Cemetery Master Plan Gets Boost From Volunteers
Running weed whackers and lawn mowers through Austin's five city cemeteries costs about $2 million a year.
That's about all the money set aside for the upkeep of these burial grounds for years.
Families bought the last plots at Oakwood Cemetery in 1910.
In other words, that's when revenue from these 40 acres ended.
"All that money from the sales and the other things have gone to the General Fund," said Dale Flatt with Save Austin Cemeteries. "Now it's the General Fund's time to give back to the cemeteries."
Flatt founded Save Austin Cemeteries a decade ago.
His first goal was to restore the five cemeteries back to their original glory.
This fall, city leaders approved a 40-year cemetery master plan.
"That's the easy part," Flatt said. "Getting the funding for it. I have said it time and time again: the cemetery is the only piece of property you sell once, but you are expected to maintain forever."
Crews are still restoring the Oakwood Chapel with bond money approved in 2012, designed to keep the century-old building standing another 100 years.
The plan also calls for a building at Austin Memorial Cemetery for people who are cremated.
"Those larger ticket items we will have to look to large grants from historic preservation entities, foundations," said Kim McKnight, Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
Volunteers are doing what they can.
They cleaned up Oakwood this past March and plan to be back out this weekend building a database of grave site photos.
"We have bird watching in our cemeteries, we have photography in our cemeteries," McKnight said. "I think these are recommendations that are respectful and getting a lot of attention."
Volunteers will be back out at Oakwood Cemetery this Saturday.
You can join them, too - all you need is a camera.
They will be photographing individual graves.
Those photos will be matched up with a database the city is building, so anyone can search for plots online and see how they look.