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Springfield cemetery fence a magnet for car crashes

Ferncliff averages 6 to 8 crashes a year into fence.

Ferncliff Cemetery’s 70,000 occupants are protected by a wrought-iron fence surrounding 180 acres of serene burial space.

With the way cars continually careen off the road into the fence, Stanley Spitler is glad it’s there.

“If we didn’t have this fence, they’d be up in the cemetery,” Spitler, the cemetery superintendent, said Friday, the morning after a driver managed to seriously damage another part of the fence along North Plum Street.

“It should be a peaceful place,” he added. “You shouldn’t have to worry about the outside coming in.”

A couple of weeks ago, two panels of the heavy-duty fence were taken out by a driver coming around the curve on McCreight Avenue, which is where most of the crashes occur.

They had yet to be replaced when a driver smashed into the Plum-side fence, which is on the other side of the cemetery.

“It’s pathetic,” said Sonya Ryhal, a Springfield resident who was visiting Ferncliff on Friday morning. “I’ve lived here my whole life. That fence has been down more than it’s been up.”

It’d almost be comical if it wasn’t so expensive.

It costs $1,240 to fabricate just one new panel and have it put in place, Spitler said. So imagine Spitler’s pain when a driver recently took out four panels.

He worries that a cheaper fence might all but ensure that drivers end up in the cemetery, increasing the likelihood that burial markers could be destroyed.

“We want to protect the families we serve,” Spitler said.

Typically, the drivers’ insurance covers it — but uninsured drivers collide with the fence far more often than he’d like. The cemetery’s insurance policy has a $1,000 deductible.

“It’s been an on and on battle, year after year,” Spitler said.

He’s worked at the historic nonprofit cemetery, which doubles as an arboretum, for 23 years, and estimates that someone hits the fence six to eight times annually.

“It’s happening year-round,” he said. “It’s very frustrating for me and my staff.”

He’d like to see a study undertaken of how new signage or a different road surface might break the cycle of crashes. When the surface gets wet, Spitler said, that’s typically when drivers lose control on the McCreight curve.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, he said, already ruled out a guardrail along McCreight.

City engineer Leo Shanayda couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

However, speed is definitely a factor, Spitler said. He said the driver who recently hit the fence on McCreight took the curve at 40mph.

The latest crash was a little harder for Spitler to put his thumb on, considering that Plum Street at that spot is practically as straight as it comes.

“They didn’t go through it,” he said, “but they almost did.”

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