Urbana says tree removal, strong winds to blame for debris on graves

Crews are working to clean up Urbana’s Oak Dale Cemetery after scheduled maintenance left several headstones and grave sites covered in debris.

Champaign County resident Tasha Wilkins said she was devastated when she went to visit her mother’s grave on Saturday.

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“There (were) tree limbs scattered all over the tops of headstones,” she said. “There was stones removed from their locations that were just kind of thrown over … against trees.”

She posted a video to Facebook of the damage to her mother’s and neighboring headstones. When she returned to the cemetery the next day, she said people who didn’t even know her were there to help. She said people from Fairborn and Lockington worked alongside her and her kids for two hours to clear logs and tree limbs.

“It really moved me a lot and it touched me to see good people like that in the world,” Wilkins said.

She said she just wishes that those people responsible for the clean up had more empathy for people who have loved ones buried there.

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It is unclear how many people maintain the 60-acre cemetery, but Wilkins said she was told there’s a three-person crew.

Right now, Oak Dale is going through its scheduled fall clean-up until Nov. 21, but the cemetery is also in the process of removing several trees.

Wilkins said she did see the fall clean-up signs posted around the cemetery, but no signs that signaled there would be tree removal.

The City of Urbana released a statement on Monday saying that a combination of things led to the amount of debris, but that crews are working to get it taken care of.

The statement from the City reads in part, “This season posed additional disruption during the clean-up schedule, as several dead and damaged trees were tagged for removal during this window of time. As typically done with large tree removals, some headstones are temporarily removed from the work area to protect them from damage and they will be re-positioned once the work is complete.” The statement continues on to say, “Consideration was given in organizing the tree removal during a time that a planned clean-up was in process; hopefully minimizing any unnecessary and extended inconvenience for visitors.”

The City also said in the statement that high winds last weekend also added to the clean up process, but wanted to extend their thanks to everyone who volunteered to clean up debris over the weekend. City crews will continue to work at the cemetery until all the debris is removed.

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