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Austin Memorial Park to crack down on grave decorations

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Hundreds of decorations on graves at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery may have to come down at the end of next month.

On November 1, the city will start enforcing existing rules and regulations about what can and cannot be placed at graves inside the central Austin cemetery. The rules are not new. The city is taking over maintenance responsibilities after suspending an outside contract in April.

The enforcement is upsetting to Bertha Lloyd who has several family members buried at Austin Memorial Park. She makes a couple trips a month to visit her husband's grave. They were married 32 years, and since his death last year she's looked for ways to personalize his gravesite with small, but meaningful mementos.

"I think it's sad, I don't know any other way to describe it," said Lloyd who knows how much work some families have put into their loved ones gravesites.

"We have certain families who are grieving and we're sensitive to that," explained Austin City Manager Gilbert Hernandez. He says the enforcement is an effort to address complaints about conditions and maintenance he's received.

"It varies from gravesite improvements to vegetation to stuffed animals to family mementos that may not be in compliance with the rules," Hernandez explained. Other items include certain benches, brick pavers, gravel rocks and even wind chimes.

Dale Flatt started the non-profit Save Austin's Cemeteries. He knows this can be a sensitive subject.

"It's always been tricky on how to enforce and not upset families," he explained. There are people in the group who have family here who want the rules enforced he added.

Hernandez says his staff will work with all the families in a respectful manner. The non-compliant grave sites will be flagged and families will have 30 days to remove certain items or the city will.

"We need to get this done so we can begin compliance with our rules," Hernandez said.

On January 1, 2014, the same compliance rules will be enforced at Evergreen Cemetery. The city operates five cemeteries.

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