Home Opinion Editorials Cemetery clarification
For 32 years now Baker City’s rules for Mount Hope Cemetery have said one thing about what sorts of headstones are allowed and where, and the city officials who oversee the cemetery have said something else altogether.
Three decades plus seems like plenty of time to have corrected this discrepancy.
Fortunately the City Council is on its way to doing so.
And the solution that Public Works Director Michelle Owen suggested, and that councilors have endorsed, makes sense.
An ordinance passed in 1978 prohibits the placement of upright headstones in the cemetery.
(Mount Hope, by the way, was started by J.W. Cleaver, a Baker City pioneer, in 1874. This from local historian Gary Dielman, who came across a story in the Dec. 16, 1874, issue of the Bedrock Democrat, a forerunner of the Herald.)
Although minutes from 1978 Council meetings don’t explain the reason for banning upright grave markers, the likely purpose is to make it easier to mow the grass.
In any case, city officials did not, over the ensuing 32 years, enforce that ordinance.
And well that they didn’t. Simplifying lawn maintenance is not reason enough to suddenly ban upright headstones in a cemetery that already had hundreds.
The city’s unofficial policy since 1978 has been to allow upright headstones in sections of the cemetery where such markers are in place now. Upright headstones were not allowed elsewhere.
The ordinance Owen proposed, and that councilors approved the first reading of on Tuesday, strikes a fair compromise between the unofficial policy and the official 1978 ordinance.
Upright headstones will be allowed in several sections — a total of 6,195 of the remaining 12,457 grave sites.
Grave buyers will have a choice, as they should have. Only now the option will be official, also as it should be.