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Forest Hills Cemetery re-opens to the public on Tuesday - at least to people without dogs or bicycles or who aren't going faster than a stroll

Forest Hills Cemetery announced today it is re-opening this weekend for grave and niche owners and to the public at large on Tuesday - although it warns anybody caught jogging or with a dog or bicycle will be kicked out.

Meanwhile, neighbors and other past visitors to the cemetery - designed in the 19th century to incorporate features of both a private resting ground and a public park - have been signing a petition asking cemetery officials to reconsider their decision to ban all but walkers from the grounds, after it re-opens to the public for the first time in a month.

In its latest announcement, which says public hours are limited to noon to 4 p.m., the cemetery says:

These regulations were put into place to ensure that the Cemetery grounds and atmosphere are conducive to peaceful reflection and respect for the families and friends who visit their loved ones. Your cooperation is appreciated. Please note that violators will be asked to leave the property.

The petition states:

We, the undersigned, are community members who love Forest Hills and want to visit as often as possible. We ask that after the necessary visitor limitations due to the pandemic come to an end, that you please restore the visitor practices to their full pre-pandemic state and allow dog walking, bicycling, and jogging.

In a spirit of community and gratitude,

Community members who love Forest Hills Cemetery

Matthew Shuman, who started the petition drive, says that among its supporters is Cody Sanders, a Jamaica Plain resident and minister of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square, who has also written an open letter to the cemetery trustees about the importance of re-opening it to all, the continue the bonds between the living and the dead, even those who walk on four legs:

As Laqueur says, "All sorts of strangers are intimate neighbors in the dust". And the dead of Forest Hills are neighbors to the living in your surrounding neighborhoods as well. The dead are even neighbors to our more-than-human companions who walk on leashes with us through this city of the dead. Forest Hills is home to a lasting testament to this bond between human and canine in one of the most the beautiful dog sculpture gravestones I’ve ever observed, adorning the Henry and Lucinda Barnard grave. Community building between the living and the dead in a place of natural beauty is central to the original mission and evolving purpose of the Cemetery. ...

I understand the need to maintain decorum and the beauty of the grounds, and I fully support the monitoring of unleashed dogs or disrespectful visitors. But I have also enjoyed bragging to my Cantabrigian parishioners of Forest Hills' generous policy of allowing dog walking in the historic parts of the cemetery, or picnicking by the pond – all activities they are not allowed to do at their local and beloved Mount Auburn. While I love Mount Auburn dearly and visit it on occasion, it has the feel of an outdoor museum and playground of preservationists. Forest Hills, in contrast, feels like a community space akin to the park-like environs many founders of the [19th-century cemetery/park] movement imagined. Forest Hills is likely neither to become museum-like, nor attract the number of tourists of your sister cemetery, Mount Auburn. Your unique gift is a community that loves you and wants to visit you regularly. For a cemetery in this era, that is a gift not to be taken for granted.

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Comments

Such a great place to roll the windows down and drive around in circles. Too bad all these people are gonna get in the way again....

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Trollin trollin trollin ...

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Your loud boom boom music in your car is distracting me and my splits on my running route through the cemetery are behind my target pace. Can't you play some Tame Impala or Animal Collective instead of that ... ethnic music? - signed the JP Gentrifier Squad.

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rather than during all daylight hours as it usually was before.

It’s a start.

Folks from the JP Am Legion Post 76 and elsewhere place flags on the hundreds of veteran's graves in FHC just before Memorial Day. But that couldn't happen this year. Given the impact Covid-19 is having on our Greatest Generation WWII vets, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War vets, veterans of Iraq/Afganistan and countless other conflicts, they'll need more flags next year. I never served but I thank all who did and who will.

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The placing of flags on Boston Common has also been cancelled, as has the Cambridge Memorial Day parade that ends with a ceremony at Cambridge Cemetery.

"But I have also enjoyed bragging to my Cantabrigian parishioners of Forest Hills' generous policy of allowing dog walking in the historic parts of the cemetery, or picnicking by the pond – all activities they are not allowed to do at their local and beloved Mount Auburn."

What a smug tool.

"more-than-human companions who walk on leashes with us through this city of the dead."

I like dogs. I have a dog. The modern view that dog is somehow more than a pet and closer to a child is just nonsense.

"Community building between the living and the dead in a place of natural beauty is central to the original mission and evolving purpose of the Cemetery. ..."

So this nimrod can't appreciate a place of real beauty and peace within the city unless Fido comes along? Or unless he can see a jogger? It's just selfishness wrapped in word salad. He's able to go on Saturday and walk the lanes and see the flowers (and giant turtles) but it's not on his terms so it's not good enough I guess.

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By adding tool I guess you are using "smug" as a negative. You must have met the man in person then?
Before the Forest Hills Cemetery closed due to the crisis dogs were allowed. Does wanting to return to normal make myself and the minister "smug" in your eyes?

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....that't why there are quotes of what he said and why that made a negative impression on me.

Wanting a policy to revert isn't smug. What he wrote is smug and pretentious, regardless of his own personal nature.

