Amherst will build cemetery

AMHERST – Five years ago the 48-acre former recreation property on Merrimack Road called Cemetery Fields, once home to ball fields and a memorial playground, became officially out of bounds to the public and the playground was dismantled and removed.

That Sept. 1, 2014, deadline marked the end of a bitter and drawn-out conflict between cemetery trustees and residents, many of them parents, who said the town has a greater need for recreation fields than it has for graveyards.

Last week the town’s cemetery trustees held a public hearing on plans for what is now called Forestview Cemetery, and a few neighbors were there, expressing concerns about flooding, well pollution and potential loss of property values.

Ken Clinton of Meridian Land Services, went over the design for the cemetery that would take up about five acres in the northeast corner of the property.

The burial grounds will be divided into four sections, with only one quarter of the property used at first. That quadrant would accommodate 250 graves, which trustees said would take care of the town’s needs for about 10 or 15 years. Plans are to develop a total of about five acres,which would last Amherst between 75 and 100 years, said trustee Lisa Eastland.

They are hoping to take the project out to bid this summer. she said, and the total cost is estimated between $100,000 and $200,000, “but it could be a lot lower. There’s not much work,” she said.

Artie Clifford, who lives across Merrimack Road, asked about a visual barrier, and Eastland showed him trees along Merrimack Road that are on the plan. He and another abutter, Peter Rondeau, asked about property values. According to Realtor.com,, living close to a cemetery decreases values by about 12 percent, Rondeau said.

Responding to concerns about well contamination, Public Works Director Eric Hahn said every casket is in a secure vault, and so are cremains containers. Trustee Cynthia Dokmo suggested abutters who are concerned about water have a baseline well test and come back to trustees if anything changes.

In an email to selectmen, Rondeau asked about re-purposing Forestview “for community enjoyment, conservation land, return it to a playground or open space.”

The property does not belong to the town, however. Income from the trustees’ perpetual care funds was used to buy it in 1993, and several years later a court settlement with the former owners’ heirs said recreation use must stop in 2014. In the March 2014 elections, voters rejected two warrant articles that would have facilitated the return of the fields to recreation.

Meadowview Cemetery, off Foundry Street, is expected to run out of room within a few years. Cricket Corner, on Boston Post Road, just sold its last plot, Eastland said, and St. Patrick, on Merrimack Road, is only for St. Patrick Church parishioners.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.