Press-Republican

Local News

October 31, 2013

Old graveyards dying out?

(Continued)

LAWN MOWING

Hillside Cemetery is considered full, except for spaces in family plots, so burials in Westport are now relegated to Black River Cemetery just east of the Elizabethtown-Westport line on Route 9N.  

A regular expenditure of both is mowing the grass, which generally takes two days. Napper is appreciative of Larry Bashaw, who hasn’t changed his price in several years, though the cost of gas has risen. 

Assistance has come from Westport Central School, which adopted the cemetery during its annual town cleanup day.

“The town has been very good about loaning us equipment such as weed-eaters,” Napper said.

VANDALISM

Those who honor the dead at the cemeteries sometimes, without meaning to, create problems, she said.

“Planting trees and other vegetation like vines is not a good thing for cemeteries,” cautioned Napper. “We also have had to deal with people throwing old plastic wreaths, flowers and pots over the banks. 

“But people have become more aware of that.”

Others perpetrate mayhem.

At one time, cemeteries provided a place for activities, as they were generally a grassy plot next to a church where parishioners had Sunday picnics and paid their respects to ancestors. 

So-called recreation in cemeteries today often involves late-night parties, camping, the knocking over of tombstones, and, as happened in Black River, shooting at birds perched on tombstones. 

Signs now restrict visiting hours to daytime and also say: “No Trespassing, Hunting, Shooting, Camping, Parties, Etc.” 

While the association has to maintain the cemeteries, funds to do that have dwindled as numerous families of those buried there no longer live in the area and may not even be aware of their ancestors’ interment. 

“We do have a list, so we can send out a mailing,” said Napper.

“We recently received a nice endorsement of $25,000 from an estate,” she added. “However, if there are major expenses, the money won’t last long. 

“We were really getting depleted, and then we got the endowment.” 

As for the future, Napper said, “the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) has some grants, so we’re hoping to do something with them. 

“There is also money that can possibly be obtained from the New York State Division of Cemeteries.”

Email Alvin Reiner: rondackrambler@yahoo.com

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