Dec 19 2011

Historic Headstones Damaged at Mountain View Cemetery

Oakland Heritage Alliance Complains to Cemetery Management –

A copy of the following letter to Jeff Lindeman, Director of Mountain View Cemetery, dated December 14, 2011, was sent to the Piedmont City Council.  

Dear Mr. Lindeman,

On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, concerned neighbors of Mountain View Cemetery contacted the Oakland Heritage Alliance (OHA) to express dismay regarding the treatment of historic headstones located in the un-endowed section of the cemetery.  These visitors reported seeing headstones toppled and crushed, presumably by earthmoving equipment used to clear vegetation.

OHA certainly supports your efforts to comply with fire suppression requirements, but we are distressed by photographs taken at the site on December 13 that show historic headstones freshly collapsed and newly broken (see attached images).  While some of the headstones may have fallen over time due to aggressive eucalyptus growth, these images clearly show the contractors hired to undertake this work had little regard for the historic resources.

Given the cemetery grounds are maintained through endowment fund, we are sympathetic to your financial constraints.  If you require help with 1) identifying grant funding to support preservation of the historic resources in your care, 2) coordinating volunteers who can assist with more sensitive maintenance than that provided by the current contractors, or 3) appealing to your neighbors for donations in support of headstone conservation, OHA is willing to discuss what role it might play in these efforts.

We understand the Mountain View Cemetery Association maintains a budget for headstone restoration.  Although the 2011 funds have been exhausted, we ask you to consider using 2012 money to conserve the historic materials damaged by this recent maintenance mishap.  In addition, you may find information presented by the National Center for Preservation provides an overview of the damaging effects standard landscape maintenance practices have on cemetery historic resources.  Topics include landscape documentation, replacing key features, removing invasive plants, mowing and trimming, tree care, and addressing conflicts between historic vegetation and built features.  All of these issues are relevant at Mountain View Cemetery.

We actively pursue an open dialogue with you and the Mountain View Cemetery Association because the historic landscape you manage is exceptionally unique.  While Mountain View Cemetery is private property, people throughout Oakland identify the landscape as one of the City’s most treasured resources. Other Bay Area communities have architectural gems,but none of them have historic cemeteries on par with Mountain View.  OHA and its members believe, especially in socially and economically difficult times such as these, people need places in their local community that tangibly represent our shared past, inspire awe, and instill pride. In Oakland, Mountain View Cemetery is one of those places.  We ask you to do what you can to retain the defining historic features that make it so.

Sincerely, Dea Bacchetti,  President, Oakland Heritage Alliance

Editor’s Note: This vegetation removal at the cemetery is unrelated to the removal of 3 Eucalyptus trees on Moraga Avenue by the City of Piedmont.

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