An Update to "Portland, Maine, the Desecration Capital of the World"
By Paul O'Neil, December 13, 2000
In the six months since the first article was written there have been many developments. The city of Portland has hired a consultant to develop a master plan to restore the Western Cemetery. The unfortunate fact is the city has left the off- leash dog park issue open. At the time of this update it is business as usual in the Western Cemetery. The dog owners who regularly desecrate the Western Cemetery belong to an Organization that they call, of all things, "The Friends of The Western Cemetery". They are often referred to as the Doggy Brigade.
When the city hired the consultant, a committee was established consisting of the consultant and interested members of the community and representatives of interested organizations within the community. This committee, the Western Cemetery Planning Committee, has been working with the consultant to create the master plan. The committee has representatives on both sides of the desecration issue and has been meeting regularly. There have been two public meetings. Their most recent regular meeting was held on December 5 and the consultant presented his initial recommendations. He recommended that if dogs are to be allowed in the cemetery they should be on a short leash (6 feet) and only allowed on the pathways. A majority of the Western Cemetery Planning Committee disagreed. A vote was taken by the entire committee and it was voted 8-3 to recommend banning dogs from the cemetery altogether. This favorable vote was influenced by a number of factors one of which was the literally hundreds of letters and e-mails which were generated by the article on this site. The members of this committee were given copies of all letters and e-mails received by the city concerning this issue. It is very doubtful that this vote would have been achieved without the input from and influence of the hundreds of concerned people who read about the situation on "Voices from the grave" and we thank you all.
The third and final public meeting of this committee is scheduled for December 13 and the doggy brigade will turn out in force. The dog owners will try to put enough pressure on both the City of Portland and the Portland Press Herald to keep their support on the side of dogs in the cemetery. The Portland Press Herald still seems to feel that the Western Cemetery is a public asset and should accommodate dogs. Although the paper in general does not seem to understand what is going on we must admit that the letters to the editor dept. has been very professional and have been a great help. The Ancient Order of Hibernians and their many friends will be at this public meeting and will be fighting to return dignity and respect to the cemetery.
After the final regular meeting of the Western Cemetery Planning Committee the consultant's final recommendations will go to the Portland City Council and they will consider them in January. It is important that we keep the pressure on the city. If you e-mail a letter to the city and to the Press Herald be sure to congratulate the Western Cemetery Planning Committee on their positive vote and tell the city that they should be looking for alternative sites for dog parks other than cemeteries. Fencing off an alternative site may cost a few dollars but it is money well spent.
As always we appreciate and need your help to win this fight.
[Editor's note, please see the next update to this article published on May 23, 2001].
- Paul O'Neil
Paul is the President of Division 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Portland Maine, and is leading a campaign to return dignity and respect to the Western Cemetery. Contact Paul at: Galway376@cs.com
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