LACONIA — Wednesday's storm wreaked havoc at Union Cemetery, where the raging waters of Durkee Brook eroded a stretch of its bank within feet of a mausoleum and monument on the north side of the graveyard while a culvert carrying Meadow Brook failed, opening a large sinkhole on its south side.
Durkee Brook rises east of Rte. 106 below Briarcrest Estates and flows northwest, passing under Garfield Street and running along the north side of Union Cemetery, parallel to Grant and Lincoln Streets, to Academy Street. At Meadow Street, just beyond Academy Street it is joined by what some call "Little Durkee Brook," then skirts Memorial Field and passes under Court Street, between Premum Mart and Lakes Region Party and Paper, and the railway line before emptying into Lake Winnisquam at the western end of Bartlett Beach.
High water has undercut the banks of the brook running alongside the north edge of the cemetery, loosening the roots of trees close to the stream. A large tree on a lot on Grant Street fell into the brook just below a sharp bend near the maintenance building. As the brook rose during the storm, water backed up behind the obstruction causing a section of the opposite bank, where a tree stump remained, to collapse into the stream bed, leaving the mausoleum and monument perilously close to the edge of the brook.
Cemetery official Suzanne Perley said that spot where the bank collapsed has been a source of concern for some time. "We seem to have been losing a foot a year to erosion," she said.
Meanwhile, on the south side of the cemetery Meadow Brook flows underground through a culvert, five-feet in diameter, beneath an unpaved roadway for approximately 150 yards, before flowing to and under Academy Street. Jon Neal, general foreman at the Department of Public Works (DPW), said that the water from the swollen stream reached the corroded section of the culvert it undermined the roadway, which collapsed to leave a oval sinkhole about 10 yards across, nearly 15 yards long and eight feet deep.
On Friday, a crew from DPW removed the obstructions from Durkee Brook and John Lyman of John Lyman & Sons of Gilford evaluated the sinkhole in anticipation of preparing an estimate to address the damage. John Perley, the president of the Union Cemetery Association, said that Lyman suggested lining the existing culvert with a smaller one, perhaps made of something other than steel, which would ensure against it failing elsewhere along its length. culvert
Suzanne Perley said that the association which is a charitable trust, has limited financial resources, most which can only be used for designated purposes, leaving only the income from invested funds for maintenance. She said that the income amounts to between $50,000 and $60,000 a year, which is less than the cost of maintaining the cemetery.
Following severe storms in 2007 the condition of Durkee Brook became a source of concern to the Planning Department, Conservation Commission and Belknap County Conservation District. At the time, Greg Jones, who is no longer with the Planning Department, said that the erosion has been caused by cutting and clearing vegetation from the banks of the brook and compounded by homeowners lining the banks with granite slabs and aluminum siding, which hastens and diverts the flow of water.
No effort will be made to remove the material lining the banks, but property owners were told not to put any more. Residents on Lincoln and Grant streets whose property backs on to the brook were reminded that a municipal ordinance requires that a 30-foot buffer either side of the brook must be maintained in its natural condition and, where it has been disturbed, must be replanted to the greatest extent possible. In particular,residents were urged not to dump grass cuttings, yard waste and other trash along the bank or into the brook. At the same time, abutters were discouraged from grooming their lawns to edge of the brook and encouraged to replant the denuded and eroded banks.
CAPTION: Squeezed between a mausoleum and the stream bank, a backhoe operator from the Department of Public Works removes a tree stump swept into Durkee Brook alongside Union Cemetery when high water from Wednesday's storm undercut the bank of the brook. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).
CAPTION: A culvert carrying Meadow Brook along the south edge of Union Cemetery in Laconia failed during Wednesday's storm, undermining the roadway and opening this sinkhole. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).
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