Phillip and Bess Ratcliff are relieved now that the road that runs alongside their grave sites has reopened at Holy Cross Cemetery.
“I actually cried when I saw that the road was open,” said Bess Ratcliff, 80. “I’m feeling great about it. That worry in the back of my mind is gone.”
Ratcliff and her husband of 61 years, Phillip, 87, purchased three plots in section 20 of the cemetery more than 25 years ago. The couple, from Green, selected the area primarily because there was a road nearby, making it convenient for loved ones to get to the grave sites.
Last year, floodwaters washed out the road, and the Ratcliffs and others with cemetery plots in that area were told the timing for reopening the road was uncertain. The cemetery, with access from Waterloo Road and Main Street, is part of the Diocese of Cleveland’s Catholic Cemetery Association but operates independently.
Andrej N. Lah, president of the association, said the road, which reopened at the beginning of the month, was eroded by stormwater runoff from the city of Akron. He said that during heavy rainfalls the cemetery experiences tens of thousands of gallons of water rushing through its waterways.
Earlier this year, Rick Merolla, Akron’s service director, acknowledged flooding problems in the Brewster Creek drainage area, where the cemetery is located. He said last year’s heavy rainfall triggered major flooding problems in South Akron and Coventry Township near the cemetery.
The Brewster Creek tributary flows from east to west between Interstate 277 and Swartz Road, passes under Glenmount Avenue, flows under I-277 and empties into the main stem of Brewster Creek. From there, it flows through Holy Cross Cemetery, under South Main Street and turns south to cross under I-277 before emptying into the Tuscarawas River.
Merolla said that the city is still seeking state and federal funding to make improvements in the Brewster Creek area.
In the past several years, the cemetery association has spent more than $300,000 to manage the flow of stormwater and estimates it will take another $300,000 to solve the issue. The cost of the replacement road was nearly $40,000, which included the removal of about 500 feet of stormwater pipe, elevation of the road and installation of chip-seal pavement.
“We’re doing everything that we need to do to protect and preserve the cemetery. We want to be good stewards,” Lah said. “We have done the best we can with our limited resources to force any excess water into the stream bed. It’s not a perfect solution, but we believe it will work, and we will continue to try to resolve the flow of water so it doesn’t destroy the cemetery.”
Crews are expected to erect signs in the next couple of weeks to mark the road as one way.
“A one-way sign will be much better than the signs that used to say the road is closed,” said Phillip Ratcliff, who uses a walker. “I think it’s great that I don’t have to walk so far now to get to the site.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.