Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
About thirty people spent part of a blustery Saturday morning at the Amelia Island Museum of History in a workshop led by City of Fernandina Beach Community Development Director Adrienne Burke on the draft master plan for Bosque Bello, the municipal cemetery. Audience members offered their thoughts on the importance of Bosque Bello as both a burial ground and a historical-cultural city asset, suggesting ways to improve the cemetery and promote its significance to the community and visitors.
Burke explained the need for the master plan and the work that has been invested in the plan to date. She credited a staff working group that began meeting in 2012 as a fact-finding group with assembling data and background information, some of which had been scattered among various city offices as responsibility for the cemetery moved to different city departments over the years. Today the cemetery is the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Department. She credited Meredith Jewell, the Parks and Recreation cemetery manager, for significant work on developing the plan.
Members of the working group have carried out a variety of tasks, including taking onsite measurements and capturing data for existing gravesites and monuments, studying master plans for city cemeteries in other places, and rounding up scattered records. More sophisticated mapping has uncovered previously unmarked gravesites. Burke credited much of the early surveying to the late Hal Belcher who documented many of the gravesites in what is called the Ancient Section of Bosque Bello. The members of the Amelia Island Genealogical Society have worked diligently to capture information from existing gravestones for a database available on their website http://www.aigensoc.org. Teen Peterson, Amelia Island Museum of History curator, has also uncovered significant information to assist with the project.
In addition to researching history and burial records, the working group also considered matters such as landscaping, protecting and preserving early monuments, finding aids for cemetery visitors and options to prolong the use of the cemetery for future burials as fewer unsold gravesites remain.
Workshop participants met in small groups to identify issues of concern. Many attendees were plot owners or had relatives buried in Bosque Bello. Concerns raised included the possibility of providing a columbarium or memory wall, maintaining the dignity of the cemetery while making Bosque Bello easier to navigate and appreciate for more visitors, and providing restrooms or some type of shelter where visitors might be able to consult records to find gravesites more easily. Participants also discussed the possibility of forming a group, such as “Friends of Bosque Bello,” to assist the city in maintaining the cemetery into the future.
Burke welcomed additional input and encouraged those who had not already completed the city survey on Bosque Bello to do so. She said that her goal is to present the draft master plan to the Fernandina Beach City Commission in early 2015. She asked that individuals with questions direct them to her at (904) 310-3135 or [email protected].