BUCKSPORT, Maine — The town and a local gun club opted Thursday to investigate a potential unmarked cemetery as a first step in a proposal to lease the club a parcel of town-owned land for a new shooting range.
By Tuesday, the Bucksport Rod and Gun Club will mark off the exact boundaries of its proposed shooting and archery range at the town-owned sludge site on Upper Long Pond Road. Then the town will dig a series of transverse trenches to determine whether any graves exist in the excavation zone.
“We will have spent one day out there with a backhoe and then we will have laid to rest the issue,” said Town Councilor Belle Ryder during a town sewer committee meeting.
The gun club was offered the property by former Town Manager Roger Raymond. But when local cemetery researcher Emeric Spooner learned of the plan, he alerted the town that 19th century maps indicate a graveyard on the property.
But Roger Green, a member of the gun club and a consulting forester, said that his own study of the area, using up-to-date map rectification techniques, leaves the position of a cemetery — if one exists at all — in question.
Members of the sewer committee on Thursday were hesitant to accept one study and throw out the other or to deny the possibility that the cemetery could be somewhere on the property not indicated in either set of maps.
Rather than taking the word of one researcher over another, the committee said it would settle for ensuring no graves were directly underneath the proposed range site.
“If you want us to stake out where the range line would go, for the main range, we can do that,” Green said. “Then you can dig to your heart’s content.”
Maine law governs the procedure for construction and excavation at known and undocumented burial sites. If the town and club can determine that no site would be disturbed, negotiations for a lease of the plot could continue.
Opponents of the gun club’s plan weren’t present Thursday evening but Council Chairman David Keene made clear that even if no graves are discovered, the lease of the sludge site is not a done deal.
“Before we entered into any agreement, we’ll have a public hearing,” he said.
Keene said the agreement, if it’s struck, likely would be a 100-year lease.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.