Poland's Riverside Cemetery has a new machine that will not only make life easier for cemetery employees, but will also take Riverside well into the future.
The cemetery staff recently took possession of a brand new JCB backhoe/loader that went into use this month.
The new vehicle has all-wheel steering that will allow it to maneuver between graves as it completes tasks from digging graves and removing fallen tree limbs, to clearing snow from cemetery roadways.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Chris Nord, superintendent of Poland's Riverside Cemetery, recently took possession of a new backhoe and front end loader for the cemetery. He is all smiles as he operates this state-of-the-art piece of equipment designed especially for digging graves. 'You can turn all four wheels,' Nord says, 'making the machine more maneuverable in tight locations in the cemetery.'
"The new backhoe has many features not found on the older model and it is designed especially to operate in cemeteries and among existing tombstones," said Ted Heineman, cemetery trustee. "Being able to steer all the four wheels is a great advantage now."
Being able to move between historic grave markers is a big plus. Many markers at Riverside date back to the Civil War.
According to Heineman, the story of the Poland's Riverside Cemetery actually begins in 1865. A few citizens in Poland at that time decided that the one way they could show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by the local men who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War was to provide a cemetery for the use of the returning veterans. It was also to serve as a spot to erect a memorial for those who did not return.
The citizens applied for and were granted a charter by the State of Ohio to form an association of lot owners to be used for burial purposes. Its official name is "The Poland Cemetery Association" and is an organization operated by a board of 10 elected trustees who receive no salaries. Also, the association receives no funding from any government agency. The Riverside Cemetery's sole source of revenue is from the sale of burial lots. Over the course of the last 147 years, the cemetery has grown from three acres to more than 30 acres along Yellow Creek in the Village of Poland.
The cemetery does have a paid staff consisting of salaried Superintendent Chris Nord and two hourly assistants. During the summer, two college students are hired to help with grass trimming around the tombstones. With the only source of income from the sales of plots, the trustees had to wait until Riverside Cemetery had enough funds to make the purchase of the new backhoe to replace the aging one that needed to be replaced.
"The old backhoe was a 1978 model," Heineman said. "It is anticipated that the new backhoe will also last 34 years before needing to be replaced."
He said the cemetery's dump truck is 15 years old and the two mowers that round out the equipment fleet are relatively new. The equipment gets used too. Heineman said the spring-summer mowing is a big chore and in the fall, leaf removal takes its share of time and energy. Winter may see the loss of the college assistants, but the work continues.
"Roadways have to be kept open in the wintertime," Heineman said. "Spare moments in winter are also spent repairing the equipment or filling in graves that have sunk and need reseeding." The trustees also maintain a home for the superintendent on Riverside Drive along with a garage for the equipment and office space for the cemetery records.