It looks like the Town of Lincoln will now have a say in the fate of what is known as the Poor Farm Cemetery. They just might be the owner of the property. Polk County might also be an owner. What is known for sure is Destination Destiny is not the owner, regardless of the fact they have been advertising plots there.
Polk County’s Environmental Services Committee was recently approached by Matt Connell, who is in partnership with Ed Bixby of Destination Destiny, a New Jersey-based company that offers natural burials.
Connell has been doing work and advertising services at the Poor Farm Cemetery also known as Amery Prairie View Cemetery, located on the corner of 110th Ave. and 120th St., northwest of the City of Amery, behind the site of the old Polk County Poor Farm.
Connell said they had been maintaining the property since March and were coming to talk to the County about their plans as they were notified of a complaint.
He said he had heard the County is claiming they own the property. “However, our own title search research does not show that to be the case,” Connell said.
In his endeavor to be a part of the green burial movement, Connell, who resides in the Twin Cities, said he had stumbled upon the Prairie View property while driving to his in-law’s property on Loveless Lake. “One of the options we had with limited funds was to search for abandoned or neglected properties.”
Connell said despite having the name Polk County Poor Farm Cemetery, it seemed to be unclaimed. “As small as this place was, we saw an opportunity to start offering natural burials, with the hopes of expanding,” he said. So, they started advertising plots on the property.
The latest discussion concerning the outcome of the cemetery began with comments from Polk County’s Corporation Counsel Malia Malone. She shared with the Environmental Services Committee that she has been working with the attorney who has been working with Lincoln Township, which is Adam Jarchow.
“I am under the opinion that it is likely owned by the town as operation of law, based upon a cemetery falling into disrepair and by operation of law it would go to the municipality. In that statute, municipality does not include the county,” said Malone.
She said if you look strictly at the deeds, arguably the county could have some joint ownership. “But at this point there is no question as to whether or not what is happening now is likely a trespass,” Malone said.
She said should the current activity taking place there continue, the county and town could issue a joint injunction and that they do not see any way for the county or township to transfer ownership or give any type of easement.
Committee member Doug Route shared he had received an email from a local resident that said the cemetery used to have a purple marker making it a historical site, which has been removed. Malone asked Route to forward the email to her, so she can look into that information.
The same resident said not all bodies buried in the cemetery had markers and she was afraid that allowing Connell’s company to start burying there could cause a body previously buried to be interrupted.
Connell said that could never happen as he has a detailed map. Committee member Kim O’Connell said there was no way of the committee even knowing where that map came from or how those records were obtained.
What first has to be determined before any further decisions are made concerning the property is whether the ownership will be held by Lincoln Township, Polk County or both. The committee said in the meantime, the current activity taking place there needs to stop.
“What does that mean specifically? That the love and care and time I have put into it should stop? I truly believe it is the best thing that has ever happened to that cemetery. It has been beautified 10-fold; 50-fold,” said Connell.
Committee member O’Connell responded, “It doesn’t matter, it is not yours.”
Connell continued to argue over the decision.
Committee member O’Connell repeated his sentiments saying, “It is not yours. It is cut and dry. Stay off the property or we will call the Sheriff.”