Help preserve an important Amherst resource: Vote yes on Warrant Article 40 and Warrant Article 26

To the Editor:

On March 11, Amherst voters will determine whether or not Cemetery Fields becomes either 1. A one-acre burial site with the remaining 46.8 acres unused and unavailable for recreation, or 2. A one-acre burial site with 10 acres of recreation space and 36.8 acres of unused space.

The Amherst Cemetery Trustees can legally sell all or part of the 47.8-acre parcel known as Cemetery Fields on Merrimack Road at fair market value as determined by an independent appraisal. That fact has been confirmed by Terry Knowles, the assistant director of Charitable Trusts for the New Hampshire attorney general.

G2 +1 Landscape Architecture, the firm that designed the cemetery, completed a survey of the 47.8 acres of land and informed the Board of Selectman and the Cemetery Trustees that due to the Shoreline Protection Act and other environmental laws, 60 percent of the land is unsuitable for cemetery use. Part of this area is covered by the playing fields used by Amherst residents for recreation. Note that an occasional flooding of this area is good for sports fields because it supplies the fields with needed nutrients.

The Cemetery Trustees believe that having burial plots in close proximity to playing fields is not appropriate. This opinion contradicts an existing precedent. In the village, Spaulding Field is just a few steps from the Meadowview Cemetery. The distance separating the cemetery portion and the fields’ portion at Cemetery Fields would be greater than the distance separating Spaulding Field and Meadowview Cemetery.

At the Citizens’ Forum on Cemetery Fields held on Jan. 8, Amherst Selectman Dwight Brew stated that Cemetery Fields has been a tremendous asset to the town and the loss would have a direct impact on our children. He went on to state that if the Cemetery Trustees agreed to sell off eight to 10 acres of the land that lies in the flood plain, they would still comply with the applicable regulations and serve the best interest of the town.

To further illustrate the support for preserving the playing fields at Cemetery Fields, the Amherst Board of Selectman are requesting the approval of $180,000 to purchase eight to 10 acres of land at Cemetery Fields through Warrant Article 26 that will also appear on the March 11 ballot for you, the voter, to decide.

If the Cemetery Trustees sold these acres of land that is unsuitable for burial purposes to the town of Amherst, the Cemetery Trustees would have the necessary funding to begin construction of the Forest View Cemetery (the name given to the future cemetery portion), and the town of Amherst would retain the much needed playing fields. This shared-land concept is not new and would be the best scenario for the town of Amherst.

The outcome of this issue will impact everyone in the town of Amherst in the short-term and long-term. Keep in mind, that only the three Cemetery Trustees are making this decision for the approximately 12,000 residents of Amherst of which approximately 3,000 are 19 years old and younger.

Decisions that impact Amherst’s children today, and future generations of children, should be made by the elected officials that represent the best interests of all of our town’s residents.

What can you do to preserve the recreational use of this land and provide adequate burial space for our town? Vote yes on Warrant Articles 40 and 26. This will transfer the decision on Cemetery Fields to the Board of Selectman who were elected by the voters of Amherst to govern all issues that impact the entire town of Amherst.

Kids can’t vote; please vote for them.

ANDREW ROWE, FABY GAGNÉ, NYE HORNOR, THOMAS WOLD, ERIC FACEY, JAMES PAGLIOCCO,
NATHANIEL JENSEN and PATRICK AHEARN

Friends of Cemetery Fields