There's no doubt about it, burial space in Marietta's cemeteries is shrinking.
"The city's cemeteries are filling up," said City Councilman Harley Noland. "There are no more plots for sale at Mound Cemetery, and Oak Grove is nearly full. The only available space there is on the backside where the hillside is steep and there have been some landslips.
"We need to find more burial sites and to start thinking about it now," he said.
Marietta's Oak Grove Cemetery has very few plots left.
Marietta currently owns three cemeteries, Mound Cemetery on Fifth Street, Oak Grove Cemetery on Sixth Street and Harmar Cemetery on the city's west side.
Burial sites are no longer sold at the Mound and Harmar graveyards.
"Cremation sites are available in Mound Cemetery, and there are a couple of sections at Oak Grove for gravesites, but one full section of that cemetery slipped away a couple of years ago," said Tom Kunz, foreman of the city facilities department, which is responsible for the cemeteries.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
A worker cuts grass near a newly dug gravesite at Marietta’s Oak Grove Cemetery. Limited space in the municipal graveyard is prodding city officials to consider the possibility of opening a new burial ground at Jackson Park.
"I think the old Jackson Park area would be a prime location for a new city cemetery," he said.
"That's a parcel of land being totally under-utilized," he said. "But it's high out of the flood plain, has electricity and plumbing, and it even has a picnic shelter that could be made into a chapel.
Marietta's burial grounds include
- Mound Cemetery, Fifth Street: Cremation sites available, burial plots no longer being sold.
- Oak Grove Cemetery, Sixth Street: Cremation sites and limited number of burial plots available.
- Harmar Cemetery, Wood Street: No cremation sites or burial plots being sold.
"The park could be developed into a cemetery for not a lot of money," Noland said.
Originally the site of the municipal swimming pool, the park, located off Cisler Drive, is now basically a storage area.
"The safety-service director calls it a 'laydown yard' - anything that needs to be laid down is put there," Noland said, noting that includes equipment no longer used, chunks of concrete, and similar items.
He said once that material is cleared out, the park's flat hilltop could accommodate an estimated 1,000 gravesites that could be sold for around $1,200 each.
"That would generate $1.2 million that could be invested and used for maintenance and operations of the city cemeteries," Noland said.
Current burial plots in Oak Grove Cemetery are selling for around $550, including perpetual care.
Local funeral director Bill Peoples said Marietta has to plan ahead for its cemeteries.
"The city basically hasn't opened a new cemetery since it was founded - that's 200 years ago," he said. "Other cities have kept pace by opening more cemeteries over the years.
"Marietta has continued to add parks, pave roads and restore buildings, but the city has overlooked the need for future cemetery space," Peoples added. "And it seems a new cemetery could generate income to keep the others maintained."
Noland said he would like to see the Marietta Cemeteries Commission reinstated, a board established in 1974 to oversee the municipal graveyards.
"It's a legislative body already laid out for this purpose, but the commission hasn't met for more than 20 years," he said.
There are other burial grounds in and around town, not owned by the city.
St. Marys Catholic Church operates two cemeteries in Marietta.
"The oldest one is located across Fourth Street from St. Marys School, but there are no plots available there," said Monsignor John Michael Campbell.
"We also have a beautiful cemetery on the western end of Montgomery Street," he said. "We've restored that area over the last six years, and there's a lot of room as we own the whole hillside."
Campbell said the church eventually plans to build a mausoleum in the graveyard.
Outside of Marietta, many of the county's townships maintain their own cemeteries.
Salem Township's Universal Cemetery, located on Ohio 821, was down to less than 40 double plots until trustees expanded it onto adjacent land last year, said Ernest Biehl, a former trustee. The land was cleared and re-seeded and now has space for more than 250 double plots, he said.
Marcella Fleming, the Salem Township fiscal officer, said a double plot costs $650 for township residents and $1,000 for those who live outside the township.
Warren Township trustees oversee five cemeteries, two of which still have space available, said Trustee Jeffrey Knowlton.
"We've got quite a bit of space available at the Tunnel Cemetery," he said, noting there are also empty plots at the Gravel Bank Cemetery.
Since most of the people who get buried in the township's cemeteries are township residents, Knowlton doesn't anticipate any problems with space. However, if there are an influx of burials from outside the township, it could become an issue, he said.
A four-person lot in a Warren Township cemetery costs $500 for township residents and $2,000 for non-residents.
Evan Bevins contributed.