By Christina Calloway
Portales’ city manager said the only direction to move is forward with the beautification of the Portales Cemetery, but citizens aren’t sure officials are on the same page as their needs.
An Arbor Day rally was held last week to gain support in rehabilitating the 90-year-old elm trees in the city’s cemetery before they reach the point where they can’t be treated.
A few days before the rally, citizens tied yellow ribbons on the trees for Earth Day, but the ribbons were ordered removed by the city’s administration.
It was a move that had citizens questioning if the city’s administration was on their side. Portales Mayor Sharon King responded to the citizens on a Facebook page, citing a city ordinance that stated nothing is to be placed on trees.
King added that lack of communication also played a part and that citizens could have informed the city’s administration before placing the ribbons on the trees.
This all began in March after citizens witnessed the trees being cut down and objected to the actions, ones that Parks Department employees said were being done to clean the cemetery and keep it safe. Since the citizen protest, Parks Department employees have refrained from cutting down anymore trees.
Portales City Manager Doug Redmond feels there’s no need to dwell on the past and it’s pointless to point fingers as to who is responsible for cutting down the trees, an issue he said stems back to 2002.
“The tree issue is dead, we’re not cutting down anymore trees,” Redmond said. “My office door is open to anyone who wants to talk about it.”
Redmond said the city’s administration has been receptive to the citizens’ needs, and has improved the watering system in the cemetery to better care for the trees.
Redmond said he’s looking forward to working with the Parks Department, tree experts, the Friends of the Cemetery group and other concerned citizens to continue improving and beautifying the cemetery.
“There is no confrontation here and I am not playing this game,” Redmond said. “There is ‘no us versus them,’ it’s a we.”
Portales resident and advocate of saving the cemetery’s trees Sharon Davis said she thinks citizens can find common ground with the city’s administration at May’s Friends of the Cemetery meeting.
“I think at that meeting, that possibly we’ll have some rapport and interaction with the city,” Davis said. “We may come to some decisions.”
Davis said at the last meeting King had made a suggestion of having a certain group of trees to pick from to plant in the cemetery.
“That’s not what we want,” Davis said. “…We’d like to have the trees that we have cared for.”