Works to revitalise Cobargo Cemetery have been completed after the Black Summer bushfires came dangerously close to damaging the graves of people at rest.
Friends of Cobargo Cemetery volunteer Mel Britton says the bushfires destroyed fencing and burnt out their shipping container that housed their gardening equipment such as lawnmowers and a whipper-snipper.
While embers also burnt flowers, there was fortunately no damage to the graves, a slice of good luck Mel puts down to the fact the volunteers had mowed the area after Christmas in 2019.
“All the trees were burnt around there, and the grass,” she says.
“We were lucky the grass was really, really short.
“But it was virtually burnt up to the graves.”
Along with other groups, the volunteers have helped to renew the area.
Bega Valley Shire Council said the work included the construction of a new pavilion building; an upgrade to the internal gravel road; the replacement of the storage container; the repair of a bench seat and fencing; the installation of a new water tank; and construction of a new memorial rock garden.
Mel says the memorial garden provides a place for people to sit and reflect.
“You can put your loved one’s ashes in the ground there, or you can just put a plaque of your loved one’s details onto big rocks,” she says.
The new pavilion provides a shelter for people to sit when visiting the cemetery.
Mel remembers one time she drove by the cemetery in the rain and saw a woman, who had lost her husband, huddling with her children under an umbrella so they could visit his grave. She felt terrible they had nowhere to shelter from the wet weather.
“People don’t realise how much you go there once you’ve got someone there,” she says.
Mel says it felt fantastic to now have the improvements at the cemetery.
“Without Merimbula Rotary and the council we would never have been able to do a project that big on our own,” she says.
“It was a group effort.”
Rotary Club Merimbula gave Friends of Cobargo Cemetery a new ride-on lawnmower and whipper-snipper to replace the maintenance equipment lost in the bushfires.
The club also replaced the cemetery’s timber fencing.
Council’s cemeteries and halls officer, Katrina Berenguer, said the outcome is testament to the commitment across the Bega Valley Shire to support individuals, groups and communities most impacted by the bushfires.
“It has been extremely encouraging to be part of this collaboration with Rotary Club Merimbula, the Friends of Cobargo Cemetery and council to deliver this valuable project,” she said.
“The new pavilion is a great addition to the site, providing shelter from rain or heat for loved ones and volunteers, and the rock garden provides a quiet place of reflection.
“Rotary Club Merimbula has done a fantastic job assisting with the project management of this project, and the upgrading of internal roads at the Bermagui and Pambula cemeteries.”
Funding for the project came from the Friends of Cobargo Cemetery ($10,000), Rotary Club Merimbula ($7000), and the Federal Government under the Drought Communities Programme ($23,740).
Mel also thanked Cobargo’s Bowerbird Community Op Shop, as well as the local community for supporting their projects.
The memorial garden and pavilion were opened at the end of June 2021.