A rendering of what the columbarium will look like. The left side with the flags is the veterans side, with the chapel in between the two sides. Contributed / City of Westbrook

A memorial wall for hundreds of cremation urns, with half of it dedicated for veterans, an open-air chapel and garden may be built at Westbrook’s Woodlawn Cemetery next year.

Public Services Operations Manager Arty Ledoux first proposed the idea of the columbarium in 2014, noting the rise in cremations over traditional burials. Now, with a $500,000 donation from Arthur P. Girard, the project will likely become a reality as the city works to secure the final $300,000 needed.

The chapel will host funeral services and other events, such as Memorial Day remembrances or Wreaths Across America ceremonies. Contributed / City of Westbrook

About 65% of burials at the city-owned cemetery off Stroudwater Street are of cremated remains, Ledoux said, up from less than 50% prior to 2007.

“We want to give people more options than to just buy a plot, and these gardens can be a place to reflect,” Ledoux said.

The columbarium would be located in a back corner of the cemetery. Four walls would each have 100 spaces, or “niches,” and each space could hold two urns, with some limitations.

Two walls would be reserved for military veterans and that side of the columbarium would include a series of flag posts. The other side would include a garden and a sculpture, and a roofed open-air chapel would be in the center.

“This would bring beauty to the¬†cemetery …¬†seeing the vet side, civilian side, it’s magnificent,” City Council Gary Rairdon said at a presentation Monday.

The location of the proposed columbarium. Contributed / City of Westbrook

The council will review the plans for final approval once the final $300,000 for the project is secured.

Mayor Mike Foley said the city hopes to stimulate donations through public awareness and potentially by using proceeds from the sale of the columbarium spaces. He also said he would look into using some city funds to get the donations flowing.

“I think it’s an amazing asset to add to our cemetery and in our community, and the generous donation from the Girard Family is tremendous,” Foley said.

Girard, a Portland developer, has funded other projects in Westbrook, including the Arthur P. Girard Adoption Center at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. Girard was not available for comment by American Journal’s deadline.

The cemetery has plenty of available space for traditional burial plots, Ledoux said, but the columbarium will provide a more intimate and space-effective option for urns. The exact sizes and pricing of the niches have not yet been determined but likely will be less expensive than a land plot, he said.

He intends to also offer the spaces for a one-time fee that will include an engraving on the niche and maintenance. Traditional burial plots bear costs for engraving, stones and upkeep and range upwards of $6,000, not including ongoing maintenance costs, he said.

“This is a huge donation, and Arty Ledoux has been talking about this for a long time, and thank you for not giving up,” Ward 2 Councilor Victor Chau said.

Ledoux hopes to have funding secured this year, allowing for construction and completion in 2022.

Renderings and designs of the columbarium were done by Sebago Technics. Contributed / City of Westbrook

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