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Oakwood gates closed to deter vandals, not visitors

While the gate is closed at Oakwood Cemetery, it’s still easy to get in. A chain just needs to be undone to gain access. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx) 1 / 2
The grass has grown tall at Oakwood Cemetery this year. Dakota County used to mow, but stopped this year due to budget restrictions. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)2 / 2

This spring and summer, a few people noticed some changes to Oakwood Cemetery.

The five-acre cemetery, which was established in 1856, emerged from under the winter’s snow and the grass started growing. The problem arose when it kept on growing, thanks to a lack of mowing.

Robert Scott of the Oakwood Cemetery Association said that Dakota County had been taking care of the mowing through its Sentence to Serve program. But this year, he passed by the cemetery one day and found the grass had grown about a foot tall. When he called the county, he was told that there was no longer any money in the budget to put toward mowing the cemetery.

Scott is one of only two members of the Oakwood Cemetery Association. The current association was formed in the 1980s by a group of older men; nowadays the original members are either in their 90s or have already passed away. Scott and his fellow association member, Kevin Chamberlain, are both in their 50s, and the work required to do all the grounds maintenance is a lot for them. 

It takes about 30 hours to mow the cemetery, Scott said. When the county did it, there would be about 10 people out working at once, so the whole project could be done in just a few hours. But it’s a hefty task for just one.

Scott said he and Chamberlain have been attempting to get new association members and volunteers to help keep the cemetery looking neat, but so far no one has stepped up.

“We’ve done everything we could,” Scott said.

Another apparent issue some residents noticed was that the gate into the cemetery has been closed.

Scott said the cemetery is still open to the public. The gate has been kept shut lately, with a chain keeping it from swinging open on its own, because of some unwanted behavior. Some youths had taken a vehicle in the cemetery and were driving it all over, Scott said. The gate was closed to deter that sort of activity, but he said the cemetery is still open to the public and the gate is not locked. Visitors only need to undo the chain to get in.

About the cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Hastings’ early pioneers, as well as many veterans. It’s a non-denominational cemetery and has been since its beginning.

Its first hundred years or so passed without much trouble, but by the 1950s, lean finances and other issues were taking their toll. In 1961, care of the cemetery was given over to the Minnesota Historical Society. The next 25 years saw the site degrade even more, until a handful of families joined together to restart the Oakwood Cemetery Association in 1987. The new association was able to secure donations and volunteers to catch up on maintenance.

More help is needed, Scott said, to keep the cemetery from falling into disrepair. Anyone who would like to volunteer or join the association should contact him at 651-438-0333.

More information is also available online at