Fredericksburg Cemetery Company President Jeanette Cadwallender is at a boiling point and who can blame her. Irresponsible drivers keep crashing into their precious cemetery wall on Washington Avenue across from The Free-Lance Star headquarters.
The latest incident was this past weekend when a 26-year-old Spotsylvania County man was charged with DUI after police say he crashed his vehicle through the wall.
But it isn't just the cemetery wall crashes that bother Cadwallender. She's also annoyed with the lack of historic acuteness some people in the community have when they talk about the wall because they always seem to confuse it with the Confederate Cemetery that shares the same entrance with the City Cemetery. Her own ancestors, the Rowes, are buried in the City Cemetery so she has a personal stake in protecting this property. The Fredericksburg Cemetery Company maintains the City Cemetery and has been around since 1844.
At Tuesday's City Hall meeting, Cadwallender asked City Council to take action. But first she had to clear up any misconception.
"Before I go any further I want to explain that we are not the Confederate Cemetery, nor do we receive money from the City, despite being known as the City Cemetery," she said. "These two points have lead to much confusion. The Confederate Cemetery, managed by the Ladies Memorial Association, was built adjacent to ours after the Civil War. The fact that there are citizen burials in the Confederate Cemetery and Confederate graves in the City Cemetery adds to the misunderstanding. The City Cemetery was accessed from the stone gate on Commerce—now William Street. The lowering of the road, and the erection of the stately iron gate on Washington Avenue in 1870 have both contributed to the common confusion. One accesses the City Cemetery today from a gate that reads, Confederate Cemetery. All the burials to the left are in the City Cemetery."
Cadwallender expressed her frustration long enough to go over the five-minute time limit allowed to organizations, which brought out the City Hall referee, only to be rebuffed by Mayor Tom Tomzak, who let her continue on.
"I'll be one more minute," Cadwallender retorted to the "your time is up" warning. Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley glared over at Tomzak who didn't even notice as he listened to every word of Cadwallender's speech. You know the old saying, "Don't upset someone who buys ink by the barrel." Jeanette Cadwallender is the wife of Nick Cadwallender, the associate publisher of The Free-Lance Star.
Along with the identity problem, Cadwallender said that the cost to repair the wall is paid by insurance and it has cost more than $33,960, not counting the most-recent wall bashing. The result of all of these crashes is a mosaic of different colors of brick and cement. Yes, it is one ugly section of the wall.
"Patch following patch has repaired the holes but the entire wall shifts with each 4,000-pound collision," she said. "It won’t be long before the entire wall will need to be replaced. Our organization runs on a shoestring. Thanks to contributions we are lucky to have enough money to cut the grass. Replacing the wall is out of our reach."
So, with the cost of replacing the wall not possible, Cadwallender asked City Council to find other solutions.
"Many people have contacted me with their suggestions for a solution; stop sign, 3-way stop, traffic light, rerouting traffic, bollards, guardrail and reducing the camber of Amelia Street," she said. Cadwallender said she spoke with City Manager Beverly Cameron in November 2011 and finally heard back from him Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after she delivered a hand-written letter to him on Monday. Cameron's response cited the five changes the city has made in response to the wall problem.
Those changes are:
- The installation of “T intersection 500 feet ahead signs," one on each side of the street on Amelia Street, just past Winchester Street.
- The installation of black and yellow chevrons near the gate to the Confederate Cemetery, indicating that motorists approaching on Amelia Street must turn either left or right at the intersection with Washington Avenue.
- The replacement of the lenses in the amber flashing lights above the intersection of Amelia/Washington with arrow lenses, again indicating that motorists approaching on Amelia must turn either left or right at this intersection.
- Making sure that the pavement markings on the Amelia Street approach to the intersection clearly indicate the “left or right but not straight” traffic flow at the intersection.
- Raised the height of the curb along Washington Avenue.
"He notes, and I concur, that none of these modifications has worked, hence the two accidents within five months," Cadwallender said.
The next solution that is coming out of the halls of the city government is adding a 240-foot guardrail along Washington Avenue to block the wall. Cadwallender said all this does is make more people think Amelia Street is part of a highway system, not a neighborly 25 mph road. She asked City Council to make the protection of this cemetery wall a priority.
"If a barrier is the best solution, let’s explore bollards that can be just as effective in this setting and that respect the neighborhood and which meet the aesthetic requirements of this historic part of town," she said. "Would you consider a guardrail around the Hugh Mercer monument, just two blocks away? I hope not. Bollards are used effectively in other cities in pedestrian settings such as the colonial treasures in Philadelphia."
At the end of the meeting Tuesday, Councilman George Solley asked the city to come up with other alternatives than blocking the wall with a guardrail and the ramifications of each potential solution.
"I have to admit, I was a little bit surprised that the guardrail was the only recommendation," he said.
Cameron said he would have a report back to council in two to four weeks.