Few claim 1,300 empty plots in Lynden, Greenwood cemeteries

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 30, 2013 

Lynden Cemetery Flags

American flags fly over gravestones at the Lynden Cemetery on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

LYNDEN - Few people have claimed the roughly 1,300 empty plots at Lynden and Greenwood cemeteries since the entity that cares for both put out the call three years ago for possible owners to come forward.

"There were not a lot of people over the three-year period," said Richard Decima, a Whatcom County Cemetery District 10 commissioner. "We really didn't know whether many of those plots had been sold in the first place."

Fewer than 5 percent of the plots at both cemeteries have been claimed, he said.

Both cemeteries hail from the late 1800s.

In March 2010, the district posted small signs in both cemeteries to give notice of sale or forfeiture of the empty plots - 1,200 at the Lynden Cemetery, along Front Street and Guide Meridian, and 100 at Greenwood Cemetery, off of East Wiser Lake Road.

The signs were removed in April and May this year.

The district determined that the plots were empty by working with Western Washington University. They ran ground-penetrating radar over both cemeteries to determine which unmarked plots were empty and which contained caskets that may not have been included in the district's records.

Next up is a hearing in Whatcom County Superior Court on Aug. 9. The district has filed a petition asking that ownership of the plots revert to the district because the spaces have been abandoned.

After the court's ruling - Decima expects the district's petition to be granted - there will be a year-long grace period during which none of the plots can be sold. After that, the district will be able to sell the plots to the public.

"That essentially is for the benefit of the citizens," he said.

Decima said there already is a waiting list of people who would like to buy the empty plots.

CEMETERY TOURS

Free guided tours of the 124-year-old Lynden Cemetery are being offered at 1 p.m. Saturdays during summer.

Tours include discussion of the history of graves and burial, as well as the history of Lynden through those who have been buried in the cemetery. The tour takes about one hour.

The cemetery is at Front Street and Guide Meridian.

Reach KIE RELYEA at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2234.

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