A veterans cemetery for soldiers who served as far back as the Civil War will get a $250,000 renovation thanks to a provision in the latest state budget.
The money will go to the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which manages the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting and the cemetery on its grounds. Almost 2,300 veterans are buried there.
The state has paid for basic upkeep at the site, but people who visit it have noticed overgrown trees and headstones falling into disrepair. Some headstones appear to be inside trees because trunks have grown around the markers.
“It just hasn’t been maintained well,” said state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, who wrote the provision to set aside money for repairs.
He has hosted two cleanup days at the cemetery in the past year and launched an effort to raise an additional $500,000 for the cemetery in private donations.
Hunt has visited the cemetery a few times every year and grown interested in the history he finds among its graves. It’s the final resting place of four Medal of Honor recipients.
“We’ve constantly said somebody should do something, and now I was in position to do something,” he said.
Veterans have been buried at the soldiers home since it opened in the 1890s.
The cemetery site on the grounds today is its second location. The first was in an area that flooded frequently, according to a state history of the soldiers home.
The state bought more land for the cemetery in 1907 and moved graves to the second site some time before World War II.
The Veterans Affairs Department has a list of maintenance priorities for the site that includes cleaning graves, realigning headstones in clear rows, removing trees, replacing damaged headstones and repairing a sprinkler system, said spokeswoman Heidi Audette.