NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - After several incidents of vandalism and criminal activity in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 , New Orleans Archdiocesan Cemeteries is implementing a new plan to protect and preserve the historic cemetery.
The rules go into effect Sunday, March 1.
Tour guides are now required to be registered with their office and all cemetery visitors must be accompanied by a registered tour guide, according to the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
"We needed to take some steps to protect both the sacred nature of the cemetery and preserve the history that is there as well," said director of the archdiocesan cemeteries office Sherri Peppo. "In the past year we have had several incidences of tombs in St. Louis No 1 begin broken into and vandalized and security cameras have been stolen. With these things going on we had to take action to increase security and better monitor what is going on in the cemetery."
Peppo claims that there have been several occasions when her staff allegedly discovered unlicensed tour guides encouraging tourists to deface tombs and giving false histories for outrageous fees.
"We want to protect the cemetery but also ensure that visitors to the cemetery are receiving correct information from a licensed and insured tour guide to protect them as well," she added. "I've been pleased with the support Save Our Cemeteries, the president of the Professional Tour Guides of New Orleans, and local tour companies have given to the plan and appreciate their willingness to work with us moving forward."
The plan will require those companies that bring tours to the cemetery to register with the cemeteries office. At the time of registering, companies will be asked to show proof of insurance and licensing through the city and pay a registration fee. Then they will be issued passes for their tour guides to use to access the cemetery.
Companies who frequent the cemeteries will be asked to pay a flat monthly rate of $450 or $1,200 quarterly or $4,500 annually. For smaller companies or those that only operate the occasional tour in the cemetery there is the option of a $40.00 one-time pass, but they will still be required to register with the office.
Tourists will be asked to join a tour to visit the cemetery.
Peppo says the income generated will go to improving security 24 hours at the cemetery and to staffing the cemetery during business hours. Any income remaining after those costs would go into restoration projects at the site.