Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
March 29, 2018 5:00 p.m.
Close to 50 people devoted an hour St. Patrick’s Day morning in Fernandina Beach to identifying goals and determining a form of governance for the newly formed Friends of Bosque Bello, an advocacy group to help preserve the city’s only municipal cemetery.
Adrienne Burke, who currently works as a planner for Nassau County, led the meeting at the Fernandina Beach Library, assisted by Adam Kaufman, President of the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation (AIFRF). Burke worked as a Preservation Planner for the city of Fernandina Beach when the current Cemetery Master Plan was developed and approved by the Fernandina Beach City Commission in 2015. One of the recommendations in that plan was the formation of a “Friends” group to help restore and preserve Bosque Bello Cemetery.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, the AIFRF has agreed to provide assistance to the Friends with respect to receiving donations and working with the city to enter into any required legal agreements for construction projects or other joint efforts.
Burke, who has agreed to lead the Friends effort on at least a temporary basis, explained that she is looking to form a governing board consisting of representatives of the various organizations seemingly most interested in the cemetery effort. Those organizations include the city and the county as well as private sector representatives from WestRock and Oxley-Heard in addition to the following citizen based organizations:
- Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation
- Amelia Island Genealogical Society
- Amelia Island Museum of History
- Amelia Island Trails
- Amelia Tree Conservancy
- Bartram Garden Club
- Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society of Amelia Island
- Historic District Council of Fernandina Beach
Other organizations/individuals may also be candidates for the board. Burke, along with several meeting attendees, will be seeking volunteers for board positions.Once the board is established, work plans will be announced and volunteers sought for specific projects.
Priority goals of the Friends at this time are preservation and maintenance, security and building a columbarium to accommodate future growth.
During the meeting several questions were asked regarding the relationship of the Friends to the city of Fernandina Beach. Burke responded that the city would continue its current responsibility for managing the business of the cemetery, but that the Friends would provide assistance in areas for which the city is not currently funded. Examples might be cleaning and repair of damaged gravestones, developing a landscape plan, and promoting the cemetery’s rich history through signage, tours and/or publications. Other examples of successful local public private partnerships include the library expansion, restoration of the train depot and 8 Flags Playscapes.
Individuals who would like to be kept informed of developments or to volunteer may contact [email protected].
For more information on the work of other cemetery friends organizations and efforts to preserve cemeteries, visit websites for the Chicora Foundation, Association for Gravestone Studies and Florida Public Archaeology Network.
As a reminder, the Florida Public Archaeology Network will present a program at 7:00 p.m. on March 20, 2018 at the Fernandina Beach Library entitled “Cemeteries as Outdoor Museums.” This program is being co-hosted by the Amelia Island Genealogical Society. It is free and open to the public.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.