The rules and regulations at Glenwood Cemetery in Fort Payne are now under review after a number of community members recently expressed their concerns regarding graveside flowers and decorations.
The topic became heated in the community after a social media post was uploaded showing a truckload of graveside flowers that had been removed from graves for maintenance purposes.
The Fort Payne City Council on Tuesday discussed the landscape of Glenwood Cemetery, which is maintained by Randall Burt. Councilman Wade Hill, who sits on the Building and Grounds Board, was the first to speak on the issue.
“A couple of weeks ago, the young man running the cemetery, who has been there a few months, removed a bunch of pots and flowers that were on the ground in front of the tombstones in order to get the mowing back in cycle,” Hill said. “In doing so, that upset quite a few people and I understand.
“It was done with no knowledge beforehand that it was going to be done. The flowers were not thrown away. They were put in a truck parked up behind the shop and a lot of people came and got them once they figured out what was gone.”
Hill said the incident was nothing more than a miscommunication issue.
“Nothing malicious was done with the intent to hurt or harm anybody or make anybody mad. It was just a maintenance communication issue,” he said.
Hill said steps have already been taken to prevent future miscommunication when it comes to maintaining the 26-acre cemetery.
“In dealing with that and talking about it, we have tried to figure out how not to let that happen again and upset people because there is a tremendous amount of passion and emotion involved with the cemetery.
“It’s 26 acres, over 6,000 graves, and it takes 120 hours to mow and weedeat it at one time. In trying to get to where they can maintain it and keep it looking as good as it looks right now, we looked at some options and Tim [Williams, Public Works Director] has agreed to put a fenced-in area up behind the maintenance shop.”
Hill explained that anything removed from a grave will be placed in the designated area behind the maintenance shop, which will be under video surveillance. He also said a rule of thumb to follow when placing flower arrangements and decorations on a grave is to make sure that the decorations are in line with the headstone at the end instead of in front of it.
“If you have any questions, go get with the manager and he will show you what will work best,” Hill said. “We would also like to have some temporary signs made if there is going to be a mass cleaning or removal so we would be able to put several of those around the cemetery.”
Anna Bates Gentry, a citizen, addressed the council about the issue.
“I don’t have a complaint, I think he [Randall Burt] is doing a great job, but my main question is that my father does not have a marker yet, because that makes it real for my mom and she hasn’t reached that point yet,” she said. “I just think for people who don’t have markers yet, they are precious to us too. So can my dad not have decorations on his grave?”
Mayor Larry Chesser suggested that anyone with questions concerning graveside decorations should go speak to Randall Burt.
“The best thing to do is to go and speak to Randall,” Chesser said. “Tell him who you are and ask him what can go where and he will show you exactly where it can go.”
Hill reiterated the city’s concern for the upkeep of the cemetery.
“I hope everyone understands this is nothing that the city has done; this was just a poorly communicated issue,” he said. “We are trying to do this in a manner that will be respectful, but will also let us be able to maintain the cemetery. Randall has done a good job.
“That cemetery is always going to be maintained if any of us have a say in it. It’s the lifeblood of this town to keep our heritage going and we’re going to maintain that.”
The following is a list of additional information and tips for community members
• The fewer things on the ground, the better
• Shepherd’s hooks, especially the ones with double hooks, work well for graves that do not have a marker. Tim Williams said they are versatile for decorations and can be weedeated around.
• Place a tag with the owner’s name and contact number on the back of your loved one’s flower arrangement(s) or decoration(s). A small luggage identification tag could help you identify your loved one’s decorations in the event of arrangement misplacement or other confusion.
• Make sure flower arrangements that are not in urns are weighted down so the wind can not blow them off the monument.
• The fenced-in area that will be placed behind the maintenance building to hold decorations and flower arrangements will be under camera surveillance.
• Be mindful of discreet signs posted around the outskirts of the cemetery for further information and rules and regulations.
• Contact the cemetery maintenance personnel with questions or concerns