UNITY — For the past few years, rocks and grit from a gravel road have pelted nearby headstones at Pond Cemetery, the town’s main burial site, sometimes nearly burying grave sites in debris. Winter plows and mechanical graders have widened the road, which has spread to within a few feet of veterans’ graves. Strewn gravel has hindered mowing, leaving the yard unkempt.

It wasn’t always like this. Until three years ago, Kanokolus Road was paved for the half-mile from Main Street to the end of the cemetery, as it had been for as long as some remember. In 2012, the Board of Selectmen decided to tear the old pavement out and make the road gravel again in an effort to save money.

“It’s been a hot mess ever since,” said Selectwoman Penny Sampson, who also sits on the town’s Cemetery Committee.

Now selectmen are considering whether to repave the road after activists organized a petition campaign to press the issue, securing 80 signatures to put repaving the road on the warrant for the March 28 Town Meeting.

At the meeting, voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to study the road issue and then decide how to proceed. At the time, the estimated cost of paving the road through the cemetery was $65,000 to $79,000, according to minutes of the meeting.

While some, including Sampson, want the road repaved this summer, newly elected Selectwoman Emily Newell said the board has yet to go over project costs and decide whether to give Kanokolus Road priority over competing projects.

“Without those numbers, we haven’t been able to know when it would be appropriate to do that,” Newell said.

The cemetery road issue was brought up originally by resident Rosemary Pillsbury at Town Meeting in 2013, according to Cemetery Committee Chairwoman Lynn Warman.

“I’ve had this fight ever since,” Warman said.

The gravel road requires grading every year and the regular re-grading has pushed the edge of the road closer to graves. The town has to hire a crew to rake the graveyard free of rocks and other debris every year before the parcel can be mowed.

In the summer, dust from vehicles passing on the road envelops the graveyard, coating headstones and making it an inhospitable place for funerals or visitors, Warman said. The town has treated the gravel road with calcium chloride to reduce the amount of dust, but so far that procedure hasn’t done much good, Warman said.

“The dust in the summer is just unbelievable,” she said.

“I find it extremely disrespectful to the people that are buried there,” Warman said. About 100 graves are directly affected by the issue, she estimated, including multiple veterans and the sites where local philanthropists Bert and Coral Clifford are buried.

Warman said she has reached the end of her rope dealing with the selectmen, who, she said, have not taken steps to address the issue.

“We’ve done everything we can to get them to change their minds,” she said.

Sampson, the selectwoman, said the graves of two of her relatives that are near the road frequently are covered in gravel and dust.

“We’ve had stones that were literally buried in rocks and debris,” Sampson said. She would like to see the road repaved this year, although other selectmen have advocated waiting.

“If we can do it now, we should do it now so we’re not throwing money away on grading and sweeping,” Sampson said.

There are competing demands for the town’s $360,000 summer roads budget, Newell said. Some roads in the southern part of town are in poor shape and were intended to be fixed this year, according to Newell, but she also appreciates the problems on the cemetery road.

“It’s a place of pride for townspeople,” Newell said. “For us not to be able to mow the grass and have it look unkempt is not ideal.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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