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Town-gown Project to Cut Ribbon on ‘Cemetrail’

Town-gown Project to Cut Ribbon on ‘Cemetrail’


A trail ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour celebrating the completion of Operation Greenspace! will take place in the Cortland Rural Cemetery from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 7.

Open to the public, the event will include brief remarks from the cemetery and College team, a question-and-answer session, a ribbon-cutting and tour of the “cemetrail.”

SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum will be among the College’s representatives.

For the occasion, ample parking is available inside the cemetery entrance.

The town-gown event marks the opening of the cemetery to public, educational visits with a centrally located, first-ever cemetery ‘map kiosk,’ 20 educational interpretive signs and numerous tree-species identification plates.

The project teamed the Cortland Rural Cemetery board of trustees and employees with SUNY Cortland’s art and art history, biological sciences, geography, geology and recreation, parks and leisure studies department faculty and their student interns.

The volunteers have worked to transform the cemetery from a “single-use” institution — for burials — to a "multi-use" institution, including as a historic site, cultural asset and natural resource.

Although the cemetery was designed around 150 years ago in the “garden” or “rural” cemetery style that encouraged picnics, social visits and natural enjoyment by the entire community, in more recent times the general public was discouraged from strolling there. Not anymore.

Students and community members now are encouraged to make recreational and educational visits to Cortland Rural Cemetery during daylight hours. Future teachers, historians, geographers, geologists, artists and art historians can explore the hillside living laboratory.

Volunteers within the College community gathered facts and data to place on trees, and created interpretive signs and an informational kiosk.

The more prominent trees now boast detailed species information, and about 20 pedestal signs share the history, science and cultural information gathered about the cemetery. A key to finding specific areas of interest will be offered on a giant map posted at a central kiosk.

Over time, the goal is to create several different trails throughout the cemetery, each with a different theme, from history to geology and beyond.

To support the venture, John Hoeschele, president of the cemetery’s board of trustees and a volunteer with the Cortland Rural Cemetery Foundation, last spring worked jointly with the Cortland Rural Cemetery Foundation — the cemetery’s dedicated and separate fund-raising board — to apply for and receive a $30,000 Operation Greenspace! grant from the JM McDonald Foundation, a 62-year-old trust for charitable efforts, primarily in upstate New York. With financing secured, the foundation created signs, tree identification plates and other needed hardware.

For more information, read the College’s prior announcement about the project.