Starting any successful project begins with a lot of planning. Every detail must be laid out and every contingency must be planned for to have success. The hardest part is the planning, especially if you have never taken on a specific project before and for one small town outside of Anchorage, Alaska, that’s exactly where they find themselves.
The residents of Gridwood, AK are involved in the initial planning stages of building there own cemetery. Girdwood Board of Supervisors member Tommy O’Malley has been working to get a cemetery built within the community for years and now those initial plans are beginning to bear fruit.
On Sunday, the city invited residents out to the wooded location for an open house to view the site and see what will eventually be a location with markers and meandering paths. The city even had a “Best Epitaph” contest, where people wrote in their best grave marker lines. “O’Malley said the best epitaph he’d seen so far had been submitted by a Girdwood artist: ‘Mariano Gonzales. Artist. He drew his last breath, (How, Kelly).'” There was also a sign-up list for those people interested in purchasing a grave in the site once the cemetery is completed.
Gridwood Cemetery will sit on a 7-acre plot of land and many of the small, ski town want to see it keep some of its wooded views. The residents voted to collect property taxes to pay for the planning, operation and upkeep of the cemetery, though some are concerned about whether nearby Anchorage residents will be buried in the new cemetery. Currently, the “city-owned Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery downtown is just a few decades’ worth of bodies from being full (How, Kelly).”
A small number of residents whose properties bump up next to the cemetery site are upset, either because they feel the cemetery will be an eyesore or because they feel the initial plans have since changed and are now infringing on their property. All comments from the open house are being forwarded to the engineering firm CRW, which is in charge of the preliminary design of the cemetery and project cost estimates. The city-owned Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery will be managing the new location once built.
The cemetery has a long way to go but seems to be moving in a good direction. Monthly public meetings will be held to continue to work with the community about the location.