Forest Hill Cemetery, one of Anoka's two city-owned cemeteries, has freed up new land and soon will build a second structure to accommodate the growing number of cremations.

Choosing cremation over casket burials is a route more people are taking, said Ron Gjerde, secretary of the Minnesota Association of Cemeteries.

"Most cemeteries today are doing new development that lends itself to cremated remains," said Gjerde, who also is president of the Lakewood Cemetery Association.

Forest Hill, located northwest of Anoka's Main Street area at 2400 Forest Av., is one of the oldest cemeteries in the north metro area. Along with Oakwood Cemetery, the nondenominational cemetery is owned and operated by the city.

Established in 1890, Forest Hill covers about 18 acres. Only a small part is dedicated to cremations.

Lisa LaCasse, recreation supervisor and cemetery administrator for the city, said the cemetery is trying to "react to the newer trend of cremations" by adding more options. The recently opened lot designed for cremation burials has already drawn some sales, LaCasse said.

A new columbarium, an above-ground structure that holds cremation urns, will open in January and can hold up to 72 urns. The current columbarium holds 48 internments. As of last week, there was only one niche left for purchase in the older columbarium.

"People are tending to make those intentions [of cremation burial] earlier," LaCasse said. "Among other things, it's a more affordable option."

In Anoka, a cremation grave can cost anywhere from $400 to $550. The cost for a spot in a columbarium can range from $900 to $1,100.

Looking ahead

During a March City Council meeting, LaCasse inquired about raising prices for nonresidents.

"Staff does receive many requests for nonresidents and our tax base supports the cemetery, so we may want to do larger-tiered pricing for residency vs. nonresidency or even prove residency to be buried here," according to the March 2 meeting minutes.

City staff prepares the ground for burials and handles maintenance and clerical work.

The city will review prices for the new year in December and determine what fees will increase, if any.

"We just want to make sure we have space and availability for the taxpayers of Anoka foremost," LaCasse said.

She estimates there are about 5,000 spots left in Forest Hill.

Throughout the country, Gjerde says there is more cemetery space "than we will need in a long, long time." Especially with the increase in cremations, cemetery staff can build "structures that go up instead of out" to make the space more efficient, he said.

The cemetery is almost completely surrounded by businesses, parks and homes.

LaCasse said there are three sections, or about 2 acres, not available for sale yet, but the cemetery cannot expand beyond that.

"When the cemetery is sold out, it's sold out," LaCasse said.

Karen Zamora • 612-673-4647 Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora