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The new owners of the land seem to have changed their minds about its future as a possible park

DAVID F. ASHTON - Foundation Partners Groups consultant, Read Stapleton of DOWL HKM, points to the northern parking lot that the owners hope to sell to a developer; new parking spaces would then be added north of the mortuary building. THE BEE has repeatedly told you of the dream for the wooded area on the north side of Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Mortuary: To become a public park in Westmoreland, overlooking Oaks Bottom. The neighbors have named it "Moreland Woods". But now, that dream seems to be fading.

The new owners of the property, The Foundation Partners Group, who previously had appeared to give the local group a full year to raise the money to buy the plot for a park, now has announced tentative plans to install parking and burial plots on that wooded two-acre property on S.E. 14th Avenue between Duke and Claybourne Streets.

That's on the west side of 14th, a short distance north of Bybee Boulevard, between the Portland Memorial Mausoleum and Llewellyn Elementary School.

"Our group, 'Friends of Moreland Woods' is an ad-hoc committee of SMILE," explained steering committee member Nanci Champlin at a meeting held at Llewellyn School on the evening of January 23 – a development which permitted public contributions for a possible park to be tax-deductible charitable contributions.

"Our group, which came together in fall 2017, is still hoping to potentially purchase Moreland Woods – the offer is not off the table," Champlin told THE BEE.

"We have been talking with Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Parks Foundation, and with Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, pointing out the city's commitment to developing 'walkable neighborhoods'," Champlin said. "This area is defined as 'parks deficient'; and the city might also be motivated to protect the magnificent trees on the property.

"In 2015, before the business and property was sold, the then-manager at Wilhelm's nominated 'Moreland Woods' to be preserved by Portland Parks & Recreation. We hope the new owners will recognize the value that it has to the community, and the love that everyone has for the spot; it's become beloved in the neighborhood."

During that January public meeting, Friends of Moreland Woods Vice-Chair Amrita Vatsal pointed out that The Foundation Partners Group's new proposal hasn't been finalized – not yet.

The funeral home's southeast parking lot, on the east side of 14th, recently used by the Moreland Farmers Market, has already been sold for development, she said. "Their proposal will reduce the quantity of land under their conditional use; they're proposing to carve out the other parking lot to the northeast of Wilhelm's and remove that from conditional use zoning, in order to potentially sell it."

The Foundation Partners Group's consultant, "DOWL HKM Planning Group" Manager Read Stapleton, confirmed that the group's plans now call for adding about 23 parking spaces along the north side of the Mausoleum within the Moreland Woods section, and adding burial plots there, too.

He pointed out that the proposal includes a 15-foot-wide public access path at the north end of the lot, from S.E. 14th Avenue to the Oaks Bluff Path, as part of the plan. "The new owners fully appreciate how awesome the trees are," Stapleton assured the forty neighbors gathered in the school's cafetorium.

"[Not all the trees] will be saved, if there are to be cemetery plots, because there'll be some ground disturbance when excavating funeral plots," Stapleton said. "There will not be mass grading – but there will be grading for the parking area. The intent, for the cemetery itself, is that the ground contours would remain as they are today."

The Foundation Partners' new proposal for "Moreland Woods" will be presented to the neighborhood association at the SMILE General Meeting on Wednesday, March 6. We'll keep you informed on this issue. For more background on the matter, go online – www.morelandwoods.org

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