CAMP NELSON — Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Jessamine County is adding more room for the future without adding land.
As part of a plan to add more capacity, a contractor is putting preplaced concrete burial crypts into the ground. So 4 acres that might have had space for 1,200 to 1,300 grave sites will now have room for 2,500.
The use of preplaced concrete burial crypts is becoming more common in national and private cemeteries as an efficient means of expanding cemetery capacity while at the same time conserving space.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tries to put preset crypts "where they can in new cemeteries and in existing cemeteries when they expand," said Camp Nelson director Patrick Lovett.
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The $3 million project began in mid-March and is scheduled to be complete in November, although Lovett said it will probably be finished earlier than that. The work is being done by Spanish Springs Construction Co. of Sparks, Nev.
The preset lawn crypts also mean less digging when it comes time for a burial, because the backhoe will take off only 2 feet to 30 inches of soil rather than digging a fresh 5-foot hole.
The land with the preset crypts will also have an irrigation system installed for better watering of the grass, Lovett said.
Created by Congress in 1866, the cemetery is named for Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson, a Union officer in the Civil War. The cemetery has more than 14,000 people interred at about 12,000 grave sites. (Some graves are "double occupancies" in which spouses are buried atop the husband or wife who died first.)
Camp Nelson cemetery is still on track to add nearly 22 acres to its current 30. Jessamine County Fiscal Court has long sought to donate a portion of Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park to the cemetery. The park, which is not part of the cemetery, is a 600-acre site that was once a training and supply camp for the Union Army and an enlistment station for African-American troops.
The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the plan for its legality, Lovett said.
Last year the cemetery widened the road on its grounds. The cemetery has also been approved to add a new conference room, new public restrooms, and an irrigation system for the rest of the cemetery, Lovett said. The government must still approve financing for those projects.