Austin looks to enforce stricter cemetery rules

Austin's cemeteries are trying to crack down on a growing problem. For years, people have left random items like bird houses and empty bottles on grave sites of their loved ones, which can cause problems for the people who help maintain them.

AUSTIN - Austin's cemeteries are trying to crack down on a growing problem.

Thousands of families visit grave sites at the city's five cemeteries every year, but it's what they leave behind that the city wants to change.

"You see how the headstones are shifting, that's because you don't see how the roots are growing under the ground," said Cemetary Manager Tonja Walls-Davis.

Walls-Davis said in the last four decades, management hasn't enforced rules that prohibit things like planting trees, building borders and using glass containers.

"A lot of times the glass breaks," Walls-Davis added. "And as we're mowing, they see the pieces of the glass and it's projecting out and if you have the other crew weeding and the glass is flying its dangerous."

She said crews often have to get off the mower to move things by hand, and that's also a waste of time.

"It's stretching out our mowing cycle by at least 10 to 14 days," she said.

New proposed rules say decorations are allowed if they are less than 6 inches in any dimension.

City Council squashed a similar plan in 2013, so this time Walls-Davis is trying a different approach.

Families can air their opinions at two public meetings next week. If they miss that they have a month to file a comment with the city clerk.

A grace period where families can retrieve their items will follow.

"We are not trying to hinder people from whatever their expression of grief is," Walls-Davis added. "We're just trying to keep the cemetery maintained."

Click here for more information on the public hearings.

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