Salt Lake City Cemetery reopens to the public after windstorm damage repaired

The cemetery closed after the destructive windstorm in September 2020 knocked over more than 200 trees on the property.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Hundreds of headstones in the Salt Lake City Cemetery were damaged in the September 2020 windstorm. The cemetery reopened to the public Monday, March 24, 2021, after closing down because of damaged sustained during the windstorm.

After more than eight months, people will finally (officially) be allowed to visit relatives and loved ones buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

The cemetery has been closed since a historic windstorm tore through northern Utah in September 2020. The storm blew from Logan to Salt Lake City, with winds reaching up to 99 miles per hour. One person was killed, and thousands of homes lost power for several days.

The winds uprooted thousands of trees in Salt Lake City alone, including more than 200 in the cemetery, and did significant damage to the property.

“Limbs and branches were down citywide, but no single location was hit harder than the cemetery,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a Monday news release. “As soon as cemetery staff realized the extent of the damage on September 8, the grounds closed to the public as a safety precaution and to make sure the hundreds of historic headstones and other monuments were not further disturbed.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hundreds of headstones in the Salt Lake City Cemetery were damages in the recent wind storm, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.

No burial vaults or caskets were damaged, one city official told The Salt Lake Tribune in September, though massive 100-year-old trees ripped out large chunks of the ground as they fell, pulling up headstones, asphalt, curbs and gutters.

“It looks like a war,” John Ferrone, an avid walker who has visited the cemetery regularly for decades, told The Salt Lake Tribune in September. “There’s tons of damage here, more than anywhere else.”

In a news release, the city said all tree stumps and root balls have been removed, sod has been planted, and irrigation repairs are complete, so officials decided the cemetery is safe to open to the public.

The city hired an archaeologist last December to help document the storm’s impact on damaged historical artifacts, and hired a monument company to reposition headstones that were displaced by the storm.

In the news release, the city also acknowledged support from South Jordan, Spanish Fork, Herriman, Payson and Bluffdale cities; Summit County; the Utah Department of Natural Resources; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and the nonprofit Friends of the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Mendenhall also added that later this fall, the city will plan an arboretum unveiling that will include a memorial to longtime cemetery sexton Mark Smith, who died in 2019.