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Council raises concerns over roadside memorials

A memorial to Aaron W. Bradley adorns the corner of Kendrick Lane and Shenandoah Avenue in Front Royal where he died nearly two years ago while working for a landscaping company. Front Royal officials are working with the victim's family to find another site for the memorial. Alex Bridges/Daily

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - A flowery memorial at a town intersection marks where Aaron Bradley died in 2011.

But nearly two years after Bradley's death, Town Council members say they must address residents' complaints about the memorial's size and visibility. Councilmen noted they should take caution with the sensitive subject.

Town officials and Bradley's family may find a solution by working together. Such an effort also may affect other memorials in town.

Mayor Timothy Darr brought up the issue to council at a recent work session. Darr specifically identified the memorial set up at the corner of North Kendrick Lane and Shenandoah Avenue because he had received calls about it.

Town Manager Steven Burke on Friday said at least two other roadside memorials appear in Front Royal and are maintained by loved ones.

"We've contacted one family previously and we're trying to determine who the third memorial is for," Burke said.

A memorial to a bicyclist struck and killed by a motor vehicle appears at 15th Street and Royal Avenue. The town has little information about a memorial erected at South Street and Royal Avenue, Burke said.

Bradley, 18, of Guard Hill Road, was electrocuted while working with a landscaping company at the intersection on April 15, 2011. Bradley came in contact with a high-voltage power line as he stood in a hydraulic bucket lift removing limbs from a tree, according to a town police press release issued days after the incident.

Darr said he was "trying to be as compassionate as possible here, but I have received several complaints from citizens."

He added, "We had a tragic incident there where a young man lost his life."

Bradley's family set up a roadside memorial at the corner made of landscaping stones, a sign with his photograph and flowers. A solar-powered spotlight illuminates the memorial at night. But as Darr explained, the memorial appears to have expanded over time.

"I feel sorry for the family," Darr added. "I understand the grieving process and everything, but the issue is what started there has turned into a roadside memorial that has morphed into [being] decorated at Christmas time, decorated for every holiday season."

The mayor commented that he understands the points of view of the family and of residents.

"It's becoming a situation that I think we as a town need to look at maybe in general with this one included because we have others in town that should fall under the same perspective," Darr said. "Maybe we can look at some way to accommodate the families in a less dramatic effort."

Neighbors have contacted Darr about the memorial.

"I certainly by no means want to show any disrespect to that family or any other family," Darr said. "It's in our town right-of-way and somewhere along the line we have to make sure that the right thing is done and the process is handled somewhere soft enough ... we also need to realize that this is something somebody sees every time they come into our town."

The town likely would receive complaints if someone put up a sandwich board or other sign on rights-of-way, Darr said. While the town has access to the right-of-way, the land and its maintenance falls under the responsibility of the property owner, Darr explained.

Burke told council he has talked to the victim's family.

"They are looking to see if there's a location on private property that they could relocate [the memorial]," Burke said.

The Beautification of Front Royal Committee offers a program in which a resident makes a donation to the group and, in exchange, the committee works with the town's Horticulture Division to plant either a tree or bush, depending on sight-distance issues, on a site, Burke has explained. The town then works with the groups and the family to install a small plaque identifying in whose memory the tree or bush is planted, Burke added. Such a program offers survivors a living memorial to their lost loved one, Burke told council.

The town manager noted that staff would make contact with families of people identified in other memorials in Front Royal.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt said other towns face a similar dilemma.

"It's everywhere," Tewalt said. "It's a terrible thing to have to tackle."

"We definitely want to be sensitive to the family for their loss," Darr said. "Also we're charged with making sure our streets and right-of-ways are safe for our town employees as well as making that our town looks to an appearance that we set the standards for."

The Beautification Committee administers the Front Royal Memorial Trees Program for local residents, businesses and organizations, according to information provided on the town's website. The program aids in preserving the memory of deceased family and friends or honor special individuals while at the same time assist in reforestation of the town. The committee, with the approval of the horticulture division, plants and individually maintains trees and bushes recommended on the town's approved species list in rights-of-way.

Under the program, the Warren Heritage Society keeps a certificate in a permanent record that identifies the contributor and the person honored or memorialized. The register lists the names of individuals for which a tree or bush has been planted and the person or group responsible for the contribution. The town's Horticulture Division maintains the plantings.

Individuals interested in participating in the program may choose from the following:

  • A one-time, tax-deductible contribution of $100 to the Beautification of Front Royal Committee to dedicate and plant one tree between 4 feet and 6 feet tall. The cost covers maintenance, mulch and fertilizer provided by the town.

  • A one-time, tax-deductible contribution of $50 to the committee to dedicate and plant one 5-gallon bush. The cost also includes maintenance, mulch and fertilizer provided by the town.

  • The committee selects the plant and appropriate location upon receiving a completed request form and contribution. The committee plants trees from October through March. The committee sends an acknowledgment to the family of the deceased or individual honored and a certificate to the person responsible for the contribution.

    Visit www.frontroyalva.com/town-services/public-works/memorial-trees.html for more information.

    Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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