Voice of the People: Consider different approach to cemetery

May 21, 2019

In the article titled “Found bones linked to typhoid outbreak?” from the weekend May 11-12 edition, there is what many may consider admirable sentiment by Park District Director Dayna Heitz that some of the district’s land is sacred. It was once an old, and now mostly abandoned and forgotten, cemetery.

The reverence for our deceased forbearers is not solely held by citizens of the United States, but by many cultures throughout our entire world, throughout millennial history.

What I find puzzling is the district’s stance on the property. As noted on Page 3, “It’s a sacred site,” Heitz said. “I want us to be respectful of this ground since people are buried. I want (people) to see in there but not go in there.” This fence it off and restrict it attitude is in stark contrast to the attitude in our area. Specifically, Blatt Park in Bradley is not only a forgotten cemetery, but a former cemetery highly researched by the late Dave King and featured in past pages of the Daily Journal.

One cemetery has known entombments whose markers have been removed or buried under, the other, no markers, only perhaps a name recorded on a page in a dusty ledger, also forgotten or lost? We see kids and families using one park on a regular basis, entombments still present (?), while the other is totally neglected. One maintained, and perhaps enjoyed as our late Victorian era ancestors might have, picnicking and remembering their relatives, the other allowed to slip away into forgotten history.

It’s great that the Kankakee park district wants to put up a fence and a sign, but to restrict entry seems a good way to continue to forget. A kind of once and done approach. I know funding is likely a point of consideration, sadly, but now that we know what is there, shouldn’t more be done than to put up a fence and forget? Similarly, the same approach with the old State Hospital Cemetery?

I would also note the seemingly Laisse faire re-entombment…just dig a short hole and cover them up picture stands as stark contrast to the restricted access approach that the park district wishes to impose upon the grounds.

Perhaps a solution could be a melding of both. Several signs, one prominently outlining the sacred history as a cemetery and why, along with a smaller less prominent metal one outlining current state law concerning cemetery decorum, penalties, and an information phone number, county clerks and the state authority for cemeteries. I know several small cemeteries in nearby Indiana that have both, and are classified as pioneer cemeteries, and accorded special considerations. It could be a good starting point. Limited maintenance is not only allowed, but there have been studies as to native prairie grasses and wild flowers that exist, almost requiring that mowing not take place, along with listing some of them.

It might be a better solution than to fence off and consider entering a forgotten cemetery a criminal trespass violation?


William R. McCabe


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