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Righting a Sinking Ship - Transforming Municipal Cemeteries

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Kim McKnight

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Righting a Sinking Ship - Transforming Municipal Cemeteries

  1. 1. Righting a Sinking Ship— Transforming Municipal Cemeteries Kim McKnight AICP, CNU-A | Environmental Conservation Program Manager Cultural Resource Management | Historic Preservation Planning Park Planning Division | Austin Parks and Recreation Dept.
  2. 2. Overview of Session • The Reckoning—In 2012, Austin PARD acknowledged that a major problem existed with the management and care of our cemeteries • Where to begin?—The process of identifying the issues and possible solutions • Earning the trust of the community—How to rebuild relationships through a planning process • Time for action—Transforming cemeteries through investment and activation
  3. 3. Oakwood Cemetery, 1839  Earliest recorded burial in 1841  Oldest grave marker, 1842  Oakwood Chapel, 1914  National Register Property and City of Austin Historic Landmark  40 acres  23,000 burials  Receives approximately 40 burials a year  Lots sold by early 20th century
  4. 4. Oakwood Cemetery Annex, 1914 • 1914 purchase of additional land for Oakwood Annex • National Register Property and City of Austin Historic Landmark • 22 acres • 13,000 burials • Receives approximately 70 burials a year • All lots sold by 1940s
  5. 5. Evergreen Cemetery, 1926  Established in 1926 as a 30 acre parcel with 12,000+ burials.  Receives approximately 230 burials annually  Final resting place of many Austin leaders
  6. 6. Plummers Cemetery, 1923 Acquired by City of Austin in 1957  8 acres  Acquired by City of Austin in 1957 as a condition of purchase of land for Givens Park
  7. 7. 2012: State of our Cemeteries • Concerns with long-term contract that outsourced cemetery operations • Did not incentivize preventative maintenance • Contract was not monitored consistently by the dept. • Dept. did not prioritize capital projects in cemeteries leading to deteriorated conditions • Tree care was not a priority and in time of intense drought, cemeteries lost vast amount of trees • Vandalism and theft destroying the cemeteries • Poor relationship with community • No mechanism for community with descendant communities
  8. 8. Where to begin? • How does an agency understand the problem? • Hold community meetings to determine the multitude of issues • Categorize the issues • Determine the possible solutions for each issue • How to get buy-in and trust from the community when master planning? • Spend time scoping • Opportunity to broaden constituency • Opportunity to educate community—community engagement is a two way street • How to blaze new territory to find solution? • What if there is no precedent for your process and plan? • Research and community buy-in
  9. 9. Scoping—six meetings to scope the master plan
  10. 10. Developing the process • How do you engage a diverse constituency? How is a cemetery planning process different from a typical park planning process? • Seniors and youth • Ethnicity and race • Different capacity and comfort zones with technology • Descendant community • Nonprofit involvement • Historic Preservation Community • 5 cemeteries all throughout the city • Neighborhoods
  11. 11. Community Engagement • 6 Scope of Work development meetings • 5 public meetings • Board and Commission process • Media releases • Monthly newsletters throughout entire process placed in libraries and recreation centers • Email notices • City website and project website • Signage in Cemeteries • Extensive outreach through more than 70 social media outlets • Interviews with 25 Stakeholders • Outreach targeted to Community Registry, Austin Neighborhoods Council, Save Austin’s Cemeteries, Preservation Austin, African-American Cultural Heritage District
  12. 12. The draft Master Plan Part I: Introduction 1. Introduction 2. Natural, Historical, and Cultural Contexts
  13. 13. The draft Master Plan Part II: Cemetery Management Guidelines 3. General Management Guidelines 4. Oakwood Cemetery 5. Oakwood Cemetery Annex 6. Plummers Cemetery 7. Evergreen Cemetery 8. Austin Memorial Park Cemetery
  14. 14. General Management Guidelines Rehabilitation •Document, document, document! •Repair before replace •Replace in-kind •New work complements historic character •Differentiated from old •Compatible in material, size, scale, proportion, and massing •Subordinate to historic features
  15. 15. GIS-based tree inventory and digitization
  16. 16. Spatial Organization and Circulation General Management Guidelines
  17. 17. Vegetation General Management Guidelines
  18. 18. Vegetation General Management Guidelines
  19. 19. Vegetation General Management Guidelines
  20. 20. Vegetation General Management Guidelines
  21. 21. Fences General Management Guidelines
  22. 22. Grave Markers, Plot Curbs, Plot Fencing—Level One General Management Guidelines
  23. 23. Grave Markers, Plot Curbs, Plot Fencing—Level Two General Management Guidelines
  24. 24. Grave Markers, Plot Curbs, Plot Fencing—Level Three General Management Guidelines
  25. 25. Site Furnishings General Management Guidelines
