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Salt Lake City Weighs Future Of Historic Cemetery As Space Dwindles

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Salt Lake City Television

What do you do with a municipal cemetery that’s running out of space for burial plots? That’s the question Salt Lake City officials are asking residents.

The Salt Lake City Cemetery, located in The Avenues is the largest municipal cemetery in the country. It’s also as old as the city itself. And in ten years, there probably won’t be any more burial plots left to buy.

Nancy Monteith is the city’s landscape architect. She says some ways to address the declining inventory are building columbariums to store cremated remains, creating scattering gardens or purchasing more land. As for what purpose it will have beyond a resting place for the dead, Monteith says there are ongoing conversations about preserving the 120-acre property as a historic landmark and gathering place.  

“We would like to make it more available and accessible,” Monteith says. “There’s a lot of people in the city I think who have never been to the cemetery. And we would like to extend a sense of stewardship of the cemetery to much wider than just the immediate neighbors.”

Salt Lake City held two open houses recently to gauge residents on the issue. Monteith says the primary message she’s heard is that the cemetery needs to maintain its reverent atmosphere.

Another concern, Monteith says are the nine-plus miles of roads circulating the cemetery that are in great need of repair to the tune of $19 million.

“These presold graves are all over the cemetery, so we need to maintain access in all the places,” Monteith says. “It’s not as if one part of the cemetery is full and the other is empty.”

Those roads face tough competition for city dollars. But Monteith hopes the more people care about the resource, the higher the likelihood of identifying funding to care for it. 

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