Cremation, other factors are making burial plots plentiful

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The City of McCook recently purchased nearly four acres of what was once a drive-in theater to provide more room for burial plots for adjacent Riverview Cemetery.

There's some kind of a morbid, inappropriate joke there, but we'll resist the temptation.

Officials expected the purchase to provide room for decades of burials, but judging from trends, they may have been pessimistic.

There is a surplus, it seems, of cemetery plots.

There are no official statistics kept, but a recent edition of USA Today noted that there were about 5,000 burial plots listed across Craigslist, the online marketplace.

While crowded cemeteries are a real problem in cities, with some horrible scandles involving lost bodies and multiple burials, many cemeteries have space to spare.

One reason is the growing "popularity" -- if one could call it that -- of cremation. In 2007, cremation was used in 32 percent of the 2.5 million deaths across the United States, up from 29.5 percent in 2003. Experts expect that number to jump to 44 percent by 2015.

Another is the economy -- cemetery plots are a difficult sale to make, even in good times. Unless there's a death in the family, most people aren't interested.

Other reasons include the high cost of caskets, plots and burials, environmental concerns and changing religious attitudes.

The city was wise to purchase the new land when it became available, and did so for $80,000, or $15,000 less than the appraised value. The city's main cemetery, Memorial Park Cemetery has some space, but is landlocked without much chance for expansion.

Judging by the trends, however, most of us should have little trouble finding a final resting place.

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