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Forest Hills Cemetery Closed Gap in Fence in Response to Near Overdose

The opening, just off the Bethel AME Church parking lot, was much used by dog walkers, walkers, teenagers and, apparently, drug users.

Forest Hills Cemetery officials closed an "unauthorized entrance" after someone almost overdosed within the cemetery's wooded areas.

Until this week, there had for years been a gap in the cemetery's wrought iron fence at the parking lot of , near . The gap was heavily used by dog walkers but also taken advantage of by partiers or drug users.

Two summers ago, a fire was set in the section of the cemetery just by the gap.

It was the near-death of a drug user that prompted the cemetery to shut the gap, said Janice Stetz, office manager for the historic cemetery. That overdose was near the Tower Street gate.

She said visitors from Forest Hills neighborhood will have to use the authorized entrances on Tower and Walk Hill streets.

"We welcome dog walkers and visitors to the cemetery by using our authorized entrances," she said.

She said dog walkers play a positive role at the cemetery, with the caveat that they must pick up after their pets.

"We do count on dog walkers who use authorized entrances to put an extra set of eyes on the property," said Stetz.

Further, she said fears about a lack of fire truck access to the area are unfounded, because an access road and small roundabout are nearby.

[Editor's note: The location of the overdose was added after initial posting of this story.]

Mayre Plunkett June 30, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Though what wasn't mentioned was that the OD was at the Tower St. gate.
Chris Helms (Editor) June 30, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Yes, you're right, Mayre. I'll add that to the story.
Maura June 30, 2011 at 10:14 PM
this is absurd. the gate's existence or lack thereof has nothing to do with someone's drug use. the legit gates are shut so tight you can't get in early in the morning.
Tess Pope July 01, 2011 at 01:15 AM
Hey, y'all, without disclosing my sources, I think it will be important for the Cemetery to understand that those who use that area for drugs, parties, etc have many way to get into the Cemetery regardless of gates or no gates. Closing that gate will allow the abusers of the space to continue unabated, without even the worry of dog walkers encountering them. It is the dog walkers who keep the area safe. It was my husband who learned who set the fires up there two summers ago, spoke to that person privately and thus the fires ended. He and I both approached persons we know who had been involved in partying there and leaving a mess. Those persons went up there and cleaned up the entire mess. I am sure we all have similar stories. There are so many ways to get around the fences and gates, especially if you are agile and young and do not have a dog with you. Perhaps if we approach George Millie and advocate for that entrance to be left open, and the dog walkers in the neighborhood will make an organized effort to keep the area safe? I also am privy to knowledge that at least some of the needles were thrown over the fence from a user who got high in the playground and who does not live in this area at all. The playground is heavily used by families and dog walkers. I think we all have a real investment in the area, and I think that perhaps we can advocate together to keep that entrance open. What do you all think?
William Dawes July 01, 2011 at 04:33 AM
A few comments: 1. The overdose which happened inside the Tower Street Gate occurred during the daytime. Therefore, it would have happened whether this "entrance" was open or not. 2. This was not an "unauthorized entrance". It was a makeshift entrance, yes. But the cemetery itself removed several bars years ago to make it easier for people to enter through this point in the fence after someone had removed one bar previously. 3. Forest Hills Cemetery is a Trust, with a president who is overseen by a board of directors. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is the past president, Mr. Erling Bud Hanson. His address, which is publicly available on the internet, is in East Falmouth. Anyone who wishes to express their opinion could write to him as Chairman of the Board. 4. There is also a small gate which opened onto Orchard Hill Road near the Greenhouses on the cemetery property. This gate, which was able to be closed and locked, and was also being used by neighbors, is now being welded shut.
William Dawes July 01, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Sorry. The proper name of the Chairman of the Board is Mr. Erling A Hanson, Jr. His address is in East Falmouth. "Bud" was a nickname he used.
mlai5241 July 05, 2011 at 07:11 PM
I have a hard time understanding what the issue is. The Cemetary clearly states that it's open "from dusk to dawn" (http://www.foresthillscemetery.com/visiting/) and frankly, if it's pitch black is there any good to be had from someone being in the Cemetary then? I assume the fence was installed with a purpose, otherwise, what is the point of having a fence. If the Cemetery Management is not opening or closing the gates between dusk and dawn, that is a separate discussion, but as a father to a young child, what kind of message are we sending - what kind of example are we setting - when we as adults selectively chooses, which "rules" we want to obey vs. the nature of rules in general?
Ken Pope July 05, 2011 at 10:19 PM
mlai - unless you always drive the speed limit you already 'selectively choose' which rules you want to obey. The Arboretum also has 'hours' of operation and gates - yet there are still many entrances which people can use after those hours. I certainly teach my children to question everything and to learn as much as they can about things rather than to blindly follow them because they're 'laws'. Part of the 'charm' of living in this area is the access to these spaces - and when it's been 'open' for 30 years I suspect one could even make a legal argument for 'right of way' usage.
Bill July 05, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Good Gawd, lets not go too far afield over a one-hit-wonder, folks. Don't let the smug come down on me... =) Yes, we could theorize this to the nth degree, but the essential fact is dope fiends will always get high somewhere. If not there then a local rest room, some bushes off of Morton Street or behind a building. We're talking about drug addicts and yes, they walk among us. Forest Hills is quite a lively spot for wheeling and dealing, believe it or not, so this happening nearby is par for the course. No need for an a hoc committee or advocacy group -- can't see it from Centre Street anyhow -- it's just life in the city.

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