City of Fernandina Beach
Submitted by Adrienne Burke
Community Development Director
August 18, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Over the past two years, City staff in the Community Development and Parks and Recreation Departments have been working toward creating a master plan for the management and preservation of the historic Bosque Bello cemetery. The cemetery dates to c.1798. The plan will include historical information about the cemetery, existing conditions and operations of the cemetery, and recommendations from City staff about preservation and use of the cemetery moving forward.
The Bosque Bello master planning effort is directed by two elements of the City’s Comprehensive Plan: Recreation and Open Space, and Historic Preservation. Policies in these elements recognize the need to preserve the historic cemetery while also planning for its future. For example, space is limited in the cemetery, so the City should be preparing now for how to increase space availability while retaining the historic character of the cemetery.
City staff began the master planning process during the late summer of 2012, which was greatly assisted by a group of interested citizens and stakeholders, including members of the Amelia Island Genealogical Society and Amelia Island History Museum. The working group has helped City staff gather history and information on the cemetery. From this information gathering, City staff can begin to create recommendations for inclusion in the plan.
As part of the planning process, the City asked for feedback on the cemetery through a survey open from October 2013 to January 2014. The survey questions involved people’s current understanding and usage of the cemetery and thoughts on what should occur in the future. Over 200 people responded to the survey, which was available online and in hard copy. The results were positive and indicated that a majority of responders were in favor of improving the cemetery and making it a more visible cultural resource in the community.
Many respondents were interested in having different options besides plot burial, and supported creating a location within the cemetery for these alternative methods, such as a columbaria or scattering garden for ashes, or a memorial wall to recognize family and friends who may be buried elsewhere. There was also a desire to see the cemetery used more interactively by residents and visitors, which can help educate people on community heritage and lead to better protection of the site. A majority of survey participants could envision Bosque Bello as a space for quiet, passive activities, such as meditating, walking, bird watching or special events such as historical walking tours. Survey respondents also believed that information about the history and location of graves, available via kiosk, mobile app or interpretive signage, would greatly enhance a visit to the cemetery and aid in helping family members locate relatives. The top concerns regarding the cemetery were: maintenance of headstones and walls; landscaping and tree preservation; vandalism; and running out of space.
This summer, two graduate student interns from the University of Florida, Erin Minnigan and Belinda Nettles, were instrumental in completing necessary research and mapping for the plan. It is staff’s goal to have a public workshop on the plan this fall, and present a finalized version of the plan to the City Commission by the end of 2014 or early 2015. This plan will help ensure that proper stewardship is provided for the care and maintenance of the cemetery in years to come.
For more information, contact Adrienne Burke at (904) 310-3135 or email@example.com or Cemetery Coordinator Meredith Jewell at (904) 310-3350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.