Fort Smith Cemetery Removes Grave Decorations, Puts Them Behind Dumpster

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- A local cemetery has removed all of its decorations from graves except for flowers.

Marcia Adams said she was surprised to find that decorations had been taken off of her daughter's grave and put behind a dumpster at Woodlawn Cemetery in Fort Smith.

"They just threw it in the garbage,” Adams said. “It might be garbage to them, but it's not garbage to us.”

Adams said an angel statue was taken off her daughter's grave and a toy truck was removed from her nephew's grave.

“My granddaughters were six and nine whenever their mom passed, so it's very special to them to be able to take and put their little trinkets on it that they bring to their mom,” Adams said.

She said the decorations have been on the graves for many years.

“It's pretty special to us,” Adams said. “It's been on there since September 2012, and it's never been a problem. The little red truck's been on my nephew's grave for over 20 years.”

So why now? Missy Strickland has been the manager of the cemetery for only 10 months and said she's just following rules that have always been there but may not have been enforced previously.

Strickland said they removed the decorations for safety reasons. She posted this statement to the cemetery Facebook page:

“Recently there has been some upset in the enforcing of the rules, so I want to explain that a little: The rules are in place for the safety of the grounds crew. At the end of the previous mowing season one of my guys was struck in the face cutting his eye from glass mementos. I understand completely wanting to leave your loved ones trinkets and if these are inside the vase hooked to something that isn’t at ground level that cause a danger to the grounds crew than that is fine but breakables of any kinds are not permitted for safety of the employees and fellow visitors to the cemetery. We have small children and elderly that visit our cemetery if one would happen to fall and there be broken glass someone could be seriously injured. No items were thrown in the trash they were all placed in a location near our shop for the families to collect their items. The sign on the front door explains all of this in detail along with a copy of the cemetery rules.”

Adams said she wishes they would have notified all the families first.

“It's been through a lot of mowing seasons, and I understand their rules, and I appreciate the way they take care of the cemetery, but I feel like it could have been handled differently,” Adams said. “They could have at least told us.”

Cemetery management told us the rules are given out to every family in a packet when they purchase a plot.

They said the items have not been thrown away but are set aside for people to come pick up.

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