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Cemetery takes life

Nevada County will soon open its first public cemetery in 70 years in a move indicative of the growth of the Nevada Cemetery District.

The newly renamed Deer Creek Cemetery on Red Dog Road, just east of Nevada City, will have a dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 22, said District Manager Gary Plunkett.

“This is our first modern cemetery,” with irrigated lawns and landscaping, Plunkett said Friday. “Most of them are historical” and take on the lay of the land.



Cemeteries were established in the 1840s during the Gold Rush to take care of the growing population of miners, according to district documents.

The idea for the new cemetery came from the Nevada City lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, which owned the cemetery for years. But with a dwindling membership, leaders decided they couldn’t keep it up anymore.




“Alan Rogers (of Nevada City) came and asked us if they could donate it to us,” Plunkett said. “We thought we could develop it into a nice cemetery for people that was just outside of Nevada City.”

The green space has an irrigation system run by solar panels, with 190 new burial plots and 450 cremation spaces, Plunkett said.

When dealing with the deceased, “cremation is 65 to 67 percent in Nevada County,” Plunkett said.

Because of that, the district installed several alternatives for cremated remains. They include a large structure for niche boxes, where remains of two people can be inurned side-by-side; a common area where ashes can be scattered on the ground; and a common vault where ashes are co-mingled.

About $240,000 of the district’s $650,000 budget comes from taxes, with the rest of the revenue from selling burial plots, setting monuments and headstones and other services.

“We’ve come a long way,” Plunkett said. When he started with the district 30 years ago, the budget was $60,000. There are now six employees.

The district was formed in 1942 and was expanded to take in Nevada City, Grass Valley and the Highway 49 corridor over the years. Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines residents were annexed in 2006.

The district’s public cemeteries are cheaper to use than private facilities because of tax dollar involvement, Plunkett said.

The district now has 25 public cemeteries, the newest being the Loney/Sanford Ranch Cemetery which has been designed, but not built. That cemetery on McCourtney Road, seven miles from the Nevada County Fairgrounds, will have 1,200 plots and cost about $500,000 to complete.

“It was established in 1884, and (the owners) donated the 5.2 acres to us,” Plunkett said.

“We started thinking about expansion in 1989, and we’ve been saving for all this” ever since.

Nevada County has 53 private and public cemeteries. According to California rules, six or more burials qualifies the grounds to be called a cemetery, Plunkett said. “The rest are burial grounds.”

To contact the district about burials or other services, call the office at (530) 265-3461 between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekdays; or contact them at tombstone8706@sbcglobal.net.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or cal (530) 477-4237.


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