Cemetery issue needs to be settled

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In Soldotna, we are about to argue for so long and with such vehemence that, in the end, we may do nothing but ignore a great need: setting aside land to build a cemetery for the citizens of our community. Despite many years of effort by civic-minded individuals, we appear to be on the verge of spinning our wheels again, pedal to the metal but going nowhere.

In the Nov. 26 Clarion, Gary Turner reminded me once again of our recent debacle. Turner argues that, although Soldotna does need a cemetery, it should not be built in his backyard. I found his argument insensitive, a stark example of placing petty concerns above a crying public need. Among other issues, he cites the possibility of partying teens in cemeteries (unlikely outside of cheap horror flicks), uncaring anglers trampling property (easily blocked with "No River Access" signs), cemetery environmental hazards (likely less than pollution generated by nearby residents' lawns, drain-fields and vehicles) and an increased traffic hazard (although a cemetery will not, on a regular basis, generate much traffic).

Turner says, instead, we should look toward an available piece of airport property. But what objections will be raised concerning this property?

We've been down this road before, literally and figuratively. For nearly 15 years, the city has been attempting to find an appropriate piece of property on which to establish this very public service. And for 15 years, we have ground to halt after halt after halt.

Six years ago, Mayor (Dave) Carey, a cemetery advocate, tried again: He established a cemetery task force. Little did he know that it would be the first cemetery task force. More recently, he had to establish a second, which, like the first, created a solid list of potential sites once again eliminated through various political and community machinations.

Meanwhile, a generation of aging Soldotna pioneers is dying, and the mortal remains of men and women who poured their life blood into this place are; a) being sent Outside to old family plots; b) being interred in the cemeteries of Kenai or Kasilof; or c) being kept as cremains in boxes and urns in Soldotna family homes, in the hope that someday soon a cemetery may open here and give friends and relatives a place to lay their loved ones finally to rest.

This is not an adequate progression of the grieving process. Grief doesn't end at the funeral, the cremation or the memorial service. Grief is ongoing, and a cemetery here, now, with physical markers for us to stand by and remember would allow for that.

We are a part of the place in which we live. In a way, it is the land itself from which we spring, from which we take our character and our spirit. How right, how just, how fitting it is that we should be laid to rest in the soil from which we grew. It is time to set aside the bickering and settle this once and for all.

Clark Fair


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