant damage sustained from both the June 1 tornado and the July 26 microbursts, a reassessment of Adams Cemetery will need to be done before Lyon can make any recommendations.

“We lost 30 trees and 70 headstones were smashed,” Philip Hamer, cemetery commissioner in charge of Adams Cemetery said. “All told, the cleanup and repair will cost somewhere between $150,000 and a quarter of a million dollars.”

Commissioner Don Bourcier added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was assisting in paying for the cleanup of the cemetery located on Tinkham Road, but stressed that more funds are needed. He also said that PeoplesBank made a donation to the town for tree replacement, but none of that money has been allocated to the cemetery.

Anyone interested in making a monetary donation to help the cleanup and restoration is asked to send a check to Town Hall made out to Wilbraham Cemetery Commission.

While acknowledging that no plans could be solidified yet, Hamer did express interest in talking to abutters to the north about further expanding the cemetery. The cemetery recently expanded to the east with a section designated “New East” and Hamer said it may be worth pursuing discussions about acquiring the land north of the “New East” section, which would make the cemetery a perfect square.

The same abutter owns the land between the cemetery and the access road to Minnechaug Regional High School on Tinkham Road, and there was a discussion about looking into an arrangement regarding that land that would allow the cemetery to expand west.

“I think people would like to keep that space open rather than have it eventually become houses,” Hamer said.

Lyon was able to make recommendations for the other two cemeteries and lauded the board for their efforts in maintaining the sites to this point.

“This is one of the best cemetery commissions I have ever worked with,” she said. “I’m really impressed with the care you take. In other communities, I can’t believe how neglectful people can be. It’s horrifying.”

Lyon’s primary objective for her initial recommendations to the board was maintaining a sense of the historical significance.

One of the major concerns regarding East Wilbraham Cemetery on Boston Road is the noise from the Massachusetts Turnpike, which sits just to the north.

“Trees do not buffer sound. You need something with mass,” Lyon said. “Trees create a psychological barrier, but do not do anything to keep sound out.”

She went on to suggest that a berm at the north end of the land could create that buffer or that the commissioners could talk to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority about erecting walls along the road to block out the sound.

“If there is an improvement project slated for the next couple of years, it’s possible that it could be added to that project,” she said.

She also said the current entrance gave the cemetery a look that was too contemporary and did not compliment the historical stones. She suggested replacing the PVC fencing with wood picket or Azek fencing as well as adjustments to the road entering and exiting the site.

“It almost feels like you’re entering an office park or a high school,” she said. “It would open up more green space by narrowing the roadway.”

Hamer expressed concerns about narrowing the road, stating it was a stretch of road that can be dangerous when exiting the cemetery, which was the reason for the wide entrance.

She made similar suggestions regarding fencing at Glendale Cemetery, located at the corner of Monson and Glendale roads.

She also suggested relocating the recently added Glendale bell to another location, but did not specify where.

Bourcier, who oversees Glendale, explained that the bell used to be in the belfry of the Glendale Church, but was damaged and fell during one of the fires the church sustained before making its home at the cemetery. He added he would not be in favor of moving the bell unless there was a specific reason for its relocation.

Glendale also has a great deal of undeveloped land to the north, which Lyon suggested the Board of Cemetery Commissioners should look into. Because of Bourcier’s report of wetlands north of the property, Lyon said the board should work on getting a clear delineation of where the wetlands are before there is any need to develop that northern section.

The cemetery commissioners anticipate meeting with Lyon again in September and still hope to have a complete plan by their original deadline at the end of the year.

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