W hat were once attractive additions to a serene setting are now posing a danger to it. Officials with the Mettowee Valley Cemetery have announced that the giant pine trees which border much of the historic cemetery have aged and deteriorated to the point that they simply must be removed…
“Most of them are now rotting and dead – you can see the rot right in them,” cemetery board president Ron Barrett said.
Barrett said the board had been trying to find a way to get the trees removed, possibly at no cost, but that attempt fell through when the bottom fell out of the pulp market.
“We were hoping that someone would come in and take them down for the value of the wood, but that tuned out to be fantasy land,” Barrett said.
“We had some guy that was going to come in and do it for the wood, but then the market went and he said he couldn’t do it,” Barrett said.
Estimates to remove the trees have come in between $900 and $1,500 – per tree.
What makes the problem so enormous, Barrett said, is that the cemetery had experts identify as many as 60 trees that have to go, totaling roughly $60,000 in removal costs funds that the board simply does not have.
“We’re worried that they might damage the roads to say nothing of the headstones and the grounds,” Barrett said.
A letter writing campaign to the families who either have plots or loved ones buried at the cemetery has been underway for more than a year, but he said there are many more families represented in the cemetery that they have no contact information for, and not everyone who is contacted can afford to make a donation.
“People have given us what they can, $25 up to $1,000,” Barrett said.
“There are, I’d guess, four or five hundred families represented up there, but some have moved away and we have no way to get a hold of them to ask for their help,” he said.
The board raised about $4,000 in donations through the effort, enough to take down about five trees, he said.
Barrett said the board continues to do research and explore grants and other avenues for help, but the grant route is full of tough competition for each dollar, and is not a source that can be counted upon.
The only other source of revenue for the cemetery are burial costs, but Barrett said the board has rigid controls from the state dictating what has to be done with those funds.
Further compounding the problem, Barrett said, was the fact that this issue was not one that could be tackled by a big group of volunteers and a few chain saws.
“There just aren’t that many people that can do this kind of thing,” he said. “It’s got to be a professional because there’s just too much liability and risk involved,” Barrett said.
Although the cemetery has an endowment of about $200,000 he said the funds the endowment produce have been coming up short in recent years for the cost of simple upkeep on the cemetery.
“Long range, I don’ know what’s going to happen,” he said.
People who are interested in helping the cause can contact Ron Barrett or send a letter to Kay Edwards at 45 East Main Street, Granville, NY, 12832.
Mettowee Valley Cemetery board president Ron Barrett said they are also seeking people who want to get involved in operating the cemetery. The board consists of only six members at this point he said, a small representative population for the hundreds of families represented in the cemetery. Contact Kay Edwards of the board or send a letter to her at 45 East Main Street, Granville, NY 12832, if you’re interested in joining the Mettowee Valley Cemetery board.