Candles, plants, small figurines and rocks adorn many of the graves in the city’s two cemeteries.
But those mementos will have to be removed following a decision by the city to enforce a bylaw which restricts any items other than flowers from being placed at grave sites.
Those who have such items on graves have nine months to remove them.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said concerns from cemetery crews, funeral directors and other plot owners are forcing the city’s hand.
“While the city’s cemetery bylaw stipulates that only floral arrangements may be placed at a grave site, we recognize that people have different ways to mark the passing of a loved one, and over the last several decades, the bylaw has not been consistently enforced,” said Milnthorp. “As a result, extensive adornment of graves at both city cemeteries has drawn citizen complaints and are creating safety concerns for burial gatherings and maintenance staff.”
Milnthorp said particularly at the Elk Falls cemetery, funeral directors have raised concerns that during internments it’s easy to trip over the adornments surrounding the grave sites, especially when there’s snow obscuring the items.
“There’s also some safety issues for our maintenance contractor,” said Milnthorp, who noted city staff spoke to other municipalities for insight on how best to deal with such a sensitive issue.
Milnthorp said the city will be sending out letters to cemetery plot owners and posting signs at the cemetery explaining the clean-up plan.
The city bylaw stipulates that only flowers are allowed to be placed at grave sites and if the flowers become wilted, discoloured, unsightly, or seasonably inappropriate they will be removed by cemetery staff.
Items that will no longer be allowed at the grave sites include: ceramics, statues, lanterns, candles, fences, glass, benches, or rocks. Loved ones will also no longer be able to plant trees, shrubs, plants, flowers or bulbs in the cemetery.
Starting next month, loved ones will be asked to remove any grave site adornments other than flowers.
Any items that are not removed by July 1, 2014 will be removed by city staff and tagged and stored at the Dogwood Operations Centre for up to one year for collection by family members.
Milnthorp said the city is willing to assist plot owners with removal.
“We recognize that people want to show respect and love for those interred in the cemetery, and that they have strong attachment to the grave adornments,” Milnthorp said. “Staff will make changes with caring and sensitivity and a nine-month grace period will be in place for people to remove existing grave adornments that do not comply with the bylaw. If necessary, staff will work closely with families to help them remove items that do not meet the standards required under the bylaw.”
City council, at its meeting on Monday afternoon, voted to have city staff prepare a report on the cemetery clean-up plan, as well as the bylaw, to be presented to the city’s Community Services, Recreation and Culture Commission to ensure the plan reflects community values.