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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Preservationists Run Amok

Imagine, if you will, a dangerous feature of architecture that is causing serious injury and death, but is being protected from alteration because it is considered historical.

Across the nation, but more importantly right here in Western New York, deer have been getting impaled on or eviscerated by wrought iron fences that commonly surround cemeteries.

Many deer have been found hanging from the fences at Williamsville Cemetery in Williamsville, N.Y. and Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. The problem arises because these fences are short enough – four-and-a-half feet tall – that deer think they can jump over them, but tall enough that many do not quite make it. Since these fences are then tipped with six-to-seven-inch spikes, the deer don't really stand a chance.

What makes this matter worse is that while the solution is relatively simple, preservationists have decided that it would alter the historic value of these spikes.

The most probable solution is really just angle-iron cappings that would cover the spikes and make them less likely to cause injury. The cost of this fix was quoted in 2005 at $6,800 for the whole perimeter, which is much cheaper than raising or lowering the overall height of the fence.

"If you ever saw these fences up close, you could see the harm they can do," said Morgan Jamie Dunbar, the founder and organizer of Animal Allies of Western New York. "This fence is so low that it would only take somebody tripping to do serious damage."

Dunbar is joined in her fight by animal rights activists, hunters who believe that the way these deer die is too cruel, and residents who live near the fence who are tired of hearing the death-screams of injured deer.

Rampant saving of relics that really do not deserve to be saved is not new here. Just a couple years ago, a building that happened to have held a speakeasy in the '20s partially collapsed into the street. When the city wanted to continue the demolition of this abandoned building, preservationists stepped in to block it despite the fact that none of them wanted to pay for restoration.

There are many historical buildings and structures around town that are literally falling apart from lack of care. While I agree that some things from Buffalo's past deserve to be preserved, like the Darwin-Martin House, I also accept that others need to be torn down or at least made safe to make room for Buffalo's future.

To add fuel to the fire in Williamsville, the mayor of the village also happens to be the chair of the preservation society. When it comes to an issue like this, all I can think of is conflict of interest.

A possible outcome to this issue in Williamsville, provided that the preservationists are voted down, is that the problems can be fixed in Forest Lawn. This may even induce a spasm of reality checks that will result in actual progress in Buffalo. I may be dreaming, but I'm not the only one.

If you want to take a stand for life, plain-old decency, and/or practicality, there is a town hall meeting in Williamsville on March 22 at 7 p.m. There is also a Facebook page regarding the event.

E-mail: michael.tyson@ubspectrum.com


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