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There can be many interpretations but some are just plain wrong. The retired minister's letter did not sound smug, arrogant or describable with some other condescending criticism.

Literally having a dog in this argument I can vouch for the importance and great value of a non-human companion that is without judgement, that lives in the moment (a lesson we humans continually need) and is the only source of lifelong unconditional love in any person's life.

As for a companion when contemplating life and death I will share a brief story. When my mother passed and I returned to Boston there was only one with whom I could share my grief the first night home. Who was that? My dog.

Share looked me directly in the eyes as I spoke words of grief and sadness. As I told her that I wish my mother could have met this simple yet loving companion. It was a sublime moment.

When I finished my words my dog continued looking at me and then licked my face.

Exactly what I needed at that moment.

Grieving over loss yet given a reminder that life is in the present.

So yes, walking and sitting with the long dead, with my ever loving companion of the present, is one of those things that above value. Beyond the glitter of gold and the sparkle of diamonds. Simple, unvarnished unconditional love.

Considering that life is a blink of the eye in eternity, what better way to meditate on our short passage, amongst our ancestors with a simple companion which embodies unconditional love.

If they truly care about being “conducive to peaceful reflection“ then ban drivers, not joggers. People jogging aren’t the ones speeding through at 40mph or honking at people walking on the paths. These lazy drivers are as sedentary as the corpses in the ground. Get off your ass and walk for once.

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Nobody had ever driven 40 mph in the Forest Hills Cemetery.

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Are you a Chad, a Kevin or Kinopio? Either way you're really an anon. Quit whining online that you have to walk instead of SIT on YOUR LAZY ass on a bicycle seat and take a WALK in Forest Hills: it's open! Be RESPECTFUL to the wokers at the cemetery and not an entitled arrogant snot. Don't ruin the re-opening for the rest of the people who are actually grateful and respectul to the people who maintain the cemetery.

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Yes, yes YES. All you older people get off your keisters meisters and walk. Walk damn you , walk!

Oh I see you have a cane sir. Throw that out and walk like me!

This is a cemetery, how dare you do anything but jog here. You can visit the ones you love that have departed the earth when you join them!

There are people who have trouble walking long distances (with or without a cane) but can much more easily ride a bicycle. For a few weeks last fall, after a stupid bicycle accident*, I was one of these.

* yes, "accident". I hit a plastic recycling bin on a sidewalk in front of my own building, while riding about 2 mph, and rebounded into a brick wall. Hurt my knee like hell.

It really is a gorgeous gem of land in the city and it's good to have it open again.

I've never understood using that area as a dog run or running space, honestly. You have Franklin Park and the Arboretum on either side for less passive forms of recreation, why would you have to do that in a cemetery?

Open for walkers, alone, seems like the proper compromise between letting the public appreciate it and respecting the solemnity of it.

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Despite what they may have been designed to do at some point in the past, it is still private property and not a municipal cemetery. As a private trust they can limit access as they believe is fit for its usage. It is also still primarily defined as a cemetery.

While they may allow people in to view and walk, they retain some liability on how it is used, and if some biker or jogger trips or falls they could be sued. By stating rules and making them public they are reducing their legal liabilities as "public space."

Pretty much all cemetery space bans driving just for the purpose of looking or learning how to drive. They expect that you have purpose for being there, i.e. visit a burial site.

So people may not like this but consider the following... they never had to do this in the past. What changed to make them feel they needed to do this? Best guess here is over-access and usage due to the current pandemic problem, which increased their needs to maintain the grounds or similar, and as noted the increase in traffic that increases liabilities.

It might be nice if they go back to the way things were at some point but they are not under any legal liability to do that. Last thing they need is some jogger, walker, or biker being clipped by a passing car and getting sued. It's a shame, but it is the very public that is insisting on increased access that caused the problem in the first place.

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The previous management was very engaged with the wider and live community. The current management is only concerned about dropping bodies into holes and filling coffers with cash.

Egregious! Reminds me of this other company that is only concerned with making money - every for profit company. (no your cupcake company that 'gives back' isnt concerned about others, its just marketing.

They are a nonprofit, so I doubt it. I do not disagree with restricting it to walkers for now. Later, I do think people with dogs should be allowed, and maybe runners, but it is not like any other park. And like any nonprofit, they should engage and respond to the community.

Can I use their tracks for exercise?

N/t

For Massholes to bitch about.

Lots of people die.

I frequent this cemetery. My family are buried there. People were treating the cemetery as a playground and dog park. I saw families having picnics there. The dog walkers, some of who drive there to allow their dogs to relieve themselves, some let their dogs run free, and most who do bring dog poop bags drop them all over the cemetery. Since, you and your dogs can walk so well, please find an appropriate place, not a cemetery to take yourself and your dog(s).
I find it totally disrespectful to see such disrespect done in this cemetery. Please allow the grave owners and families to come to respect and honor our loved ones without dog poop bags all over, kids jumping all over monuments, and allowing their dogs off of their leases. Some people are allergic or frightened of dogs.
One day, remember, you will be in a grave.....