City looks to manage cemetery growth

Dec 17, 2019

The city of Soldotna’s relatively new cemetery has always been popular since it opened less than a decade ago. In fact, some dearly departed actually transferred there from other cemeteries.
    On Thursday night, the Soldotna City Council heard a report from the city clerk and city manager about updates needed to the Soldotna Community Memorial Park and its policy manual.
    City Manager Stephanie Queen said plots are filling up fast, and reservations for plots are filling up even faster.
    “We're nearing full occupancy in terms of the reservations and the folks that are interred in the Memorial Park. I don't have (the figures) with me today,” Queen said, “but I can tell you our primary concern is the veterans area where we really critically need to add capacity.”)
    Queen said the policy manual updates will ease the way to expansion, and provide more consistency in what is and is not allowed to be placed on graves.
    “When it comes to the decorations, we had quite an extensive conversation about the city's policy and also our consistency and or inconsistency, as the case may have been, in enforcing the prohibition on certain items at the memorial park,” she said. “And we got some feedback at the work session, and then internally discussed it. It was really Shelly, myself and Andrew together thinking through the feedback that we got.”
    She said only a few things will be allowed as decorations, such as plants, live flower arrangements and cut flowers.
    “There's a lot of language in here about ensuring that people know that we don't have the capacity to protect personal items that they've left, nor do we necessarily know who left that item,” she said. “So we wouldn't be able to notify people or reach out to people or hold items. And I just wanted to highlight that, that in this policy, it really is consistent in that we have not made an expansion of things that are allowable, it really should just be limited to flowers and things.”
    Sometimes, Queen said, people like to decorate a loved one’s grave for special occasions, but that was something she said the administration found difficult to work into a policy.
    “I couldn't come up with a way that I could think through allowing items like decorative sculptures or items that might be personally important to a person in certain instances without people perceiving them as just being allowed generally,” she said. “So whether it be time limited or related to an anniversary, I kept coming back to if people are placing them in certain instances, people will see them and believe potentially that they're allowable.”
    The city council voted to adopt the updates to the memorial park policy. The administration will bring future expansion plans to council at a later date.