Fight over handmade roadside memorials grows in Independence - KCTV5

Fight over handmade roadside memorials grows in Independence

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

Emotions are high in Independence after the city announced it would crack down on roadside memorials.

The city wants them gone, but the friends and family members who put them up to remember loved ones, who lost their lives in traffic accidents, say no.

One Independence roadside shrine remembers Christopher Cooper, who lost his life suddenly. His mother said she won't let the city take away his memory.

The corner of South Noland Road and East Partridge Street has become known as Christopher Cooper's corner. It is the site where the 17-year-old took his last breath in 2007.

He was riding his bike near the intersection when he was struck by a car being pursued by Independence police.

His family never wants to forget.

"It is not to mark the place he died. It is to mark the place where he was last. That is what it is about," said Christopher Cooper's mother, Cheryl Cooper.

However, the city of Independence sees it differently. Roadside shrines go against an existing city ordinance.

"No one has any right to pile anything on our city right of ways or latch it to the stop signs or the street lights," city councilmember Curt Dougherty said.

Dougherty said complaints about trash littering the streets is an ongoing issue. Cracking down on the ordinance is a way to beautify the city, Dougherty said, and it will be enforced across the board.

"From memorials to garage sale signs to people advertising mattresses and furniture," Dougherty said.

Cheryl Cooper and her husband take care of their son's shrine by adding fresh flowers, mowing around the pots and changing out the picture so his face is never faded.

Regardless, the city says memorials are unattractive and distract drivers.

"Some of these are quite elaborate. They've got battery operated lights or ceramic pots or furniture," Dougherty said.

Cooper wants proof of that. She feels shrines like her son's save lives.

"It's a reminder to slow down, be careful, take it easy. Somebody's life was lost at that place because someone was driving recklessly," she said.

She also wants others to speak up.

"Call the city manager, call the mayor, call councilman Dougherty. I would like to see a discussion during a city council meeting," she said.

She said it is all to save the memory of other lives lost and of her son's.

"I just want my child to be remembered. That's my only goal with this. To keep the memory of my son alive. It's the only thing I can do for him now. I can't mother him now. This is how I have to do it. As long as I live, I can't let him be forgotten," she said.

The city is proposing people buy sign in part of an adopt-a-street program instead of the homemade memorials.

The sign can be bought for $150. The city would maintain it for two years, then take it down to offer to the family.

However, the argument is that people could be just as distracted trying to read a sign.

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