Penhall Company employees wheel a ground-penetrating radar over the turf of Auburn’s Pioneer Cemetery in late June 2016 to determine what if any space remains free below for additional inurnments. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

City Council approves master plan for cemetery-park

The people who put together the master plan for Auburn’s Pioneer Cemetery understood early on that the treasured local landmark not only had to be preserved, it could work as a park, too.

But, they realized as well, that if Pioneer were to become a cemetery-park, it would need to be made more welcoming, offer walkways, benches, interpretive signs and the like.

On Monday the Auburn City Council unanimously adopted the master plan, which lays out all the goals for keeping and developing the cemetery-park.

“It is an official statement of our goals, a summary of what is there,” Patricia Cosgrove, director of the White River Valley Museum, and a member of the committee that wrote the plan, said of it. “You can’t improve upon a physical site until you actually understand what is there.”

“This little cemetery is a real treasure to our community,” said Auburn City Councilman John Holman.

For members of the Seattle and White River Buddhist Temple who want to continue using the cemetery in which their ancestors are buried or inurned, it is a big deal.

“I think people underestimate the importance and centrality of that cemetery to those who have generations of people buried there,” Cosgrove said. “On Memorial Day, I was speaking to Calvin Terada, who has a long line of Terada graves and inurnments there. Calvin’s wife was there … and she told me that when he was courting her, he took her to the cemetery and said, ‘This is where my family gets buried, and if you marry me, this is going to yours also.’”

Among the plan’s recommendations are the following:

• Creation of a program for donors to dedicate a specimen tree or flowering shrub in memory of a departed family member;

• Conduct an outreach program with an electronic data base of cemetery plots, locations, burial information, marker inscriptions and photographs to help future generations maintain an awareness of their ancestors’ resting spots;

• To improve communication and coordination, each year a member of the White River Buddhist Temple should be selected to serve of the City of Auburn’s Cemetery Board;

• Emphasize improvements that reinforce a sense of the passage of time via seasonal changes in the plantings and the succession of generations; and

• Develop signage to recognize the early pioneers and the role the White River Buddhist Temple played in the creation and continuing support of the cemetery.

In the spring of 2016, the city of Auburn and WRVM hired Penhall Technologies, more often employed for finding underground pipes and wiring for concrete work, to inventory Pioneer Cemetery with ground-penetrating radar. Combining those findings with research, the City and WRVM concluded there were open spaces for new inurnments. Now, with the adoption of the plan, the City and WRVM can begin working on improvements, one grant-funded or city-supported project at time.

Cosgrove said the museum was unsuccessful in its recent application to 4Culture for funds to complete a full landscape plan for parking, entries, irrigation, interpretive signs, plantings and placements of new inurnments.

“We are just now applying to other agencies and starting a little fundraising effort with a couple of the families involved, just to get us going.

“I figure, once we have the full landscape plan in hand, it won’t be so hard to raise the rest of the money we need, which is like $180,000, to do all the work we want to do at the cemetery,” Cosgrove added.

In addition to Cosgrove, the committee was composed of Daryl Faber, director of Parks, Arts and Recreation, Craig Hudson, director of Auburn Mountain View Cemetery, Bob Hoshide, an architect from Hoshide Wanzer Architects, Charles Natsuhara, who represents the White River Buddhist Temple, and Calvin Terada, who represents the Seattle Buddhist Temple.

The Rev. Koshin Ogui of White River Buddhist Temple reads as Nancy and Kenji Togami look on during a rededication of two graves – Kenji’s sisters Mihoko and Yoko – in Pioneer Cemetery on July 9, 2015. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

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