Tulocay Cemetery, Napa’s historic burial ground since 1859, has almost 70,000 people in residence.
Now plans are afoot to make room for 225 more.
The Tulocay Cemetery Association wants to close one of the cemetery’s streets, Laurel Drive, and develop that real estate with new plots.
This will help the Tulocay Cemetery Association, the nonprofit organization that operates the cemetery, sell more plots and build its endowment care fund to maintain the site, representatives said.
In order to close 200 feet of Laurel Drive, the association has filed a notice in Napa County Superior Court, as required under the California Health and Safety Code. A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 9 at the Old Courthouse on Brown Street.
Peter Manasse, funeral director and manager of Tulocay Cemetery, Funeral Home and Crematory, said he hopes the contractor can start construction on the new plots on Laurel Drive in April. Manasse said he does not expect opposition.
It is essential that Tulocay get more inventory, according to Manasse. Currently there are only 60 plots available for sale in the developed area of the 53-acre cemetery, he said.
The new plots are in a tree-shaded portion of the hillside cemetery. “It will be a nice addition to the place,” said Manasse, a fourth-generation Napan whose grandfather was a cemetery trustee.
The creation of 225 additional plots will provide Tulocay with more than a three-year supply of burial sites.
Currently, about 480 people per year are cremated at Tulocay, while just 70 receive a traditional burial requiring a traditional plot, Manasse said. During Tulocay’s first century, virtually everyone was buried, but social practices have changed dramatically in recent decades, he said.
Adding new plots will allow Tulocay to build up its endowment care fund, which helps pay for the cemetery’s long-term upkeep. The sale of each plot, which includes a concrete liner for a casket, provides $120 for the endowment care fund, Manasse said.
The interest drawn annually from endowment care fund investments adds up to about $200,000 — about half the cost of maintaining the cemetery, he said. The rest comes from the general fund. The cemetery’s revenues were about $1.2 million during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2011, according to tax records.
The cemetery may spend as much as $580 per day during the summer months for city and well water to irrigate the grounds, keeping the grass green. Tulocay pays about $90,000 per year for water, Manasse said.
“On top of that, we have a ground crew that mows and trims, takes care of all the flower beds to maintain the cemetery year-round,” Manasse said. “We’re trying to maintain the cemetery in a pristine manner and that takes money.”
Three other roads have been closed in the developed area over the past two decades in order to build more plots.
Out of 53 acres, about 15 remain undeveloped. Manasse said it makes more sense to build new graves in the developed area of the cemetery where the roads are built and water is available.
James Cassayre, a member of the Tulocay Cemetery Association and an engineer, helped draw the map that was attached to the court document. Closing the segment of Laurel Drive will not affect traffic flow, he said.
“You’ll still get good flow around the cemetery,” Cassayre said.
Nancy Brennan, who has given historical tours of the cemetery since the 1990s, also believes it makes sense to build the new graves in the developed area where the utilities are. She trusts the road conversion will be done carefully.
“Under Peter Manasse’s management the cemetery is more beautiful than ever,” Brennan said.
“Tulocay Cemetery is such a repository of the history of the Napa community that I think it is important to people,” she said Friday in an email. “I call it ‘History Carved in Stone.’”