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City Manager Joseph Scherer and the public works department are asking for voluntary compliance for residents to remove mementoes and other trinkets from gravesites at Cedarwood Cemetery.

Scherer noted the problem in his report to council Tuesday, saying, “I believe most people would say our Cedarwood Cemetery is very beautiful and well-maintained, offering a respectful setting to visitors.”

He said, however, “There is a trend by some visitors that is making it harder for public works to maintain Cedarwood Cemetery in such a respectful and pristine condition. The practice of leaving mementoes on the gravesite is in violation of our ordinances for the cemetery, it sometimes creates a distraction from the general appearance and hinders the maintenance crew in their mowing and trimming of the grounds.”

Scherer said in his report, “We understand family members want to honor their loved ones but this practice cannot continue.”

Said the city manager: “I’d like to ask that families please cease putting these items on gravesites and consider removing the ones that are there now. At some time in the future we will be forced to remove them for storage if they are not collected before then by families.”

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Scherer said this morning there is no specific deadline for removal of the items. “We want to see if we can get voluntarily compliance. We’re trying to maintain the cemetery to where it is a place of respect which allows people to have the appropriate atmosphere to help remember their loved ones.”

Section 92.02 of the city’s code of ordinances addresses this issue and says boxes, shells, toys, wire screens, arbors, trellises, chairs, benches and objects of similar nature of any kind whatsoever will not be permitted on any lot or grave.

Download the city ordinance at this link

It also says no lot or grave shall be planted or seeded except by cemetery personnel and that no person shall trim, prune or remove any part of the trees or shrubs in the cemetery, whether on their lot or not.

The section, according to Public Works Director Larry Chalker, applies to the larger portion of the cemetery north of Fourth Street which is commonly called the new cemetery. “It’s gotten out of hand,” he said. “We understand it’s part of the grieving process and memorial process. We understand but we have rules and regulations.”

The rules and regulations from the city’s code of ordinances are given to those who buy plots at the cemetery, Chalker said. They are also available at the cemetery office at 225 Kemp Avenue or online at the city’s website.

He said it becomes difficult to maintain the site either by mowing or trimming when items are placed on the ground. “Some graves have so much clutter that we can’t maintain the entire lot and have to take (the items) up and put them back down. It’s extremely labor intensive and hinders our proper care and maintenance of the cemetery.”

Chalker said he has seen items such as solar lights, poles for flags and even a hummingbird feeder in the ground around graves. “It interferes with the maintenance of the cemetery. It’s in the rules and is in the city ordinance.”

While there is currently no specific deadline for removing the items, Chalker said, “We don’t want to be forced into throwing anything away.”

If it comes to a point there is no compliance Chalker said staff will have to collect the items, bag or box them, label it with the name of the family and store them. “While we don’t want to interfere with loved ones memorializing their family members or friends we feel now is the time to start bringing graves back into compliance with cemetery rules and regulations. This is necessary so we can continue to maintain Cedarwood and keep it in a pristine condition.”