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Grave situation: Local cemeteries run short on space

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Hancock's Hillside Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Hancock's Hillside Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Hancock’s Hillside Cemetery still has some numbered, unfilled plots, but the town plans to create a cemetery annex. Staff photoS by Ben Conant

  • Hancock's Hillside Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Dublin Town Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Dublin Town Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Jaffrey's Saint Patrick Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Jaffrey's Saint Patrick Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Jaffrey's Saint Patrick Cemetery Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Historic cemeteries, like Jaffrey’s Saint Patrick Cemetery, are filling up, and towns have to get creative. Staff photo by Ben Conant



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, April 20, 2017

It’s the one market with an unceasing demand — a place to go when we die. 

But what happens when our cemeteries run out of space?

It’s not a simple thing to set up a new cemetery. For one thing, it takes land — potentially a lot of it if you want a significant amount of full burial plots. And it must be the right type of land, not too marshy or too rocky. So, finding a solution to a cemetery that’s filling up is best done early.

There’s still enough room in Hancock’s Hillside Cemetery for more than 100 burial plots. It’s enough. For now. But in ten years, it may be a problem, said Cemetery Trustee John Hayes.

“Even before I became a trustee — perhaps for seven or eight years now — the trustees have wanted to initiate the beginnings of a new cemetery,” said Hayes. 

And they’ve been ready to start that process for awhile now, said Hayes, since a piece of land adjascent to the Hillside Cemetery — slightly less than an acre — was gifted to the town to use as a cemetery expansion. 

That’s why the Cemetery Trustees went to Town Meeting this year, to ask residents to start to put away funds for the creation of a Hillside Cemetery annex.

Because the size of the annex is small, Hayes said the intent would be to use it solely for cremation burials – which obviously take up a lot less room, as multiple cremations can be buried in a single plot, meaning an additional acre can accomodate over 700 cremation burials, leaving the remaining plots in Hillside for full burials. With the trend swinging heavily towards cremations, said Hayes, he expects the annex will significantly extend the life of Hillside Cemetery.

Over the next five or so years, the Hancock Cemetery Trustees will be asking for the funds to do engineering work to fully drain the annex and lay out the cemetery — about $50,000 in all — in hopes of being able to sell lots in the annex within eight to ten years. 

But the gift of the land, said Hayes, is what makes that timeline feasible.

For lack of land

New Ipswich is in a similar position to Hancock, said Cemetery Trustee Michelle Pelletier — looking out ten years, they see the need for more space. 

While a last resort may see the town attempting to clear brush and drain wet, swampy ground around the edges of Center Cemetery on Main Street in a potentially expensive or possibly impossible endeavor, currently, the Cemetery Trustees are looking at other potential solutions – including a hope that someone might be willing to donate a few acres of suitable land, said Pelletier.

Or, she said, New Ipswich might look to a solution similar to what Hancock has found – use what limited space they already have and finding a more creative way to house cremated remains. Such as building a columbarium, a structure with niches to store cremation urns. They can come in various shapes and sizes, so one resembling a stone wall or similar could fit in with the current cemetery while also stretching their space for a lesser cost than purchasing or clearing new land – though that is still an option, especially if someone is willing to donate or reasonably sell a tract, said Pelletier.

While planning as much as ten years ahead may seem excessive, cemetery expansions or creations are expensive, and having a plan in place and a way to incrementally pay for it can save a lot of headache.

In Lyndeborough, for example, there is only one cemetery left out of the nine in town where lots are still being sold, according to Cemetery Trustee Bob Rogers. And there’s still sufficient room for a long while yet, the Trustees worked last year to clear two additional acres of an adjascent wooded lot – aquired from the state 30 to 40 years ago – in preperation for the cemeteries eventual expansion.

While Lyndeborough’s need isn’t immediate, said Rogers, the major reconstruction of Mountain Road in Lyndeborough gave them the opportunity to use local fill to level the ground. With Johnson Corner Cemetery – the only other non-historical cemetery in town – no longer selling lots  the Trustees decided to take the long view and prepare for the eventual need for more plots. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.