Our ancestors gravesites are being allowed to crumble and deteriorate and the SNP has done nothing to memorialize our ancestors, as a sacred part of it's history.
We have had numerous request for help with the cemeteries and their upkeep, etc. If you are interested in knowing more about the depth of this project or would like to volunteer, please contact me at Carol Laing.
Go here to see the 1997 Cemetery Directive Cemetery Directive '97
Following is the current Official Directives on SNP Cemeteries:
Shenandoah National Park
National Park Service
PARK DIRECTIVE NO. NCR-406
Cemetery Maintenance and Use
All cemeteries within Shenandoah National Park (SNP) existed prior to the
establishment of Skyline Drive or the park.
Most were family burial places, although several were affiliated with
community churches or organizations. Many
have had burials within the past three decades and several are still in active
Legal case law and policy first instituted by the Director in 1931
established that descendants of individuals buried in the cemeteries within park
boundaries either have legal interest in the cemeteries or have specific rights
to access and use. This directive
is based on the recognition of that family interest.
All cemeteries may be maintained by the families of those buried in the
cemetery or by volunteers with the specific written approval of family members.
A key to fire roads providing access to cemeteries behind locked gates may be
picked up and signed for at the entrance stations by family members wishing to
deliver maintenance supplies and/or equipment to cemeteries.
In specific instances where a recognized family organization or family
cemetery manager exists, a key may be issued to the designee of that
organization or to that manager.
No vegetation clearance will be allowed beyond the defined and established
boundaries of the cemetery. Vegetation
removed from the cemetery during maintenance operations may be scattered in the
areas surrounding the cemetery and shall not be left in obvious piles.
Mechanized equipment (mowers, chainsaws, weedeaters, etc...) may be used to
maintain cemeteries NOT in Congressionally designated Wilderness.
No herbicides or pesticides may be used in cemetery maintenance without
written review and approval from the Natural & Cultural Resources,
Integrated Pest Management Specialist.
The park may not, by law, furnish staff, equipment, or supplies for
maintaining park cemeteries for which families retain an interest.
The park will be willing to work with recognized family organizations to
establish a cooperative agreement to mutually assist in specific cemetery
The park will maintain the roads accessing the cemeteries provided the roads
are on the current road list. The
roads will only be maintained to current road standards and may not be suitable
for automobile use. Families are
allowed to maintain right-of-way access to family cemeteries, but such work must
be approved in writing by the Natural & Cultural Resources, Landscape
Maintenance of existing cemetery fencing/gates is the responsibility of the
family. New fencing and/or gates
must be approved in writing, in advance, by the Landscape Architect (NCR).
If cemeteries are not maintained by families or volunteers, natural
vegetative succession will reclaim the sites.
No Park Service action will be taken to slow or abate this process.
ACTIVE CEMETERY USE
The dimensions of all cemeteries have been established and, in most cases, corners have been marked. No burials may extend beyond these boundaries.
Only descendants of family members buried in cemeteries, or those approved by
family associations, may be buried in cemeteries within the park boundary.
Once all grave sites within the designated boundary are filled, burials
The Landscape Architect for the Natural & Cultural Divison must be informed of all proposed burials to assure that entrance stations are aware of the pending burial and to assure smooth coordination of the event. Funeral Homes should notify the SNP Communications Center (540)999-3422 prior to entering the park for grave preparation. A backhoe may be used by the funeral home to open the grave provided the cemetery is not in a Congressionally designated wilderness area and provided the backhoe has access to the site without damage to park resources.
No new cemeteries may be developed.
Inactive cemeteries may be activated by family members as long as the above
standards are met.
All laws and policies of the Commonwealth of Virginia pertaining to burials
and cemetery use are applicable to park cemeteries.
Entrance fees will be waived for those persons maintaining cemeteries, family
members visiting family cemeteries, or those attending funerals.
Those for whom fees are waived will be asked to sign the cemetery visitor
sheet at the entrance station.
PATROL AND INVESTIGATION OF CRIMES
Cemeteries located within the existing boundaries of the park are patrolled
and regulations enforced consistent with enforcement activities throughout the
park by park protection rangers. Violations
of park regulations (such as vandalism, tampering, disorderly conduct, etc..)
observed by visiting family members should be reported to the SNP Communications
Center (540) 999-3422 to ensure that a report is taken and an investigation
RECOMMENDATIONS TO FAMILY MEMBERS
Recognizing the historic and cultural importance of the cemeteries within the
park boundaries, the National Park Service (NPS) makes the following
recommendations to families so that the long-term integrity of the cemeteries
may be preserved:
monuments should be in keeping with the style, size, color, and texture of the
historic cemetery stone. Modern
stones of greatly different color and/or style tend to disrupt the design and
feeling of the burial ground.
is recommended that individual grave sites not be enclosed by low fencing or
hedges. Such enclosures are not
traditional and, again, disrupt the landscape of the grounds.
placed on the graves should be artificial.
Trees, shrubs, and flowers planted in the cemetery should be native
and/or non-invasive so they do not spread from the cemetery onto adjacent park
lands. The Park Natural Resource
Specialists or headquarters personnel will be happy to work with family members
on plant selections or recommendations.
The park Cultural Resource Specialist will be willing to work with
established family associations to develop standards for cemetery maintenance
and plot markings. However,
specific issues dealing with maintenance, monument and plot marking, and grave
locations remain the responsibility of each cemetery's family association and
will not be enforced by park staff.
