July 2, 2013

Scarborough aims to regulate roadside memorials

Scarborough drafts a plan to respect crash victims' families while protecting public safety, but critics oppose it.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Cindy Delano poses for a portrait Saturday, June 29, 2013, by the roadside memorial for her 18-year old son Steven Delano, who was killed in a car crash in 2010 at the corner of Holmes and Payne Road in Scarborough. Standing with Delano is Kevin Grondin, who was in the vehicle with Steven Delano when the accident occurred.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A roadside memorial occupies the location of a fatal accident on Payne Rd., near Holmes Road, in Scarborough on Sunday, June 30, 2013. Roadside memorials have become the centerpiece of a debate as the Scarborough Town Council considers a proposed ordinance that would regulate them. The Town Council will discuss the ordinance at its July 17 meeting.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

"Someone stole the cross. There was a horrible accident in which two young teenagers got killed. They put up a cross, and someone took it," Chase said. "Obviously, the family was very upset by that. I put the bill in at their request."

Before Scarborough's proposed policy was drafted, Police Chief Robert Moulton said he looked to other towns for models but couldn't find any in Maine. Instead, he sought the input of three families who lost loved ones in crashes.

Moulton said town councilors asked him to look into the issue after they heard complaints that the roadside memorials were unsightly and distracting to motorists.

Other states ban roadside memorials or have rules that allow state workers to remove them after a specific length of time.

Vermont prohibits roadside memorials on state roads, considering them "a danger to all highway users," said Scott Rogers, director of operations for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The state adopted a policy in February 2010 to remove memorials.

"Family members and friends who install and maintain roadside memorials are often distraught, mourning their loss, and focused on finding a little glimpse of relief, which means they are lacking full awareness of their surroundings," Rogers said in an email. "This not only puts them in danger, but also places other highway users at risk, especially during storm events and night hours."

In New Hampshire, roadside memorials are allowed on state roads but are removed by the Department of Transportation after six months, said spokesman Bill Boynton. The law has been in place for at least a decade.

"While it's an emotional issue, we certainly want to be sensitive to the family's feelings," Boynton said. "From my perspective, it seems to be a compromise that the public has accepted."

Massachusetts has no policy for roadside memorials.

"We exercise our best judgment with roadside memorials. We understand they are an expression of grief, but we must also be focused on safety," said MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie. "Mementos that are placed at the scene of fatal incidents are removed in time. Rarely are requests made for permanent memorials to be placed at the roadside and rarely would they be allowed."

The debate in Scarborough over whether to regulate roadside memorials like the cross and flowers where her son was killed has left Cindy Delano with a "lot of mixed emotions."

"Unless someone's gone through this, they don't know what you feel," she said.

Her son's death caused "overwhelming" grief among young people in town and surrounding communities, she said.

"This was a high school kid. For a lot of these people, it was the first death they experienced," Delano said.

The site now includes the orange cross planted in a small flower garden, edged by a ring of paver bricks. Grondin repainted the cross in the spring with orange paint and black lettering, she said.

"I don't think it's a big distraction at this point," Delano said. "I know some people don't think it's necessary and that we should be grieving at a cemetery."

She said several of her son's friends set up the memorial immediately after his death and continued to add to it, making it much larger than it is now.

"Was it overwhelming? Yes, it was, but so were the emotions all these kids were going through," she said. "We didn't set it up. It was set up by all these kids."

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

 

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