ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - After years of debate, a plan to extend burials at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery has taken a big step forward.
The St. Louis County Council has voted 6-0 to advance the plan.
With more than 218,000 people already buried at the South County location, the cemetery could run out of plots here as early as 2021.
“If we’re going to sell parkland, I can’t think of a more appropriate reason to sell it, than to give our vets a final resting place,” said St. Louis County Parks Director, Gary Bess.
The close to 70-acre Sylvan Springs County Park is next to the cemetery. It was part of the Jefferson Barracks military complex until St. Louis County bought it for $3,500 in 1950, Bess said.
Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to buy back about half of the park for close to $2.4 million.
Coupled with land acquired from the nearby VA hospital, it will hopefully extend burials through 2045, with burials on the parkland beginning in about 10 years.
Critics have come from all sides.
People have questioned whether St. Louis County should charge any money for land to be used for veterans’ graves. People against the sale of any park land actually sued to stop this deal but lost, Bess said.
On the November ballot, St. Louis County voters will decide whether to change the law regarding future sales of parkland.
“It will basically require a vote of all St. Louis County residents before parkland can be sold,” Bess said.
St. Louis County did not set the sale price.
A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs told Fox2/News 11 that the department hired an independent appraiser set the “fair market” sale price.
The money will go directly to park improvements county-wide, Bess said.
The St. Louis County Council is expected to give final approval next week.
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration will hold a public meeting on Sept. 5, 2018, at the Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center at 6:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to provide information about the draft Environmental Assessment available on the NCA website.
It addresses acquisition of a portion of Sylvan Springs County Park located adjacent to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (JBNC) to continue to offer burial access to St. Louis-area Veterans and their families.