Douglas K. Morris Date
The cemeteries within Shenandoah National Park were acquired in several
manners depending on if they were situated within the original right-of-way for
the Skyline Drive or within the park proper.
The right-of-way for Skyline Drive, in many if not most cases, was
acquired by donation or in "willing seller" negotiations; the Virginia
Act of Condemnation was not exercised as most farmers and landowners approved
the construction of the Drive. Many of the remaining cemeteries were taken as a
result of condemnation and the resultant arbitration.
As early as November 23, 1931, years before the official establishment of
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National
Park, the National Park Service was moved to formulate policy to regulate burial
grounds and family graveyards in the eastern National Parks and Monuments.
On that date, Horace Albright wrote to W. H. Woodbury, Executive
Secretary, North Carolina Park Commission, that:
...certain commitments you desire to have laid down regarding the handling of
cemeteries in the park area... In this connection you may say on behalf of Park
Service that we will do everything within our power to keep the cemeteries
intact and that the parties who have bodies buried there may go to and from the
cemeteries with all freedom of action and have the right to keep the brush and
briars cleaned off. In addition,
they will also not only have the right of interment of any bodies now living
within the park area and who have been interested in the cemetery and wish to
buried there, but we feel there may be some who have moved out whose family
burial plots are in these cemeteries and who therefore may wish to be buried in
the same cemetery with their kinfolk.... Furthermore, we will assume it is an
obligation of the National Park Service to assist in keeping these cemeteries as
cleaned up as possible after we have taken them over as part of the Park.
The policy was reiterated in a letter written by Director Conrad L. Wirth to
Senator Albert Gore on March 29, 1955. Wirth
also noted that:
The policy in respect to cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National
Parks remains as originally stated by former Director Albright.
Similar policy statements have been made in respect to cemeteries in
Shenandoah and Mammoth Cave National Parks and is applicable to other eastern
Wirth told Gore that the Service was unable "to assume the full
responsibility for the care of the cemeteries", but was willing to
"furnish some equipment and labor to assist interested parties in doing the
Wirth's policy surely was the result of a memorandum written by Acting
Director, Hillory A. Tolson, to the Regional Director, Region One (Richmond), on
May 28, 1947. Tolson's memorandum,
based on legal case review by the Solicitor General, was a response to the
proposed issuance by Blue Ridge Parkway of a special use permit for the
maintenance and use of a family cemetery within that park.
The memorandum is complex and studded with legal jargon.
However, the legal basis for the solicitor's finding was thirteen cases
all which established that:
A family cemetery or burial ground could be established as a legal
entity, even though originally established in pais, i.e. without legal
formalities or proceedings
Once established and thereby dedicated to family burial purposes
subsequent land transfers did not need to recite the dedicated use of the burial
plot. Essentially those rights were
never transferred with the deed, but remained with the family or group which
dedicated the cemetery.
The group with retaining rights retained right-of-way to the cemetery.
No ruling, however, bound the subsequent landowners to maintenance or upkeep of either the cemetery or right-of-way.
After citing legal precedent, Tolson summarized his position:
Aside from the purely legal aspects of this situation, it is our view that
this Service, on grounds of public policy and having due regard for the humane
and sentimental considerations which are inherent in matters of this sort,
should freely recognize the right of the continued use of and access to
cemeteries within the Parkway by families desiring to inter their dead therein.
Any other course might well lead to litigation and promote distasteful
and embarrassing relations with the public.
Shenandoah Superintendent, Guy Edwards, confirmed the earlier family cemetery
policy, but created bad will with some cemetery users when family members were
required to pay entrance fees beginning in 1958.
On September 26, 1961 the Regional Director informed the Region One
Superintendents that Director Wirth had "established a new policy in
connection with cemeteries within the parks.... The new policy will provide for
Service maintenance of the cemeteries within the park boundaries except in those
cemeteries where the area comprising the cemetery was reserved to the original
owner. The restriction of Federal funds on non-Federal property prevents the
maintenance of such cemeteries....New burials will not be permitted in
cemeteries maintained by the Service without a permit from the Superintendent of
the park. The Service will not reconstruct or improve the standard of the roads
leading to cemeteries, but will maintain the present roads or trails in a
Many Superintendents expressed concern that this would obligate them to
expend great labor and effort to maintain cemeteries, yet a careful reading of
the policy indicates that it, in fact, was intended to do the exact opposite.
As the legal basis for the 1947 Tolson memorandum was not negated, case
law established that most cemeteries within the eastern parks were, in fact,
reserved for family burial and thus Service maintenance was not recommended, nor
legal without cooperative agreement.
This clarification of policy, with some refinements, has been in place since
1961. Park Directive NCR - 406,
August 25, 1998, continued to recognize family interest in the cemeteries by not
permitting use of Federal labor or materials in their maintenance:
The Park will not furnish staff, equipment or supplies for maintaining
cemeteries. The Park will maintain
the roads accessing the cemeteries provided the roads are on the current road
list, not in a Wilderness and as allowed for in the Park's overall work plan.
Roads will be maintained only to a Park-determined standard, which may
not permit automobiles.
In order to verify that no new case law has modified the legal basis for the 1947 Tolson memorandum, Regional Solicitor, Tony Conte, was asked early in 1997 to research case law. Conte's finding was that the basic case of Benn v. Hatcher, 81 Va. (1885) was still "good law". As no Federal legal action to obtain a bill of equity has been undertaken to gain fee rights to the cemeteries within the Park, for such award would require disinterment, it is taken for granted that family descendants retain burial rights and full responsibility for maintenance of the burial grounds and rights-of-ways.
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