NEWINGTON - It is that time of year again to collect your belongings.
Newington Parks and Recreation staff are getting ready to begin seasonal grounds maintenance of parks and cemeteries. That means families must retrieve any decorative memorial items on their loved ones’ grave stones at West Meadow Cemetery by March 15. Those not removed will be placed behind the Parks and Grounds garage at the cemetery and disposed of if not reclaimed by May 1.
“We’re communicating this out to everybody, through Facebook, newspapers, signs, mailings - it’s no secret anymore,” Parks and Recreation Director Bill DeMaio said.
The town’s ordinance pertaining to cemeteries came under fire back in 2016, during DeMaio’s first spring as department head. He instructed staff to proceed with preparing the cemetery for the growing season, as guided by town regulations.
Chapter 194 of the Town Charter pertains to cemeteries, prohibiting artificial decorations between April and November. In past years there had been a lapse in staff following written procedure for clean-ups.
Some families were upset to find their items removed from graves, bagged and placed behind the parks garage. The controversy led the Town Council to review its Charter rules, which were ultimately determined to be appropriate.
Since then there have not been any issues.
“It’s been wonderful,” DeMaio explained. “People are adhering to the rules and regulations now. Apparently before I got here that was not the case. We’re very pleased with the cooperation we’re receiving from cemetery visitors.”
Votive candles, stuffed toys and other items are forbidden. The statutes allow potted plants “in clay pots not exceeding 10 inches in diameter and six inches in height, and in rustic baskets not to exceed 12 inches in diameter. The displaying of flags is limited to one week before and the week after Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” they read.
Not only does adherence to the rules allow groundskeepers to keep grass mowed and flower beds blooming, it also makes the cemetery a safer and more pleasant place to visit.
A water-logged teddy bear that’s been picked at by squirrels, a broken glass vase and other artificial items that have suffered outdoor wear and tear are no longer found at West Meadow.
“Not only does it help the maintenance crew but it also gives uniformity and respect and a nice overall look to the cemetery,” DeMaio pointed out. “People can expect it to be a well groomed cemetery.”
There is another opportunity to memorialize a loved one coming up Saturday, April 13. The Hartford Water Lantern Festival is scheduled to take place in Mill Pond Park from 4-9:30 p.m. People can purchase lanterns to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, even honor the dead. Lanterns will be lit and released into the pond that evening.
“We’ve already sold 1,300 lanterns,” DeMaio said. “It’s going to be a beautiful sight.”
He’s working on getting a shuttle to transport attendees to and from Newington High School, where there will be extra parking available. Check back for updates on this event.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.