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Derby Line Cemetery Isn’t Only One Threatened with Erosion

January 19, 2012

The backside of Derby Line Cemetery cascades into the Tomifobia River. Photo courtesy of Charles Catchpaugh

DERBY LINE - One of the best maintained and handsome burial grounds in northern Vermont is found at Derby Line. The cemetery there, located west of the border crossing, customs and the Derby Line Post Office, sits on one of the most endangered pieces of property in the whole Northeast Kingdom.
Fringed in the north by the Tomifobia River, which is the dividing line between Derby Line, VT, and Stanstead, Quebec, the cemetery is in a most precarious location. The river bank sits atop a sand dune that has been gradually receding until its top edge is but a few feet from the graves and their majestic stones.
The steep sand cliff rising from the Tomifobia River is receding annually as the torrents of water wash away sand each year. Initially the cemetery was at a considerable distance from the river bank, but now the northern extremity of the burial grounds are in danger of sliding into the river.
It's just a question of when and how much.
Similar erosion problems are encountered by other burial grounds, one being at Cherry River Village in Orford, just north of the City of Magog. In both cases, authorities knowledgeable about erosion believe one of the problems has been the loss of roots from trees and other shrubbery that serve to keep sand from shifting and sliding.
Another similar situation is found in Fitch Bay Village, south of Stanstead, where different ploys have been used to control gushing water flowing through this hamlet and threatening to decimate graves in the historic cemetery. Several years ago, after extensive roadwork, conditions that had previously impeded spring run-off were removed and torrents gusted through Fitch Bay. The water could no longer be held back and stream banks started to cave in, taking the old burial site with them.
Initial ambitious measures to protect the cemetery failed, and the last endeavor has been to unload boulders between the stream and embankment.
Fitch Bay property owners are anxiously awaiting the effects of the forthcoming spring thaw.

 

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