Don’t build a cemetery on a hill, advises pastor Berean

st-mary's-HZTMother Nature and local pests have laid bare a number of their final resting places in St. Mary of the Snow’s Cemetery in Saugerties. Fr. Chris Berean, church pastor, said heavy rains washing dirt away from crypts and groundhogs burrowing through the cemetery have caused problems.

“It’s an old cemetery,” Berean said of the burial ground built on the hill surrounding the church in the 1830s. “And it’s built on a hill, something you do not want to do,” because gravity wins, Berean said. “It’s a terrible idea.”

A number of years ago, the cemetery suffered from an infestation of groundhogs, which burrowed throughout the place helping to destabilize the dirt. But heavy rains over the last 170 years have washed the destabilized dirt downhill, revealing a number of crypts. “We’ve been shoring it up as best we can, by pouring dirt into the openings left by the rain and groundhogs,” Berean explained.


Back when the crypts were installed, churches did not have perpetual-care funding to maintain the cemetery. “But now we do, so newer areas are not affected,” Berean said.

By law, churches and cemetery associations use the interest collected from perpetual-care accounts. “We can’t touch the interest,” Berean explained. “So we are trying to build up enough money to permanently solve the problem. It’s going to cost us some serious cash,” He didn’t know how much.

The church is going to have to pour dirt in the voids and probably add pylons to stabilize the situation, Berean said. St. Mary of the Snow is asking for donations to oits cemetery fund. Checks made out the Cemetery Fund can be mailed to 36 Cedar St., Saugerties, NY 12477 or dropped off at the church.

“With the assistance of the state Department of Environmental Conservation we took care of the groundhog problem,” Berean concluded. “Now we need some help shoring the hill up and stabilizing it all,”