Native winter burials to continue in Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, October 13, 2008

An official with the Fairbanks Native Association recently voiced concerns that winter burials would no longer be possible without access to Birch Hill Cemetery.

But cemetery owner Tim Wisniewski said if the group wants access to the cemetery through the main gates, all they have to do is ask.

City officials have blocked access for vehicles, but Public Works Director Mike Schmetzer said there is still plenty of room for snowmobile and foot traffic.

The confusion came after the city sold the property rights to Fairbanks Funeral Home Inc. last week.

Wisniewski blames a lack of communication between the parties involved.

The property boundaries remain in dispute between the two entities.

The Fairbanks Native Association is using about two acres of the cemetery for burial purposes. Another six acres are being used for an access path to the site.

When the city sold the cemetery, it was unclear how much land was granted to the Native group.

City officials and cemetery owners recently learned that part of the access path and a few graves lay outside the Native plot boundaries.

The city plans to resurvey the land so the owners will know exactly what land is cemetery property.

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