SALT LAKE CITY — The 172-year-old Salt Lake City Cemetery is the largest municipally-owned cemetery in the country. Many of the city and state's most influential residents are buried on its 120-acre grounds.
After nine months of being closed, the cemetery finally reopened to the public Monday.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, city officials and a representative from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints attended the ceremony.
The cemetery was closed after the September 2020 windstorm that devastated much of the Wasatch Front.
"All of us can remember the powerful storm that came through Salt Lake City in September of last year," said Mendenhall.
Gusts of over 100 mph toppled thousands of trees around Salt Lake City. The cemetery experienced some of the most extensive damage from the storm.
"No single location was hit harder than this very place we stand today," Mendenhall added. "Where the Salt Lake City cemetery lost 265 trees."
Many of the trees were over 100 years old, dating back to the founding of the cemetery in the mid-1800s.
"As soon as cemetery staff realized the extent of the damage on September 8, they closed the cemetery to the public as a safety precaution and to make sure that the hundreds of historic headstones and other monuments were not further damaged or disturbed," Mendenhall said.
The city said so far, repairs have cost close to $500,000, but there is still work to be done, including headstone restorations and the re-planting of roughly 50 trees.
"Actually, there were still some trees and root-balls being removed just a couple of weeks ago," Mendenhall added.
The Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery organization was also present at the reopening ceremony. The group was formed just a few weeks before the windstorm.
"The mission of the Friends Organization is to work with the city and other stakeholders to preserve, protect and enhance this historical and cultural state treasure," said Dave Alderman, a board member of the organization, during the press conference.
The city is working to establish the cemetery as an arboretum through a multi-year replanting effort. The reopening comes just one week before Memorial Day, which is one of the busiest days of the year at the cemetery.