This is the followup to my previous Thoughts for Thursday in which I asked you about how a particular cemetery near me can improve its image in the public sphere after a spat of illegal dumping, attempted thievery, and vandalism.
Thank you to those who commented on the post or Facebook and left great suggestions. Many suggested to create a Friends Group, which I think would help especially if this group had 501c3 status as it would open the cemetery to a world of grants that it does not currently qualify for as a 501c13. The cemetery board currently hosts at least one cleanup a year, and hopefully a Friends Group could add to that. Also, many cemetery boards (for those cemeteries that do have boards) require that those on the board have a plot for themselves in the cemetery. I do not know if that is a requirement for this cemetery board, but overall, I find that a limit to a board’s potential. I’m not in a position to buy a plot for myself anywhere, why should that prevent me from lending aid where it is needed? Why should that prevent a descendent of someone buried in the cemetery from doing the same?
Here are some of my suggestions.
The cemetery is currently active amongst the dog-walking community as there are many paved and dirt roads to walk on, but I think it could definitely be more dog-walker-friendly. There are no posts with poop-scoop bags or waste receptacles. Installing these would definitely be a sign to dog walkers that they are welcome with their pets (with some rules, of course, to protect the stones and dogs too). I think taking a page from the Woodlands Trust for Historic Preservation in Philadelphia would be beneficial. The Woodlands has previously advertised dog-walking meetups on different mornings so that community members can get to know one another, dogs can socialize, and all involved can maybe find a dog-walking partner. It also shows that the cemetery is a nice and welcome environment.
There are many old trees on the property, and while some could and do pose a problem for stones (and I don’t see that changing), why not make the best of them. Get a tree-loving volunteer to lead a tour about the different tree species in the cemetery. With trees come birds, why not a tour or event for bird watchers? Both will attract a different group of people into the cemetery’s borders. I also think that local scouting troops could get involved with the creation of bird houses for some of these cemetery trees, and it would definitely associate the cemetery with something positive.
Also, I think it would be good to get someone to volunteer their time to give a tour focused on the stones’ iconography. This particular cemetery has quite a range, and if the cemetery partnered with a local historical society or two, the event could be quite popular.
Finally, I think it would be good to have an actual class on resetting stones, rather than having stones reset only at the yearly cleanup by those who know how to do it. In this way not only do more stones get reset over the course of the day but class participants can take what they learned and apply it to their local cemeteries.
Now not all of these are meant to be money makers, although I do think that some of these event could have a fee associated with them to participate. Any bit helps. I do think that all of these will help improve the image of the cemetery in the surrounding public’s eye, and hope that by becoming an appreciated place, negative events that have been happening at and to it in recent months will subside.
These suggestions are not limited to just this cemetery alone. I hope that you will be able to apply something I have suggested to a cemetery near you.
Have an idea that I may have missed? Let me know, and as always I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for reading!