Jacksonville cemetery gets room to grow

JACKSONVILLE — The town's historic cemetery will be able to expand with the addition of nearly 12 acres of land that a developer transferred at a heavily discounted price.

Cris Galpin will sell and donate 11.76 acres on the northwest side of the 30-acre cemetery for $100,000. A 2009 appraisal valued the land at $2,850,000, but Galpin offered it for his original cost. In addition, the city will give Galpin two lots totaling 1.2 acres worth an estimated $100,000.

"I've lived here my whole life. A lot of historic things need to be protected and preserved, and that (cemetery) is certainly historic for Southern Oregon," said Galpin. "They've got no place to expand and they need it."

Besides cemetery expansion, the city will incorporate a hiking trail already on the property that links downtown to Pair-a-Dice Road into the Jacksonville trails system.

"There's a really nice wildlife corridor going through there. There's a pretty little draw. It would be a shame to develop," said Galpin, who previously donated land to the city that included the cemetery's historic entrance.

Galpin had deeded the two small parcels to the city for parks use as part of the approval process for his Pair-a-Dice Hills subdivision. The city's Parks Commission subsequently determined the properties could not be used in a cost-effective way. Galpin said he might try to develop a small mining park on the lots, or parts might be used for road improvements in the area.

Without additional land, city officials estimated they would run out of cemetery plots to sell within a few years. The addition will also allow for an ash-scattering garden. Cemetery commissioners will create a master plan for the new area.

"The real opportunity here is acreage that is right adjacent to the cemetery," said Commission Chairman Dirk Siedlecki. "If we want to keep this as an active cemetery, then we do need to expand."

In a motion passed Oct. 5, the City Council decided the sale will be funded with a loan from the cemetery's Thomas Trust.

"That trust does allow for the betterment and enhancement of the cemetery," said City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen.

A 30-year loan will be made from the trust, but the council directed that a balloon payment be made in five years to cancel the debt. Plot sales should cover payments initially, said Wyntergreen. A 4-by-10-foot plot sells for $900 to city residents and $1,500 to others. About 30 plots a year have been sold in recent years.

"We need to sell approximately five plots," said Wyntergreen. "I don't think there will be any difficulty making more than the minimum payment."

The council will evaluate sale of a three-quarter acre parcel west of the cemetery to cover the balloon payment.

In other Jacksonville property news, the council deadlocked with a 3-3 vote on a motion to deny sale of land in the watershed to the Motorcycle Riders Association.

The group had negotiated with the city for nearly two years on an exchange of its land adjacent to the lower watershed — plus an estimated $800,000 in cash — for 380 acres in the upper watershed. Further discussion on an exchange was tabled until Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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