By Christina Calloway
Saving the 90-year-old elm trees at the Portales Cemetery is just the tip of the iceberg for citizens and city officials in their effort to beautify the city landmark.
Portales officials want to make improving the cemetery a community effort and are hosting a Friends of the Cemetery meeting on Tuesday at the Memorial Building.
The meeting is the next step in a community partnership that started last week when concerned citizens successfully stopped the city’s Parks Department employees from cutting down trees in the cemetery.
Department officials say the cutting of the trees was at the request of Portales city councilors and was part of cleaning up the cemetery.
Portales Mayor Sharon King said her intention with this meeting is to create an advisory committee to talk about things the community wants to see done in the cemetery. King said it is open to everyone because “it will effect everyone.”
Portales business owner Micah Thompson, who led the citizen effort in preserving the ailing trees at the cemetery, said she thinks the city understands that there is much interest and that citizens want to be involved when decisions that affect them are made.
“I’m thrilled that so many citizens of Portales are interested in the beautification of our city because we want to live and work and enjoy a beautiful town, beautiful cemetery, beautiful parks,” Thompson said. “Part of that includes preserving the trees that were planted so long ago.”
She added that she’s hopeful this will improve relations with city officials and their constituents.
“Maybe we can work together in a better way moving forward than we have in the past,” Thompson said.
Thompson and others enlisted the help of a tree doctor to show city officials the trees were salvageable. Since their meeting, tree doctor Steve Thomas has treated 18 trees with nutrients.
The cost of the project is a little under $5,000, according to King, and is coming from the Parks Department budget.
Thomas said the injections will help the trees form new root systems.
“It will make the trees that are rotting turn into beautiful trees,” he said.
Thomas said the effects of the treatment should be apparent within the next month but it’s hard to say how long it will take for them to fully recover.
He said city officials also took his suggestion and installed soaker hoses to water the cemetery.
“People care about the trees, they’re real interested in the trees,” Thomas said.
Though the trees are a start, King said the committee will begin with looking at the cemetery’s policy. She hopes to get the group organized before the cemetery’s next big event on Memorial Day.