Alignment and spacing of some gravestones pose challenges for Wellington groundskeepers.
The Wellington City Council is getting ready to enact its first ordinance regulating maintenance of the city cemetery. Mayor Ben Blackburn told the council Wednesday that the need for rules at what he called "a very sacred place" is apparent.
Gravestones have been set out of alignment, either by citizens or by monument companies. This makes it difficult to mow the lawn, because misplacement often makes the space between gravestones narrower than the mower blades, he explained. Flat monuments are sometimes installed higher than ground level, which means that both markers and mower blades could be damaged while cutting grass.
The mayor said he and city workers must relocate or reinstall markers. "Not a long way, just three or four inches so the mowers can get through," he explained. Flat markers will have to be reset below the level of the cutting blades. This extra work, not to mention the expense, could be avoided if people knew in advance what is or is not permissible.
Decorative additions, while attractive, also pose some problems, Mayor Blackburn said. Shepherd's hooks - those curved poles that hold flower pots - are an obstacle for lawn mowers. Sometimes the pots are set right in the path of sprinklers, so they block the water and cause the grass to dry out. The mayor said he likes the look of the hooks, but they should be temporary, or at least placed where they don't interfere with upkeep.
Then there is the question of multiple interments in a single plot. During public comment and council discussion, it became apparent that people want to bury more than one loved one in an eight-foot plot. An adult and an infant coffin would fit, or an adult and a cremation urn, or two urns.
The city has no problem with double burials - in fact, they have already been allowed - but there are no hard and fast rules governing the policy. There are no written rules for any of the issues mentioned. So the council, along with City Manager Ken Powell, will be drafting an ordinance.
Councilman Glen Wells commented that the situation is not something that can be fixed in ten minutes. "It'll go on for a hundred years," he said, unless there is a clear, enforceable law. Fellow council member Marvon Wilson expressed concern that family members want to decide what to do to honor their loved ones. "It may be their ground, but it's our responsibility to maintain it," Mr. Wells replied.
Technically, the city owns the property. People get burial rights, not deeds, for the plots.