By Benjamin Gohs
A public hearing on the question of erecting gates and establishing hours at Boyne City’s Maple Lawn Cemetery was held on Tuesday Dec. 10 during the Boyne City Commission’s regular bi-monthly meeting.
Boyne City Clerk Cindy Grice gave an overview of the issue prior to the hearing.
“We received approximately $10,300 in donations for cemetery gates from donations in memory of Jim Stackus, along with other contributions. So at that time we talked about possibilities of closing some gates, putting in gates and just some gates in general,” she said. “Since that time, we’ve heard from a few citizens who verbally stated they were in favor of keeping the cemetery open at all hours as it is now. We also placed notice on our city Facebook page about the topic of this hearing and on Twitter—I don’t remember any comments on Twitter—but I attached the comments from our Facebook page in response to that notice and people mostly expressed to not have gates placed in some situations or not at all.”
Grice added, “Most or all comments were to keep the cemetery open at all hours.”
Grice said having 11 entrances on the cemetery is excessive.
“My recommendation at this point was to close off those two entrances,” she said.
Grice said she would like to see the money used for gates regardless of whether hours of operation are set.
Gates cost roughly $2,500; it would cost $500 to $600 to permanently close any currently open areas.
Former Boyne City Commissioner and current Charlevoix County Under-sheriff Chuck Vondra said he would like to see the money that was raised for gates to be used for gates and close some of the entrance points.
The main concern, mentioned in previous meetings, is that the cemetery tends to be used by runners, dog walkers and cyclists—not the intended purpose of a cemetery.
One member of the public asked why the city felt there is a need to put gates on the cemetery.
Grice said there was a “major incident” of vandalism in 2007.
“Since then we have had very minor incidents, and certainly none of them required any type of insurance claim,” she said. “It was discussion that took place within the cemetery fence committee.”
Comments against erecting the gates included concern that people should be allowed to enter the cemetery to visit graves of loved ones at any time they so choose.
Former Boyne City Mayor Elanor Stackus—wife of the late and aforementioned Jim Stackus—said that, during her time on the fence committee, the response from stakeholders was overwhelming that gates should be erected.
“I think this has gotten way out of proportion,” she said…. “We never said we were going to lock the gates.”
The idea, Stackus said, was to beautify the cemetery, not to keep people out.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she has heard from numerous people, and she feels that the design is missing a beautiful gate for the main entrance that reads “Maple Lawn Cemetery” to finish it and make it look complete.
She said she is not in favor of closing the cemetery off completely but having some gates could diminish non-cemetery related traffic.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said he was uncomfortable locking the cemetery so people could not go there when they want to. He did say the moneys intended for gates should be used thusly, and an ornamental gate should be erected at the main entrance.
“The overwhelming commentary, along with my initial feeling on it, was to not do that (close it off),” he said.
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he understands this is a very sensitive issue and that, in discussions with citizens, the question arose as to when gates would be locked if they were erected.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he thought citizens should be able to enter the cemetery whenever they chose. However, he said, no cemetery needs 11 entrances and outlets, that it only causes an increase in traffic conflict.
“Let’s close off some gates, strategically … let’s look at possibly a grand entrance, let’s keep it open 24-7,” Neidhamer said.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch also supported the idea of a grand entrance, cutting some of the direct pass-through traffic areas where it makes sense and keeping the cemetery open for visitors at all times.
Vondra said, as a member of the cemetery fence committee, neither he nor his group ever suggested closing the cemetery off to visitors.
Boyne City Commissioner Chris Christensen, and Boyne City resident, said he has family in the cemetery and hopes officials be mindful of which entrances they close so as not to cause problems for funeral traffic and for people who need to drive up to graves due to their advanced age or physical limitations.