Following closure of Coronado Park, Albuquerque cemetery faces problems

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s been nearly five months since Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller closed Coronado Park. Since then, people living and working nearby say the homeless people who used to call the park home have only moved their camps elsewhere in the area, including a local cemetery.

Sunset Memorial Park management says homeless people are approaching mourners right after burials and memorial services. But now, they say the concerns are moving inside the cemetery gates.

“They can be very intrusive into the park when we are trying to have services,” Sunset Memorial Park Executive Director Joshua Glass explained.

The cemetery is near the intersection of Menaul and Edith in Albuquerque.

“We actually had an incident this summer where we had a homeless camper who was just on the other side of the chain link fence, and he came into the park and started urinating in front of a family,” Glass said.

Situations like that are why staff had to increase the amount of time spent cleaning the property, especially before anyone comes to visit.

“First thing every morning we walk by all of our structures, we pick up fentanyl scraps, we pick up needles, we pick up feces, we get rid of all of those things that are left over from transients that come through the park,” Glass said.

Even the water features like the fountain aren’t spared and are now being removed entirely.

“We are finding the homeless bathe in them or defecate in them. They are just not sanitary or healthy things to have right now,” Glass said.

As the cemetery is seeing more intrusions, Glass says they have no choice but to make more changes to the park. Some updates are costly ones.

“We have a security firm today installing a series of night vision cameras on some of our buildings,” Glass said. “We hired a new security patrol here that monitors the park day and night.”

Those two upgrades cost the cemetery more than $65,000 this year, and that’s not even the most expensive upgrade.

“This year we are also going to have about a $400,000 expense for a 6-foot tall, rod iron fence that will encompass the entire park,” Glass added.

It’s a steep consequence of Albuquerque’s homeless crisis. But those living that epidemic every day, say they have just as many problems on the other side of the fence.

Thursday KOB 4 was able to talk to Robert L. Daniels, a man who calls a tent near the I-40 underpass on Edith.

Spencer Schacht: “How long have you been camped out here by the cemetery?”

Robert L. Daniels: “Here next to the cemetery? I’ve been here now approximately three weeks, maybe a month.”

Daniels says he has been moving around a lot since Coronado Park closed last fall. He admits some of the folks who have pitched tents nearby along Edith aren’t the best neighbors.

“I choose this area because the individuals in this area on this side we try to keep it tidy, we don’t try to trash it like those on the other end does,” Daniel said, gesturing to the other side of the underpass.

But he adds at this point, he doesn’t have many other options.

“For me as a veteran it’s tough but I’m hoping someone calls me with housing that will accept my voucher or something,” Daniel said.

Clearly, there are growing frustrations.

“We would love to be a partner in the solution, but right now we are not getting that partnership we are not getting that communication from city government so it’s very frustrating,” Glass said.

KOB 4 reached out to Mayor Keller’s office to see if there is a plan to address these concerns. However, a spokesperson directed us to contact other city departments.

A City Solid Waste Management rep says they clean up that specific area two to three times a week. Then, a Family and Community Services Department spokesperson mentioned nearly 50 people from that encampment area have been placed in housing in the last couple of months.