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Planning Commission

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May 26

Final Resting Places in the County

Posted on May 26, 2017 at 3:53 PM by Michael Stokes

Perhaps this Memorial Day weekend you will visit one of the cemeteries in Montgomery County that comprise more than 1800 acres in order to pay your respect to one of the many heroes who fought and sacrificed for our freedom.  During your visit, you may realize that cemeteries are interesting landscapes that vary in size and overall design.   Small family plots are located throughout the county as well as cemeteries over 100 acres in size.

Of all of the land uses in the county, cemeteries are one of the most permanent.  Yet in rare cases for very compelling needs, even cemeteries can be displaced with the careful disinterment of those buried there.   

The permanence of cemeteries requires "perpetual care.”  To ensure that, Pennsylvania law requires that a permanent lot care fund be established for all new cemeteries.  However, this provision does not apply to cemeteries owned by churches or religious congregations.  Since the law wasn’t established until 1972, some older cemeteries may not be subject to it or may have an insufficiently sized permanent care fund. 

As a result there are some cemeteries throughout the county which are not well maintained or appear to have no owner.  In these cases, other organizations such as historic societies, municipalities, community associations and other religious organizations have taken over maintenance responsibilities.    

At one time planners were concerned about having adequate cemetery space in their communities.  Now that doesn’t appear to such a great concern.  In fact no new cemeteries have been proposed in the county in the last several decades.  With the growth of cremation (experts predict that as many as 70% of the deceased in 2030 will be cremated) and the interest in alternatives to traditional ground burial, cemetery space is being consumed at much slower rates.  These trends are changing the function of existing cemeteries.  Some cemeteries are now hosting funeral homes with cremation services on site and offering memorial gardens for ash dispersal.  Cemeteries are also building large multi-level mausoleums containing several crypts.

As communities grow up around cemeteries, residents value them for their history, open space and even recreation potential.  This is very evident in some of the county’s larger cemeteries such as the Hillside Cemetery in Abington Township or West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion Township which are both popular destinations for walkers and bikers.  Memorial garden style cemeteries with flush-to-the-ground bronze memorials typically feature gardens, fountains and ponds making them very scenic landscapes.

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A typical cemetery on Memorial Day

Hillside Cem
The diversity of our county is now evident in local cemeteries

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Cemeteries are important in preserving local history

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Some cemeteries contain crypts so large they almost need a building permit

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Other cemeteries are in more natural settings

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Even Halloween has a special place in some cemeteries


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