McHenry Township could take over care of historical cemetery

McHENRY – More than 50 years after the last person was buried at Ostend Cemetery, its caretakers are hoping McHenry Township will take over the maintenance of the one-acre plot off Route 120 west of McHenry.

The cemetery’s board members are getting older, and they want to avoid a situation where the cemetery becomes abandoned, Township Supervisor Donna Schaefer said.

The cemetery was designated a historical landmark in 1997 with Schaefer, then a County Board member, giving a presentation at its dedication.

The township’s board of trustees is “very supportive” of taking over the cemetery, Schaefer said, in part due to the historical nature of the site and also because the cemetery is no longer active.

“It’s the story of the first settlers to the area,” she said. “When you think about some of the people who were buried there – there were children and people who succumbed to influenza during the great influenza pandemic [of 1918].”

About one-third of Illinois townships maintain cemeteries, according to 2010 numbers submitted to Township Officials of Illinois. Ostend Cemetery would be the first for McHenry Township.

For the township to take on that role, though, it needs voter approval.

This week the board of trustees set a special town meeting, during which any McHenry Township registered voter can vote on the issue. Those who registered after April 9 are asked to bring their voter registration card because they may not be on rolls.

Depending on the logistics and how much opposition is expected, the vote can either be a voice vote or by ballot, Schaefer said.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at McHenry Town Hall, 3703 N. Richmond Road, following the regularly scheduled meeting.

If the voters accept Ostend Cemetery, the township will assume the maintenance responsibilities, primarily mowing. The Ostend Cemetery board currently contracts with an outside provider for $500 to do the mowing, Schaefer said.

The cemetery board also has an annuity from the sales of books on the cemetery that they would turn over to the township to help cover costs.

Another potential cost is that the cemetery is “smack in the middle” of an area slated for development, which means the cemetery might need to be fenced, Schaefer said.

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