The City has announced that they have hired a landscape architect to present a Master Plan for renovating the Garden Cemetery – with Phase 1 starting as early as this fall.
The goal, said Planner Karl Allen, is to have it all done by 2024.
“We’ve hired our landscape architect to put together a phased Master Plan for rehabilitating the cemetery,” he said. “Our goal is to have it in a condition where we can open it to the public from dawn to dusk on a daily basis by 2024 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Chelsea.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the substantial repair of the historic, garden-style cemetery is part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) – which the City Council approved last week. That CIP had $350,000 set aside for the Garden Cemetery work.
He said the Master Plan will include an analysis of the full rehabilitation and the costs associated with that.
“It’s a little bit of a jewel,” he said. “I think the City would like to spend some money to make it pop a little bit. It can be a small oasis in the middle of the city if treated properly and with a significant investment. I’m proud to recommend that.”
The first step in the program will be putting out phase one in for bid in the fall.
Phase one will include fixing the retaining wall on Shawmut Street that is close to collapse. It will also include replacing the metal fence around the cemetery and putting a new central gate on Shawmut and Chester. The existing entrance will have a new French gate and an arch with the words ‘Garden Cemetery 1841’ above the entrance.
Next year, it is expected that they will continue with the rehab and make the paths ADA compliant and fix the Soldier’s Lot. They will replace the broken up asphalt path piece by piece and put in something that is more appropriate to the time period, such as stone dust.
One of the key issues is that the grave stones over the years have fallen or been knocked over. That is an expensive proposition to set back all of the fallen stones, but Allen said they will likely do that incrementally over time.
“That’s definitely on our radar in order to get it open,” he said. “The restoration and resetting of the graves toppled is probably a very long-term process…Our initial purpose is to address safety issues.”
He also said they hope to be able to include an educational aspect to the project to get the students in Chelsea schools interested and informed about the Garden Cemetery.