A ceremony plaza and multiple gardens are part of a proposed expansion at Wesley Chapel Cemetery, 3225 Dublin Road in Norwich Township.

The proposed additions are in response to a trend toward cremation in lieu of traditional embalmment and burials, Norwich Township officials said.

"The expansion is a way to give our community an area to meditate and remember those who have passed," township administrator Jamie Fisher said.

The idea was introduced at last year's fall planning session for the trustees, Fisher said. It gained traction during a meeting with OHM Advisors, a Columbus-based firm that designed the Norwich Pavilion that opened this summer in Hilliard's Weaver Park, she said.

Based on that collaboration, trustee Chuck Buck requested the township hire OHM Advisors to create the design for the expansion at Wesley Chapel Cemetery, Fisher said.

Mark Bockrath, director of planning and urban design for OHM Advisors, and Josh Helms, a senior designer for the firm, presented a design Aug. 22 at a special meeting of the trustees at the Joint Safety Services Building, 5181 Northwest Parkway.

If approved, the expansion project would cost $1.2 million, including $118,000 for the services of OHM Advisors, Fisher said.

To achieve a competitive bid, township leaders plan to a seek bids for the project by the end of November, with construction likely to start in February, if the project is approved, Buck said.

Buck said the expansion would provide "a private area" with less distractions and sounds than the general areas of the cemetery.

The proposal includes a ceremony plaza, with about 100 in-ground cremation plots, a labyrinth, a sitting area and ornamental trees, Helms said.

A meditation garden would include memorial walls and a dedication boulder, Helms said. A dedication boulder would bear a plaque of names of those who have been cremated, Fisher said.

The proposal also includes evergreen trees, a scattering garden and a children's garden with plaque locations, gravel and artwork would provide a place for adults "to honor children they have lost," Helms said.

A scattering garden is a place to set aside for the scattering of ashes, Fisher said.

"It's serving what is becoming the norm ... a place where people can feel like they are in a park and not a cemetery," Helms said.

The expansion includes an entry bridge, concrete paths, a cremation memorial walk and connections to pathways.

At full buildout, about 1,300 cremation plots would be available, according to the plan.

Currently, the cemetery has only a 72-niche columbarium, built last year adjacent to the mausoleum toward the center of the cemetery, and it will not be relocated, Fisher said. A columbarium is a structure that provides storage for funeral urns.

Robbie Thomas, Norwich Township's cemetery sexton and road superintendent, said funeral directors tell him more than half of funerals entail cremation.

"This provides families with a variety of options" beyond the single columbarium added to Wesley Chapel Cemetery early last year, Thomas said.

The gardens would be built just past the south entrance to the cemetery on open ground beside Dublin Road, Thomas said. The location is screened from view inside the cemetery by trees, he said.

A resolution authorizing the hiring of OHM Advisors to complete design work for $118,000 is expected to be considered by the trustees Tuesday, Sept. 3, Fisher said.

The township spent $13,500 for the basic plan OHM presented Aug. 22, she said.

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