Where Evergreen/East End are heading

The pressure continues to build for the city to clean up the mess left behind by the Enrichmond Foundation at Evergreen Cemetery and East End Cemetery, which together make up 76 acres of African American graves along the city/county line.

On February 13, 2023, city council members Cynthia Newbille and Anne-Frances Lambert introduced a resolution “To request that the Chief Administrative Officer cause the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to consult with the Office of the City Attorney concerning the development of a plan and the preparation of necessary documents to acquire, preferably by gift, the properties known as Evergreen Cemetery and East End Cemetery and to present such a plan and documents to the Council.”

For those that need a primer on how we got here, there’s no better place to start than Brian Palmer’s “Enwhatnow?” postmortem and accounting from December 2022.

As targets of Enrichmond’s mismanagement, Palmer and the Friends of East End have long advocated a more responsible approach to the cemeteries, one guided by transparency, preservation expertise, and descendant involvement. Will we get that from the city’s acquisition of the sites?

Currently, the city’s cemetery division receives NO municipal funding. Instead, it gets its budget from selling plots at the still-active cemeteries in the city’s portfolio: Oakwood Cemetery, Riverview Cemetery, and Maury/Mt. Olivet Cemeteries. Shamar Young, Deputy Director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department (which houses the cemeteries division), recently visited with a group of us at the city-owned Barton Heights Cemeteries. Young, who arrived to his post only a year or so ago, agreed that the city needs to take better care of the cemeteries it owns, especially Barton Heights. Young’s office does not have a preservation plan for those sites.

Nevertheless, the Friends of East End Cemetery support the resolution, recognizing the accountability that would come with public ownership.

On February 22, the Governmental Operations standing committee postponed consideration of the resolution for 90 days. That leaves plenty of time for questions.