GI Cemetery at the Crossroads - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

GI Cemetery at the Crossroads

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Running out of real estate, the Grand Island city cemetery is nearly maxed out. Now, the city council is asked to weigh in on a long term plan.

Between the rise of cremation and the popularity of soccer on land set aside for expansion, the future is unclear.

"In the next few years, the cemetery will be running out of space," Parks and Recreation Director Todd McCoy said.

They're down to the final thousand lots.

Cemetery Superintendent Mark Sands said, "It's difficult to go out and show families spaces when they only got 1,000 to choose from. "

The Grand Island cemetery is at a crossroads.

McCoy said, "It's not an immediate crisis, but we do need to start making a plan for the future of the cemetery."

And where they do have lots available, they don't allow the large upright markers that are so popular these days, leaving that area less desirable.

"That's another thing we're looking at, if we can open half that section and put upright markers to sell more space in that section," Sands said.

They began planning for an expansion 15 years ago, buying land to the west.

McCoy said, "It's close, it's an ideal expansion property. The bad thing is, it's athletic fields that would have to be redeveloped."

It's become a popular soccer complex that some would like to see remain open. But that would mean added cost to create a second cemetery at a remote site, stretching manpower thin.

Sands said, "I have four full time employees, trim trees, mow, weed, take care of grounds."

He said another location would mean at least two more employees, plus an office and shop building, plus equipment.

Ashes from cremation now account for a third of burials and take up the already limited space.

One solution would be housing units to hold ashes on the grounds. But that doesn't solve all the problems, so they want expert help.

McCoy said, "We really need to hire somebody with planning expertise and do some master planning, so that's what we really need to do. "

Sands said, "We need to think about the future, expand, I believe it's been put off too long, start to develop it."

The parks department recommends hiring a planner with expertise in this area. The city council will discuss that Tuesday night.

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