There were no people in sight Monday morning at Casper’s Highland Cemetery. Many of the graves were still lined with holiday decorations, garlands and red poinsettias that blew in the wind, and a small herd of deer lazily grazed on the yellowed grass.
It’s a peaceful resting place for Casper’s deceased — but it needs more space.
“We always need room for future plots and graves,” said Beth Andress, the community relations coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Tuesday, the Casper City Council is slated to vote on a $521,960 agreement with Andreen Hunt Construction to create an additional 2,110 burial plots. The project would include site grading, road construction, irrigation expansion, fence installation and landscaping, according to the meeting’s packet.
“We’ll try to do it with as little impact to the current cemetery as possible,” said Andress, adding that the existing plots will be fully accessible throughout the project.
Andress said the public cemetery currently has about 12,000 grave sites and one columbarium, which is a structure that has niches where urns can be stored. She declined to comment on how close the facility is to reaching its capacity.
“We don’t like to give out a capacity number because then people run out and buy graves they don’t plan on using for 20 to 30 years,” she said.
Andress said the cemetery’s last expansion was in 2005 and included the addition of a new office building and gate.
If approved, work would begin in the coming weeks, and the expansion would conclude in late May. The project would be funded using money from the city’s previous allotment of 1-cent sales tax funding, according to the Council meeting packet. The 1-cent sales tax is an optional tax that sends one penny of every dollar spent in Natrona County to local governments.
Highland Cemetery was established in 1893 by then-Casper mayor C.K. Bucknum, who purchased the land and donated it to the city to be used as a cemetery. Memorials at that time were mainly constructed of wood and only a few remain today, according to city’s website.
“Private citizens, local organizations, and the City of Casper have all added trees, shrubs, turf, and irrigation systems to improve the cemetery’s appearance,” it states. “... The mission of Highland Cemetery is to enhance our community’s heritage and assist families by providing conscientious, continuing care, quality and dignified funeral services, reliable thorough records, and attractive, well-kept grounds.”