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Volunteers needed to maintain Oakwood cemetery grounds

The lawn at Oakwood Cemetery has become more and more difficult to maintain due to the lack of volunteers. Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia

Maintenance of Oakwood Cemetery has continued to get harder and harder since 2014 when lawn care service was left to volunteers. The county used to care for the lawn through its Sentence to Serve program, but in 2014 they no longer had any money in the budget to put toward mowing the cemetery.

Oakwood Cemetery was established in 1856 and it has more than 500 people interred on the property. Heidi Langenfeld, president of the Friends of LeDuc and Historic Hastings, said the site is historic and that taking care of it is a worthwhile project.

"We would like people to be involved in preserving this site," Langenfeld said.

There are currently two volunteers who maintain the five acre property. It takes about eight hours to complete the task of mowing the lawn. One of the volunteer mowers is out of town for the next month which has left Shirley Dalaska and her husband to mow 2.5 acres alone. Dalaska and her husband are in their late-60s and 70s and she said that it has become more and more difficult on their bodies to complete the work.

In addition to the maintenance, Dalaska said that she has to transport her own mower to the property. There is no shed on the property leaving no place to store the necessary tools for lawn care.

Dalaska said she lives in a townhome and their lawn is maintained by someone else, but they bought the mower so that they could maintain Oakwood's lawn.

Oakwood Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the original Hastings pioneers as well as several veterans. Its first hundred years passed without much trouble, but in the 1950s finances and other issues took their toll. Care of the cemetery was handed over to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1961.

The site began to degrade over the next 25 years until several families joined together to create the Oakwood Cemetery Association in 1987. The association secured donations and volunteers to catch up on maintenance.

Today, the Oakwood Cemetery Association consists of two members. Dalaska is the secretary of the board and Kevin Chamberlain is the board chair.

Dalaska said that more help is needed with the maintenance and preservation of the site. The association is looking for community members who could transport a lawn mower to the site and help with the mowing. For more information about volunteer opportunities at Oakwood Cemetery contact Heidi Langenfeld at 651-208-6665.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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