The final resting place for thousands of Colorado Springs residents is running out of space.

Fairview Cemetery, the smaller of two city-owned cemeteries, only has 96 casket plots remaining and 150 to 200 cremation burial spots, according to Jody Sanchez-Skamarak, interim cemetery sexton.

The problem, she said, is not a lack of land. 

The 32-acre cemetery that was founded in 1895 on the city's west side has room to grow, as only 20 acres are developed. It's what's involved in developing that land that's a hindrance.

"It's expensive - over $100,000 to develop about an acre," Sanchez-Skamarak said.

Because the city's cemeteries are defined as an enterprise, they do not receive taxpayer support from the general fund and instead operate on money earned from sales of plots and burial fees. So income is limited.

Adding landscaping, roads, trees and irrigation would be figured into the cost of developing more acreage, Sanchez-Skamarak said.

"We'd need to be able to put an irrigation system into place. We use regular, potable water and are charged the highest rate so we pay a lot for the water," she said.

Fairview hires seasonal staff to hand-water the grounds with hoses and sprinklers, which Sanchez-Skamarak describes as "inefficient."

So, for now, the cemetery is creeping toward its capacity.

A shame, says Old Colorado City historian David Hughes, who wants city leaders to address the problem.

"It's a historic, pioneer cemetery, and west-siders of today still want to be buried there," he said. "I expect the City Council to come up with a solution for being able to use the unused portion."

At 1000 S. 26th St., Fairview was created when Colorado City, west of what is now Colorado Springs, purchased land from Colorado City co-founder Anthony Bott. The city of Colorado Springs took over cemetery operations in 1917.

Fairview, which is about 10 times smaller than the city's main cemetery, Evergreen, lies in the foothills that form the eastern slope of Pikes Peak and offers views of Cheyenne Mountain to the south and Garden of the Gods to the north.

"It's a quaint cemetery; it's butted up to the side of the mountains so you'll see the mountains and a lot of deer and other wildlife go through there," Sanchez-Skamarak said.

Famous west-side residents are buried at Fairview, from Bott to Laura Bell, the queen of the red light district, along with gold prospectors, Civil War veterans, saloon keepers and average citizens. Large headstones and monuments, many with photos of the deceased cemented to the stone, are prevalent in the older sections.

Sanchez-Skamarak said the remains of 12,000 to 15,000 people are at Fairview. The exact number is unknown because there were burials prior to the cemetery's founding and before the city took it over, but they aren't well-documented.

Hughes, 87, purchased five plots - for his wife, who died in 2011, for himself and his children. As a side note, his wife's tombstone has a QR code that when scanned with a smartphone goes to her memorial and plays her favorite music. Hughes' headstone also will have one that links to his autobiography.

"It may be an old cemetery, but it's high-tech," Hughes said jokingly.

Plot costs vary depending on location. Prime resting spots near mature trees and away from the street are more expensive than those in newer areas with less landscaping, Sanchez-Skamarak said.


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