PORTLAND — Weekday parking on the entrance road to Evergreen Cemetery will be severely restricted beginning April 4.
“I want to bring Evergreen back to its majestic nature; it should be viewed as solemn,” City Manager Jon Jennings said March 14 about his decision, which does not require City Council approval, to ban parking in all but six spaces.
Signs were posted this week noting the new policy takes effect Saturday, April 2. Parking is now limited to two hours, with cemetery gates opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 4:30 p.m. from Nov. 1 to April 1. After April 1, evening hours extend to 6:30 p.m. Violators face unspecified fines or towing.
The new policy will not affect those attending funerals in the cemetery at 672 Stevens Ave., and six parking spaces will be near the cemetery offices. Parishioners celebrating weekend masses at St. Joseph Church across Stevens Avenue from Evergreen will still be allowed to park on the access road, and Jennings said the new restrictions would not affect parking near the ponds in back of the cemetery, a popular spot for birders.
The restrictions may be the first step to tighter regulation of parking along Stevens Avenue and neighborhood side streets, although changes to on-street parking policies will require a council vote.
“There are alternatives to people parking in the cemetery; hopefully they won’t park on side streets,” City Councilor David Brenerman said March 17, adding the parking situation near the University of New England has been a topic of discussion since he was elected to the City Council in 2014.
Bill Chance, UNE vice president of institutional advancement, said March 18 that the university is working to achieve the same goals.
“UNE is supportive of the weekday ban on parking in Evergreen Cemetery and other on-street parking restrictions the city may consider. As part of its planning process with the city of Portland, the university will be exploring ways to improve on-campus parking,” he said.
The changes were also endorsed by the Friends of Evergreen organization, President Bobbi Cope said March 21.
“The board does support the city’s proposed parking changes along the entrance road,” she said, “… based on our concern for the solace and convenience of the families and friends coming to visit graves of loved ones.”
Cope said the group is also concerned about how the parking appears to people hoping to buy plots at Evergreen.
“The effect of cars lining the road is more of an appearance of a parking lot than a place of peace and contemplation,” Cope said.
Evergreen was established by the city in 1854, and walking trails were added to the 239-acre property about 40 years ago. It is the second-largest city-owned open space.
The cemetery has expanded in the last two years with a new burial site and a new columbarium. Cemetery Superintendent Joseph Dumais has estimated there are 125 burials annually at Evergreen.
UNE spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the school provides more than 900 on-campus parking spaces, including 268 in a Bishop Street lot served by a shuttle bus. The parking notices at Evergreen remind UNE students of the lot’s availability.
“A point often missed is that a number of our students don’t bring cars to campus and we offer free bus passes which they take us up on,” Canney said. “Not all students are on campus on the same days given the nature of clinical rotations.”
UNE’s Portland campus, once the site of Westbrook College, has expanded to include a pharmacy school and graduate programs in several disciplines.
Chance promised continued collaboration to resolve parking problems.
“The university continues to meet with representatives from the city and the neighborhood, and is eager to work with everyone to alleviate the pressures on public parking that our fellow residents, businesses and constituents experience,” he said.
Weekday parking will be banned beginning April 4 on the entrance road at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, except for six spaces near the cemetery offices.