HARVARD -- The affects of Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in Harvard, destroying several historic "lollypop" grave markers in the town-owned Shaker Cemetery on South Shaker Road in Harvard.
Selectman Ron Ricci said that he'd visited the cemetery on Monday and noted no damage to the tree or markers before the weather ramped up. At some point between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, one of eight enormous pine trees -- targeted for removal by the Cemetery Commission -- cracked mid-trunk.
The tree top, approximately 25 feet long and 8 feet in circumference, fell across several rows of cast iron markers, nicknamed "lollypop" markers for their shape.
Some markers were knocked off their poles. Others were shattered into pieces. Others were likely driven into the earth by the force of the tree's fall.
In April, annual Town Meeting passed over the Cemetery Commission's request for $11,500 in Community Preservation Act funds for the tree removal project. Nonetheless, commission Chairman Jack Spero said the commission has decided to move ahead to remove the trees in the coming months.
"We're not blaming anybody," said Spero. "Some things happen. In retrospect who loses? The makers loose."
The commission had moved on since annual Town Meeting to seek bids for the work. Of four interested companies, two submitted bids. The low bidder was Sean Bilodeau of Harvard.
The commission opted to follow Bilodeau's advice and move in with heavy equipment to remove the trees when the hallowed grounds where frozen this winter to minimize damage to the grave site.
Though the earth has presumably settled over time, Spero said there is some concern over the approach to take to remove the large trees. Spero said there's concern that heavy equipment could sink into the earth in areas where graves may have settled over time. Others cited concern over any attempt to bring a crane aside the site on conservation land to cut and drop the tree in segments.
Another approach could be to remove the markers temporarily and drop the seven standing trees to the ground without bringing in heavy equipment. The bid also includes stump removal. The details have yet to be finalized.
Asked if there could be human remains under the stumps themselves, Spero admitted, "I don't know. Who knows?" But the trees need to come down sooner rather than later, said Spero.
"This pushes the lever," said Spero of the push to remove the trees this winter in the wake of the marker damage suffered this week. "We have to do it before we loose more."
The commission has also sought donations to remove the markers to powder coat them. Over the decades, the elements have started to erode exposed metal where repeated painting has chipped away. To date, 76 markers have been protected, with 156 markers still to cover.
Spero said the commission is still accepting donations for marker preservation at the Cemetery Commission, Harvard Town Hall, 13 Ayer Road, Harvard, MA 01451 ATTN: Shaker Cemetery preservation project.