Crosses, balloons and toys banned from Bartow cemetery

8:53 PM, Nov 12, 2013   |    comments
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Bartow, Florida - Crosses, toys and balloons are just a few of the items that could be banned from two city owned cemeteries in Bartow. Officials there say they need to crack down on the decorations.

Under the moss draped trees at Oakhill Cemetery Tuesday afternoon, there was deep sadness. In one section of the cemetery someone was about to be buried.

Meanwhile Wanda Sue Roberts was driving her daughter Heather into the cemetery. Heather had just learned her sister died today. She was hoping to find comfort at her father's grave. 

"He did everything for me. I miss him a lot," said Heather.

Among the symbolic items around his gravestone were some tiles and a wind chime with a tractor. Roberts said while she can understand the need for crack down on decorations, she realizes other people may not.

The City of Bartow Parks and Recreation Department owns and operates Oakhill cemetery and the historic Wildwood cemetery nearby. But at Oakhill, crews working to maintain the 10 to 15,000 graves have to navigate around all types of elaborate decorations.

There are decorated crosses, teddy bears, potted plants and broken statues. 

"Due to peoples feelings and emotions, sometimes the city has turned a blind eye and allowed them to do things that are against our rules and regulations," said Les Barr, the Interim Director for Parks and Recreation.

Barr said to get everyone back on track, they've revisited the rules and proposed new ones. 

"And this has become really a hazard when you think of a weedeater going through the grounds, and weedeating it can be slinging items so it's really a liability," he said.

"I have put those little reflector things that you put in your driveway to mark it that lights up at night, and they came around here and took them down. But I found out it's because they can't cut the grass," said Roberts. "They got to stop and move them out of the way to cut the grass."

The changes have to be approved and won't go into effect until the Spring. Barr said all of the rules will be posted in the cemeteries.

Proposed Decorations that are allowed: Vases permanently affixed, floral saddle on top of headstone, military markers or flags. Holiday arrangements will be allowed during Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Proposed Decorations that would be banned: Crosses, balloons, plants, trees of any kind, glass, toys, concrete, wood, metal, mulch, rocks, crosses, fencing, borders, candles, votive lights, hooks or anything that may be a safety hazard. Any unslightly arrangements would also be banned. 

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