Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery

20210616 202055 angel1 Capture1 

Welcome to the Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery website.

Volunteer Opportunity - Post Memorial Day Clean-Up - June 8, 9, 11 2022

Each year, in observance of Memorial Day, visitors to the Salt Lake City Cemetery place potted plants, flowers, and other memorabilia around the graves of their loved ones. Once the flowers and plants have died they need to be removed. This year, the Friends of the SLC Cemetery are once again asking for volunteers to help separate the plants and flowers (compostable waste) from the plant pots (recyclable waste) and the foil and plastic wrap (trash). See below for the results of the 2021 Clean-Up). 
There will be 3 opportunities to help – on the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday, June 8th and 9th and on Saturday, June 11th. The evening sessions will run from 6 pm until 8 pm. The Saturday session will be from 9 AM until 11 AM. Please meet in front of the Sexton’s house (corner of N and 4th Ave). Wear closed-toe shoes, bring gloves, sunscreeen, and a water bottle. 
To help us plan for this event, we request that you pre-register at or scan the QR code below.

QR Code Cleanup

This is a great opportunity for you to support our cemetery, enjoy the green space, meet your neighbors, and contribute to your community. For more information, contact Paul Anderson at 801-364-6613 or .

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 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. 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

20210612 092655 20210611 192444 

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.