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Carrboro Town Council takes action to improve two local cemeteries

A Chapel Hill Cemetery is pictured on Feb. 14, 2023.

The Carrboro Town Council unanimously approved improvements to Westwood Cemetery and Old Carrboro Cemetery in a meeting on Feb. 7.

The $135,000 in funds will be allocated for improvements such as new fencing and erosion prevention.

These two cemeteries are the only two public cemeteries managed by the Town of Carrboro. Old Carrboro Cemetery started its burials in the 1910s, and Westwood Cemetery was established in 1948. 

Old Carrboro Cemetery ran out of plots in January 2022, and Westwood Cemetery is expected to sell out of plots within the next several years if sales continue at the current rate. 

Ben Schmadeke, Carrboro's capital projects manager, said this issue spurred conversation about expanding the cemetery and increasing the number of plots available for residents.

"There's been a little bit more attention on the cemeteries, with that situation with the running out of plots," Schmadeke said. "And so that's where we've been looking at improvements."

The Town Council has discussed possible ways to restrict the purchase of new plots. Some of these possible regulations include limiting the number of plots each person can buy, requiring purchasers to have relatives in the cemetery or requiring purchasers to be residents of Carrboro. The Council has yet to make a decision on which, if any, of these restrictions will be implemented.

During the discussion regarding cemetery expansion, other cemetery improvement ideas arose regarding maintenance and overall improvement of the cemetery areas, Barbara Foushee, a Carrboro Town Council member, said.

The cemetery has consistent regular maintenance, but several issues discussed at the Feb. 7 meeting go beyond regular maintenance.

Within Old Carrboro Cemetery, there are issues with erosion, and Foushee said a damaged fence in the cemetery is in need of repair. She also said Westwood has an outdated sign outlining cemetery rules, that needs to be updated.

Schmadeke said the Town plans to replace fallen and damaged fencing within the next several months.

Visitation is not expected to be affected while these improvements are being implemented, according to Foushee.

Other projects, such as improving signage and adding decorative lighting and benches, will be proposed for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. 

According to Schmadeke, the funding for the fence will come from the public works operating budget, and the funding source for the other projects has not yet been identified.

Westwood Cemetery is divided into several sections. Currently, plots take up around half of the space allocated for Westwood Cemetery. Options for the undeveloped section of the cemetery are still being discussed. 

According to Foushee, along with expanding the cemetery into this area and adding plots, the council is discussing adding several passive recreation activities, such as a walking trail and benches. 

"I understand that also the importance of having great space for folks to walk and play with kids and do stuff like that," she said. "And so that's why I would want to continue the current use of the cemetery, but also integrate into that expansion some passive recreational amenities that will be in line with the current use."

Carrboro Communication and Engagement Director Catherine Lazorko said the Town Council is strongly taking into consideration how these improvements will affect those in the community. 

“The Council has been listening intently to community members as they consider these future plans for the Westwood cemetery," Lazorko said.

Looking further into the future, along with these projects, Schmadeke said, there is potential for a larger capital project at Westwood Cemetery if the council and community decide to go in that direction.

The Town Council is planning to further discuss these improvements in an upcoming work session in the spring, Schmadeke said.

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