Cemeteries also a place for reflection, recreation

It’s a subject on which some people might have varied opinions. It has even been debated in the columns of “Dear Abby.”

“The cemetery where my family members are buried has become a playground for the neighbors in the area. When I visit, I see people walking their dogs on and off leashes, even though they are aware of the ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs. Children are bicycling, roller blading and skateboarding, along with joggers and walkers,” wrote one “Abby” reader, Jean C., in Massachusetts.

Many people view a cemetery as the perfect location for reading, meditation, walking, historical tours and birdwatching. Some cemeteries across the country welcome cross-country skiers or dogs and their owners who want a quiet place.

A local dog walker, Erin Stevens, 24, of Marietta, brought one of her clients, Molly, a 4-year-old mixed breed for a quick jaunt past Mound Cemetery as she took the dog home Friday. She said she usually circles the cemetery with her dogs because they aren’t allowed inside. The same is true for Oak Grove Cemetery.

“When I don’t have a dog, I like to sit on the mound,” Stevens said.

Tony Dunn, who lives at 809 Washington St., has a great view of Oak Grove Cemetery.

“Oak Grove Cemetery is really an extension of my front yard,” Dunn said. “It’s a beautiful view from my front porch.”

Dunn said he sees people walking through the cemetery quite often. With all the paved lanes and 100-year-old oaks and azaleas, it’s a perfect spot, he said. He especially enjoys the 360-degree panoramic view of the city from the top of the hill.

Keith Eggener, an associate professor of American art and architecture at the University of Missouri, who wrote a history of the cemetery, said in a March 2011 interview with Atlantic magazine that cemeteries were built before parks, art museum or public gardens.

“You suddenly had large pieces of ground, filled with beautiful sculptures and horticultural art,” Eggener said. “People flocked to cemeteries for picnics, for hunting and shooting and carriage racing.”

Bill Thompson III, editor and co-publisher of “Bird Water’s Digest,” based in Marietta, said cemeteries are perfect places to observe our feathered friends.

“The more urban and built up the setting, the more important the habitat (for birds) in the cemetery becomes,” Thompson said. “You have huge, huge old trees there basically protected because it is an old cemetery. When birds are migrating over our area, they are going to look for a biggest trees. It’s almost like an arboretum with all kinds of trees from all over the world.”

His favorite thing to do is to go to the very top of the hill in Oak Grove on a beautiful morning, he said. From there he is able to look down on many of the trees and watch the warblers.

“It would be different if you were to open a new cemetery with just grass,” Thompson said.