Construction workers erected a six-foot-tall wooden fence around the grave site of the late senator Edward M. Kennedy Friday, as Arlington National Cemetery began a project to renovate and improve accessibility to the long-time senator’s grave.
Conceptual renderings of the finished site show a low granite wall that visitors will be able to sit atop and a smooth granite path linking the grave to that of Robert F. Kennedy, Ted’s brother. Robert Kennedy’s grave is connected by a path to President John F. Kennedy’s resting spot, so the changes will allow people to easily pay tribute at the graves of all three brothers.
“We are deeply moved and honored by the many visitors who take time to pay their respects at the final resting places of our family members, and we hope these improvements will only enhance the visitors’ sense of peace, serenity and inspiration,” the Kennedy family wrote in a statement.
A memorial marker will be added for the fourth Kennedy brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who died in World War II.
The project, which is expected to be finished by late October, also will make Edward Kennedy’s grave accessible to people with disabilities. Previously, the site could only be visited by taking steps down a path from Robert Kennedy’s grave, then a short walk along the road, said Arlington Cemetery spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch.
“Having the new walking path, the new seated path, the design, the landscape design as well as the access improvement is going to enhance the beauty of the area,” Lynch said. Hollies, boxwood, flowering dogwoods and other greenery will be planted, officials said.
While the work is underway, Edward Kennedy’s grave has been temporarily moved to a nearby site on Sheridan Avenue.
Debra Reed, spokeswoman for the Kennedy family, said the cost of the project is not being released at the request of the family. It is being privately financed by the estate of Edward Kennedy.
Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) died in August 2009 at age 77 after battling brain cancer. Designs for the new grave site began in July 2010, and the project was approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in September.
According to the statement from the Kennedy family, the project aims to make the site accessible to handicapped visitors and develop a “harmonious flow” between the graves of Edward Kennedy and his brothers.
“It’s a very sensitive environment,” said Thomas Luebke, secretary for the commission of fine arts. “You’ve got to try to incorporate in an appropriate and dignified way an existing presidential tomb.”