Shrewsbury residents voice concerns over proposed cemetery expansion

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

A schematic of redeveloped Prospect Park (Photo/Courtesy of BSC Group)

Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Parks & Cemetery Commission presented a master plan to expand the Mountain View Cemetery near Shrewsbury’s historic Town Center, March 3.

The cemetery, which sits on Boylston St., will eventually run out of space. This proposal would address that problem by creating an adjacent cemetery in the nearby Prospect Park, a former Masonic property known for its trails and popular with dog walkers.

Proposal met with resident concerns

Landscape Architect Ricardo Austrich of the Worcester engineering firm, the BSC Group presented a first draft of the plan at a public meeting. During a question-and-answer period that followed, several residents expressed concerns ranging from increased traffic and disturbing wildlife to reduced access to hikers and dog walkers. 

John Harding complimented the plan with its beautification but his concern was for the lack of sidewalks along Prospect Street. 

Austrich replied that there is a sidewalk committee in town that is studying the issue.

Roger Parent inquired about the environmental impact of drainage from the cemetery that would eventually end up in Lake Quinsigamond. 

Angela Snell, superintendent of public facilities, assured him that no chemicals would be used in the cemetery.

James Brown, chair of the Parks & Cemetery Commission, said the Commission was aware of all these concerns. He also noted, though, that when Shrewsbury purchased Prospect Park, it did so with cemetery expansion in mind.

“We do have to provide burial space in the town,” he said, citing state law. “We do feel that with the help of Ricardo and his group that we have a very nice plan that is mixed use, keeping the trails but also allowing for our future expansion.”

Plan considers environment

Prospect Park is situated with Boylston Street to the west, Merriam Avenue to the south and Prospect Street to the east. Prospect Park’s north boundary cuts through residential neighborhoods.

Under this expansion plan, the park’s existing entrance off of Prospect Street would remain intact, as would space for recreation. Parking opportunities, meanwhile, would actually increase. 

The plan includes efforts to preserve the park’s wetland, setbacks of 50 feet from the back of properties abutting from Merriam Avenue, a provision for a small sales office in the park’s southeast quadrant, a secondary entrance off of Boylston Street that aligns with the existing entrance to Mountain View Cemetery, and thoughtful roadways within the park.

The main entrance of Prospect Park off of Prospect Street in Shrewsbury will remain intact under new plans to expand the nearby Mountain View Cemetery into the Park. (Photo/Melanie Petrucci)

Brenda Nagel Goodwill, a member of the Friends of Prospect Park, was thrilled with the project plans.

“What could be more passive than a cemetery?” she said, referencing the push for “passive recreation” her organization has spearheaded through its efforts to revitalize what is a sprawling block of green space in Shrewsbury.

For all the passive recreation options, Brown also commented that this could become a community gathering space used for events such as concerts and lectures near the Garden of Sweet Remembrance. 

Future plans further include an entrance and parking space to be constructed along the northern perimeter to access the garden. This expansion would also build a road to let the Water Department access a water tank in the park. 

Proposal looks long term

Speaking, March 3, Brown said the expansion plan looks well into the future. Concepts won’t become reality overnight. 

“Think of it as a 100-year Master Plan for the site,” he said. 

When asked when construction for the first phase of the project would begin, Snell shared that Shrewsbury first needs to finalize Phase I of its plan. The town will then send this project go out to bid and approach Town Meeting for funding approval.