Deadline nears for cemetery proposals

Published 7:35 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A city deadline is fast approaching for proposals to develop a conservation plan for the historic Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Sealed proposals are due Sept. 21 for a consultant to develop a conservation plan for the aging cemetery, which is owned by the city. The city received a grant of $10,000 from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, with a match from the Nansemond River Garden Club, to hire a consultant to develop a plan that tends to the special needs of the cemetery.

Working with the consultant will be a technical review committee, selected last month, consisting of representatives from the Nansemond River Garden Club, the Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. All four organizations have invested extensive volunteer hours and money into the cemetery.

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“A lot of folks have done volunteer work out there,” said Cindy Taylor, who works in the city’s planning department and is the liaison for the committee. “They have a strong interest in preserving the cemetery.”

In addition to the four organizations, representatives from the headstone restoration, landscape architecture and funeral home businesses also will be on the committee to offer their expertise. The committee will have its first meeting sometime this fall, Taylor said, after the consultant has been hired.

The need for a unified vision behind the work done in the cemetery was first realized several years ago. The Nansemond River Garden Club began helping with urgent needs within the cemetery, such as repeated incidents of vandalism and theft of markers, as well as accidental damage of the markers by mowers.

In addition, markers were disappearing at an alarming rate — whether through theft or from sinking into the ground — and then being covered over with dirt and forgotten.

The initial phase of the improvement projects also included restoration of the fountain in the middle of the cemetery, and the planting of a scatter garden, which will ensure the cemetery will remain active perpetually.

A small archeological survey also confirmed the long-held suspicion that a large piece of land in the middle of the cemetery contains unmarked graves.

Now that the most urgent concerns within the cemetery have been addressed, the city and interested organizations hope to develop a long-range plan, which will provide priorities and guidelines for people doing volunteer work in the cemetery.

For more information about the plan for the cemetery, call 514-4060.