  26. 26. Site Furnishings General Management Guidelines
  27. 27. Site Furnishings--Signs General Management Guidelines
  28. 28. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery
  29. 29. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery Overall: Vegetation Conditions
  30. 30. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery Overall: Marker Conditions
  31. 31. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery: Drainage channel
  32. 32. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery: Chapel
  33. 33. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Cemetery: Wayfinding and Interpretation
  34. 34. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Oakwood Annex Cemetery: Visitor seating
  35. 35. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Plummers Cemetery: Vulnerability
  36. 36. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Evergreen Cemetery: Appearance and Entrance
  37. 37. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Facilities
  38. 38. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Facilities
  39. 39. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Facilities
  40. 40. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Entrance
  41. 41. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Boundary Fence
  42. 42. Cemetery Treatment Guidelines Austin Memorial Park Cemetery: Screening
  43. 43. The draft Master Plan Part III: Policy and Funding Recommendations 9. Regulations and Laws 10. Cemetery Oversight 11. Emergency Preparedness 12. Historic Designations 13. Grave Ornamentation 14. Funding and Revenue 15. Partnerships and Programs
  44. 44. Programming Basics • Educational • For children and adults • Cemeteries as a lens through which people can understand Austin’s history • Opportunities to study decorative arts (sculpture, photography) • Exploration of different cultural traditions in a diverse community • Based on best practices and proven successful programs from around the United States • Recreation = leisure; something you do in your spare time • Primarily for adults • Only activities that are respectful of the cemeteries • Nothing that would damage the natural or built environment
  45. 45. Programming: Findings 1. We have two types of city cemeteries. A one- size-fits-all programming plan will not work. 2. Any decisions about programming must be made fairly and objectively. 3. The community largely supports programming in the three “inactive” cemeteries.
  46. 46. Programming Recommendations Classify Oakwood Cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery Annex, and Plummers Cemetery as “historic sites” and move their management into PARD Museums and Cultural Centers
  47. 47. • Add one full-time PARD staff person to manage programming • Require community groups to apply for permission to hold events at cemeteries. • Create a Cemeteries Committee to evaluate potential programming. • Will include a diverse group of residents. • Takes the decision-making out of the hands of a single person. • Will includes regular public meetings, where members of sponsoring organizations and the public can speak for or against a proposed program/event.
  48. 48. Establish criteria for evaluating potential programs/events. • Programs/events should engage visitors and enhance their experience and understanding of the City of Austin and its historic cemeteries. • Programs/events should highlight or draw attention to a particular aspect of the cemetery (history, art, culture, or nature). • Presentations should be based on credible information, gathered and documented through research. • Programs/events will occur within the cemeteries and be temporary in nature (one year or less), with the exception of projects designed to be more permanent, such as the development of interpretive materials, self-guided walking tours, etc.
  49. 49. Establish criteria for evaluating potential programs/events. • Programs/events should have little or no impact on historical, cultural, or natural resources. • Programs/events should be sensitive to accessibility and safety issues for both visitors and staff. • Programs/events should include contingency planning in order to respect the privacy of any persons visiting the graves of loved ones or mourners who may be present in the cemetery. • The proposal must explain how the sponsoring organization will: • Provide participants with a copy of PARD cemetery etiquette guidelines; • require participants to behave appropriately during the program/event; and • remove participants whose behavior is inappropriate or could damage historical, cultural, or natural resources in the cemetery.
  50. 50. Selection Criteria • Ability to increase awareness and appreciation of Austin’s historic city cemeteries • Potential to engage a diverse group of residents • Potential to benefit the cemetery in some way • Quality of program content • Projected attendance and ability of sponsoring organization to manage expected number of participants • Ability to ensure safety, accessibility, and security
  51. 51. Let the work begin!
  52. 52. Awards and Recognition
  53. 53. Thank you! Questions? To view the Cemetery Master Plan, visit: https://austintexas.gov/cmp

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