Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery


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20221105 091719 TREE PLANTING - Saturday November 18th 9am to Noon!  - Join the Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery in planting new trees at the Arboretum in the Cemetery on Saturday, 18 November.  We are partnering with the Cemetery and the Salt Lake City Urban Forestry Department.

Meet at the Sexton’s office at the corner of 4th Avenue and N Street at 9 AM. We plan to work until noon.

We hope you will be able to join us in this opportunity to support our cemetery, enjoy the green space, meet your neighbors, and contribute to your community.  Bring gloves and wear sturdy shoes.  All tools will be provided. Keep an eye on the weather and dress appropriately. 

We ask that you pre-register to allow us to better plan for this event. To sign up, register at  

UTAH LEGISLEGISLATIVE UPDATE - The Utah State Legislature budgeted $3 Million dollars to help preserve the Historic Salt Lake Cemetery. The Friends of the Cemetery hosted legislative tours during the fall interim sessions to highlight the Cemetery's link to the history of Utah from Pioneer Days until the present. Members of the Friends Board also spoke in favor of the appropriation during committee hearings.  A special thanks to everyone who wrote, texted, called or emailed their representatives in support. 

Visit our Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery dedicated website.

Our 2022 Year In Review -  2022 was a benchmark year for the Friends Organization and we’d like to share with you the progress
we made during this year. The Friends group supports the Cemetery in three main areas – community
engagement, advocating on behalf of the Cemetery and fund raising.
Community Engagement
By far our most popular Community Engagement activity is the annual post- Memorial Day Clean-up.
Each year visitors place potted plants, flowers, and other tributes around the graves of their loved ones.
Once the flowers and plants have died they must be removed. This year we had almost 200 volunteers
help clean up, recycle plastic and compost green materials. Seven tons of green waste and two tons of
plastic was diverted from the landfill through these efforts.
The Mark Smith Arboretum was dedicated in November of 2021, recognizing the Cemetery’s value as a
precious urban forest. This year, the FOC held two tree-planting events in collaboration with Tree Utah
and the City’s Urban Forestry team. These new plantings added to the inventory of different species in
the Arboretum and will eventually help to replace the trees lost in the 2020 windstorm.
The FOC also organized several educational programs; including multiple cemetery tours, one in
partnership with KUED, and a popular workshop on headstone repair and refurbishment, led by a
nationally recognized expert and open to the public.
These community activities help increase awareness of the Cemetery’s unique historical, cultural, and
environmental value. If you haven’t participated in one of our community engagement activities before,
please consider joining us. You can check our website ( )
for more information.
The FOC supported Salt Lake City’s request for funding from the State Legislature to repair, enhance, or
replace infrastructure, such as badly damaged roads and inadequate and inefficient irrigation and
watering systems. FOC Board Member Carlton Christensen spoke at the Business, Economic
Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Todd
Weiler. We are grateful to the many of you that sent texts, emails, or phone calls to their legislators.
The subcommittee recommended funding, but ultimately, it was not included in the final budget.
However, there’s always next year! In October, we collaborated with the City to conduct a Legislative
tour day to educate key legislators about the Cemetery’s role in the State’s history, as well as highlight
its current dire needs. We are hopeful that the request will be considered and funded during the 2023
legislative session.
FOC also advocated for the Cemetery at the City level. The Mayor’s budget recommended funding for
the Cemetery through a Sales Tax Bond. We spoke at City Council meetings in favor of this funding, as
well as in support of a Capital Improvement Project. It is wonderful news that Salt Lake City budgeted
$11 million to help repair infrastructure in the Cemetery, including roads and irrigation systems.

