LYNDEN - More than 1,000 unclaimed and empty plots at Lynden and Greenwood cemeteries now belong to Whatcom County Cemetery District 10, which oversees both places.
Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett ruled Aug. 9 that the plots were abandoned.
The district's attorneys filed a petition asking that ownership of the plots revert to the district because few people had claimed the roughly 1,300 empty plots at the two cemeteries since the district put out the call three years ago for possible owners to come forward.
Richard Decima, a district commissioner, has said fewer than 5 percent of the plots were claimed in that time.
The commissioners said cemetery records were incomplete during the 125-year history of both cemeteries, adding that they didn't know if the plots were sold in the first place.
There now will be a year-long grace period during which none of the plots can be sold. After that, the district can sell them to the public.
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 Lynden Cemetery, along Front Street and Guide Meridian, and 100 at Greenwood Cemetery, off of East Wiser Lake Road.
The district determined that the plots were empty by working with people from Western Washington University's geology department who 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.
People interested in the plots can have their names put on a list by calling 360-647-4001, or by sending a written request to the commissioners at P.O. Box 68, Lynden, WA 98264.
"I would encourage people to be put on the priority list," Decima said. "There will be no charge for that."
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.