MANCHESTER, NH – Looking over a pile of black mulch placed near the northern gate dedicated to Gov. Moody Currier in 1907, the chair of Manchester’s Board of Aldermen considers the work of a summer’s worth of weekends.
“We’ve been out here since the first weekend in June with Tanya (Frazier) and the Volintegrity group,” Alderman Pat Long says, gesturing toward his wife Karen, who is brandishing a shovel. “The work they’ve done organizing this effort is really great to see and you can really see the difference from when we started.”
Valley Cemetery, 20 acres in the heart of New Hampshire’s largest city, is a quiet oasis surrounded by stores, beauty parlors, and the city jail. Home to a flock of about 20 turkeys and the final resting place of eight Manchester mayors and three NH governors, the cemetery needs the upkeep you’d expect of any public space over 170 years old. Overgrowing plants need to be cleared, weeds removed, and trees and bushes pruned if the historical graves are to be appreciated.
All summer long, Volintegrity has been provided that upkeep.
“We’ve had clean-up days pretty much every other weekend since July the first,” said Tanya Frazier, a benefits consultant in Manchester. “As a group, we’ve put over 150 hours into cleaning Valley Cemetery. The efforts are really starting to show.”
“I love that Pat doesn’t just talk about community issues, he rolls his sleeves up and gets to work. It’s not about the title, it’s about results. I respect that,” Frazier added.
In addition to organizing volunteers, Frazier has been exploring the idea of bringing goats into the cemetery to help with clearing poison ivy, an option that’s been employed in other cities and towns around New Hampshire to keep vegetation in check. For example, Keene has a small fleet of goats working with its public works department to maintain a local landfill.
A goat assessment for the site was submitted to the city on July 27, a first step toward making that proposal a reality.
For more information or to volunteer for the Valley Cemetery restoration, please visit makeadifferenceday.com/dashboard/project/valley-cemetery-restoration. You can also join the Save Valley Cemetery Facebook group to get involved.