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Maintenance: The Forgotten Variable
Debi Hacker and Michael Trinkley
Chicora Foundation, Inc.

In industry the concept of preventive or preventative maintenance is accepted, if not always acted on. The limiting factor is always funding and, over the past decade, as budgets shrank, so too did the attention directed to preventative maintenance.

In the cemetery profession, preventative maintenance was clearly recognized at the turn of the century. Perpetual care aside, cemetarians had a very clear understanding of what was needed to maintain a cemetery and there are many articles that outlined these concerns – and provided warnings of what will happen without appropriate care. A notable few cemeteries maintain that historic tie with past maintenance efforts. Others, however, are barely able to keep the weeds mowed and, if asked, would be hard pressed to describe any maintenance practices beyond mowing.

The economic downturn and decline in trust funds is certainly an issue, but the problem began long before the current recession. Contributing factors include increased competition, pricing too low to support appropriate maintenance, and an increase in cremations. In addition, landscape maintenance is undervalued by the public; often sextons or superintendents have little or no training. Too often municipal cemeteries are operated by parks and recreation departments with little or no experience in a cemetery setting.

All of these issues eat away at cemetery maintenance – and increase the needs for very costly stone and ironwork conservation. It is akin to a fine arts conservator treating an oil painting only to have the client hang the work in a barn. It is time for those of us interested in cemetery preservation to focus more on preventative conservation – and especially preventative maintenance – than on individual object treatments.

This paper examines these issues and also explores the range of landscape maintenance problems found in the cemeteries for which we have conducted assessments. We also offer suggests for maximizing landscape maintenance resources.

Debi Hacker is the conservation administrator of Chicora Foundation, Inc., a public, nonprofit heritage preservation organization, with more than two decades of cemetery experience. Ms. Hacker is a member of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), Association of Gravestone Studies; PLANET – Professional Landcare Network; International Society of Arboriculture (ISA); and SC Nursery and Landscape Association. Ms. Hacker is licensed in Category 3, Turf & Ornamental Pesticide (SC) and holds a Landscape and Horticulture Certificate, and a Turfgrass Management Certificate.

Michael Trinkley is director of Chicora Foundation, Inc., a public, nonprofit heritage preservation organization with over two decades of cemetery preservation experience. Dr. Trinkley is a member of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC); Association of Gravestone Studies; Association of Preservation Technology; National Trust for Historic Preservation; Preservation Trades Network; and US/ICOMOS – Brick, Masonry and Ceramics Committee. His specialties include stone and ironwork.

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4 Responses to Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit Abstracts and Video

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  2. Robert Wrigley says:

    My wife’s gr-gr-grandfather is a Union soldier buried there. When we visited this grave site last October we were quite dismayed at the condition and damage done to the stones by lawn mowers running over and chipping it. At the time we did not know the full history of the markers being altered in the 1930s. We would fully support the efforts to restore them.
    Would it be possible for a private citizen to be able to contribute to the restoration of their family’s marker or replacement? Perhaps a volunteer effort of those with relatives there could help accomplish some of this initiative to restore to their original condition.

    • Jason Church says:

      Dear Robert,
      The best person to talk with will be Betsy Dinger Elizabeth_Dinger@nps.gov who is a historian for Petersburg National Battlefield and Cemetery.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro says:

      Mr. Wrigley,
      I don’t know if you’ll get this message but I would be very interested to know which of the men buried at Battleground Cemetery is your wife’s gr-gr-grandfather. I am a historian and I have spent the last several years researcing the battle of Fort Stevens and Battleground National Cemetery. Does your wife have a photograph of her ancestor? That would be a goldmine. I have never seen any picture of any of the men killed at the battle.

      If you can be of help to me, my e-mail address is bryanac625@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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