Last week Hamilton Community News reporter Richard Leitner broke the story of how the shattered grave markers of several veterans were found dumped over the side of a bluff at the city-owned Woodland Cemetery.
The act was scandalous, and one that the city took seriously. In fact, the remnants of the tombstones were removed before the article hit the streets. In a follow-up story in this week’s paper the city’s manager of parks and cemeteries Tennessee Propedo said that he would fire any worker “on the spot” who he caught disposing of a marker in such an improper manner.
However, Propedo also said a few things that strained reason to its breaking point when he suggested that it was likely vandals who threw the former tombstones over the embankment (although he did add, that he “can’t be a hundred per cent certain”).
Why would a vandal smash a stone and then carry it the length of several football fields from the grave site in order to dump it into the bay? The vandal explanation gets even less likely when you consider that one of the vets is buried at Mount Hamilton Cemetery, 15 km away.
Propedo did offer another possible explanation in that the stones were dumped by a private company ostensibly doing work for the city. This may be true, but ultimately the city is responsible for the actions of those it hires to work for it.
And while the veterans tombstones got all the headlines, Leitner’s story revealed a hypocrisy with regards to how the city treats illegal dumping. For years, it has spent time and treasure to convince people not to dump their trash and yard waste in Hamilton’s wilderness areas.
But Leitner found ample evidence that someone at Woodland, city staff or no, was routinely dumping organic waste including tree limbs, leaves and sod over the side of the bluff and into an area protected by both the Hamilton and Halton conservation authorities. Hamilton Beach activist Jim Howlett also witnessed and photographed a front-end loader dumping debris down the slope from newly cleared area that is to be used for burials.
It seems cracking down on illegal dumping wasn’t such a high priority for the city when it was the one doing the dumping.
Propedo said that staff has been instructed to stop the practice after initially denying it was occurring, but said that his crews won’t be cleaning up the city’s mess citing safety concerns.
Removing the tombstone fragments was a good first step, but the city now has to clean up the rest of its mess by dealing with the other materials it has illegally dumped at Woodland, both for environmental protection reasons and so it can regain its tattered credibility on the issue of illegal dumping.