At a special Membership Meeting of the Blanco Historic Cemetery Association held on August 26, it was decided to allow vertical headstones in the newer sections of the Blanco cemetery.
Up to now there had been a requirement for flat stones to be used in the newer sections in order to facilitate grounds maintenance. However, the present directors have found that the flat headstones take as much, if not more, maintenance than upright headstones. Maintenance personnel are unable to mow over the top of the markers because settling has rendered them very uneven. They become covered with dirt and grass making their upkeep very time consuming. Besides that, patrons like to leave various flower containers along with family mementos on the graves which have to be moved prior to mowing. These items are easily damaged in the process.
It was reported that about 90% of the headstones in the historic section of the cemetery are uprights. In that area there is very little mowing to do. Maintenance is done primarily by “weed eating.”
“It is very difficult to keep markers from sinking due to the nature of the ground,” said David Seymour, grounds superintendent. “If there is a concrete vault, we can anchor the headstone to that and keep it from sinking. If there is no vault, it will be hard to stabilize a headstone whether vertical or flat.”
Cemetery board president, Christina Gourley, said that there have been several requests to replace existing flat markers with upright headstones. “Some people are waiting to purchase cemetery plots to see if uprights will be allowed,” she said.
A proposal to allow upright headstones in all sections of the cemetery was passed unanimously by the directors and the membership present at the meeting.
Although the membership voiced reservations, authorization was given to the board of directors to investigate the feasibility and costs of providing a “columbarium” with niches to house the remains of persons wishing to be cremated. Discussion centered on the fact that more and more families see cremation as a preferred and less expensive alternative to regular burial. Some thought that by using a columbarium to house cremated remains in sealed, marked niches, limited cemetery space would be preserved for those who prefer standard burial practices. Concerns included building costs, security and space issues. At present, cemetery regulations allow families to bury cremains and/or a second casket in burial plots they already own.
According to Ms. Gourley, permanent covered pavilions are being used in more and more cemeteries in order to reduce public risk and to make funeral services more comfortable for patrons. Such a pavilion, like the ones used at military cemeteries, could be centrally located. It could reduce the risk of injury from common hazards such as walking over existing graves on uneven, excavated ground and to provide improved shelter for mourners during inclement weather.
A permanent pavilion could be located where there would be easy access from the roadways and would provide seating, a podium for the casket, electrical outlets and etc. Some members were concerned that such a facility would take up much needed grave space. Ms. McClellan indicated that, were such a facility to be built, its use should be at the option of the family. Some prefer to hold graveside services immediately adjacent to the grave as currently practiced. This item was tabled pending further discussion regarding possible future cemetery expansion.
The membership authorized the directors to pursue measures that could lead to the expansion of the existing cemetery due to its limited space.
Many of the existing graves in the Blanco Historic Cemetery lack permanent markers to identify the deceased. The membership authorized the board of directors to use operational funds as available annually to set ID marker stones on the grave sites of those already interred but with no known descendants. This would not only mark the burial sites but would make it easier to maintain burial records and make sure that plots are not sold or excavated where remains are already located.
Members rejected plot owners having to pay an estimated $30 to $40 for identification markers for all plots purchased but not marked with headstones. The proposal that purchasers install a headstone or an identification marker on each plot within one year of purchase was rejected. Members do not want a plot assigned to a specific name because it is not always known who will actually be buried there. Citizen Smiley suggested that all unoccupied burial plots be marked with numbers to indicate that the plot had been purchased. Bobby Stephens suggested that, from now on, any plot purchased could be marked using monies from the recently increased cost for a burial plot.
It was decided that a permit from the Board of Directors will be required prior to anyone excavating, installing stones, and placing markers, curbing, landscaping or other permanent items in the cemetery. This is being done in order to prevent infringement on others’ plots. When planted too closely, tree roots can extend into others’ plots causing damage to gravestones and the graves themselves. It can also impair the ability to excavate new graves. In order to avoid imposing a “new tax” on patrons, the members voted that the permit be free of charge. Those who make changes in the cemetery without the permit would be liable for the cost of any resultant damages.
It was reported that the operational fund balance as of July 31 was $9,323.05. The members confirmed that operational activities may be performed at the discretion of the directors by majority vote but that capital expenditures require membership approval. The signatures of two directors are required on Association checks.
The directors in attendance were Christina Gourley, President; David Seymour, Grounds Superintendent; Dennis Moore, Treasurer; Gail McClellan, Vice-President/Research; and Rebecca Howerton, Secretary.