Fund Raising
In the spring of 2022, the Friends was formally designated as a 501c3 non-profit organization, allowing
us to accept donations that can be tax deductible. We were awarded with a very generous grant that
allows us to fund our activities through next year, including soliciting and accepting gifts that can flow
directly to the Cemetery needs. We had our first pass-through donation this fall and will plan for more
campaigns next year.
And finally, FOC has adopted a strategic plan to establish and guide it toward accomplishment of its
goals. We are very interested in growing the diversity and depth of expertise in our organization and are
seeking volunteers with a background and interest in grant research and writing, and communication
and public outreach. Most urgently, our excellent Treasurer, who has guided the organization through
its start-up phase, is ready to step aside and we are eager to fill this important position. If you or
someone you know are interested, please contact us at .

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year and we hope to see you in 2023! 

The Board of Directors, Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery

Tree Planting in the Cemetery on Saturday, 5 November

You are invited to join the Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery in planting new trees in the Arboretum in the Cemetery on Saturday, 5 November. We are partnering with the Cemetery and the Salt Lake City Urban Forestry Department to plant up to 40 new trees. We’ll meet at the Sexton’s office at the corner of 4th Avenue and N Street at 9 AM and will plan to work until noon. We ask that you pre-register to allow us to better plan for this event. To sign up, please visit the Public Lands website: SLC Cemetary – Tree Planting – Volunteer Opportunity Sign-up .We hope you will be able to join us in planting these new trees at the Cemetery! Bring gloves and wear sturdy shoes. Keep an eye on the weather and dress appropriately. The ground should be nice and soft for digging from the recent rain and snow! 


A Headstone Restoration Workshop was held on Friday June 17, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery, along with the Salt Lake City Cemetery, hosted a Headstone
Restoration Workshop on June 17th . A dozen individuals attended to learn more about repairing and restoring headstones. Some of the attendees were interested in historic preservation, some had relatives in the Cemetery, and some had relatives in other cemeteries and wanted to restore their headstones. There was no charge for the workshop. The workshop was led by Jonathon Appell, a nationally recognized reastoration expert with Atlas Preservation in Hartford Connecticut. Jon is doing a national tour, conducting 48 workshops in 48 states. To learn more about his effort, check out his website at: During the workshop, Jon restored several headstones, demonstrating techniques for levelling and cleaning. He also shared his years of experience, discussing many other headstones in the area.  Thank you Jonathon for sharing your expertise and time!


Memorial Day Recycling Event was held on June 8, 9 and 11, 2022

On behalf of the Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City Public Lands Department, and the Cemetery staff, we wish to thank the approximately 200 volunteers who helped at this year's post-Memorial Day clean-up.   A special thanks to those families, church groups, scouts, and other organizations that came as a group to help out. We collected and sorted the recyclables and compostable materials separate from the trash. It will be a few days before we have a full tally of how much was collected and sorted, but we'll post the information once we have it. In addition to helping keep the cemetery clean and minimizing the waste to the landfill, I hope you found it was a great opportunity to spend time in this beautiful green space and a chance to meet some new members of our community! We look forward to having you join us again next year

