Miramar National Cemetery is expanding, with Solana Beach-based Van Dyke Landscape Architects managing key elements of work that will add nearly 27,000 burial sites to the dedicated memorial site for the first time in January 2010.
“It’s truly an honor to be working on not just a cemetery, but a veterans cemetery because of the service these people provide,” said Denise Armijo, project manager at Van Dyke Landscape Architects. “Veterans’ cemeteries are actually considered shrines.”
Covering 20 acres of the total 323-acre cemetery site in Miramar, the latest addition is expected to be completed in October 2023.
Miramar National Cemetery will eventually have 162,443 burial sites, consisting of 357 traditional burial sites, 70,792 pre-placed crypts, 30,374 cremain burial sites, and 60,920 columbarium niches.
Van Dyke Landscape Architects (VDLA) drew up the general master plan for the cemetery and were the main design consultant for the first phase of Miramar.
The company also worked on the expansion of Riverside National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.
Initial construction in the first phase of the Miramar National Cemetery development included the entrance and the Avenue of Flags visible from Interstate 805, an administration building, a flag assembly area, two columbarium plazas, two walls memorials, a prisoner of war plaza, and a maintenance complex.
“It was basically the basic bones of the site, so to speak, as well as the first phase of the internment spaces,” Armijo said.
In the second phase, as part of a team led by Georgia-based John Gallup & Associates, VDLA is handling site layout and design for the double-deep crypts, burial areas of ashes, planting and irrigation, and expanded parking areas.
The new works also include the expansion of the administration building, a new honor guard building, a columbarium plaza and a new turning lane to the cemetery.
A new memorial walk will cross an environmentally preserved section of the cemetery and connect to the flag assembly area.
“All veterans’ cemeteries have a memorial walk somewhere within them, but they’re not necessarily connected like ours to the flag assembly area, nor do they have the environmental preservation areas that we have,” Armijo said.
Due to the topography of the site, the utility lines that cross the site, and the ecologically sensitive habitat, much of the cemetery site could not be developed.
Another segment could not be used as a staging area because it is within the flight paths of MCAS Miramar.
“There were a lot of constraints,” Armijo said.
The landscaping had to comply with strict government guidelines, which required that a large part of the site be grassed.
“With water conservation, we try to limit the amount of sod as much as possible, but one of the wonderful things about sod is that the root zone is only a few centimeters deep and it replenishes , depending on the type of turf,” Armijo said.
This is important in a cemetery where the ground is regularly dug for burials.
Recycled water is used throughout the cemetery and all plantings other than turf use point-to-point irrigation so water is not lost to evaporation or sprayed onto unplanted areas.
The second phase irrigation system also uses polyethylene pipes which are fused together to prevent water loss through cracking or joint failure.
Much of the site that is not grassed is covered in coastal sage scrub.
“We didn’t want to use invasive plants that would move back into these native areas,” Armijo said. “We wanted it to blend in with the natural environment in a way, and so the perimeter plantings use typical coastal sage-spreading plants such as coyote, sumac and others. Then we do kind of a transition as we move towards the center of the cemetery and focal points like the entrance and the administration building or around the shelters where you want to have a bit more color and there , we use drought-tolerant ornamental plants.
Particular care has been taken in the design of the causeways and walkways through the cemetery, so that there are no dead ends.
“The people you serve, many visitors and relatives are from older populations,” Armijo said. “Obviously when you go to a funeral you’re usually not in your best frame of mind, so you want traffic and direction to be very clear. You don’t want to have dead ends where people can kind of end up somewhere not knowing where they are.”
Van Dyke Landscape
Main actors: Mitch Phillippe and Yale Hooper
Headquarters: Solana Beach
Profession: Landscape architects
Notable: With offices in Solana Beach and Temecula, VDLA specializes in landscape architecture, urban planning and design, irrigation design, water resource management services, graphic communication, community outreach, plan verification reviews, and field inspections throughout Southern California.