Bartow, FL -- Some controversial changes proposed for Bartow's cemeteries became official on Tuesday.
City commissioners voted to implement the changes that will limit certain decorations around gravesites to make it easier for caretakers to maintain the city-owned cemeteries.
Crosses, toys and balloons are just a few of the items that are now banned from two city-owned cemeteries in Bartow. Officials there say they need to crack down on the decorations.
They did, however decide to allow holiday decorations and flags to remain, so long as they can be affixed to the headstone.
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The City of Bartow Parks and Recreation Department owns and operates Oakhill Cemetery and the historic Wildwood Cemetery nearby.
But at Oakhill, crews working to maintain the 10,000 to 15,000 graves have to navigate around all types of elaborate decorations. There have been decorated crosses, teddy bears, potted plants and broken statues.
"Due to people's feelings and emotions, sometimes the city has turned a blind eye and allowed them to do things that are against our rules and regulations," said Les Barr, the Interim Director for Parks and Recreation.
Barr said to get everyone back on track, they've revisited the rules and proposed new ones.
"And this has become really a hazard when you think of a weedeater going through the grounds, and [with] weedeating, it can be slinging items... so it's really a liability," he said.
The changes won't go into effect until the Spring. Barr said all of the rules will be posted in the cemeteries.
Proposed Decorations that are allowed: Vases permanently affixed, floral saddle on top of headstone, military markers or flags. Holiday arrangements will be allowed during Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day.
Proposed Decorations that would be banned: Crosses, balloons, plants, trees of any kind, glass, toys, concrete, wood, metal, mulch, rocks, crosses, fencing, borders, candles, votive lights, hooks or anything that may be a safety hazard. Any unsightly arrangements would also be banned.