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Grieving Family Wants Rules to Change After City Vows to Clean Up Cemetery

Enforcement of a city ordinance regarding decorations at city-run cemeteries is causing some concern in Cleburne.

The ordinance, passed by the city council years ago, limits the types and amounts of decorations allowed at gravesites, according to Parks and Recreation Director Burton Barr.

The ordinance was previously enforced, but a lax in staffing and enforcement led to unapproved items around gravesites, according to Barr.

Now, the city is asking for decorative items to be removed, but some whose loved ones are buried there want leaders to reconsider.

Alysha Blair lost her son, Kolten, just before he turned 6 months old. Kolten was born prematurely and never made it home from the hospital. His final resting place at Rose Hill Cemetery, a city-run cemetery, is adorned with a bench, toys and photographs among other items.

"It's the only thing I get to do that's motherly for him," Blair said. "I don't get to do birthday parties or soccer games or play dates, growing or school – I don't get to do any of that. I get to come out here. I get to decorate. I get to sit and talk to him."

Blair said she doesn't recall expressly learning of any rules following her son's death, and said hey haven't enforced anything since her son was buried in 2014.

"It brings me a lot of comfort because this is his home," Blair said. "I don't have a room for him, I don't have a space for him anywhere. This is his space, this is his home. It's where he is so it's where I want to be able to come and see him and bring his siblings here eventually."

Blair told NBC 5 spending time at Kolten"s grave and seeing what she and other have left there has helped her cope with the tragedy.

"No, I'm not going to, I'm not going to take my baby's stuff away," Blair said. "I'm not going to – this is our parenthood, we're not going to take parenthood away. I'll sit out here day and night if I have to. They can throw it away, but it's going to come right back out. This is his life out here."

Blair doesn't believe the items surrounding Kolten's grave pose a danger or hazard to anyone, and she said she maintains the space.

"It's brought on a whole different world for us. I mean, it has been almost two years and we're finally to that plateau of being OK, living our new normal. I'm trying to plan for our future. Then, we wake up one day and they're trying to change our new normal, take away what rights we feel like we have," Blair said.

A petition created online has more than 2,000 signatures, and Blair plans to deliver it to the city Tuesday evening.

As for what may come of the items soon to be collected, the city does not have space to keep them and plans to throw them away. During a previous enforcement of the ordinance, crews collected, tagged and kept items they collected, but many were not picked up by family or loved ones, according to Barr.

The city is encourage people to bring gravesites into compliance by June 5, and collection of remaining unapproved items will begin Monday, June 6.

The city runs four cemeteries in Cleburne, and the ordinances apply to all of them.

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