The entrance to the Kenai Municipal Cemetery is seen on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The entrance to the Kenai Municipal Cemetery is seen on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai cemetery expansion complete; moratorium on plot sales lifted

Council members approved sweeping changes to city code about cemeteries on Wednesday

More than five years after the City of Kenai stopped selling plots at its cemetery, the public will once again be able to reserve spaces.

The council voted Wednesday to start selling plots again in response to the completion of an expansion to the Kenai Municipal Cemetery. That expansion includes room for 64 new adult and 12 new infant plots and is located across the street from the original cemetery, at the intersection of 1st Avenue and Coral Street in Kenai.

A moratorium on the sale of cemetery plots in advance to people who are still alive has been in place since 2017, when the city council approved the halt in light of an “extremely limited” number of available plots. Exceptions to the moratorium were made for people purchasing a plot for someone who had died, and for sales of two plots where an immediate family member wanted to buy an adjacent plot.

During their regular meeting on Wednesday, council members also approved sweeping changes to the sections of city code that dictate rules and regulations at the cemetery.

Planting is no longer allowed at the cemetery. Existing city code allowed vegetation, such as trees, shrubbery or turf, to be planted in the cemetery if authorized by the parks and recreation director. City code now also prohibits open flames in the cemetery, such as candles or memorial lanterns.

The council also debated at length what people should and should not be allowed to place at a grave site. The crux of the discussion was how to honor the wishes of those interned at the cemetery and their loved ones, while not making it difficult for city crews to maintain the area.

Existing code allowed users to put up enclosures at a grave if given permission by the city’s parks and recreation director. Now, those enclosures are prohibited outright. Council members also opted to allow artificial decorations, such as plastic or silk flowers, to be displayed year-round, instead of restricting their display to certain times of year.

Kenai Vice Mayor Jim Glendening said more relaxed rules when it comes to what can and cannot be put on a grave allow for more individual expression on the part of those interned and their loved ones.

“Many of the plots therein have modest edifices — a little picket fence, maybe something for a vase or whatever — and I think some type of uniqueness to commemorate an individual’s existence, I think, should be allowed within our city,” Glendening said.

City council member James Baisden said that while the balance is difficult, people who do not like the regulations enforced by the city can explore other cemeteries in the area.

“If you’re going to entrust the city to take care of your loved one for, pretty much, eternity, we should have, I think, some standards,” Baisden said. “Make it beautiful, have it easy for us to maintain — I think we can do all that.”

Baisden went on to successfully amend the legislation such that veterans will be offered a 25% discount on columbariums in the same way they are for standard plots.

More information about the Kenai Municipal Cemetery, including cemetery plot applications and contact information for the city clerk, can be found at kenai.city/community/page/kenai-municipal-cemetery.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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