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.