Mountain View Cemetery to reopen to public, with conditions

Sarah Belle Lin

Cemetery grounds have been off-limits to the public since March 2020.

Article was updated on May 4 with a correction per note below.

Management at Oakland’s famed Mountain View Cemetery on Friday announced plans to reopen the park-like grounds to the public for recreational uses starting May 8, albeit with a few conditions.

The cemetery has been closed for more than a year due to COVID-19 and “other operational reasons,” according to a statement on the cemetery’s website. For years prior to its closure, people flocked to the privately-owned cemetery’s bucolic grounds to stroll amongst the stately mausoleums, take in the stunning views, walk their dogs and cycle along the winding paths.

Access to be limited to two days per week

Starting May 8, people will once again be able to enjoy these activities, but only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and on one as-yet-to-be-determined weekday, according to Rena Rickles, a lawyer representing the cemetery’s board of directors.

“The community wants and needs a park-like space and the cemetery gets that and we empathize. We’re willing to step in and see if this works again.”

Rena Rickles, a lawyer representing the cemetery’s board of directors

In addition to the limited hours, the cemetery will also require all dogs to be on leash and dog owners will need to provide their own poop bags and stay on paved roads and paths, off of cemetery plots and out of indoors areas, Rickles said. The cemetery will impose a two-dog limit on visitors and will also deny entry to professional dog walkers, she said.

In addition, people can only enter through the main gate and picnicking is now prohibited, as is “non-authorized alcohol,” and visitors may only bring water onto the grounds.

“Our hope is that since (people) haven’t had it for a year and they are getting access on a conditional basis, that they come in with respect and don’t leave piles of trash and other things,” Rickles said. By reopening with these conditions, the cemetery hopes to balance the needs of the public with those for whom have loved ones buried at Mountain View Cemetery, she said.

Management is also thinking about requiring visitors to sign in at the main gate.

The two-day-a-week “pilot program” is subject to change based on how well the public can adapt to the new rules, Rickles said.

Mountain View General Manager and CEO Jeff Lindeman, in a statement posted on the cemetery website last December, said part of the reason for the closure is that the city of Oakland and complaints from neighbors “cost the cemetery millions of dollars in project delays, construction disruption, attorney’s fees and costs,” among other things. He also said it costs “well into six figures every year” to keep the grounds open for the public to enjoy.

The 226-acre cemetery was designed in 1863 by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park (1857), the U.S. Capitol grounds (1874), Stanford University (1886) and the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).

Note: An April 20 edition of this article erroneously stated Olmsted designed Golden Gate Park. He did not; it was designed by William Hammond Hall.


6 thoughts on “Mountain View Cemetery to reopen to public, with conditions

  1. I’m new to the topic and some people seem to know things that aren’t said in either article. All I see is that some people are abusing the grounds with dog poop, trash, and so on. We’ve all seen grave sites damaged, too, which is terrible. Without knowing more, it seems childish to expect the cemetery to keep paying to clean up after people like that. They have a nice place for mourners, who have paid a lot, to visit people who have died. That’s what the space is for.
    I hope people will respect their efforts to keep the grounds clean and respectful. Does anyone here have ideas for how they can do that? Encouraging this we-have-legal-rights-and-won’t-sign-in attitude seems on the face of it to be the best way to get the grounds trashed and locked.

    • I’ve lived across the street from the cemetery for decades and have been going there since childhood because
      I have generations of family interred there. I have never seen the abuse they allege during opening hours.. The only vandalism I have seen has happened at night when they are closed.
      And their sign, when they closed,, said it was due to covid restrictions. So which is it?

    • The vandalism claim is a red herring; you just need to read through the lines. The cemetery is in a dispute with the city and is trying to restrict public access as leverage in that dispute. It really is that simple.

      I have little doubt that some visitors do occasionally leave trash, or in the worst instances, engage in moderate vandalism. I am also certain that Mountain View cemetery has been paid handsomely by the families of those who are interred, and has specific operating budget to address this kind of routine recurring expense.

  2. If management starts to ask for visitors to sign-in, I would strongly advise everyone to refuse to do so. Right now, you have a legal right to enter the cemetery, with all the same rights as before their little COVID shutdown, based on existing easements.

    Management, likely on Ms. Rickle’s lawyerly advice, appears to be trying to change the nature of the public’s access to a revocable license. If this becomes the new public norm, it paves the way for management to arbitrarily revoke access again, in the future.

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