, Newburyport, MA

October 7, 2013

Fence in Highland Cemetery or not?

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Highland Cemetery is an integral part of the landscape in our neighborhood. Its use is not limited to our neighborhood. A truly multi-use, city-owned property, it is a place of burial, history, wildlife and dog walkers. Its real role in our community is a place of solace for families.

Attitudes toward cemeteries are changing. In the future, they may be some of the last open spaces cities will have. It is important for us to remember what roles they serve. Most cemeteries are fenced in. The fencing acts as a reminder it’s a place to enter with respect. It serves as a metaphor for marking the boundaries between the living and the dead.

This summer, the city took down the fencing along Hill Street. Now, the cemetery is more like a scene from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which is appealing as well. A neighborhood group — the Highland Cemetery Commission — has recommended to the city the fence not be replaced. The city’s budget only allows for chain link. Granted, it is not as visually appealing as a stone wall or wrought iron.

I would like to appeal to the people outside of our neighborhood to ask for their opinion. If you have family buried there, would you rather the property fenced? Does it make you feel more comfortable knowing a fence makes people respect the area? Already, people enter the area anywhere along the street. Fall is here — leaves will no longer be contained. Who will be responsible for the cleanup? What about keeping the area for its use as a final resting place and not a place for after-hours shenanigans? What about the development in the back area of the cemetery — will the city need to consider fencing along the edge where David Hall will be developing? Should the budgeted money for fencing be saved for this area? (There are gravestones along this edge of the property as well.)

There will be a meeting about the fencing on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room. If you have any comments to share about the cemetery, please reach out to Mayor Holaday or our ward councilor, Robert Cronin, or even better, consider attending and letting your voice be heard as well.

Christine Robinson