GREENFIELD — It’s said the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and the city of Greenfield is planning ahead to make sure there’s enough room for everyone who succumbs to the first.
City officials are planning for an expansion of Greenfield’s Park Cemetery, which is expected to reach its capacity of 14,700 plots in the next five to seven years. Expansion options, however, are limited by the city’s animal management and wastewater treatment plants’ locations next to the cemetery, officials said.
Though officials have long discussed options including moving Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management, city engineer Mike Fruth said neither that facility nor the Hancock County Wastewater Treatment Plant easily could be relocated in the process of expanding the cemetery.
Currently, there are about 3,000 open plots across the cemetery’s 25 sections — and about 160 people are buried there per year — but some of the single plots scattered across the property remain difficult to sell, said Tyler Rankins, street and cemetery commissioner. Families almost always want to purchase at least two plots next to one another, and that demand is driving the investigation into expansion, Rankins said.
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“I’m glad people want to be buried there,” Rankins said. “We need to figure out what we’re going to do.”
Another section of the 50-acre cemetery remains available for development, which should provide about 300 more plots, depending on how they are spaced, Rankins said.
Dave Pasco of Greenfield said it’s important to families to be able to plan ahead to be buried together; he counts himself lucky he was able to purchase two plots near those purchased for his grandparents and parents.
“There were two lots that line up perfectly with grave spaces,” he said. “Things couldn’t have worked out better.”
Pasco, whose family owned a funeral home for decades in Greenfield, said he encourages people to pre-plan their funerals so their loved ones aren’t left wondering what their wishes were.
City officials have met several times in recent months to talk about their options for the future of the cemetery, in which Hancock County residents were first laid to rest in the late 1800s.
Right now, the best plan is to expand the cemetery southeast toward Davis Road and behind the city’s Vietnam memorial, said Mayor Chuck Fewell.
The city owns land there that is leased out to be farmed, and that could be reclaimed in order to have space for more burial plots, Fruth said.
But that plan comes with its own set of challenges.
If the cemetery is expanded to the south, the entrance would be moved farther south on State Road 9, to the road that is currently used by drivers traveling to Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management and the wastewater treatment plant, Fewell said.
A rocky ditch called the Puterbaugh Drain currently runs through the center of the land, Fruth said. It would have to be cleared and leveled to allow for the development.
A new access road would need to be paved for animal management and wastewater, and that entrance would be moved to Davis Road; a buffer, either earth or some kind of landscaping, would separate the cemetery from the two other facilities.
“How we connect those two areas — the current cemetery and the southern land — will set into motion the plans for decades,” Fruth said. “The cemetery has an important function to residents, so we have to be thoughtful in how we plan for the future.”
City officials plan to form a committee dedicated to creating a concept for the future of the cemetery, Fewell said. Funding options will be part of those discussions.
The $625 price tag for a plot at Park Cemetery hasn’t been raised for a decade, said Jimmy Sweet, cemetery foreman.
That cost funds ongoing maintenance, but it would not cover the costs to the city of developing and expanding that land to the south, Fruth said.
Fruth said city officials should take care to involve experts across a number of fields, including morticians, landscapers and consultants, to create a cogent plan for the cemetery’s future.
“The cemetery is an interesting part of the city,” Fruth said. “It transcends decades, even centuries. It’s a combination of a park and a final resting place. It has to be peaceful, but residents will expect a certain amount of amenities. We want to take our time and get a lot of input.”
14,623: people currently buried in Park Cemetery
$625: cost of a burial plot
50: acres of city-owned land are dedicated to the cemetery
5 to 7: years remain until the cemetery needs to expand