2022 Cleanup June Page 1 2022 Cleanup June Page 2 

Cemetery Sustainability Champions

The Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery are grateful to Keith van Otten, the City Sexton, for providing wonderful information on the unique watering needs of the Salt Lake City Cemetery. We are happy to share this information and bring awareness to the unique watering needs of the Cemetery as Cemetery staff constantly strive to balance the multitude of community needs.
Understanding the fascinating irrigation system The irrigation system at the Cemetery is unique. In fact, it utilizes large golf course style broadcasting rotors on the edges of the plats. This style of rotor can spray very long distances. Why is this needed? Because the presence of burials prevents irrigation piping from being run through the plats. Sometimes, this results in spray across internal Cemetery roadways. Wherever possible, cemetery staff have eliminated as many of these locations as feasible.
Trees, Trees everywhere…plus turf!
One of many valuable assets at the cemetery is the vast number of trees scattered throughout the Cemetery. In fact, due to the number of tree species present in the Cemetery, the Cemetery was recently accredited as an arboretum. These trees provide valuable habitat, increase the urban forest canopy, reduce run off, reduce the urban heat island effect, and absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide, storing it as carbon. WOW! Trees require water to stay alive and healthy. Ensuring good watering also helps the trees fight against bark beetles, which has been a prevalent problem in the cemetery over the past several years. While turfgrass can withstand going without much water and bounce back later, trees cannot and will either die or suffer lifelong impacts with underwatering. Due to the nature of the irrigation system in the Cemetery, it is not possible to water just the trees!
The Perpetual Needs of Perpetual Care
Each time a grave is sold in the cemetery, the cemetery enters a contract for Perpetual Care of the property of the grave. This contract guarantees the purchaser proper care of, and a manicured landscape, within the cemetery grounds, particularly the turf on top of the graves. Imagine how complicated this becomes when we experience…DROUGHT conditions!  We have, by the way, been experiencing drought
conditions for the last several years and, in fact, we are already in a drought for 2022. It is a delicate turf balance!  The Cemetery staff constantly balance maintaining the turf to a condition that ensures the cemetery is a comfortable place to visit loved ones while keeping water conservation a top priority and not overwatering!! 

Turf turf everywhere…doing it now…and what this means:  To comply with the Perpetual Care Contracts, the Cemetery places sod as early as possible in the year. This year, sod is being placed over an additional 425 graves from the previous 12 months of burials. By placing the sod as early as possible, the Cemetery is able to take advantage of the spring rainfall. However, additional sod will likely be needed. THIS MEANS…you may see higher levels of turf maintenance and watering at the Cemetery as the turf becomes established…ESPECIALLY in the lead up to Memorial Weekend. But, this additional water use will be offset by additional cut backs throughout other areas. And, following Memorial Weekend and, once the sod becoming established, the water will be further cut back. 

Not all land is Salt Lake City Cemetery land:  Another important, and perhaps unknown, fact is that there are two areas inside the Salt Lake City Cemetery that are not owned or maintained by Salt Lake City. They are located on the South side of the Cemetery and are highly visible to those traveling or living around the area. Please see this MAP. These areas use their own water connections and irrigation systems for control. Cemetery staff received many complaints regarding overwatering in these sections watering last year and both Cemetery staff and Public Utilities reached out to help increase awareness and resolve issues.
Taking technology to a whole new level…soil moisture.    The Cemetery uses a computer-based control system to constantly monitor soil moisture. Wow! This system: (1) uses weather data from local weather stations to determine the amount of water needed in the landscape on an hourly basis; (2) takes into account rainfall, wind, turf type, hill slope, soil type, root depth averages and; (3) combines many other variables to establish a baseline schedule for nightly watering needs. This sophisticated system limits watering to every other night, however to passersby it may appear that watering occurs every night during the peak of the
summer heat. But, watering is NOT happening nightly on the same piece of turf. 

Monitoring and how you can help:  The Salt Lake City Cemetery and the Public Lands Department are committed to making water conservation a top priority. Cemetery staff work closely with the Salt Lake
City Public Utilities Department and their Water Conservation staff to ensure the best management practices are constantly being implementing, especially during the ongoing drought conditions. In a continual effort to be sustainable stewards of the Cemetery, Cemetery staff: 1. Constantly monitor the landscapes and sprinkler systems 2. Implement new maintenance methods and watering technologies wherever
possible 3. Strive to balance the multiple needs while providing the community with enjoyable public spaces.     HOWEVER: 1. the cemetery covers over 127 acres and the Cemetery staff cannot feasibly
check every system for damage or adjustment to the same level as a homeowner. 2. To prevent evaporation and promote conservation, the irrigation systems operate after hours when staff have gone home for the evening. YOU can help: If you are enjoying the Cemetery and notice an irrigation system problem (a blown head, for example), please let the Cemetery know by: 1. By visiting  installing the SLCMOBILE APP on your cellphone Or 2. Calling the Cemetery: (801) 596-5020 Or 3. Sending an email to .  MOST importantly: Please provide accurate details of the exact location of the issue and if at all possible, provide a photo that includes some background location references to assist staff in locating it out in the field.  THANK YOU!

