This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
The city of Soldotna is looking to expand its cemetery, which is reaching maximum capacity.
The Soldotna Community Memorial Park on Redoubt Avenue opened to the community and area residents in 2011. Since then, lots have been filling up fast.
The memorial park came up at Soldotna City Council’s Thursday meeting, where the council voted to support a resolution to amend policies and fee schedules for the memorial park.
One recommendation decreases the number of plots a person can reserve in the park from 10 to six. Currently, when someone makes a reservation they can reserve up to 10 interment locations.
“Our cemetery is filling up with reservations rapidly, not occupants, reservations and we do have a limited amount of space,” city clerk Shellie Saner said at the Dec. 12 meeting.
Initially, the park included plot areas for burials with both flat and upright markers, a columbarium with granite niches for cremains, a memorial wall where plaques are placed for loved ones and a designated area for veterans and their children.
In 2016, the city constructed an additional 101 full-size plots and a row of smaller plots for cremains.
There are currently no standard plots in the lawn area available. City manager Stephanie Queen said they are either in use or reserved.
In the 2016 addition, only about half of the plots are still available.
In the veterans section, there are no longer any full-size plots available. However, some smaller plots are available. Queen said there is little demand or interest for these smaller plots.
“There is some availability in this section, though we are projecting the section with upright markers has less than a two-year supply at this point,” Queen said. “The most critical need we have at the memorial park is to expand the veterans section, and this remains our top priority.”
Queen said the city is working on designing an overall master plan for the park, to identify future phases of construction at full build-out.
“When that is complete, we will have a better understanding of how long the current site is projected to be able to serve the community,” Queen said.
Queen said the city will be coming back to the council with a request for funding that will go to construct the next phase of the park’s expansion.
“It will focus on critical needs — expanding the veterans section, as well as areas for plots with upright markers — and ensure that there is sufficient availability for the community for years to come,” Queen said.
The effort to open the park was years in the making, Queen said, and involved significant public involvement and searching for the perfect location.
Queen said the park was made possible through a partnership with the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which sold 10 acres of land — adjacent to 7 acres of city-owned land — to Soldotna for $2. Because of the arrangement, the park is available to all area residents, not just those who reside in the city.