Tree assessment to begin at Evergreen Cemetery

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Trees in Evergreen Cemetery have grown unchecked for years and some threaten headstones in the older section, like this monument for the Mosby family, which is surrounded by trees and bushes. TMP/Michelle Willard
A walk through Evergreen Cemetery is like a walk through Murfreesboro history.

Some of the notables buried in the 90-acre site include former Tennessee Gov. John Price Buchanan, State Sen. James Daniel, State Rep. Charles Ready and U.S. Rep. Harold Henderson Earthman.

The stately maples, oaks and magnolias that shadow the historic markers of these famous men may be a threat to the safety of their final resting places, Evergreen Cemetery Board Chairman Jim Roberts said.

“Some of the trees have been there since before 1872 (when the cemetery was founded),” Roberts said, “but we have to take some of them out.”

Working together with Murfreesboro’s Urban Environmental Department, the cemetery commission will be assessing each and every tree from a safety standpoint and identify those that may be a danger to visitors, workers and graves.

But Roberts doesn’t want to go into this project without public input from the families with loved ones buried in the cemetery and asks for those with concerns to call Betty Brewer from the Evergreen Cemetery Commission at 893-3101.

Founded in 1872, Evergreen Cemetery was purchased from the Maney family by Murfreesboro to replace the Old City Cemetery on Vine Street.

Since then, families have planted trees and bushes near gravesites that have grown unchecked and now pose a safety risk.

Urban Environmental Department Cynthia Holloway said the city will work in an advisory capacity only to evaluate trees and “based on their condition, only those trees which pose a health, safety and welfare issue will be removed, professionally pruned or trimmed to provide clearance over roads and walkways.

“Our goal is to make the cemetery safe for employees, those who visit the cemetery and the gravesites themselves and nothing more,” she said.

That’s the same goal Roberts has.

“Our position is we want to be safe, but we have to be considerate of the people in the ground and the people on top of the ground,” Roberts said.

Roberts said two trees fell last weekend. Luckily nothing was damaged, but that’s not always the case, because falling trees can be a serious health hazard for both the living and the dead.

“Many tombstones are damaged each year when limbs fall out of trees or when trees blow over and knock them down or worse destroy them,” Holloway said.

“Many of the tombstones in the older section of Evergreen are well over 140 years old and are in a fragile state to begin with,” she continued. “Protecting people and the long-standing historical heritage of the Evergreen Cemetery are our primary goals.”

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or
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Cynthia Holloway, Evergreen Cemetery, Jim Roberts
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