Scarborough considers regulating roadside memorials

David Harry/Sun Media Wire

Scarborough resident Kevin Grondin maintains a memorial for his best friend, Steven Delano, on Payne Road near Scarborough Downs Road. He objects to any town regulation of roadside memorials. "This is the last place I was with Steve," he said. "It is respectable and clean and will always be that way."

SCARBOROUGH — Three or four times a week, Kevin Grondin visits and grooms a spot near Payne and Scarborough Downs roads where Steven Delano was fatally injured in a car crash on May 8, 2010.

David Harry/Sun Media Wire

Less than a year after the death of Steven Delano, Alicia Robinson's car veered off Gorham Road between Mussey Road and the Nonesuch River. Robinson was 21 and died from injuries in the crash. Scarborough Police Chief Robby Moulton said he spoke with her family regarding a more formal roadside marker, before moving ahead with the proposed policy councilors will discuss July 17.

Makeshift memorials like these may soon have to be marked in more formal and town-sanctioned manners — or removed altogether.

On July 17, town councilors will consider a new policy to regulate roadside memorials. If passed, 4-inch-by-4-inch plaques on posts set 2 feet deep and a foot above the ground will be provided by the town, to be planted as close as a town right of way allows.

Families could attach "other small mementos or emblems" to the posts and one floral display will be permitted. More displays would be allowed in the 10 days around a victim's birthday or wedding anniversary, and at Christmas and Easter. The town could also remove displays on public land and on private land, if requested by an owner.

The proposed policy was moved forward June 19 by the Town Council Rules and Policy Committee. Its members are Councilors Judy Roy and Ed Blaise, with Councilor Jim Benedict as chairman.

Benedict on Monday said the proposed regulations seek a balance between expressions of grief and minimizing potentially hazardous situations. He credited Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton will drafting the policy and contacting families most immediately affected by the possible changes.

"The basic problem is driver distraction and safety," Benedict said Monday. "Knowing the chief has spoken with people has made it more acceptable."

The policy draft does not mention the cost, or if families would be charged, but Moulton estimated a post would cost $27, with lettering for a plaque between $27 and $40.

But not everyone finds the proposal acceptable.

Grondin last Thursday said he is offended he was not included in initial conversations with Moulton. He said the Delano memorial, with a blaze orange cross surrounded by a flower bed, is not a public hazard.

"It is respectable, clean, and it will always be that way," Grondin said.

Grondin, Delano and Gorham High School students Kayla Carpenter and Julia Waters were headed to the Gorham High School prom in Portland when their car was hit by a truck.

After it rolled down an embankment the car came to rest on its roof where Grondin now tends donated flowers and materials. The cross is blaze orange because of Delano's love of hunting, and is marked with a Chevrolet emblem for his favorite make of vehicle.

Grondin was hospitalized for three weeks and missed his friend's memorial service and funeral.

"I don't go to the grave site. This is the last place I was with Steve, my best friend," Grondin said.

Delano's mother, Cindy Delano, said she sees both sides.

"I understand what they are saying and doing. But it is my son that was lost, and I love his cross," Delano said Monday. “The kids needed a way to grieve and get through it. They came together at the accident site."

Last December, Grondin put up a Christmas tree that was not removed until early spring. It became a focal point for Benedict's concern about distractions.

Grondin said heavy snow made removing the tree impossible, and suggested drivers could find more hazardous distractions in lights and signs at commercial areas up and down Payne Road.

If councilors pass the policy, it remains unclear if there would be oversight at Delano's memorial site. Grondin and Cindy Delano say the site is on land owned by Scarborough Downs, so it would be up to owner Sharon Terry or her staff to seek removal of the memorial.

"There are those situations where things are done on private property," Moulton, the police chief, admitted, "but some property owners have not been spoken to (before the memorials were placed)."

If the policy is passed, he said Scarborough would be unique in Maine: his research turned up no local ordinances regulating impromptu roadside memorials.

Cindy Delano is adamant the cross should stay at the site, at least until her older son, Scott, completes his second U.S. Army deployment in Afghanistan.

“That cross is not going anywhere until Scott gets home," she said, adding that Scott Delano shares Grondin's commitment to the memorial.

Grondin said he will not give up the site, and promised to pack Town Hall with foes of the policy on July 17.

"They are going to have to pry this from my hands," he vowed.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Comments

JON M SHOEMAKER's picture

MEMORIALS

I think there are much more distracting things than a memorial. People are distracted every day by their phone, music, eating, putting on makeup, etc.

Memorials are not a distraction they are a means of remembering and showing respect for our Family, Friends, or other people whom we don't even know.

Come on Councilors don't you have anything better to do?

Charging people is just another greedy way of getting money.

Bob White's picture

Well Jerry

Maybe you shouldn't have been drunk when you were attempting to cross over.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

I'll bet that is how you found your wife....

Once more, since I told you in the past at this same stupid comment you made in the past, I have been sober since 1985..

But it obvious that you are in need of some medical assistance since, I know comprehension and remembering past conversations is a sign of dementia or alzheimer's in many cases of your recollections of conversations, which appears to be your major malfunction or you are just plain ignorant of those facts I provided you.

Snap!

ERNEST LABBE's picture

While this

While this memorial appears to be well kept it is an exception. Many are thrown up in a moment of immediate grief by a bunch of grieving friends. The sites are covered with signs, flowers, teddy bears, and most anything else you can think of. Then as quickly as the mourners appeared to put them up, the mourners disappear and the memorial deteriorates in time to where it becomes an eyesore.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Viewing Grondin's marker, as clean and respectful

If the city allows markers of respectful clean and maintained, as tributes to lost friends and love ones, such as Grondins, it hurts no one.

It is a way for many to pay respect, but it also makes other travelers to slow down and take an awareness that some of those locations are treacherous in some cases and locations.

I had a good veteran friend that passed at a highway crossing and we constructed a market and it was always a reminder of many things, one, most important, was this crossing was a deadly approach for others, to be cautious and careful.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

I will add:

That after Jake died on Thanksgiving day, that 6 years later they widened the highway and they built a bridge with on & off ramps. Removing our built Veteran tribute marker, but the larger accomplishment achieved it made it safe for all getting on and off the highway now.

My wife and I used that crossover for 10 years and I had a mack trailer crush my backside of my El Camino because there wasn't enough room in the winter for cars to all turn off the highway to cross over...others besides Jake also were killed at that location, so who knows how many we gave warning to with that memorial marker.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Well said, Jerry. I totally

Well said, Jerry. I totally agree.

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