New policy in place at Springdale Cemetery following savanna mowing controversy

By Marshanna Hester

May 21, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 10:40 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Springdale Cemetery Management Authority hopes it has deflated a blowup created after native prairie was mowed in the savanna.

A new policy is in place stating no volunteers will be allowed to do work in that area. It will now be the job of full-time staff, as directed by the foreman.

This, after longtime volunteers Ken Gerber and Dick Richardson mowed a section outside of the newly-approved savanna boundary.

Gerber says they meant no ill-will, but often hear people calling it a weed patch when volunteering. He says they only intended to make it look nice to flow better with the cemetery.

Gerber disputes any comments made by board member Matt Ryan about being a vandal and criticizing the work of staff.

"Somebody said you'll have to apologize profusely and I said why?" Gerber questioned. "We didn't do anything wrong. This was for the cemetery. That's what we do. That's what we're here for. They can't fire us because we're not getting paid, but we mow and we trim. That's our whole reason for existing over here."

The other volunteer involved resigned his duties on Tuesday.

Matt Ryan did apologize for creating a negative reflection on the cemetery.

Authority Chair Bob Manning says no policy was implemented on how to use the old area of the savanna. He says improving communication among all interested parties is key to keep this from happening again.

"We certainly recognize their efforts and we can't operate without them, the employees and volunteers," said Manning. "So we're going to continue. We know what we need to do to take care of the cemetery and we're going to keep moving forward on that."

Manning says a search committee is in place to find a new general manager to replace Jon Austin who was terminated in March.

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