Soldotna Memorial Park will see an expansion this spring, after the city council voted unanimously Wednesday to appropriate $300,000 on a design and construction project.
The cemetery was constructed in 2011 and expanded in 2015. There's plenty of space for cremains burials and the columbarium for cremains is only half full. But city Manager Stephanie Queen reported that there are no more standard plots left in the veterans section and not many available in the public areas.
"The demand continues to be high. We're at a point where we're now ready, and I would say it's fairly critical that we move forward with this next stage of expansion," Queen said.
The appropriation will cover design work on a phased plan for future expansion, as well as construction work to clear, prep and landscape about an acre and a half of land to expand the public and veterans sections. Another expansion might be necessary in a decade, but there's plenty of land left at the park.
"Our goal is with this phase that we get 10 years worth of capacity in this build but that we be able to plan for the future of the memorial park to last 50, 75-plus years," Queen said.
Barbara Jewell was on the cemetery committee that shepherded the Soldotna Memorial Park into existence. She urged support of the appropriation.
"It was a need for this area and was a long time coming, too. I would just urge you, as our community ages, if the adjoining property ever becomes available to keep your eye out for it, too. It's borough-owned right now but it would be nice if you could acquire some of that acreage," Jewell said.
Councilman David Carey was also on the early cemetery committee.
"The memorial park allows us to look at those people who built our community. The memorial park here in Soldotna is awesome. The idea of being sure that we can continue to see it expand allows us to appreciate those that have come before us," he said.
The council approved the appropriation unanimously. Groundwork will take place this spring.
The council also voted to approve administering a scholarship in honor of former mayor and long-time local doctor Nels Anderson, who died last year. The Anderson family will provide the start-up money and the city will invest and administer the fund. The city already administers scholarships in memory of Mae Ciechanski and one for the library. The Dr. John Nels Anderson Scholarship Fund will provide money to students entering a four-year college degree program, vocational or trade school, to pursue a career in a medically related field.
The council's next meeting is Feb. 29, with a work session on a source water study at 5 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6.