Sunset Gardens unveils new columbarium

Robert Buckingham stands near the newly installed columbarium at Sunset Gardens Cemetery. Photo by Doug McMurdo

More Americans than ever before are choosing to have their mortal remains cremated rather than buried – about 70 percent – and Sunset Gardens now has a columbarium as an option.

“We’ve buried lots of urns in the cemetery and that takes up a lot of space,” said Robert Buckingham, manager of the Grand County Cemetery Maintenance Special Service District. “The columbarium is a storage niche, a public burial niche for the community. It’s a place to visit loved ones.”

The drone of nearby lawnmowers can’t take away the tranquil vibe at the columbarium at Sunset Gardens. Benches welcome visitors who arrive to visit departed relatives and friends. For Buckingham, such places are the future.

While this specific columbarium, featuring polished granite, can house 50 urns – each niche has room for two – there is room for several more and Buckingham has no doubt they will be built.

Cremation, once taboo, has become popular for myriad reasons, he said.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for many is the cost. A maximum $1,700 would purchase a niche for two urns, with room to add a few personal mementos, while traditional burial would cost closer to $7,000, including a headstone.

While Buckingham said the district will continue to provide traditional burial with the same respect and dignity it always has, he said the day will come when space becomes an issue and the cost of maintaining Grand County’s cemeteries, as well as the cost to water, mow and fertilize the grass could become problematic.

“People choose cremation for the cost, but also for the environment,” he said. “And a lot of people just don’t want to be put into the ground. It’s the future.”

For more information, contact Buckingham at 435-259-6855 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.