By MARK MCGEE
Take a drive through Willow Mount Cemetery with sextant Ben Chapman and you get more than a glimpse of the history of Shelbyville and Bedford County.
He points to a grave of child, sitting on top of a hill, the first person to be buried in the cemetery in 1848.
“I want to be able to preserve the history of this place for the next 150 years,” Chapman said. “We have a lot of history here.
“I love history. I like taking pride in my work.”
While Chapman wants to preserve history, he and Buck Vallad, Public Works Director for the City of Shelbyville, have found the need to update the cemetery.
One of the new planned additions is a columbarium to hold the ashes of anyone who wants to be cremated. It will be circular in the middle with four rectangle walls surrounding it. There will be slots for almost 250 people. The price is expected to be at least $100,000 not counting labor.
“People don’t want to have to purchase a whole plot to be buried in a one-foot by one-foot grave,” Vallad said. “People will be able to sit and visit. It is going to be really nice.
“We were talking with the Leoma Monument Company. They don’t know of one by itself that size other than some in Nashville. It is going to be a first for this area.”
The price of a plot has also increased. It is the first time since 2010 the fee has been changed. The price of a grave plot will be $800, an increase of $400.
Spaces in the columbarium will be $500 per slot.
“Right now, to maintain the cemetery cost us roughly $200,000,” Vallad said. “Averaging 100 people that is $40,000 leaving $160,000. We checked around before we raised the rates, and we are still below most cemeteries.
“Cemeteries aren’t here to make money. They are here to be maintained. The increase will get us closer to the maintenance costs.”
Rock has been an issue with rocks at two feet to four feet deep requiring the extra expense to be paid by the family members to dig through the rocks. The cemetery is. Chapman has two staff members who help him.
Extensive excavation is underway to open up more land for burial plots as well as adding a road. Rock is less of a problem in the area under excavation.
“We average around 100 burials each year,” Vallad said. “To be conservative we hope to get three to five years of burial plots from the new area.”
Vallad pointed out that at one time cemeteries were treated as parks with families visiting after church and having picnics. Both Chapman and Vallad want to enhance a park-like setting.
Chapman pointed out that the cemetery averages between 10-to-20 people per day who use the area as a walking trail.
“We have surveillance cameras,” Chapman said. “They feel safe. They are happy. There isn’t a lot of traffic. Most of them live or work close by.
“We like having visitors. We want people to see the beauty of this place.”
Both Chapman and Vallad talked about an increase in visitors, a trend they are hopeful will continue.
“It was kind of a family event,” Vallad said. “We want, and Ben has been doing a great job, for this to be park-like,” Vallad said. “You can see the respect that has been given to everybody who has been buried here.
“It is a very well-maintained cemetery. This is pretty phenomenal. We want to keep it that way.”
New rules for Willow Mount passed
The new rules and regulations adopted by the Shelbyville City Council in September are:
*Absolutely no visitors allowed in the cemetery before dawn or after dark. Anyone in the cemetery after hours will be considered a trespasser.
*All pets must be ln a leash and must stay off grave sites. Owner must clean up after their pets.
*All decorations must be placed next to or on the monument year-round.
*Funeral flowers will be removed from graves and disposed of when they become unsightly.
*No blanketing of graves with rock, mulch, flowers, decorative stone, banners, flags, advertisement signs or anything other than dirt.
*No fertilizing/landscaping/decorating grave sites without written permission from the cemetery Sextant.
*No planting of flowers, shrubs, bushes or trees on or around grave sites.
*No solar lights, urns, grass or wood boxes, trellises, glass containers, trinkets, toys, baskets, ornaments, food or beverages will be allowed in or around graves or any other lot in the cemetery.
*No placing of cremains on/in graves without approval of cemetery management.
*No hazardous materials to be used in or around graves.
*Benches are allowed by permission only and must match cemetery criteria or match markers.
*Temporary markers are temporary. Willow Mount is not responsible for lost or damaged markers.
*No enclosure of any kind, such as a fence, wall, hedge or ditch shall be permitted around any grave or lot. Grave mounds will not be allowed, and no lost shall be covered with any material other than dirt.
*Areas between graves must always remain clear to allow for easy and proper care of graves or lots.