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Cremations drive Evergreen Cemetery growth plans in Portland

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Cremations drive Evergreen Cemetery growth plans in Portland

PORTLAND — Expansion plans at Evergreen Cemetery off Stevens Avenue include an addition that reflects the growing trend towards cremation.

Cemetery Superintendent Joseph Dumais will outline the plans at a public meeting Tuesday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wilde Memorial Chapel off Stevens Avenue.

Dumais last week said he hopes to install a columbarium of three granite columns about 6 feet tall in an area targeted for expansion eight years ago. The columbarium would have 300 niches to inter urns holding cremated remains.

Depending on the urn size, the niches could each hold two.

“It's a feature people like and request,” Dumais said.

On average, Dumais said there are 125 burials per year at Evergreen, which opened in 1855. As many as 50 percent of the remains today have been cremated, he said.

He said his discussions and research show this is a trend throughout the nation, and is occurring as space available for graves is decreasing.

The expansion plans will also require approval by the city Historic Preservation and Planning boards. Dumais said he expects to approach the boards with plans this month, but cost estimates have not been determined.

He said he would like work to start by late summer.

The columbarium would be set on raised land near an access road that would be widened for better access and parking. A new exit road would also be built, Dumais said.

A second phase of expansion would create space for about 800 new plots, roads and landscaping. The new area would be developed near Stevens Avenue and would require removing a stand of growth and trees now used as a buffer.

A new tree buffer extending farther along Stevens Avenue would eventually replace the trees that are removed.

The 239-acre cemetery is the city's second largest publicly owned open space. Its undeveloped areas, estimated at about 100 acres by Dumais, contain walking trails and are renown as a spot for birding while hosting a variety of other wildlife.

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