In October, Aurora city officials began planning to clean up the Maple Park Cemetery. But some Aurora residents aren’t happy.
A petition was started Wednesday in protest of city officials tagging items like benches for removal.
The City of Aurora sent out a news release on Oct. 22 that cites concerns about “the increasing amount of complaints that city staff have received about the condition and appearance of the city cemetery, as well as the increasing difficulty that staff are having maintaining the cemetery,” as the reason for the clean-up.
According to the news release, “a number of people from the community” have made complaints about the increasing number of items placed on graves.
“We want to be sensitive to people as they are working through the grieving process, but we also need to be mindful of the appearance of our cemetery, and that these keepsakes and mementos make upkeep of the cemetery more difficult for staff and when left unattended, they become unsightly and unappealing to visitors of our cemetery,” City Manager Jon Holmes said in the release.
The petition started on change.org has more than 130 signatures as of 3:50 p.m. Thursday.
Pictures of the items tagged were posted to the public Facebook group, Stories from Aurora.
One petition signee wrote on change.org that what’s happening is wrong: “Lots of stuff has been there for years and was given permission to be put there!” Another signee wrote: “Very heartbroken to hear about this bc my son is laid to rest here. If I had know this could or might happen, I would have put him somewhere else. I go there to sit on the bench I put there so I could talk to him.”
According to the news release, several city ordinances limit flowers and ornaments and prohibit planting “trees, flowers, shrubbery or installing other permanent fixtures.” The release says that these ordinances haven’t always been enforced over the years. The Maple Park Cemetery has about 10,000 graves on 80 acres.
City Council received complaints in September, according to the release.
“After we explained the issues, showed them examples, and went over the existing City Ordinances, we asked them (Council) how they wanted staff to proceed.” Holmes said in the release.
According to the news release, the City Council found that the cemetery needed to be cleaned up to comply with city ordinances and to address complaints. The city plans to collect tagged items not removed in January and keep those items for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, the city will get rid of the items.
“We want to give everyone a chance to keep the mementos, and keepsakes that may have an emotional value for them, but we are also limited on how long we can keep items,” Holmes said.
According to the news release, existing trees and shrubbery will be “determined on a case by case basis”, but if new ones are planted, those “will be addressed as soon as they are found.”
Holmes said in the news release that the city plans on working with families to address larger benches and monuments in the cemetery. Some of the monuments, Holmes said, are in mowing lanes and “just need to be repositioned in a better way to accommodate staff being able to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.”
Aurora Mayor Dawn Oplinger released a statement in the news release: “The Council understands the concerns of the citizens who have loved ones resting there and have placed items at graves as memorials, but we have to balance that with staff who have the responsibility to keep Maple Park Cemetery looking beautiful. It takes a lot of work to keep our cemetery looking its best for our community, and we should all do what we can to help our cemetery staff achieve that goal.”
If you have questions or concerns, contact Holmes at City Hall at 417-678-5121 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also request copies of the city ordinances from City Hall or the cemetery office.