DANVERS — Responding to a growing trend toward cremation, Walnut Grove Cemetery, one of the oldest park-like cemeteries in town, has installed a columbarium garden to hold loved ones’ ashes.
The columbarium is a rarity for a cemetery on the North Shore, and the first of its kind in Danvers, according to Walnut Grove’s trustees.
A columbarium is an above-ground monument that contains individual vaults to hold urns with cremated remains. The new garden at Walnut Grove has three monuments set in front of a garden. Each stone monument contains 32 niches, for a total of 96. Each niche can accommodate two urns.
With cremation rates on the rise both nationally and in the Bay State, the cemetery’s trustees, who are all volunteers, see the columbarium garden as a way to generate revenue and help fund its operations, keeping the cemetery viable for future generations. It would also allow someone to make burial arrangements in advance and keep the cost of their funerals down.
The cemetery has made other investments in recent years, including hot topping its roads and hiring a company to create an online grave locator for its website, trustees said.
The monuments were built in response to the fact that more people are choosing cremation over burial. In 2011, more than 42 percent of U.S. families chose cremation, and that is expected to increase to nearly 50 percent by 2016, according to a 2012 report by the Cremation Association of North America.
That’s up from just 26 percent in 2000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
Walnut Grove had 29 full burials last year, and 28 cremation burials, in which ashes are buried in a grave.
Dick Wallace, vice president of Walnut Grove, said he knows of only two other columbaria on the North Shore, one in Lynn and one in Salem, at St. Mary Cemetery. St. Joseph Cemetery in Haverhill also has columbaria, according to the website of the Catholic Cemetery Association.