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Money New Frederictonian calls state of historical landmark "embarrassing", city considers fix

01:01  23 may  2020
01:01  23 may  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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a wooden statue in a park: Thomas Gonder calls the state of the Old Burial Ground © Gary Moore/CBC Thomas Gonder calls the state of the Old Burial Ground

A new Frederictonian says he's appalled by the condition of the Old Burial Ground in the downtown core of the city.

Thomas Gonder moved to Fredericton in January from Toronto.

A self-proclaimed heritage buff, Gonder was eager to visit the cemetery once the snow melted.

He's made a couple of visits there recently, and is surprised with its condition.

"The condition is deplorable." Gonder said. "There appears to me to be very little, if any, maintenance whatsoever."

a man holding a frisbee in the park: Thomas Gonder moved to Fredericton in January from Toronto. © Gary Moore/CBC Thomas Gonder moved to Fredericton in January from Toronto.

"It's really quite embarrassing, I would say, for the city of Fredericton."

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The historical landmark is the final resting place for some key figures in the province's history.

Gonder expected to walk through the site to learn about the city's history, but said that was difficult to do.

"There are toppled tombstones, a lot of them you can't read. There's an open grave, an open tomb."

The City of Fredericton is responsible for maintaining the grounds.

Mike Walker is the city's assistant director of engineering operations, and said there aren't any open graves in the burial grounds.

"I can confirm there are no open graves within the burial grounds, there would be no human remains within that," Walker said, adding that it's a decorative tomb that Gonder is mistaking for an open grave.

But Gonder is still disappointed about the overall conditions at the site.

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a stone wall: Gonder said deteriorating headstones in Fredericton's Old Burial Ground make it hard to learn the city's history. © Gary Moore/CBC Gonder said deteriorating headstones in Fredericton's Old Burial Ground make it hard to learn the city's history.

"It's like finding an old textbook, but it's just been torn to shreds," Gonder described.

Gonder is now focused on cleaning up the site, and hopes to find like-minded people like himself to help.

"In the short term, I think it would be nice to get a group of people together to clean up a lot of the debris and detritus that's lying around."

That may not be necessary.

Mike Walker said crews will be there on Monday to start with the spring clean up.

a stone building: Thomas Gonder said this looked like an open grave site, but the City of Fredericton said it's a decorative tomb. © Gary Moore/CBC Thomas Gonder said this looked like an open grave site, but the City of Fredericton said it's a decorative tomb.

"We're just getting our crews back to work," Walker said. "They'll be cleaning up any debris that's around, they'll be doing some minor pruning."

As for the overall condition of the graveyard, Walker said the city is working on a plan now to deal with all of the cemeteries that the City is responsible for — including the Old Burial Ground.

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"There's different trains of thought and different ways to treat certain burial grounds like this," Walker said. "We're working our way through that to determine what our future upkeep is going to be."

Walker said determining whether the deteriorating tombstones should be replaced or restored is a complicated decision.

"There are some trains of thought that would say that you let them lay on the ground and basically return to nature," Walker said of the broken, and toppled headstones.

"In other areas they've done what they could to stand up every single gravestone ... and try to restore, as best as they can, the writing that exists on those,"

Walker said it might not be possible with some of the headstones at the Old Burial Ground.

He said the plan is still in the early stages now, and it's too soon to say when it will be complete.

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