Mason George Pulkkinen sounds the bagpipes following a Masonic ceremony honoring veterans at the Southern Maine Veterans’ Cemetery in this 2017 file photo. The s=cemetery is poised to expand, pending receipt of a $3.8 million grant offered by the federal Veterans’ Administration.TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

 

SPRINGVALE — The Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery, which opened in 2010, is poised to receive a $3.8 million grant to expand.

The expansion would include new roadways, 7,000 new plots, and more than 3,500 full-size casket plots.

The cemetery is located within the largest concentration of veterans in Maine: 60,961 veterans live within 1 ½ hours of the cemetery and most are greater than 50-years-old, according to the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services.

MBVS Cemetery Superintendent Scott Brown said that burial projections indicate that in-ground cremation sections will reach capacity in 2020 and casket grave sites by 2030 with the cemetery’s current capacity.

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs has offered the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services the $3.8 million federal grant opportunity. The money is expected to be awarded after the expansion is designed and pending the receipt of bids and a review.

“The expansion is necessary to meet our obligation to Maine’s veterans,” Brown explained. “This grant opportunity would enable the Maine Veterans’ Cemetery System to develop the additional infrastructure projected to be required to provide Maine veterans a final resting place.”

The Southern Maine Veterans’ Cemetery was designed as the resting place for veterans in southern Maine and communities in nearby New Hampshire and is the fourth in the state’s veterans cemetery system – there are two veterans cemeteries in Augusta and one in Caribou.

The southern cemetery is seen as a boon to family members, who otherwise would have to trek many miles to Augusta to visit their loved ones’ graves.

The quest to build a veterans cemetery in southern Maine began in 2001, when the Bureau of Veterans’ Services put out the word to local media, hoping publicity would spur a donation of land. The land had to be free, because while the federal government would pay for cemetery construction, it would not pay for land. There were some other offers, but the most feasible one came from Riverside Cemetery in Springvale, which offered up 58 acres. The, the city of Sanford stepped in and offered another 30 acres.

The cemetery was dedicated in August 2010.

“The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services is committed to the preservation of our veterans’ legacies as well as the historical integrity of the Maine Veterans’ Cemetery System,” said the acting director of the Bureau of Maine Veterans Services, Dave Richmond.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

 

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