Preservation Kentucky’s Online Quarterly Newsletter

State to Study Cemetery Protection

(Reprinted from the Courier-Journal, May 23, 2001)

Frankfort, KY – Amid news reports of mismanagement and grave desecration, Attorney Ben Chandler has created a panel to recommend changes in the oversight of cemeteries.
Of the more than 900 identified cemeteris in Kentucky, only about 30 percent are subject to regulation by the state. Many others have maintenance problems, and their care is left to family members and volunteers. “The loved ones of the deceased might not always be able to provide needed maintenance and respectful attention,” the attorney general said in a news release Monday.
The Task Force on the Preservation of Kentucky Cemeteries, which meets for the first time next Wednesday in Louisville, will determine what actions are needed to protect the integrity of the state’s cemeteries.
Last week, Chandler filed a lawsuit to address problems at Cove Haven, a historic African-American cemetery in Lexington. Human bones and pieces of coffins were found on top of the ground, and at least 10 families have complained to Chandler’s office that they could not find graves of loved ones.
A Fayette Circuit Court judge halted new burials in most of the cemetery unless they are approved by an archaeologist and the cemetery proves the plots aren’t being resold. Chandler has also worked on problems at three Louisville cemeteries where 115,000 people are buried.
State Representative Reginald Meeks, D-Louisvillle, will be chairman of the 24-member task force, which is comprised of representatives from groups including the Kentucky League of Cities and the African-American Heritage and Native American Heritage Commissions.
An effort to have a statewide study of cemeteries never got out of the Senate at the 2001 General Assembly. The task force is due to make its report by September 30 so lawmakers can consider legislation again next year.
The task force will assess physical conditions and the number of insolvent cemeteries in the state, the number of abandoned cemeteries, the role of state and local government in overseeing cemeteries, and identification of federal or private funding sources.
The availability of cemetery space in Kentucky will be determined. The task force will also establish a system for citizens to report cemeteries that need attention from state and local government even though they are private and exempt from state regulation.