Marion Select Board holds public hearing regarding proposed cemetery rules

Feb 6, 2024

MARION – The Marion Cemetery Commission is “walking a razor’s edge” as it aims to create a new set of regulations for the “hallowed grounds” of town cemeteries.

That’s what Marion Cemetery Commission member Paul St. Don said during a nearly two-hour public hearing regarding the proposed changes, in which he and fellow cemetery commission members Margie Baldwin and Helen Hills fielded remarks from Marion and Tri-Town residents at a Feb. 6 meeting of the Marion Select Board.

Those comments expressed during the hearing ranged from concerns with the proposed list of prohibited items to questions regarding the language and purpose of the drafted document itself.

According to the proposed regulations, the “cemetery is a sacred and dignified place to mourn the dead and should reflect the respect it deserves.”

The proposed rules also contain a list of items that would be prohibited at town cemeteries. Those items include shrubs, trees and bushes, as well as plants over 3 feet tall. Also prohibited according to the draft are barriers and edging, rocks, shells and similar items, windchimes and windmills, shepherd’s hooks and plant hangers, certain flags, and toys, among other items.

According to the proposed regulations, an “effort will be made to contact the plot owner before removal” of any prohibited items.

Marion resident Sarah Briggs said she agreed with certain things within the regulations but was “heartbroken” that she would not be able to place garden flags at her mother’s grave, based on the drafted items.

“I am pissed,” Briggs said. “I am upset about this entire process.”

Chris Nye said he thought cemetery regulations were “getting too nitpicky here.”

“I believe the town decides or the townspeople decide what is right and what is wrong for their cemeteries in their town, and that’s just my own opinion,” Nye said. “And when we stop doing that, that’s wrong.”

“This is a passionate subject,” St. Don said. “There’s no question about it. Everybody mourns differently, and we’re just trying to find a way to — we’re not going to appease everybody — but try to set up a way so it’s a respectful place to go mourn.”

Burial fees would also be raised, according to the draft regulations.

Highway and Parks Supervisor Jody Dickerson said the biggest issues the Public Works Department faces in maintaining the town cemeteries is encroachment from one’s lot onto the lots of others and items that are placed far away from gravestones.

“I don’t care if they have an Eiffel Tower there,” Dickerson said. “I don’t care, as long as it’s close to the stone and we get by with the mower.”

The Marion Select Board did not vote on the regulations at Tuesday’s meeting.

“At some point these proposed regulations will be revised into another draft, and then at some point we will be voting on those,” Marion Select Board member Toby Burr said. “And the question in my mind – I don’t know what my two partners say – whether we will have a hearing on the revised version.”