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November 6, 2013

Cemetery's latest problem: ATV drug deals

Rural riders suspected of using Hilldale burial area for illegal exchanges

HAVERHILL — First, the unmowed grass was a problem.

Now ATVs buzzing through the area are causing complaints.

The group in charge of Hilldale Cemetery came under fire from the City Council this year, after neighbors complained the grass wasn’t being mowed and the place looked uncared for. Cemetery officials said their lawn-mowing equipment failed, and they have been struggling to raise money for new equipment.

But with help from volunteers, the trustees managed to get most of the grass cut.

Now they are being asked to secure a sand pit area behind the cemetery where ATVs have been entering from railroad tracks in that area.

Thomas Spitalere, president of the cemetery’s Board of Trustees, which operates the nonprofit graveyard, said he believes the ATVs come down from Maine and New Hampshire and enter the cemetery to meet with local people, possibly to make drug deals.

At a recent City Council meeting, Councilor Thomas Sullivan pointed out concerns about an exposed sand pit in the back of the cemetery. Sullivan said there is no fence or obstacle to prevent ATVs from getting into the cemetery from the railroad tracks. He told Spitalere the area needs to be made secure.

“That’s got to be part of the solution in 2014,” Sullivan said. “If you need our help in figuring out who owns it and how to get a hold of them and make them do something in order to make that area safer and more secure, we can do that.”

Spitalere said the sand pit is a large area at the back of the cemetery. Much of it is on a slope that stretches down to railroad tracks used by freight trains and Amtrak’s Downeaster, he said.

Spitalere told councilors he’s seen pickup trucks driving through the adjacent City Cemetery to meet up with ATVs that enter by travelling along the railroad tracks. He said his group has fencing that can be installed once the boundary line between the railroad property and Hilldale Cemetery is determined.

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