Shan Raetzloff points out portions of a graveside fence that the Apalachicola Area Historical Society hopes to have repaired. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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History buffs breathe life into cemetery

An ongoing effort by the Apalachicola Area Historical Society to repair and maintain the city’s aging Chestnut Cemetery is about to kick into overdrive, thanks to an infusion of much-needed dollars.

The historic cemetery, considered by experts to rank among the state’s oldest and most distinguished burial grounds, is set to benefit from $166,000 in funds earmarked for monument repair, tree service and fencing.

A grant written by Caty Greene, the society’s past president, will be in $133,000 from the state Division of Historical Resources. The remaining $33,000 is coming from in-kind contributions and local matching monies. These funds include $5,000 from city coffers, and $8,000 from the society, funded out of the more than $30,000 raised over the course of a dozen years from the society’s twice annual Ghost Walks.

The issue of tree cutting had to be resolved over the past several months, after some members of the community, led by photographer Richard Bickel, felt that the society was going too far with its tree cutting.

The society, drawing on the expertise of Jim Miller, the former state archaeologist, who had issued a lengthy report a few years back, worked closely with City Manager Travis Wade, and nearby resident Greg Vance; Scott Davis, vice president at Garlick Environmental Associates; and others to resolve the issue. 

Bickle’s group commissioned Lynn Haven arborist to examine the 20 trees where there was a discrepancy between their assessment and the original one from back in 2016.

In the end, the society and the neighbor group worked out a compromise, sparing several of them by agreeing to trimming rather than large-scale cutting.

Two laurel oaks and one live oak were determined to be trimmed, unless during trimming the trees were found to be in worse condition that could lead to their removal. Two other laurel oaks and a cedar were determined to need removal.

Davis had urged the city to do all it could to preserve a Chapman Oak near the grave of Civil War veteran Robert Knickmeyer’s grave since as an experienced botanist, he thought it might well be the largest such tree in the state. In the event it cannot be saved, it was agreed to stake off the ground around it, and let at least one of the sprouts from the roots grow into a new tree.

As it stands now the society is working with metalsmith Charles Sorensen, who is repairing the fence balusters and panels, and is in the process of securing a tree trimming contractor.

Two weeks ago the society, led by Shan Raetzloff, the head of the cemetery committee, hosted a cemetery preservation workshop, during which four monuments were repaired. Attendees came from Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida to learn from Atlas Preservation, which is also producing a documentary about their work.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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