Workers cut trees and clear land at Warren cemetery — no explanation why

South Burial Ground board president "not interested" in speaking to reporter ·

Abutters of the South Burial Ground want to know more about clear-cutting that has been taking place at the town’s largest burying ground for the past week. So far, they’re getting few answers.

Rebecca Ferrara and her daughter, Theadora, first noticed the construction equipment move in around the beginning of the month. Since then, the Franklin Street residents have seen dozens of trees and several acres of woodland clear-cut at the east end of the 28-acre property, which stretches from Vernon Street to Franklin Street.

“We’ve always had a very nice view,” Theadora Ferrara said Tuesday. “But they’ve really pushed back a lot of the forest. We’re worried about how this is impacting the ecosystem there; the animals that live in the trees and also the burrowers, foxes and deer.”

So far though, answers are in short supply.

The cemetery is owned by a private corporation beholden to the descendants of the 5,074 souls buried there. The corporation in turn is overseen by a Board of Trustees, but according to one of two trustees still living, the board has not met in approximately 15 years.

Though bylaws state the board is to have as many as 11 members, there are currently as few as two — trustee Judith Fardig and president David Brown, who is also the corporation’s treasurer, Ms. Fardig said.

Ms. Fardig said she is aware that the clear-cutting is being done to clear up more room for additional burials at the cemetery. But apart from that, she said, she has had no recent contact with Mr. Brown and does not know much about the plan.

“Nobody does,” she said. “The board is inactive and (Mr. Brown is) hard to reach. Apart from (him), all the other trustees are dead … Mo Jamiel, Hirum Jamiel, Ray Medley, Helen Thompson.”

Mr. Brown, who lists his address in cemetery corporation papers as a PO Box in Providence, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday. On Tuesday, a woman who answered the phone at his place of business said, “He’s not interested” in response to a reporter’s question. A caretaker hired to oversee the cemetery, Ray Pimental of Bristol, also did not return a call seeking comment on the nature and scope of the work.

Ms. Ferrara said she had a similar experience when she and her mother asked a worker what the plan was for the cemetery.

“He was very dismissive,” she said. “I can understand if they are clearing land for more (plots), but there is a fine line between clearing room and taking away the entire woods. We just wanted information.”

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