Officials explain cemetery policies

To the editor: Several letters to the editor have appeared recently criticizing the cemetery’s “new” policy regarding items placed on/near grave sites. Perhaps a little explanation is in order. The accumulation of grave decorations in America’s cemeteries has been forcing cemetery employees to ask questions about just what is and is not “appropriate” to place on or around a grave site. The increased placement of grave items by families raises several grounds maintenance issues and affects the overall “look” and tidiness of a cemetery. What one family looks at as a wonderful and fitting tribute to the deceased loved one, may well be unsightly or inappropriate to families of adjoining grave sites. Certainly allowing every family to decorate graves in an elaborate manner would lead to an unsightly mishmash, pleasing to no one. There are issues of time and manpower. Just how much time and effort is practical for cemetery workers to spend dealing with grave items falling over onto graves or off of gravestones, being blown around by the wind, or being stolen by vandals? If items are removed from graves either systematically or case by case, there are issues of storage. How much room can a cemetery devote to storing grave items? How long should an item be stored for families to come and collect before it may be disposed of? What happens when an irate family member begins demanding the return of what seemed to be a long-forgotten (and disposed of) grave decoration? And, there are safety issues. An innocent toy run over by a mower can turn deadly, spewing sharp fragments like shrapnel. Workers and visitors could be injured by these things shooting out of mowers. Also we must include the damage to the mowers, and the expense of repairs to the equipment. Finally, cemeteries face an uphill battle when encountering families who are emotionally attached to their grave decorations and often bring that emotion to bitter battles with cemetery officials. So please, understand that our cemetery policies, especially the policy dealing with grave items placed on or around grave sites are for a good reason. These policies were adopted in 1963 by the board of directors, but have largely been un-enforced until recently because of the increasing numbers of decorative items. We in Crook County are extremely lucky to have our existing system in the cemetery. We have one of a very few cemeteries in Oregon that currently allow upright gravestones, or have employees available on Memorial weekend. Most cemeteries in Oregon do not have offices or staff in the cemetery, and are maintained by the local Parks & Recreation Division of the city or county with which they reside. Jan Bony, Past Crook County Cemetery District Board Member Gary Goodman Current Crook County Cemetery District Board Member