Schroon Supervisor Mike Marnell stands outside the Protestant Cemetery, which has been abandoned and is now a town responsibility. About 250 feet of new fence has been erected at the site, leaving 400 feet to go.
A historic cemetery in need of assistance is now the responsibility of Schroon taxpayers.
The Protestant Cemetery on Hoffman Road has formally been abandoned.
“The town is now legally obligated to take care of it,” Schroon Supervisor Mike Marnell said. “The Protestant Cemetery Association came to us (town officials) and said they just can’t care for it anymore. It now belongs to the town.”
Schroon has no choice but to accept ownership of the cemetery and care for it. State law states all abandoned cemeteries become the responsibility of the town in which they are placed.
The 10-acre Protestant Cemetery in Schroon has reached capacity and no longer accepts burials, Marnell noted. That, along with an aging cemetery association membership, led to the abandonment.
“The (cemetery) board has done the best they can, but they just can’t care for it any longer,” Marnell said. “I don’t think anything has been done here for years, except mowing the grass once in a while.”
When the Protestant Cemetery Association ceased to exist, it’s $24,000 went to the town for care of the cemetery. Marnell appreciates that, but said the cost to replace fencing, re-set grave stones and top soil and re-seed the cemetery will far exceed the $24,000. Since Schroon officials didn’t anticipate taking ownership of the land, there is no money in the town budget for its care.
A 150-year-old iron fence that borders the cemetery is already being replaced. It cost $12,000 to replace 250 feet with aluminum fence. That leaves another 400 feet to go.
“And there are a lot of stones that have been damaged by falling trees and age,” Marnell said. “They need to be re-set. There’s a lot of work to be done. Then there’s maintenance. It needs to be mowed and looked after.”
The supervisor is hoping volunteers will step up to help out.
“Probably everyone in town has a family member or friend buried here,” Marnell said. “Now is the time for us to make their final resting place something to be proud of. It’s our responsibility. There are a lot of veterans in here.”
Once the fence is in place, Marnell said a sidewalk along the front of the cemetery will be installed. Ernie LaBarge of LaBarge Masonry has volunteered his labor for the project.
“The sidewalk will not only be for the cemetery, but will benefit people who walk along Hoffman Road,” Marnell said. “A lot of kids walk along here to get the Little League field at the fish & game club.”
The Protestant Cemetery dates back more than two centuries and is the final resting place for some of Schroon’s most famous residents. Jack Wyrtzen, a founder of Word of Life, is buried in the Protestant Cemetery.
Marnell hopes community members will volunteer to work at the cemetery as well as raise money for it. Interested people can call him at the town hall at 532-7737.
“Once we get this fixed up I don’t believe maintenance will be much of a problem,” Marnell said.
Schroon is also responsible for four other abandoned cemeteries — the Baker Street Cemetery, the South Schroon Cemetery and two unnamed cemeteries located off Hoffman and Youngs roads.
In New York State, about 160 cemeteries have been abandoned since 1990, according to the New York State Association of Cemeteries.