Cemetery rules to be decided on

Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Soldotna Memorial Park Policy Committee is in the works.

Mayor Peter Micciche said that the committee will determine the cost of different burial services, height limits for headstones and vehicular access for the proposed 17-acre cemetery. The city will also determine the hours of operation and the extent of security for the grounds. According to the design, the memorial park will offer individual burial plots, natural burial ground, a storage space for cremation urns and a scatter ground for ashes.

Micciche said that the first phase of construction will begin this summer. The city plans to construct the entrance's sign and gate, a road loop and survey the ground and set aside a section of land for residents who might want to be buried before the project is completed.

"Our goal is to have a space available by autumn," said councilmember Peggy Mullen. "We'll get moving on this fairly soon and come up with some ideas and numbers."

The mayor said that the city hopes to receive public comment and invites anyone interested to contact the city and attend meetings.

The city asked multiple cemeteries about their policies in anticipation of the committee meetings.

Ashville, N.C., Superintendent of Parks Kathy O'Connor said that its Riverside cemetery, established in approximately 1885, has one full-time employee and two seasonal hires that maintain the grounds, while the owners of the plots take care of the headstones. Cemetery staff open the gates at 8 a.m. and contracted security locks them at 6 p.m. Vandalism is rarely a problem because of the early closing.

"Occasionally we have people locked, locked in on purpose," she said. "It's a good sized cemetery."

Anchorage Cemetery Director Rob Jones said that a 7-foot wrought iron fence contains the 22-acre property there. His cemetery allows for headstones and flat markers. Taller stones require more maintenance, but are visible during winter time, when a half-inch of snow obscures most non-elevated grave markers.

Homer Public Works Inspector Dan Gardner said that headstones dot the city's hilly cemetery, but the city technically requires flat grave markers for ease of mowing.

"The city has opted not to pursue violates," he said.

Public works manages the cemetery, which has no formal staff of its own.

Jones, in Anchorage, said that the roads going through the cemetery are narrow, which makes it difficult for larger vehicles to access certain areas.

"No one expected anyone to drive Hummers down there during the horse and buggy days," he said.

O'Connor said that the cemetery has no central parking area for the graveyard itself, and people usually pull to the side of the road near the sites they intend to visit.

"That's kind of how our society is conditioned," she said. "You want to park right by where you want to be going."

Riverside cemetery charges residents $1,200 for a four by ten plot, and 20 percent more for non-residents; a five by ten plot costs $200 in the Homer site; and Anchorage charges $150 to reserve a space.

Tony Cella can be reached at tony.cella@peninsulaclarion.com.

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