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Mushroom guidelines intended to preserve historic cemetery

Morel mushroom hunters already are out hunting for their tasty quarry in the historic Jacksonville Cemetery, but they are being asked to follow a few guidelines this year.

The number of morel-seekers has increased in recent years, and some have proven disruptive or damaged cemetery features.

“We are trying to take a soft approach and hope that people use common sense,” said Dirk Siedlecki, chairman of the Cemetery Commission. “If things don’t improve, next year we will definitely look at either requiring permits or banning mushroom picking. We hope it doesn’t get to that.”

Morel hunting has been going on in the cemetery for years, but Siedlecki said it has become more prevalent over the past couple years as more people became aware of the site.

The website owlcation.com/stem/Hunting-Southern-Oregon-Morels lists the cemetery as one search site, but also has other options in Jackson County for those seeking the culinary treat. It lists March through June as prime picking times depending upon elevation. Areas near Ruch, Applegate dam, Gold Hill, Butte Falls and Hyatt Lake also are recommended.

“It just seems that each year more and more people hear about the mushrooms available in the Jacksonville Cemetery,” Siedlecki said.

Officials particularly want to discourage the trend toward picking for commercial purposes.

Pickers have both walked and driven their cars though the 32-acre area, which was established in 1859, has more than 5,600 gravesites and still is a funeral site. Some of Southern Oregon’s earliest pioneer graves are in the cemetery.

“We’ve had headstones knocked over, curbing that has been run over; road markers that have been run over because people haven’t been paying attention,” said Seidlecki. “Those roadways are very narrow.”

He added that some drivers have parked their vehicles on top of graves, or in such a way that it prevents other traffic from getting through.

Children have been left unattended to run through the cemetery or climb on monuments and gravestones. Those markers can be loose and present a hazard to those climbing on them. Deaths have occurred in other cemeteries when the markers have toppled over, Siedlecki said.

Music also has been played at loud volume. Commissioners characterized some of the behavior as a general lack of respect for the grounds, those interred and other visitors.

“Most of the people are decent and respectful, but others just walk right over gravesites and don’t follow pathways,” said Siedlecki.

Cemetery Sexton Richard Shields, his assistant and volunteers have had to spend time making repairs and asking pickers to behave appropriately.

Guidelines will be posted in the cemetery, and workers will have copies to hand out to visitors. Guidelines include:

  • Vehicles should be parked only in designated areas, around the traffic circle the top of Cemetery Road, near the restrooms and behind black metal bollards that indicate parking spots.
  • Individuals should not drive around the grounds looking for mushrooms. They are encouraged to walk to prevent damage to cemetery fixtures. Walking should be done on roadways and walkways, not over graves.
  • Children should not be left unattended.
  • Noise levels should be restrained out of respect for those visiting graves.
  • The grounds may be closed for funeral services. Notices of closing will be posted at the entrance gate to the cemetery, and observance is requested.

Visitors are asked to advise Shields of issues and concerns with behavior and to provide a license plate number and/or description of vehicles and drivers. Shields can be reached at 541-899-1231. The Jacksonville Police Department can be contacted at 541-899-7100. After business hours and on weekend, the police dispatch number is 541-776-7206.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneDerek Bauman and Amber Bauman, of Jacksonville, search for morel mushroom at the Jacksonville Cemetery on Wednesday.