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Edmond gets master plan for city-owned Gracelawn Cemetery

FILE - Contractors Bruce Brown and Salvador Salas clear and chip red cedar trees as the City of Edmond clears the way for the expansion of the Gracelawn Cemetery at Danforth Road and Boulevard. [PHOTO BY PAUL HELLLSTERN, THE OKLAHOMAN]
FILE - Contractors Bruce Brown and Salvador Salas clear and chip red cedar trees as the City of Edmond clears the way for the expansion of the Gracelawn Cemetery at Danforth Road and Boulevard. [PHOTO BY PAUL HELLLSTERN, THE OKLAHOMAN]

EDMOND — A modern, parklike cemetery with a variety of burial options is described in a master plan for Edmond's city-owned Gracelawn Cemetery presented to council members.

The plan, divided in five phases, includes the current 35.69-acre cemetery and an additional 20.56 acres purchased for expansion.

It provides for walking paths, ponds, natural tree burial, a chapel and other enhancements.

City officials bought the additional land because the cemetery is running out of burial spaces.

If lot sales continue at the current rate of 120 to 150 per year, the city will be out of lots in five to six years.

Council members in January hired consultants Mekus Tanager from Chicago to create the master plan which includes an inventory and preservation plan, topographic survey, engineered drainage study and recommendations for a phased approach for the future of the cemetery.

The master plan cost $126,640. The money came out of the cemetery care fund after the Capital Projects and Financing Task Force, volunteers who oversee a fund of sales tax money approved in 2000 for capital improvements, denied a request to pay for the master plan with 2000 sales tax money.

"Proactive road map"

"The primary objective of the master plan is to create a proactive road map for Gracelawn Cemetery, both of current needs and future development," said Patrick Mekus, of Mekus Tanager. "It serves as a guiding document.

"What is true today, may not be true in 50 years."

The cemetery, if completed as designed in the master plan, has an estimated price tag of $25 million.

"Those are very preliminary figures," Mekus said.

He said his estimate was calculated on the high side.

The completed cemetery, as designed, would add 29,844 full body lots and places for cremated remains.

To pay for the improvements, Mekus said, the city would have to charge $839.61 per burial lot.

The city now charges $700 for a full lot and $350 for a lot for cremated remains.

Master plan

The master plan calls for ponds and walking paths, along with columbarium walls, places for storage of urns of cremated remains, and a scattering garden.

A mausoleum building, a chapel, public restrooms, wall crypts, semiprivate estates for family burials, and pedestrian entrances are also called for in the master plan.

"There would be a naturalistic feature area with a spillway," Mekus said. "We would leave a natural area."

The master plan also calls for a location for natural tree burials.

The fairly-new concept is where people bury their loved ones or the cremated remains in a pod that is planted in the ground with a tree growing above the grave site.

"It is a more green option," Mekus said. "It is not popular now. But I feel it will be the future."

Mayor Charles Lamb said the master plan "clearly has more options."

"I like the trails," Lamb said. "There is a lot of history in our cemetery. I see that a plus. I find the cemetery a great place to visit."

The master plan did not change the veteran's section of the cemetery.

Former Mayor Dan O'Neil told the council members at a workshop this week the Edmond Kiwanis Club has plans to update the memorial.

The cost would be almost $17,000.

"We are going to try to raise the money," O'Neil said. "We need the help of the city."

Plans includes new concrete work and landscaping.

"I think it is a gorgeous plan," said Councilwoman Victoria Caldwell.

Diana Baldwin

Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote the original stories about the... Read more ›

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