City to excavate old cemetery

SNOHOMISH – Let the dead – if there are any left – rest in a new place, and let seniors build a new home on the pioneer cemetery site.

That plan will be set in motion when the city starts excavating a parcel this month on Cypress Avenue in the city’s eastern end, where Snohomish pioneers were buried until the early 1900s and where the Snohomish Senior Center now operates in a small pink house. Near the house, the senior center plans to build a 6,000-square-foot building to meet the growing demand for services.

In 1998, a court ordered the city to find out what’s buried at the site before construction can begin. If human remains are discovered, the court will decide how the city should relocate them.

Since the court decision, the development plan for the site has substantially changed, delaying the inspection project. It also took the city a long time to identify the best inspection method to satisfy the court.

“I wish it could happen faster, but we are dealing with a sensitive issue,” Mayor Liz Loomis said. “We are dealing with the people’s loved ones.”

The city has set aside about $99,000 for the inspection project, which City Manager Larry Bauman expects to take about four weeks to complete.

An archaeologist will identify any human remains and their ethnic identities, Bauman said. The city plans to transfer American Indian remains to the Tulalip Tribe and unclaimed remains to the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery just west of the city.

The city hopes the court will give a go-ahead for the new center by the end of the year, Bauman said.

The relocation of remains should have occurred years ago, Loomis said.

The state built a highway through the area in the 1940s and didn’t relocate all the graves. One known grave remains, and there could be up to 30, court documents show.

Ruth Moore of Seattle challenged in court the city’s plan to develop the area. Moore, who believes her great-grandparents were buried in the area in 1888 and 1901, said she wants the site to be left intact but won’t challenge the city’s project.

“They have a right to do that if they do that appropriately,” said Moore, who said she’s in her 80s.

Meanwhile, seniors are hoping they will be able to move into their new nest in the fall of 2006, said Karen Charnell, executive director of the senior center.

The center will temporarily move its operations to a local church on Aug. 15.

“It will be starting soon. We are moving forward,” Charnell said of the city’s inspection project.

The new building would have a kitchen, reception area, library and meeting room, she said.

The center has raised about 76 percent of the funding for the $986,000 project from county and state grants and private donations. Seniors have raised approximately $56,000 through efforts such as pie sales, Charnell said.

“I feel confident because we’ve been working hand in hand with the city,” she said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@

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