The pungent smell of purple-flowered mustard weed fills the air. I can hear dogs barking and cars revving in the distance, but for the most part, birdsong reins.
I’m sitting in a camp chair in the field behind Grantsville’s J. Reuben Clark farm, writing this op-ed on my laptop, the sun warming my face. The field and the land beyond stretches for miles. It’s a beautiful place to write from.
And to be buried in — if the city proceeds with its planned cemetery expansion. In the soft grass underfoot, sprinkler heads for the planned cemetery are already staked every few feet.
Many of my neighbors oppose the idea of the historic landmark being converted into burial plots. A friend from my church stopped by the other day with a petition asking the city to put its plans on hold until further review and public input.
Where were all these people two years ago?
That’s when the city asked for the public’s input in the matter. To be honest, I don’t remember hearing anything about it, though my husband, who serves on the city planning commission, does remember it. Without opposition then, the city council approved it. Two years and $65,000 later, some residents are crying — pardon the pun — “Over my dead body!”
You gotta give Grantsville resident Laurie Hurst credit for raising public awareness. I met Laurie a couple of years ago when I was writing a feature article on the Grantsville Opera House. She’d taken on the unofficial role of city historian. And now, with the cemetery debate, she’s become an activist, rallying residents.
Unfortunately, it’s a case of taking something for granted until you’re about to lose it.
On Facebook, opinions are flying as fast as people can post them. One suggestion has been to convert the field in question into a place for wedding receptions, to develop the J. Reuben Clark farm into something like the Jensen Living Historical Farm in Logan, or to move the Park and Ride.
The $65,000 question is, where could we locate the cemetery and/or Park and Ride at no additional cost to the city? Also, developing such a working farm would be akin to restoring an old car or historic building: cool, but expensive.
Here’s a possible approach: if there is enough petition signatures from city residents to postpone the field’s conversion into a cemetery, then the city should postpone the city improvements. In turn, citizens should put their money where their hearts are.
That is, they should raise enough funds privately to cover the cost of the city expanding the cemetery somewhere else. Because asking the city to scrap all their plans after the expense, without really giving the city a viable alternate location, is unreasonable and an irresponsible use of scarce city funds.
Since moving to the west end of Grantsville a few months ago, my husband and I have walked our dogs past the cemetery most days. I love looking at the headstones and family names. In fact, I think a cemetery preserves a city’s history and would be a fitting addition to a historical landmark like the J. Reuben Clark Farm.
To those who don’t agree and want the farmland preserved badly enough, you should step up to the plate.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com.