EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is responding to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can submit questions to the staff. An Ashland Source reader who asked to remain anonymous asked, “When will the Ashland Cemetery open up its back portion for use?"
ASHLAND - About 30 years ago, as best as board president Jim Doyle can recall, the Ashland Cemetery Association made a major land purchase.
The association acquired a piece of adjacent land just north of the cemetery and just south of West Main Street. The land can be seen from West Main Street, around where Main Street meets Parkside Drive.
Cemetery superintendent Tom Rupple estimates the land, which used to be an orchard, boasts 15 acres of useable space that one day will become grave sites.
The cemetery owns about 75 acres of land but only mows approximately 34 acres because a ravine runs between the existing gravesites and the old orchard, Rupple said. That means an additional 15 acres would increase the cemetery's usable space by nearly 50 percent.
So when will the cemetery association open the new portion of the cemetery for use?
Doyle and Rupple estimates it will be another 30 years before graves are sold in that location. About three decades worth of grave sites are still available in the existing portion of the cemetery, and cemetery leaders expect the orchard land will open up enough grave sites to last another 100 years after that.
For now, the association is selling spaces mostly in the far southwest corner of the cemetery, where about 2,000 to 3,000 spaces are still available.
Customers who need only one or two spaces can often find spots in other parts of the cemetery.
"We can go anywhere in the cemetery for a single grave," Rupple said. "If you're looking for two graves, it's a little tougher in some sections to find, but they're still there."
About 16,000 people have been buried in Ashland Cemetery, with burials starting well before the association was formed in 1856.
These days, the cemetery has about 100 burials a year. About one third of the association's business is cremations, so the cemetery added a new columbarium last year to accommodate more urns.
Though the old orchard land won't be needed for a few decades, cemetery leaders are already planning for the cemetery's expansion. They plan to construct a culvert over the creek, allowing them to build an access road extending north from the area of the mausoleum.
"This isn't a normal job. You got to a business and you plan five or ten years down the road. In cemeteries, you plan 30, 40, 50 years down the road," Rupple said.
For years, crews have been piling dirt from newly dug graves in the area of the future road site. That dirt will one day be used to build the road, Rupple said.
Currently, the cemetery only has one entrance on its northeast side on West Main Street. A majority of the cemetery is long and narrow, so the drive from the front gate to the sites being sold today is nearly a mile.
When the orchard portion is added, Doyle said, the association expects to add a second entrance and a gate off Southview Drive near Southview's intersection with Glenwood Drive.
Doyle and Rupple emphasized the cemetery association is still financially sustainable and its board and staff are planning for the long haul.
"We're here for the duration, and we're a long ways from being full," Rupple said.
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