City officials in Campbell River, B.C., have given notice that they plan to remove adornments left on graves in the city cemetery, because they say they are becoming a tripping hazard.
The city has given families until next July to remove the adornments. After that, they will be stored for up to a year, so loved ones can claim them and only flowers will be allowed at the Oak Falls Cemetery.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, says the restriction has always been on the books, but not properly enforced.
“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,” Milnthorp said.
“As a result, extensive adornment of graves at both City of Campbell River cemeteries has drawn citizen complaints and are creating safety concerns for burial gatherings and maintenance staff.”
Funeral director Sandy Poelvoorde says she understands why loved ones want more than the flat plaques at these cemeteries, but agrees the adornments have, in some cases, become a hazard.
"I've seen everything from large, large, talking in excess four and a half foot statuary to beer cans, beer bottles, whisky bottles, and whirligigs is another popular one, and garden gnomes... that type of thing."
Poelvoorde hopes the city can allow some alternatives.
"Some cemeteries have gone with upright markers, others have opted for remembrance and scattering gardens. There's also benches, those types of things," she said.
What's allowed at Metro Vancouver cemeteries?
The Campbell River rules are not that different from other municipal cemeteries, a CBC survey found. Here is a sample of what is allowed at some Metro Vancouver graveyards.
- Fresh cut flowers in a flower container flush with the ground approved and installed by the cemetery manager.
- Up to a maximum of two potted plants, no more than 8" diameter.
- All vases and statues must be permanently affixed and positioned so that no part extends beyond the length or width of the base.
- Mountain View allows items as long as they are not glass during the winter months (or the "non-mowing" season).
- Items such as candles, lanterns, solar lamps, glass vases, picture frames, toys and glass, ceramic or metal objects of any kind shall not be left.
- No item shall be taped or glued to a niche or any part of the columbarium.
- A maximum of two potted plants in a plastic or biodegradable container, no more than 8" diameter.
- Fresh cut flowers may be placed in a city-installed in-ground vase or on the surface of the marker.
- Artificial flowers may be placed in a city-installed in-ground vase.
- Potted plants in a 4" plastic or biodegradable container or cut flowers may be placed temporarily at the base of the columbarium.
- All in-ground vases and upright plant holders must be purchased from the city.
- Boxes, shells, toys, wire screens, arbours, trellises, tripods or any other object of a like nature are prohibited.
- No lot may be decorated with trees, shrubs or plants, but may be decorated by placing cut flowers.
- Only one flower container, of the types supplied by the city and installed by the caretaker, or approved by the administrator, shall be allowed.
- Cut and artificial flowers, wreaths,and floral tokens may be placed on lots in the cemetery.
- Plant material and grave adornments associated with seasonal events or celebrations will be removed after 30 days.