Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery to de­but new area with space-sav­ing pre-dug burial plots

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - WEATHER DESK -

The 6,000 pre-dug graves, with their con­crete crypts inches apart just un­der the sur­face, are ready. The 16,000 spa­ces in the new niche wall and colum­baria are wait­ing. And the area has been dec­o­rated with new red­bud, lo­cust and mag­no­lia trees.

In a few weeks, Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery will host the first of an ex­pected 27,000 funer­als in its el­e­gantly land­scaped ex­pan­sion, built into a hill­side and de­signed to ex­tend the ceme­tery’s life for more than 30 years.

The $81.7 mil­lion Mil­len­nium Pro­ject is the first ge­o­graphic ex­pan­sion of the ceme­tery in four decades.

And it was badly needed. Fac­ing dwin­dling space and heavy use, the 154-year-old ceme­tery is des­per­ately work­ing to ex­tend its life be­fore the day when there is no room left.

With­out the ex­pan­sion, “we’d be plan­ning to close in the mid-2020s,” said Re­nea Yates, deputy su­per­in­ten­dent for ceme­tery ad­min­is­tra­tion. “So this takes us out to the 2040s.”

Still, un­der cur­rent rules and con­di­tions, the ceme­tery’s life span ap­pears lim­ited. “Most vet­er­ans from the re­cent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on ter­ror will not have the op­tion to be buried” at Ar­ling­ton, the ceme­tery wrote in a re­port last year.

The 27 new acres in the north­west­ern part of the ceme­tery were carved out of a re­cre­ation spot for an ad­ja­cent mil­i­tary base, a con­struc­tion stag­ing area and Na­tional Park Ser­vice wood­land.

“You’re talk­ing about hun­dreds of thousands of cu­bic yards re­moved from the site,” Army Col. Mike Pelo­quin, the ceme­tery’s di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing, said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Some trees were taken down. Shrubs were added. New num­bered sec­tions were cre­ated. And a new grave dig­ging pro­ce­dure was in­au­gu­rated.

“This is the first lo­ca­tion at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery where we used a tech­nique ... where you have what’s es­sen­tially a con­crete box, dou­blestacked, with a lid to get to the lower one that you get to from the in­side of the up­per one,” Pelo­quin said.

The crypts were then placed close to­gether and cov­ered with about 2 feet of gravel, fill and top­soil, said David H. Petrie, con­struc­tion con­trol rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers.

The process eases grave open­ing and makes for greater ef­fi­ciency. The new sec­tion also has room for tra­di­tional in-ground buri­als and in-ground burial of cre­mated re­mains.

The ex­pan­sion in­volved the move­ment of huge amounts of earth, 1,200 feet of a his­toric sand­stone wall, and the con­struc­tion of ex­ten­sive gran­ite and con­crete com­mit­tal shel­ters and walk­ways.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.