Articles published in January, 2013

Patriotic Squirrels Stealing Flags from Veteran’s Graves

PATRIOTIC SQUIRRELS Stealing Flags from Veteran’s Graves- Port Huron, Michigan.

Patriotic Squirel

A brazen squirrel has been grabbing small American flags placed in a cemetery and carrying them up to its nest, which now looks as if it’s bedecked in bunting.

Every Memorial Day, volunteers place the flags next to the graves of nearly 1,000 veterans buried at Mount Hope Cemetery about 55 miles northeast of Detroit. The flags were undisturbed during a Mass held Monday. Workers at the cemetery on Tuesday noticed several flags had been torn off their wooden staffs, which were still in the ground.

The mystery was solved in front of superintendent Ron Ceglarek’s eyes. He watched a squirrel detach a flag stapled to a staff and carry it up a tree to the nest. (from news service reports)

Winslow council OKs plants for hill

By Scott Monroe smonroe@mainetoday.com Scott Monroe — 861-9239 smonroe@centralmaine.com Staff Writer

Fort Hill Cemetery in Winslow, ME

WINSLOW — The Winslow Town Council on Monday said yes to pursuing more details on planting vegetation at the Fort Hill Cemetery slope and possibly moving endangered grave sites near its edge.

The council’s unanimous approval of a resolution allows Town Manager Michael Heavener to work with engineers on solutions for the unstable slope. Heavener said he’d seek cost estimates and return to the council later.

Councilor Ray Caron said the proposed solutions are “the way to go,” but he cautioned that the measures won’t necessarily be a permanent fix.

“Moving those graves doesn’t mean we won’t face another catastrophe in the future,” Caron said. “But it does address our responsibility to those graves that are in jeopardy.”

Councilors also held out hope that the cost of the slope stabilization efforts could be shared by the state government or others.

“Obviously, I’m not happy taxpayers are having to correct this problem,” said councilor Ken Fletcher.

The slope had a landslide sometime in late March 2010; a pile of trees and debris fell into the Sebasticook River and created a small island in the river. The graves atop the slope were undisturbed, but town officials and citizens have been concerned about future slides.

The Fort Hill Cemetery was created behind the former Fort Halifax and has more than 200 gravestones, some dating back to the mid-1700s.

Florida Power & Light Energy, owners of the former Fort Halifax dam, commissioned a study that concluded the slope crumbled because of unusually heavy rain, unstable soil conditions, and a small earthquake 41 miles away. The study said company’s removal of the nearby dam in 2008 didn’t play a significant role.

Town and state officials have disagreed with those conclusions and asked FPLE to contribute to the stabilization efforts, but the company has declined.

Recently, Heavener met with state officials to discuss ways of stabilizing the slope, such as installing riprap, or a stone wall, at the toe; constructing a barrier to protect the new island that’s formed at the slope’s base; and digging a shallow channel on the opposite riverbank to divert water.

Officials said two other options stood out because they would cost less: planting vegetation at the toe of the slope; and moving a dozen or so grave sites near the edge and cutting the upper portion of the slope back to a more natural angle. More vegetation would be planted on top as well to strengthen the sandy soil.

Councilor Catherine Nadeau questioned whether the vegetation at the toe of the slope would remain intact when the river’s water level rises.

“That vegetation isn’t going to stay there, is it?” she asked.

Heavener said an engineer with the Department of Environmental Protection made the recommendation.

“There’s existing technology suitable for applying vegetation to the toe,” Heavener said. “But I’m not an expert; I couldn’t begin to tell you what that type of vegetation would look like.”

Though Heavener has identified a dozen or so grave sites in danger near the edge, he said it won’t be known which ones would need to be moved until an expert can tell the town how far back the upper portion of the slope needs to be cut back.

Heavener said he’s waiting for officials with the Maine Geological Survey to tell him “how urgent” the need is to move the grave sites. If the need is urgent, Heavener said, the town may not go through the time-consuming — and possibly fruitless — process of trying to identify living relatives.

Chairman Gerald Saint Amand said councilors would probably hold a public hearing later on when proposals for the slope become more detailed. “We’re still in the early stages,” he said.

This old gravestone and others at the Fort Hill Cemetery in Winslow are within 12 feet of a slope that falls toward the Sebasticook River, in background. Town officials are considering moving some of the centuries-old graves.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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