Memorial garden a partial solution to Lone Fir's burial plot dilemma

Memorial garden a partial solution to Lone Fir's burial plot dilemma
The Lone Fir Cemetery's new Chestnut Grove Memorial Garden was dedicated on Thursday, June 27, 2013. Photo by Kai Hayashi/KATU.com.

PORTLAND, Ore. - "There's nothing worse than telling someone they cannot be buried next to their loved one or be in the same cemetery as their loved one."

That's Rachel Fox, Metro's cemetery manager, talking about the situation they have been in for four years - ever since the historic Lone Fir Cemetery in southeast Portland stopped selling burial plots due to lack of space.

More than 25,000 people are buried at the cemetery that was founded in 1855 and it's known as the final resting place for mayors, governors, senators and other notables. Some of the names you'll see there are familiar in Portland - Hawthorne, Banfield, Sellwood and Northrup, just to name a few.

In 2009, the cemetery suspended sales and started putting people who wanted to be buried there (either because of the cemetery's historic status or because they have family there) on a waiting list. Fox said Metro didn't know if they would ever be able to offer those folks a spot in the cemetery, but they took their names anyway.

On Thursday, the dedication of a small memorial garden at the cemetery now gives those folks, and others, an option. There won't be full burials at the Chestnut Grove Memorial Garden, but there are now 178 spots throughout the garden for cremated remains and an ossuary with additional room for co-mingled ashes.

"This is really big for the community," Fox said. "When we closed sales in 2009, it had a big impact on the community."

"Without space, community members who wanted to be buried in this place of history - this place of beauty, in the same cemetery where their loved ones have been buried in the past - had to be turned away," said former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts, one of the keynote speakers at the dedication. She is also a former Metro Councilor and is currently an advisor for the Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation. "Today, with the opening of Chestnut Grove Memorial Garden, we have again taken the first step toward welcoming families to make this their final resting place."

"It's projected by the experts that by 2015 fully 70 percent of Oregonians will choose cremation as their means of final rest," said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, another speaker. "We think this garden is a sustainable way to address community needs and the history of this site."

For More Information

Some of the options for cremated remains include pavers, boulders and benches. To learn more or to inquire about reserving a place in the garden, call Metro at (503) 797-1709 or send them an email.