As ground is being prepared to expand the interment facilities at Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Union Township, plans are being finalized to improve the landmark’s facilities for the living.
The Heritage Memorial Park, which will be located in the southwest corner of the cemetery, will be two acres of parkland designed to give visitors a place to gather, relax and enjoy a little ceremony from time to time.
“This will be separate, and its own park,” said Union Township Service Director Matt Taylor. “There will be cathedral steps to a little altar area where you can hold weddings, and will be a very beautiful place. There will be concrete trails that people can walk around the park on, and there will be a rest room facility.”
The project is separate from, but being planned to coincide with, the larger area burial ground expansion.
The new park is a combination of two parcels of land, one that has been owned by the township for some time, and the other a donation from longtime owner and Mt. Moriah supporter Stanley Wilfert. Wilfert, a local historian, bought the land a long time ago with the intent of donating it for just such a project.
"I've been here all my life," said Wilfert. "I purchased this land around 1982. It was a two-acre piece, and I was able to pick up one and hold it all this time. Two years ago I turned it over to the township. This is a benefit for everybody, and keeping this land protects the area from commercial expansion, a buffer from industrial type things."
Taylor said that the expected result of Wilfert's donation will be the realization of Wilfert's dream. The vision Wilfert related to the township when the land was donated has been translated as closely as possible into the plans for the actual park.
"In all honestly, this is all Stanley's vision," said Taylor. "We didn't have a lot to do with this. This is basically what he envisioned."
Wilfert said that the cemetery itself is of great importance to the community. It began, he said, with the original settlers to live in the area.
"The cemetery was started in the Witham farm," said Wilfert. "It was a simple burial yard. As the years went on and the original settlers passed away, their children were buried here. It's been continually added to to become a large cemetery of about 50 acres."
The project is planned for completion in late summer, and will benefit from a grant that will help complete some of the walking trails in the new area.
"In 2006, we received a Nature Works grant for just over $17,000 for the completion of walking path improvements," said Union Township Zoning Director Cory Wright. "We've used some of that over the years, and the remainder will be used when we actually get walking paths put in."
The project, added Taylor, is a slam dunk for the township.
"This is very beneficial to the township," said Taylor. "We can expand our parks and offer more facilities to township residents and even cemetery visitors. There is a lot of history to this cemetery, and the park will be a nice thing. We already have people come here to take wedding pictures, and this will provide a different venue for people, which will be nice. We'll also be preserving green space, which the trustees are very adamant about."