On Wednesday I visited the Rock Valley Cemetery with the Holyoke Historic Commission. The Commission had some concerns about the amount of landscaping being done in the cemetery.
The concerns were brought to the commissions attention by Earle Brick, a descendant of those buried in the cemetery, and volunteer caretaker of the burial stones. The heavy machinery being used to mow the grass has created tracked paths up and down the rows, and Earle felt that landscape contractor was simply mowing to frequently. The moss had been killed off in many areas, and Earle suggested, many of us agreed, that the cemetery should be left in a pastoral state, with the grass being mowed only a few times a year. Even more alarming, the weight of the hefty mowing equipment could potentially collapse the coffins in the ground. This is real problem that has occurred in other historic cemeteries.
The city of Holyoke is obliged to maintain the property by state law, but the cemetery is the real property of the descendants having originally been a family burial ground for the farmers of Rock Valley.
Rock Valley is the 2nd oldest cemetery in Holyoke. Many of its residents have been here since the late 1700s. When Earle first went looking for the cemetery he couldn't find it. He was looking in Westspringfield. This section of Holyoke had once been part of Westspringfield, but not anymore. Earle's information was very out of date.
The Historical Commission was happy to learn on Wednesday that the DPW agreed to let Earle mow the property himself from now on, and when he saw fit. So a minor crisis was averted, and the city will be saving money too.
If only all Holyoke problems could be solved this easily...