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CEMETERIES ARE PLACES OF REST - AND RECREATION

This Memorial Day weekend, thousands of Utahns will hit the mountains, go camping or visit state or national parks. However, many will also go to cemeteries and burial sites to pay respect to family members or friends who have passed on.

But will cemetery visitors find a few of the same leisure time activities inside the cemetery gates that have traditionally been reserved for public parks?Probably not during this, the busiest of weeks for cemeteries, but some sextons do report a trend of more visitors exercising in graveyards.

In this fitness-crazed age, some have no problem with jogging, biking or roller-skating in a cemetery. Others may blare loud music in or around a cemetery, or picnic amid the headstones.

Such parklike behavior prompted Kaysville City Recorder Linda Ross to offer the following advice in the city's spring newsletter:

"Occasionally the city receives complaints about jogging, walking and other exercise activity conducted in the environs of the cemetery . . . please keep in mind that first and foremost the cemetery is a resting place that should be respected by everyone entering the grounds.

"Many people come there to visit graves, seek tranquility and peace of mind and meditate. People want to quietly visit the graves of loved ones. They do not want to hear loud music, talking or laughing while they are trying to find peace of mind.

"Do not walk or jog past a graveside service. If you are walking or jogging in the cemetery, please show respect to those who are visiting grave sites and avoid areas where people are congregated . . . Also, no pets or unsupervised children are allowed in the cemetery. Instruct your children not to ride bikes, fly kites, roller-skate, etc. within the cemetery grounds."

Ross said she received a significant number of complaints about her article from people who tend to believe otherwise.

Annalise Carlquist, who works in the office of the Provo City Cemetery said there are frequently a lot of walkers and joggers there.

"It's a safe place to go," she said - especially for young mothers with strollers who go out for a walk.

Carlquist said skateboarders and roller-skaters have so far pretty much avoided the cemetery.

"People are generally respectful here," she said.

Logan Cemetery Sexton Seth Sparks said he's seen little difference in the number of walkers and joggers who come and go annually during his 21 years on the job.

Paul Bryon, sexton of the Salt Lake City Cemetery, said pretty much the same thing. So did Sexton Jerry McKean of the Ogden Cemetery.

However, Gordon Healy, sexton at the Murray City Cemetery, said otherwise.

"We get more of them (joggers/

walkers) all the time," he said.

Healy stressed that these visitors seem to respect that they are welcome as long as they leave their dogs home.

He said bicycles, skateboards and the like are discouraged, along with kite flying or game playing in the cemetery.

Some sextons indicate that vandalism and the theft of flowers are perhaps the biggest problems in local cemeteries.

Ogden had some significant damage to headstones by vandals last year. However, increased police patrols and security lights have really reduced such incidents.

"It's slowed way down," McKean said.

Provo and Salt Lake City report reductions in cemetery vandalism. Night security has helped in Salt Lake cemeteries.

The Logan Cemetery has hardly experienced any vandalism problems in recent years.

"We've been very lucky," Sparks said. "We haven't even had any graffiti here."

Murray cemetery reports that most vandalism occurs during Halloween season and then there's been nothing serious in recent years.

But Healy said there is always flower theft reported.

"The only thing we've had is flower theft," Sandy City Cemetery Sexton Scott Earl, said.

One Davis County resident who's fed up with vandalism at cemeteries is TeRia Cathcart of Bountiful. She said her brother's grave in the Kaysville Cemetery has been desecrated three times in the past couple of months.

A handmade birthday sign Cathcart made for her brother's grave was totally torn apart and flowers have been stolen.

"You have to deal with this on top of grieving," Cathcart said. "People are very inconsiderate."

Cemetery literally means sleeping place or put to sleep. The name was applied by the early Christians, who set aside a place to bury the dead. Originally, cemeteries were located outside cities. It was not until several centuries later that churches and churchyards began to include burial places, too.

In the mid-18th Century, church burial yards were overcrowded and some were known to spread disease. Some sextons removed old burial remains to make way for new burials. By 1855, London had outlawed churchyard burials. Cemeteries and memorial parks became popular and soon metal markers were used on graves more often than gravestones.

A copy of the rules for Salt Lake City's Mt. Olivet Cemetery in 1904 stated that no children were allowed there - unless accompanied by a responsible person. Dogs were not allowed and visitors were cautioned that the grounds are a resting place and all that is proper in such a place is required.