My family owns a large piece of land that runs several miles alongside one of the most dangerous roads in our area – it has lots of curves and no center divider during many stretches. The speed limit has been lowered and other safety measures have been taken, but unfortunately there are usually one or two fatal car accidents per year. There are several handmade memorials that have been placed alongside the road where the accidents happened. Right now there is one put up for a man who worked night shifts and apparently fell asleep on his way home, crashing his car. A little further along is one for two teens who were racing another car and the car they were in flipped, killing them both. All in all there are about a half-dozen “active” memorials with people regularly leaving flowers, etc. and then two or three memorials that have been there for years, seemingly untouched.
The items left behind range from small crosses, to large painted wooden letters spelling out the deceased’s name zip-tied to a fence pole. At Christmas last year, someone stuck about 100 plastic tree ornaments through the chain link fence and inserted plastic cups in the grid spelling out “Merry XMas (name of deceased).” This was a huge installation- about 25 feet in total and I thought could be quite distracting to other drivers on what is already obviously a very dangerous piece of road. At the site where the teens crashed, their friends put up balloons in their school’s colors when they would’ve graduated and a poster with handwritten messages and photos of the deceased and friends.
The land is rural and mostly let out for grazing to third-parties and we do not live on it or even visit more than once a week. We obviously do not own the public road, but we do own the fence where the memorials are usually put up and signs are placed every hundred or so yards informing people that they are on private property.
My question is- is it okay to take down the memorials? Especially things like balloons, stuffed animals, posters and the like which quickly deteriorate in the elements. After a couple of weeks in the rain, paper is torn and ink smudged and it frankly looks like trash. As I said, we don’t live on the land, so I’ve never seen anyone in the act of leaving something, and I don’t think I’d want to confront anyone even if I did. I truly am sympathetic that they lost someone and they want to express that.
My family is split on the issue, with some saying we should remove the items as soon as we see them, like we would with most things that had been left behind on our property. Some think that the memorials are better suited to grave sites or the homes of the bereaved. Others think we should be more sensitive and just let the more study memorials stay and maybe remove older ones as they get more shabby.
I’d be interested in what E-Hell members would do in our situation. Add signs that say something to the effect of “post no bills?” Ignore it? 0828-14
The resolution of this problem lies in the principles of property ownership and the choices a property owner makes in regards to their own land. For example, cemeteries have restrictions on what can be placed around grave sites and when. Our local cemetery prohibits loose objects and other items around the grave during grass mowing season but in the winter, the cemetery becomes decorated with garden flags, little statues, solar lights, etc placed around numerous graves.
Public places do not leave memorials intact and up for unlimited periods of time either. Bouquets of flowers, candles, toys, notes are left in public, common areas when a tragedy strikes and I do believe the people who do this must know that these items cannot remain there indefinitely. Items placed at the base of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. are removed daily and I am sure that the many flowers left at Buckingham Palace after Princess Diana’s death were removed before they deteriorated.
A man died after being ejected from his flipping truck just a hundred feet past my driveway several years ago and someone placed a cross made of PVC pipe on the telephone pole near his death site. It’s still there because it is small enough to be discreet and it is out of the way. But another death memorial a few miles away consisted of a huge mound of stuffed animals and as time went by, it became disgusting and someone eventually had to clean it up and I’m certain that someone was not the person who originally created that memorial. Along one highway near us, people have placed memorial crosses or wreaths on the fences at crash sites which remain in place for years. The main point of this paragraph is to enlighten people who are inclined to do memorials to consider what you leave behind so that you do not create more work for someone else or create an eventual eyesore.
OP, placing more signage on the fence won’t have the deterrent effect you want. I think you are fine with throwing away items that are disposable and are deteriorating or in danger of deteriorating. It’s trash at that point. I’d more inclined to leave discreet items like small crosses, wreaths, plaques, vinyl banners that have been tied to the fence for a period of time of your choosing. By leaving the more discreet and durable memorials in place, perhaps you may subtly influence others to leave similar memorials in the future. Obviously you cannot control the road right of way the government owns and maintains but what you choose to do with your own land is your right as property owner and you shouldn’t feel guilty for any decisions you do make.