The Exeter Cemetery is a scenic spot up on the hill northeast of the village. The village forefathers had the foresight to plant small trees over a hundred years ago to shade the graves of those they love. Unfortunately, the cemetery is quickly losing the majority of it’s large old shade trees.
Two years ago the Board was faced with diseases in the huge pines, “Pine wilt disease has attacked these giant pines. Some are 100-200 years old and are so large it was cost prohibitive to treat them. There was no way to spray the entire tree because of their size and no guarantee that the treatment would even work,” said Exeter Cemetery Board Secretary Jodee Mika.
As a way of both removing the dead trees and replanting new trees to replace the Cemetery board applied for a Trees for Nebraska Towns Program grant. They received the grant and in May of 2009 the Exeter Cemetery Board along with many community volunteers planted 25 new trees at the Exeter Cemetery.
The $10,000 grant was coordinated by the Nebraska State Arboretum and the University of Nebraska and funded by The Nebraska Environmental Trust, a beneficiary of the Nebraska Lottery. This was a matching fund grant and the Cemetery Board was able to raise part of the matching funds by counting volunteer hours during the planting and watering of the trees.
Mika saw the benefits of that grant, “We had so many volunteers to help plant 25 new trees a few years ago. We got a nice variety of trees to plant and they are thriving.”
Seventy-five percent of the grant money went toward the new trees but the grant only allowed for 25% of the funding to be used for the removal of the dead trees. To date the removal funding has been used and still many large dead trees remain, “There are four great big trees that are dying, actually six that need removed, and the estimated cost to remove them and grind the stump is $1,000 each,” explained Mika
Another Cemetery Board Member Joe Dinneen commented “All the trees we planted lived and we have no plans to plant any more trees. Unfortunately we are left with the aftermath, we still have some that are totally dead.”
The Cemetery Board maintains a perpetual trust and budgets off the interest from the fund. With interest rates so low the board is faced with minimal income. To cover the costs of removing the dead and dying pines the Board is seeking grant money, donations and the help of the Exeter Village Board. So far, the Village Board has committed to paying half of the removal bill for the six trees that are currently dead.
Exeter Village Chairman Alan Michl told Cemetery Board Member Barry Murphy at a recent Village Board Meeting, “When you need help let us know. We will do what we can to help, we have to keep the cemetery up.”
Murphy faced the facts as he looked around the cemetery, “As long as the diseased ones are still here we will continue to lose trees. Any donations received to help with the cost of removing them will be appreciated."
Joe Dinneen, far left, Barry Murphy, middle, and Jodee Mika, right, members of the Exeter Cemetery Board stand among the new trees planted at the Exeter Cemetery with the dead pine trees amongst them as well.
This tree is dying as well.