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Arlington National Cemetery Preparing Controversial Expansion

Image: Arlington National Cemetery Preparing Controversial Expansion The horse-drawn caisson carrying the ashes in an urn placed inside the casket of Staff Sgt. Wesley R. Williams proceeds during burial services April 4 at Arlington National Cemetery.

By Lisa Barron   |   Monday, 06 May 2013 12:37 PM

Plans are underway for a major expansion of Arlington National Cemetery in an effort to avoid running out of burial space for veterans in the decades ahead.

Cemetery officials say the expansion would add 27,000 much-needed grave sites on the northern side of the grounds, reports The Washington Post.

"This is important, because if we do nothing today we will run out of in-ground burial space in 2025," Kathryn Condon, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, told the Post.

But critics argue that the plan doesn’t fit the historic site, saying it would damage a stream and destroy hundreds of Civil War-era trees.

"I love Arlington. But it’s not big enough for all future wars," Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Post.

"It seems like we need to be preparing for Arlington Two, making sure it’s just as nice and wonderful and historical as Arlington One," added the Tennessee Democrat.

On Thursday, a new columbarium court will be dedicated at the cemetery. Nearly as long as two football fields, it can hold more than 20,000 cremated remains. Without it, according to the Post, Arlington would have run out of so-called "niche" space by 2016.

In addition, workers will soon start designing a 38-acre addition around the Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon. Cemetery officials tell the Post the three projects together will allow new veteran interments into the 2050s.

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