Arbor Day April 29, 2022:  Along with Tree Utah and the SLC Urban Forestry staff, Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery participated in planting 10 new trees in the Mark Smith Memorial Arboretum. This was a great way to celebrate Arbor Day! Arbor Day

October 29th, 2021: Salt Lake City Cemetery Held a Tree Planting Event with TreeUtah.  50 trees were planted to replace trees lost in last year's windstorm.

August, 2021:  An update about Water Use at the Cemetery -   The current irrigation system at the Cemetery is complicated because it does not allow trees to be watered separately from turf. Additionally, because a lot of new sod had to be installed this year, due to the extensive damage caused by the windstorm of September 2020, the Cemetery has had to keep the new sod sufficiently watered. However, the irrigation system does have a centralized computer-system that uses local weather station data to help plan efficiently and minimize the amount of water lost through temperature, wind, rain, etc. Recently, for example, the Cemetery has been able to reduce the irrigation system's water use, beginning July 30th - August 11th, due to the amount of rainfall received. The system was then turned back on for two nights of watering, and on Monday, August 16th, the irrigation ran for one night. As of 8:00 a.m. August 20th, with a rainfall total of 1.59 inches for the past two days, the Cemetery has again been able to reduce irrigation. With temperatures projected to be in the 80s through Wednesday, August 25th, the Cemetery hopes to be able to continue reducing irrigation. If community members see a broken irrigation head and can send a photo to the cemetery staff, this is the most helpful as cemetery staff can much more easily track a broken head with a photo. Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery would like the public to know that constant planning and management of the water use at the cemetery is happening. If there are additional questions, please contact the city sexton at .

July 2021 - Totals for the Memorial Day Cleanup Volunteer Event held in June 2021:   A HUGE Thank You! for all who helped our goal to become stewards of recycling and a cleaner environment! About one third of the total debris collected was green waste that is now being composted for future green use.   Recyclable Items- 11,250 pounds (6 tons!!!)    Green Waste collected- 17,480 pounds (9 tons!!!)    Garbage collected- 23,820 pounds (12 tons!!!).    We look forward to this event growing and hosting more cemetery improvement projects. Keep informed at

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Friends Of The Salt Lake City Cemetery was formed as a non-profit 501c3 organization to help Salt Lake City with managing the largest municipal cemetery in the United States.  The cemetery dates back to the mid-1800's when 120 acres were set aside as a permanent city cemetery. The first burial was September 27, 1848.

Located between 4th and 11th Avenue between N Street and U Street in the Avenues, the cemetery is of rich historical significance and is a cultural treasure, containing a number of retaining walls constructed by the Works Project Administration (WPA), capturing a fascinating cultural narrative, and representing an important wildlife role. In fact, the cemetery is one of the site’s for the Audubon’s Annual bird-count survey. It is also a tranquil place for reflection and remembrance.

Given the age of the cemetery, the grounds and infrastructure are in need of repair and restoration, and there are multiple opportunities for future enhancement. The windstorm in September 2020 also wreaked significant damage on numerous monuments and artifacts, and toppled over 260 trees, and the cemetery remains closed to the public at this time for downed tree removal and public safety.  See the current updates HERE

The main goals of the Friends group are to advocate for the cemetery, to engage the public in its history and upkeep, and to help identify and secure funding sources to address some of the needs in the Cemetery’s Master Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in October 2020.

Additionally, the Friends group is working closely with the City’s Public Lands division to identify a number of future volunteer activities to ensure the longevity of this local and national treasure. If you are interested in learning more about the Friends group, or if you have specific expertise that you feel could benefit the Friends group, please email . Visit us on Facebook HERE.