Slow progress on St. Matthew’s Cemetery clean-up, Most of graffiti removed

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Photo: Scott French

A clean slate for St. Matthew’s Cemetery. All but one of the tombstones bearing anti-Anglo graffiti were cleaned.

The City of Québec is slowly but surely progressing in its revitalization of St. Matthew’s Cemetery-turned-city-park in the St-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood. Most of the anti-Anglo graffiti has been removed from the Protestant cemetery’s headstones. Security personnel are now monitoring the park 16 hours a day to discourage any further vandalism.

France Bégin, director of design, architecture and heritage for the city said the new concept for the park is not yet finalized, and landscaping work is expected to begin in late fall or spring 2009.

Bégin also acknowledged that Sécurité Sirois had been hired to keep watch over the park. The company confirmed two security personnel patrol the park from noon to 4 a.m., seven days a week.

Bégin said the city’s committee, including Anglican community representative David Mendel and St-Jean-Baptiste citizens’ representative Louis Dumoulin, must approve the second concept for the park submitted by landscape design company Daniel Arbour Associés (D.A.A.) before the work can begin.

David Mendel explained that he and Dumoulin had rejected the first concept for the park because “the solution to protect the cemetery was to keep people away from the headstones.”

D.A.A.’s initial plans had suggested a walking path through the middle of the cemetery with fences built on either side, which would have discouraged people from approaching the headstones. The company also proposed building a monument in the centre of the park, which Mendel said he and Dumoulin thought would be costly and not in the spirit of the cemetery.

“We want people to discover the cemetery,” Mendel said. He suggested that the city should reinstall small information plaques next to some of the stones, which would be more efficient and less costly. Many of these plaques are presently missing or in disrepair.

A meeting to approve the  second concept proposal for the park is slated for sometime in September.

Mendel said that while the progress has been positive, indicating the city “is not sitting on its hands,” but that movement on the dossier has been “shockingly slow” at times.

What disturbed Mendel the most was that the company hired to clean the headstones by l’Arrondisement La Cité had neglected to clean what he said was the most offensive graffiti from one of the stones.

“I can’t believe they missed one,” Mendel later added, “the graffiti is really the most distressing part.”

The administrator for La Cité in charge of park maintenance was away on vacation and could therefore not comment on the situation.

Despite the error, Mendel is still upbeat. The committee, he said, must forge ahead to come up with the best concept for the park, one that balances the historic integrity of the cemetery and the public’s interest in green space for the St-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood.

The $500,000 in funding for the cemetery-park restoration was granted to the city through a cultural development grant from Quebec’s ministry of Communications, Culture and the Status of Women a year and a half ago.