Abandoned cemetery access to remain at landowner's discretion
Senate Bill 144 likened to eminent domain without compensation
Broken headstones in a Yankton County cornfield marking the graves of 14 early settlers to South Dakota will remain unkempt.
That reality comes with the defeat of a measure in the state Legislature Monday that would have allowed direct descendants of the dead to tend to burial grounds of their ancestors if otherwise denied access. And for Glenda Mensch, the 21-13 vote on the Senate floor made her “sick.”
“They don’t know what it’s like, obviously, because they don’t have that issue around them,” said the Freeman-area woman who for years has been unable to convince the owner of private land that surrounds what’s known as Weber Cemetery to grant access.
Mensch wants to clear rubble from an abandoned cemetery and restore the gravesites where 14 dead lie in rest. But without a mandate from the state that the unwilling landowner allow that to happen — or the creation of an abandoned cemetery board by Yankton County — those aspirations will remain a pipedream, she said.
NEWS: Property rights, family access drive abandoned cemetery debate