Lane Street Project: response to the 23 July 2023 records request, part 3.

On 4 June 2023, I posted views held at that time on a proposed fence around Vick Cemetery. As I had during my remarks at the open forum, I urged caution concerning the fence and invoked Rev. Carlton Best‘s reminder that we must not lose sight of Vick’s dead as plans are made to move forward.

Two days later, Wilson Communications Director Rebecca Agner reached out to New South Associates with an ask: “We would like NSA to mark the property where we can place the fence as a beginning step.” A series of emails followed in which Agner and NSA’s Sarah Lowry hashed out the scope of the additional work.

Why is it so hard for the City, which has a whole spokesperson, to keep the public informed about what is happening at Vick? What part of transparency and accountability is so hard to comprehend and/or comply with? Agner communicated with the Times about the City’s plans to bring NSA back, but not reaching out to private stakeholders seems to be an affirmative strategy. (In fact, in an email Agner sent Assistant City Manager Rodger Lentz on May 31 at 9:35 A.M., she made this clear: “The city hasn’t been officially responding to anything related to Vick except during public meetings.” Why not?)

Lane Street Project got wind of this when NSA returned to Vick on June 29 to mark anomalies on two sides of the cemetery. LSP observers watched the work and immediately noted that numerous graves lay on or outside Vick’s present-day property line. NSA’s little orange blocks and the map Lowry produced in August demonstrate how thickly graves lie along the boundaries. (And do not even take into account the unscanned graves in the right-of-way.)

So three months later, what is the City’s unrevealed plan for this fence?

Lane Street Project: the fence.

On page 28, New South Associates’ Vick Cemetery ground-penetrating radar report recommends:

City Council’s first action after receiving the report was a vote to erect a fence at Vick. At the May 11 Vick Cemetery open forum, I urged caution and a slow roll — fences require fenceposts, which are anchored below ground level and pose potential danger to shallow graves.

Councilwoman Gillettia Morgan has advised me that

  • a land survey of the entire property is underway;
  • New South Associates has agreed to advise the city on appropriate fencing for the site; and
  • New South will be onsite to oversee installation of any fencing to prevent further disturbance of graves.

My thoughts:

  • all of this is good, but
  • we know that areas inside each of Vick’s borders were not radar-surveyed;
  • this includes the front edge of the cemetery, under the power lines and inside the city’s right-of-way and/or the utility easement;
  • but also, along its western edge, where the cemetery abuts a natural gas pipeline easement;
  • and in the back, where trees are growing in the cemetery (should they be cut down?);
  • and, on the east side,  where an unsurveyed strip perhaps 20 feet wide runs through the driveway, across the parking lot, and all the way back to the woods;

  • the determination of the course of fencing should take place only after a more complete assessment of the locations of graves is made and after an assessment of what, if anything, should be done about structures such as the parking lot and electricity transmission poles;
  • once New South has identified types of fencing appropriate for the site, the city should seek public input on the style of fence selected (read: NO CHAIN LINK);
  • as Rev. Carlton Best so incisively noted at the open forum, Vick Cemetery is both a physical place and a grouping of ancestors. Both have been dishonored. A fence goes some way toward protecting the place, but we cannot lose sight of the 4,224+ people who lie here.