Cemeteries are used to honor, memorialize and remember our loved ones. Recent visits to Lone Tree Cemetery have sparked emotions but not in the way you think.
Lone Tree Cemetery, owned by St. John’s Lutheran Church, has over 5,000 memorials on 20 acres on the north side of Highway 79 in Stuttgart but if you take a stroll down the manicured lawns you’ll notice the conditions of the cemetery aren’t as pleasing as you’d expect.
Residents are concerned over the cemetery care. According to those who have loved ones buried there, chemicals being used are killing and sterilizing the ground.
Other concerns include headstones covered in weeds while others are leaning or knocked down on the ground.
“It appears that killing the earth around all the headstones with what I would call HiVarex has caused or at least encouraged headstones to lean and to settle into the ground,” said a concerned citizen. “Those types of chemicals tend to spread beyond where they are sprayed and run with rainwater as the water drains off.”
Toxic substances are destroying emotional tributes.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program suggests when it comes to cemetery care, do not use weed killers as it leaves the soil exposed and in turn, causes erosion around the monuments and gravestones.
“This can lead to the exposure of foundations,” said AHPP. “The use of chemicals can also lead to the uptake of damaging salts into the stone.”
You should not use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on or near the stones. The rock may absorb the substance and suffer adverse reactions.
According to AHPP, the best solution is to cut the grass closest to the tombstone with hand clippers. If the burial ground is large, use a power trimmer with a nylon cord, but use caution around soft stones. The trimmer will damage the stones.
Do not use herbicides or fertilizers around stones. They can soak up the chemicals and change the color and condition of your marker, or kill historic plants that have survived at the base of the marker.
As stated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “If necessary, they may be used judiciously around selected shrubs, trees and perennials.
Lawns should be fertilized only under extreme circumstances, never routinely–“Herbicides should never be considered routine maintenance and their use should be restricted to removal of such noxious plants as poison ivy and poison oak.”
The State Cemetery Board of Arkansas requires a fee for perpetual care cemeteries, but according to sources, that money is held at a bank and overseen by the State Cemetery Board.
If the cemetery owners can no longer afford the cemetery, the State Cemetery Board will use those funds to provide continued maintenance of the cemetery.
So what can be done now to improve the cemetery conditions?
Residents say they will reach out to the owners as the first step to see what resolutions they will provide.
“This is very sad and disturbing,” said a concerned resident. “I have many relatives buried there.”