July 18, 2013

Scarborough backs away from regulating roadside memorials

The displays may distract drivers, but a Scarborough official says it's more important not to add to the families' grief.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH – The Town Council has put off its decision – perhaps forever – on regulating roadside memorials.

click image to enlarge

A roadside memorial for Steven Delano, seen Saturday, June 29, 2013, stands at the corner of Holmes and Payne Road in Scarborough where he was killed in a car crash in 2010.

Gabe Souza / Staff Phoptographer

The proposal to regulate the memorials for accident victims was prompted by concerns about safety, including memorials' potential to distract drivers. Town Manager Tom Hall said the vote was removed from the Town Council agenda on Wednesday with the support of Chairman Ronald Ahlquist.

"I don't expect it to appear anytime soon, if ever, on the council's agenda," Hall said. "Clearly, it has been the source of some concern and grief to members of the community. This issue isn't so important as to cause grief to these folks."

The proposal was prompted largely by a memorial at the intersection of Payne and Holmes roads, where Steven Delano, a Scarborough High School senior, was killed on May 8, 2010, when the car he was driving was hit by a tanker truck.

Delano, 18, was driving three friends to the high school prom at the time of the crash.

Kevin Grondin, who was in the car with Delano, his best friend, maintains the memorial for Delano and says he visits it three or four times a week.

Grondin said he is "very happy" that the town decided to move away from the new policy because it upset and angered many in town. He said about 400 people were prepared to go to the council meeting to speak against the policy, and many have already told him they're ready to fight the policy if it ever comes up again.

Delano's memorial is on land owned by Scarborough Downs, which has given Grondin permission to maintain the site in honor of the friend he considered a brother.

"That's the place I go to feel safe and calm down," he said. "I'm with my friend who died when I'm there. It's my sanctuary. It means a lot to a lot of people."

Hall said any attempt to regulate memorials would be complicated by their locations. Those on the town's rights-of-way would be subject to regulations, but town officials would not have any control over memorials on private property.

Hall said town officials can talk with families and friends after a tragic accident about how best to memorialize their loved ones. Beyond roadside memorials, people can be memorialized in town with scholarships, benches or trees dedicated in public parks, or with events like memorial runs, he said.

"It was the right decision not to press the matter" of regulating memorials, Hall said. 

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

 

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