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Tree roots tangled with headstones keep Salt Lake cemetery closed

The Salt Lake City Cemetery (Salt Lake City Public Lands)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been eight months since a huge windstorm knocked over 265 trees in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. The tree trunks and branches are now nearly all removed, but the roots are a problem. Grave markers and monuments are tangled up in many of the root balls, and that has slowed down the process of cleanup and repair. 

Sexton Keith Van Otten says an archaeologist had to document those damaged monuments. Legally, he says the families of those buried at those sites are responsible for repairing or replacing the damaged monuments, but he says that’s not practical in most cases. He’s relying on help from Salt Lake City and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to move forward.

“We just started root ball removal of the root balls that don’t have a headstone or a monument entangled in it,” Van Otten told KSL Newsradio. “So far, they’ve got about sixty or seventy of those removed.”

 

Still, Van Otten says they’re pressing ahead, hoping to accommodate visitors to the cemetery by the time many people plan to visit the graves of their loved ones.

“We still have the goal to be back open and safe to open by Memorial Day this year, and that’s a goal we’re really pushing towards,” he said.

 

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