WADSWORTH — Roy Boyes said he is not a naturally outspoken person, but after years of watching the city use an area of Woodlawn Cemetery to launch its Fourth of July fireworks display, he decided it was time to speak up.
City Council and the Wadsworth Township trustees are scheduled to host a joint meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Wadsworth City Hall, 120 Maple St.
Boyes, 62, of Wadsworth, said he plans to attend the meeting, which should determine if the city will be able to continue using the site for its fireworks displays.
“I anguished over this for a long time,” Boyes said Sunday.
City Councilman and Cemetery Board member Tom Stugmyer said the area used to launch the fireworks from is essentially a dump used to collect floral arrangements and other debris from the cemetery.
“It is not a gravesite at all, it couldn’t be used for a gravesite if the cemetery were full,” Stugmyer said Sunday.
Stugmyer said the area is in the south end of the cemetery established in 1817, and has a creek that runs nearby.
Wadsworth relocated its fireworks launch location from Memorial Park in anticipation of its 2014 bicentennial. Cited factors include a tree canopy that had become too large and the new Wadsworth High School football stadium built at the site.
Stugmyer said while the city of Wadsworth owns the cemetery land, the business aspects of the cemetery are jointly overseen by the city and Wadsworth Township.
The three-person Cemetery Board is made up of a City Council member, township trustee and a Wadsworth resident.
Stugmyer said the issue is important enough that it was decided to get more eyes and opinions on the situation, and that is why the special meeting was called.
Boyes said he takes issue with the city using any cemetery land for recreational purposes, and it doesn’t matter that the land in question will never be used for burials.
“The way I was brought up, that was a place you respected, and you didn’t do things like the fireworks at the cemetery,” Boyes said.
Boyes said that in addition to his parents and other family members, many people buried in the cemetery served the city of Wadsworth in some capacity, and they deserve better.
“Our biggest kick isn’t with the site that they shoot them off, it doesn’t matter if you shoot them off in an unused portion of the cemetery that will never be used; it is consecrated ground, sacred ground throughout the cemetery,” he said. “The whole cemetery.”
Stugmyer said that when the city decided to move the fireworks display to the cemetery grounds, it reached out to area churches and veterans organizations to ensure that they were OK to proceed. The city got the go-ahead from those organizations, he said.
The city has looked into other locations to launch the fireworks, but there is no other practical site that would allow the fireworks to be seen from downtown unless they are scaled down, Stugmyer said.
Boyes said he has collected about 258 signatures of Wadsworth residents who are opposed to using any cemetery land for fireworks displays.
“I think we proved our point that it is not just a one-sided issue, there are a lot of people in Wadsworth that agree with us,” Boyes said.
Stugmyer said there also is a petition signed by more than 330 Wadsworth residents in favor of keeping the fireworks where they are.
“They are from a good broad range of the community,” Stugmyer said.
Boyes and Stugmyer said they have not seen the physical petitions collected by the other party.
According to the city website, Woodlawn Cemetery, 200 College St., was originally established on one acre of land owned by Owen Brown, the father of abolitionist John Brown.
There are more than 13,000 individuals buried there.
Wadsworth Township Trustee and Cemetery Board member Kevin Keiper could not be reached for comment Sunday.