Cemetery concerns could be put to rest with land swap

Anchorage cemetery director says proper soil conditions can be of critical importance

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2005

KENAI - There are 57 graveyards on the Kenai Peninsula, but not one in Soldotna.

Now, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the city of Soldotna are working on a land swap - Soldotna's 17-acre Arc Lake section for the borough's 10-acres tract on West Redoubt Avenue.

If approved at the July 12 Borough Assembly meeting, the city would develop a cemetery and the borough would have some additional buffer space around its landfill.

Establishing a cemetery is long overdue, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey said. More than two years ago, he appointed a task force to look for a good spot.

"Older residents in the area have said they want an area that is closer and easily accessible," Carey said. "I still have my mother's ashes at my home because she was very clear that she wanted to be buried in Soldotna. This is her home."

Carey said he hopes the idea doesn't die at the borough meeting.

"I hope it's successful this time," he said.

In the budget approved by the City Council last week, there are funds set aside for either the Soldotna Public Works or Parks and Recreation Department to oversee the maintenance while grave-digging would be done by contract, Carey said.

Task force member Barbara Jewell, who is also a member of the Soldotna Historical Society, has been encouraging the city to develop a piece of property for several years with the conviction that a cemetery is important for any community.

"It's a good historical marker," Jewell said. "It's fascinating to look at the chronological order of a city, and we hope this works."

The society and task force found the West Redoubt parcel to be an ideal place for a cemetery.

"The utilities are there. We feel it's a top-notch spot a nice peaceful setting," Jewell said.

Anchorage cemetery director Don Warden also shared his expertise with the task force. Proper soil conditions were critical in finding a location, he said.

"They dug a test grave and the soil looked really good. There's no worry with the water table and there is room enough to grow as time goes on," Warden said. "That's a very nice section of land. I recommend it."

Warden also recommended the city leave 10 percent undeveloped for roads and some for landscaping. It should be designed with the future in mind. A well-designed cemetery would need a fence or wall, some sort of columbarium (a tomb for cremated remains) and sections for infants and veterans.

"Like we say in the business, the cemetery is forever," Warden said.

Peninsula Memorial Chapel and Crematory owner and director Tim Wisniewski said Soldotna families burying their loved ones likely would use a city cemetery.

"A cemetery run professionally that looks nice won't be anything people will even think twice about using," Wisniewski said. "I know Soldotna would do a good job and be committed to keeping it up."

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