Gilbert gets cemetery 99 years after incorporation
GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Ninety-nine years after incorporation, the town of Gilbert finally is getting its first cemetery.
Gilbert Memorial Park is planned to open in late summer on about 10 acres out of an eventual total of 22 acres and nearby options for expansion, according to the Arizona Republic.
A cemetery and funeral home will be located onsite. The town is leasing the land to a third-party operator for 99 years, with two 25-year options.
“We believe that it will be something that the residents can be extremely proud of,” said Bryce Bunker, president of Bunker Family Funerals & Cremation, the company contracted to develop, operate and maintain Gilbert Memorial Park. “We just feel honored to be a part of it.”
The metro Phoenix suburb boomed from a small farming community to one of the nation’s largest towns.
Gilbert’s population grew more than 3,500% from 1980 to 2010.
Now at more than 240,000 residents, Gilbert is the largest municipality in the U.S. to not have a cemetery for its residents.
The town only got its first hospital in 2006.
Bunker’s family owns three funeral homes in Mesa, but has served many families from Gilbert in the past.
With no cemetery within the town, he said Gilbert residents had to bury family members in neighboring communities such as Chandler, Mesa or Queen Creek.
Many residents have responded quickly to news of the development, according to Bunker who said “several hundred” people have asked to be notified when they can offer properties.
“I’ve had residents from Gilbert in tears when they call out of gratitude and excitement that there’s finally a cemetery coming to Gilbert,” Bunker told the Republic.
Gilbert spent nearly $2.3 million in 1999 to purchase the land being used for the planned cemetery and will make about $13.3 million in revenue over the cemetery’s lifetime. That’s nearly five times what was spent, according to city council documents.
“There’s a lot of people who have invested their heart and soul into this community and want the opportunity to be buried and remembered here,” Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com