The Cities of Kenai and Soldotna are expanding their cemeteries to accommodate the number of people seeking plots, and both are eyeing the end of this year as when they’d like to have those expansions done.
A lack of space in both cemeteries has been of concern to the cities in recent years.
At Soldotna’s Community Memorial Park, where advanced reservations are in high demand, 303 total spaces are available, including standard plots, columbarium niches, infant plots and cremation plots. The cemetery also has 167 spaces specifically for veterans.
Currently, the cemetery has space for about 565 people, including 398 standard spaces and 167 for veterans. Their expansion would add 386 standard plots.
Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis said Thursday that most of Memorial Park’s expansion work will be done at the north end of the property. Planned work includes the creation of a new lawn for burial plots, the construction of gravel drives and walking paths, water services for irrigation and landscaping improvements. Kornelis said that cleaning and grubbing will occur this spring, while site improvements and landscaping will depend on weather.
“With a healthy growing season the new area should be available by late fall or early winter,” Kornelis said.
Similar efforts are underway in Kenai. In March of 2018, the Kenai Municipal Cemetery had just 20 free cemetery plots. The Kenai City Council approved a moratorium on the selling of standard cemetery plots in 2017 in response to an “extremely limited” number of available plots. That moratorium, which is still in effect, prevents the selling of cemetery plots in advance for people who are still alive.
Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz said Wednesday that Kenai currently has 10 standard plots, 16 cremation plots and 90 columbarium niches available in the cemetery. Exceptions to the moratorium, Heinz said, include the purchase of a plot once someone has already died. Heinz said she can also sell two plots if someone dies and an immediate family member wants to purchase the adjacent plot. Typically, she said, this applies to spouses.
According to previous Clarion reporting, the Kenai City Council approved $17,991 for Nelson Engineering to turn design plans into work plans in 2017. The design plans, drawn by architecture firm Klauder and Associates, describe a new burial ground on a roughly 4-acre lot opposite the cemetery on the other side of Floatplane Road.
Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said Thursday that the expansion has already been cleared and that the city’s goal is to complete the expansion by the end of this construction year. Still needed at the site of the expansion, Ostrander said, is a fence around the perimeter and paved access points for the community. The city also needs to hydroseed the land.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has recorded 22 COVID-related deaths, including 21 among residents and one nonresident. Eight deaths have been reported among Soldotna residents. Seven deaths have been reported among Kenai residents. Two deaths have been reported among Anchor Point residents. Two deaths have been reported among Sterling residents and one resident death each has been reported in Homer and Seward.
Soldotna’s Community Memorial Park is located at 600 W. Redoubt Ave. in Soldotna. The Kenai Municipal Cemetery is located at the intersection of 1st Avenue and Coral Street in Kenai.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.