Uncertainty over historic Richmond cemeteries 'will be not be fixed overnight,' official says

Posted at 7:10 PM, Sep 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-16 19:15:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City Council member Cynthia Newbille and officials with the city's parks and recreation department met with community members Saturday to develop a plan for Richmond’s historic Evergreen and East End cemeteries.

The fate of the properties remains up in the air following the 2022 collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation, which had controlled the properties and their funds.

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“This didn’t happen overnight. It will not be fixed overnight But I think we can all figure out a clear path forward,” Chris Frelke, Richmond's Director of Parks and Recreation, said.

People who have a loved one buried in the cemetery remain concerned and said the property is rapidly declining without clear ownership.

One community member shared how he feels they are in danger of losing all of the progress made in previous years at Evergreen Cemetery by the spring because of how much it has declined.

Newbille wanted to get a consensus from the community on whether the city should take control of the cemeteries. The majority of those present agreed — but with stipulations.

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One community member wanted the city to take over because they believe the city has the capacity to maintain it.

However, another community member said if the city takes the ownership they want in writing that the people who lost loved ones will have a seat at the table for the whole process.

Yet another expressed skepticism based on where the city is with maintaining. However, he said his mind would change if collectively the city works with experts and stakeholders connected to the cemetery.

Leaders said they will take the that input to update a proposed resolution to secure the city's ownership.

They will work with community members to figure out short terms needs for the cemeteries, as well as create working groups to make sure communities stay connected to the properties.

Evergreen, a 60-acre cemetery dating back to the 1870s, is the final resting place for thousands of African Americans who helped build the City of Richmond.

East End was founded next to Evergreen in 1897. Officials believe that cemetery is the final resting place of an estimated 13,000 people.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.


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