Plots Thicken: Westminster Running Out of Cemetery Space

September 21, 2018

Within the next decade, the three town cemeteries won't have enough space for burials, said Westminster Cemetery Superintendent Alan Mayo, at Woodside Cemetery Thursday. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Mina Corpuz

mcorpuz@sentinel andenterprise.com

WESTMINSTER -- Shale headstones dating back to the 16th century rise from the ground at the town-owned Woodside Cemetery. Flags and medal emblems decorate the graves of veterans who served here in the U.S. and around the world.

The cemeteries in Westminster hold meaning for residents and where some would like to be laid to rest, said Superintendent Alan Mayo. The problem is that the town is running out of space.

“We’re looking forward to the future and to make sure the future is taken care of for people here,” he said.

Within the next decade, the three town cemeteries won’t have enough space for burials, Mayo said, which is why it’s important to start the search now for a site for a new one.

The Cemetery Commission and the town planner have begun to look at sites in town.

He said between 10 and 20 acres would be the right size for a new cemetery.

There are also other considerations, like finding a site that isn’t on wetlands and doesn’t have ledge -- a type of rock that makes burials difficult.

Mayo said they are looking at tax title land, which are properties the town has taken over because the owner hasn’t paid.

“We’re trying to identify parcels in town we could use, he said. “This is a long process and it’s not going to happen overnight.”

If that happens, later the department would work with the town to acquire the site and to hire a designer, Mayo said.

The last time there was a cemetery expansion in town was in the early 2000s.

Mayo said the department has been able to save space with cremation burials and storage.

At Mount Pleasant, there is an area for cremation urns and burials added in 2012.

Manicured shrubs surround three flowering crabapple trees near the back of the cemetery. In the middle is a granite structure called a columbariam that houses cremation urns. There are 128 panels called niches that can each house two urns.

Within the circle are several grave markers for those whose urns are buried in the ground.

Providing more cemetery space is a goal that the new superintendent wants to pursue. He came to Westminster in May after working about 30 years for the Cemetery Department in Templeton.

Another goal is to digitize the department’s burial and plot records, Mayo said. It would make record keeping easier and help when people looking for family members or genealogists and historians doing research.

“I want to make the Cemetery Department the best it can be and leave it better than when I first started,” Mayo said. “I want to leave it better for the next guy who comes in.”

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlclorpuz

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