Brick borders, solar lights, shepherd hooks and unsecured mementos will be removed from gravesites in Mifflin Township's Riverside Cemetery, 3840 Sunbury Road, effective June 1.
The township will begin strictly enforcing the cemetery regulations at that time, said Melissa Rapp, public information officer.
She said officials are reminding cemetery visitors at both Mifflin and Riverside cemeteries that spring rules for decorating gravesites are in effect.
"There are a number of graves that are not in compliance at Riverside Cemetery, which will make summer maintenance and service much more difficult," said Daril Tharp, Mifflin Township service director. "While we have tried to communicate with visitors on an individual basis when we see items which are not allowed, this will be the first comprehensive cleanup effort undertaken at Riverside Cemetery."
He said the township wants to give family and visitors enough notification so they can check gravesites and ensure all items they have in place are allowed, and remove those that are not.
Tharp, who has worked for the township 30 years, said the rules always have existed, but now they will be strictly enforced.
He said the most common violations include cement or stone edging that has been added around headstones, stone groundcover, glass items such as vases, solar lights, statues or other items that aren't affixed to the headstone, and artificial flowers, which are permitted only during the winter months.
"Borders get overgrown and a mower might flip a piece up and it goes into the blade," Tharp said. "We can't weed-eat around that stuff and miss it all. We have people who have bricks that go all the way around (a headstone). Cement edging is difficult on the lawn mowers. They're not supposed to put items behind a headstone."
Rapp said stone groundcover and other items become projectiles that could hit workers.
After a similar Mifflin Cemetery cleanup effort about two years ago, a committee was established that included several residents from Gahanna and Mifflin Township.
Its feedback has been instrumental in revising cemetery rules and regulations, as well as providing feedback on communications strategies, said Lynn Stewart, Mifflin Township trustee.
"What (visitors) bring to the gravesite is personal to them and we don't want to remove it or break it," Rapp said. "In many ways, we're trying to protect their memories and be a place they can come and reflect."
Items remaining at time of the cleanup effort will be removed and placed on a shelving unit next to the garage on the cemetery grounds.
Family and friends may pick up their items at their convenience.
Currently, cemetery rules state that after March 15, all winter and holiday decorations on the ground will be removed, and any artificial flowers need to be securely fastened to the headstone.
Cemetery officials said this time of year often brings high winds and severe storms to Ohio. Artificial flowers and glass vases not securely fastened to headstones often end up scattered across the cemetery grounds.
This also is the season to treat and mow the grass, address other landscaping needs and to make repairs.
Tharp said the township typically sees unapproved decorative items appear at gravesites this time of year.
Any obstruction protruding from the ground that hinders cemetery maintenance is prohibited, such as shepherd hooks, solar lights and seasonal or decorative flag holders. All small items must be secured to the base of the stone and not be on the ground.
While American flags are allowed, cemetery officials recommend the 12-by-15-inch size for best display, secured to the stone if possible.
Live flowers may be planted at the base of the stone no further than eight inches from the front of the stone to allow lawnmowing equipment to pass between rows. No plantings are allowed on the back side of the stone.
For a complete list of the rules, visit the Service-Cemetery Department office at 218 Agler Road, call 614-471-4494 or visit mifflin-oh.gov, go to departments, click on cemetery and look under Rules & Regulations.
Copies of the rules also are placed in plastic boxes throughout the cemetery grounds.