In an effort to offer internment for generations to come, an expansion plan is underway at Woodlawn Memorial Park cemetery.
Officials intend to put about 30 acres of currently unused land into action.
“We’re running out of single, full-sized graves throughout the cemetery,” said general manager Paul Taylor. “We have different types of graves throughout the property, and as we are using up the inventory we have to make sure we have new inventory in place. That’s what this is all about.”
The plan is to expand the current internal road network to allow for ease of access to new traditional burial sites, an expanded natural burials area and creation gardens, as well as the creation of new dedicated religion areas.
It also involves building a new crematorium further away from neighbours.
“It’ll be a more environmentally friendly crematorium that we have today,” Taylor said. “Our units that we have right now are 35 years and plus (old).”
No new entrances are planned.
The expansion lands have been owned by the cemetery for decades, but not fully used, though there is an underground workshop and some internments have taken place, the general manager noted.
With roots back to 1828, Woodlawn Memorial Park has been at the corner of Woodlawn Road and Woolwich Street since 1854 and features more than 36,000 internments.
“It is our last tract of land,” Taylor said. “We’re basically land-locked in this with the roads around us, the communities around us.”
The cemetery property is bordered by Woodlawn Road to the north, Woolwich Street to the east, the rail line and Bailey Park to the south, and Nicklin Road to the west – about 80 acres in total.
Taylor isn’t sure how long the expansion area will allow the cemetery to continue taking on new internments, in part due to the increase in cremations in the past several years.
“With a higher percentage of people choosing to be cremated, it’s a smaller space,” he said, noting an acre of land can accommodate about 700 traditional burials. “With cremation, that can be 4,000 people. Therefore the 30 acres we have left starts lasting now one or two generations, it can last three, four generations.”
The Guelph Cemetery Commission, a not-for-profit board which operates Woodlawn Memorial Park, has asked the city to take out a $2 million loan on its behalf to help pay for the expansion, though no commitment has been made at this point.
“The cemetery has been pretty much self-sufficient throughout its history,” Taylor said, noting the plan is to repay the loan using funds from sales in the expansion area.
If city council agrees with the idea, city staff have requested a business plan from the commission, as well as other financial documents.
Some of those funds would be used to help preserve a stable from the 1800s on the property that has been used for office space, Taylor noted.
“We’ve recently put a new roof on and we’ve beefed up the structure a little bit more inside,” he said. “We’re just trying to make a final decision on what its end use is going to be.”
Guelph Cemetery Commission is not funded through annual taxpayer contributions, confirmed city treasurer Tara Baker.“They are a self funded organization,” she said.