Greenwood Cemetery Cleanup

Dick Valeos of Vancouver drove up to Centralia on Saturday morning to attend to his father’s grave during the volunteer event hosted by the City of Centralia at Greenwood Memorial Park.

The Centralia City Council this week unanimously gave City Manager Rob Hill authorization to sign a contract with the Washington State Department of Commerce unlocking appropriations in the 2019-2021 capital budget worth $483,140 for restoration and maintenance of the Greenwood Memorial Park.

The city plans to use the funding to address a number of areas where the historic cemetery, which includes the graves of many veterans and local families going back four or more generations, has fallen into disrepair over the past decade. City staff and residents worked with state Reps. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis and Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, as the pair sponsored a bill allowing public bodies the right to apply for access to cemeteries deemed abandoned by the state in order to facilitate visitation and upkeep.

Included on the to-do list that will be addressed using the state appropriations are: repair and replacement of concrete vaults, cleaning of headstones, removal of dead and dangerous trees, repairs to the irrigation system and the replacement of a storage shed that appears to have burnt down some years ago.

“I think it’s a realistic cost estimate,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of work to be done out there. It’s been kind of an unusual contract, which even the state said it was, because you have all sorts of different things within this capital budget request. Our staff went out there and took a general inventory of what had to be done. We have requests for bids and everything all ready to go”

Hill worked with members of the same informal committee that spearheaded efforts to address abandoned, decrepit cemeteries at the state level to come up with a plan for how to best spend the money allotted to the city. Community Development Director Emil Pierson and local resident Marveen Rohr participated in those discussions — Rohr helped spearhead a surge of volunteers that put on an all-day cleanup event at the cemetery shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee signed DeBolt and Orcutt’s bill into law.

The city plans to install additional fencing and purchase a mower for the property, which it will retain possession of regardless of whether it ever relinquishes operational control of the cemetery to a third party. It has no plans to pursue ownership of Greenwood Memorial Park. John C. Baker has been a largely absentee owner of the property for a dozen years, which has led to a number of complex paperwork snafus.

“The reality here is that we don’t anticipate completely stepping away,” Hill said. “Nobody anticipates the city is just going to walk away after the first couple of years. But if we use the money to build a maintenance shed, I’m certainly not going to yank it off the foundation and haul it somewhere else.”

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