$80K sought for repairs at Portland's Evergreen Cemetery

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PORTLAND — Evergreen Cemetery on Stevens Avenue is the city’s largest green space, and it has a few “Friends” worried about its upkeep.

At the March 2 meeting of the City Council Finance Committee, several members of the Friends of Evergreen implored councilors to add more than $80,000 to the fiscal year 2018 capital improvements plan for maintenance and expansion.

“Evergreen is not a particularly sexy place, but it is used by a lot of people,” Brentwood Street resident David Little said as he asked for $30,000 to repair the cemetery retaining wall on Stevens Avenue and $52,000 to finish building a columbarium used to inter remains from cremations.

Both are jobs that have been planned and partially funded and constructed over the last several years.

In 2014, councilors approved a $70,000 CIP allocation for the wall repairs, a year after allocating $20,000 for emergency repairs.

Ethan Hipple, director of the city’s Parks Division, on March 9 said the money is still available, but bids for the work are $100,000. The city is aware the wall needs attention, he said, but wants to fund a complete job instead of piecemeal work that could be more expensive.

“When you walk by it, there are absolutely pieces crumbling,” Hipple said.

Sections of the wall extend about 200 feet and highlight the entry drive to Wilde Chapel. A 1994 cemetery master plan dates the stone wall to 1901.

These days, the wall has gouges several feet in diameter. Chips and dust collect on the Stevens Avenue brick sidewalk.

“(It is) a danger to the community, plain and simple,” Friends President Bobbi Cope said March 2.

Funding the wall repairs will not likely be added to the $20 million CIP, which relies on $17.8 million in borrowing for equipment, road and sidewalk maintenance, and renovation projects for the city and School Department.

City Manager Jon Jennings on March 2 said he expects to include the $30,000 in the municipal operations budget he will introduce April 5.

The columbarium is part of a cemetery expansion dating to 2014, in which more than 800 burial plots were also added. A space for interred ashes was seen as a way to accommodate a growing trend toward cremation.

“We are actively selling niches, but at a slower pace than we would like,” Hipple said.

Three columns with 80 niches each for ashes are planned. So far, one has been built and 15 niches have been sold; eight have been engraved and now hold remains. Hipple said it will cost $65,000 to build two more columns; $13,000 is now available.

The city hopes to work with funeral homes to make people more aware niches are available. It requires a tactful approach, Hipple said.

“We are not going to give the hard sell to anyone,” he said. “It is a tough time in people’s lives, we want to provide options but not push things on people.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A third of the columbarium for interred ashes at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland is complete.

Members of the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery want Portland to find $30,000 to fully fund repair of the cemetery wall along Stevens Avenue.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.