Project Profile: Cheltenham Veterans’ Cemetery
Cheltenham Veterans’ Cemetery
Scope of work: Expansion of cemetery, building construction/renovations and infrastructure upgrades
BC&E Member companies involved: Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani, LLC (WBCM), Colimore Architects
Developed in 1978, Maryland’s most active veterans’ cemetery was in need of major upgrades. Designed to support 40 years of burials, Cheltenham Veterans’ Cemetery near Upper Marlboro was running out of capacity and its aging buildings, roadways and utilities needed renovations or complete replacement.
WBCM developed an intricate, phased, four-year construction plan to add 6,500 gravesites with 6,000 pre-placed crypts, three new above-ground columbarium units totaling 448 niches and 1,300 in-ground cremains sites. As part of the 10-acre cemetery expansion, crews would also demolish the original administration building and construct a new 3,133-square-foot replacement structure, complete a gut renovation of a 6,300-square-foot maintenance building, and construct a new bulk material storage building, vehicle storage building and fuel island/canopy and dispensing system. Crews would upgrade the cemetery’s entire roadway system to meet current federal guidelines, install a new irrigation system and landscaping, upgrade gas and electrical services, connect buildings to public sewer lines and decommission the onsite sewage disposal system.
The project would also tackle the extraordinarily difficult task of managing stormwater on a cemetery.
“Cemeteries are a challenge when it comes to handling stormwater management because they are always digging grave pits and a lot of dirt comes off the site so you have to design a stormwater management system that can handle that sediment load and treat the water that comes off the site effectively,” said Blaine Linkous, Senior Vice President, Civil Engineering – Site and Utilities at WBCM. “Instead of designing a filtration system that could potentially clog, we designed shallow wetlands for extended stormwater detention that would take a lot of that suspended sediment out of the runoff.”
Other treatment practices in the innovative system included infiltration, bioretention, reinforced turf as well as facilities for spill containment and management of surplus soils. In the course of designing and creating the stormwater system, the project team also retrofitted two failing ponds onsite to treat stormwater – a move that lessened the burden on maintenance staff.
The project team had to organize and complete the massive renovation in “bite-sized chunks,” Linkous said, to ensure work meshed with funding schedules under two Veterans Administration grants and avoided any impact to ongoing operations of the cemetery which conducts 1,000 burials a year. “I am really proud to serve veterans in this way,” he said. “It is an honor to take care of them and their families after they have served us and kept us safe.”