‘Eco’ plan for Fairview Cemetery
Plans for 2-acre area proceeding, but no development money available now
A proposal for an “eco-friendly” burial area south of the current Fairview Cemetery took another step forward recently when a concept plan for the two-acre location
gained a nod from the City Parks Board.
City Land Use Review had approved the idea in a development plan for the property last year.
Now, City Cemetery Division Sexton (director) Will DeBoer has to figure out what the next step should be. A master plan and City Council approval are necessary, and then there's the matter of finding $150,000 to develop the first phase of about 100 plots.
If built, the eco-area would be different from the existing Fairview by offering a more natural setting - unwatered, unweeded and without vertical headstones.
Cremated remains could also be buried there, and such would actually be welcomed because they take up less space. This would allow more plots and thus more earnings for the Cemetery Division, which is self-supporting. Right now, DeBoer estimates that the area could have more than 1,000 graves.
As shown in a rendering presented to Parks Board, the area would be reached by a new road off 26th Street, starting from an access point that has been used in the past by city vehicles but is currently chained off. The land is owned by the Cemetery Division as part of the roughly 30-acre Fairview property.
The eco-development would occur in three basic phases. The first phase would create the road, a parking lot and an initial burial area (also called a “pod”) of about 100 gravesites with pathways.
A second phase would add “as many pods as possible,” he said, while ensuring proper drainage and installing a soil bin. The pods could be separated by split-rail fencing, each with an entry gate.
The third phase would develop the last pods and paths, create a meeting area (probably with concrete seating) and build a trail to the top of the hill between the eco area and the current Fairview Cemetery. A “scattering area” may also be built at the top of the hill for those seeking that method for disposing of cremated remains, DeBoer said.
Overall, very little grading would occur, he said, describing the eco-area ground as “fragile.”
Will a green burial be less expensive because it's in a natural setting? Not necessarily. “I ask people, 'Is organic food cheaper?'” DeBoer said.
On the other hand, he noted that there would be hidden savings in that the eco-area would not require a vault or casket - although a greater depth (3 ½ feet instead of the 2 ½ in traditional burials) would be required to avert corpses being dug up by wild animals, DeBoer explained.
But first the eco area must be built, and right now the Cemetery Division doesn't have the money. Surprisingly, the weak economy has even impacted burials, with more people (about two-thirds of the county now) opting for the cheaper method of cremation (often scattering the ashes instead of burying them). Also, fewer people in general are buying grave plots, he said. DeBoer's hope is that an improved economy will lift Cemetery Division finances and allow it to set aside enough money to start building the eco-area within about three years.
Traditional Fairview Cemetery, which has fewer than 200 traditional plots left unpurchased, could also see a benefit if “green” burials prove popular.
Strong financial returns from that source would help the Cemetery Division save up for another major cost - an estimated $500,000 to install a sprinkler system for all of Fairview. This in turn would allow development of an unbuilt section just to the west of the current cemetery, allowing up to 3,000 more traditional plots to become available, DeBoer said.
Westside Pioneer article