Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Path And Pioneer Cemetery

Part 3: I Love To Tell The Story...Once I Learn It Myself.
James and Laura Belle Carlisle
Bradshaw, Nebraska 1890's
This whole thing about the Pioneer Cemetery has obviously struck a cord for me. I’ve been learning more about my grandparents lately and even made a new connection. Thanks to the wonders of Google, I met a second cousin of mine back in Nebraska where my grandparents were from. We immediately started swapping information. He sent me old family pictures, including this one of our great grandparents. He and I are both educators. Our spouses have the same name. We have a part in each others’ story, and that is powerful.
While I was searching for the exact location of my grandparents’ graves at Pioneer Cemetery, I was greeted by a very jovial dog, off leash. He ran right up to me. As a cyclist I’ve learned to read dogs quickly. This one liked me and just needed a pat on the head before he bounded off again, across the grave sites. I like dogs, but I wondered if this was commonplace, bringing dogs to the cemetery and letting them run free like that.
I got my answer when I visited my other grandparent’s cemetery the same day.  There was another dog, off leash. Hmmm. 
Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems odd that we’re not talking about that in the conversation about the safety of this historic site. As wonderful as it is to have a place to bring a dog, I’m not super excited that they’re given free run of the place. 
Anyhow, our friend at Breakfast on Bikes set me straight on a few facts that I didn’t wholly understand about this topic
The City Council will decide on June 25th whether they will "vacate" the alley in question.  I hope that's not the outcome.
And I hope there can be a well-reasoned, respectful conversation about the imperative to move bikes and pedestrians through this area in a safe manner. Away from Commercial Street.
I believe a bicycle/pedestrian path would have far less impact on the cemetery than is being suggested by some. Yes, we need to care for our historic places and monuments. They remind us to care about our own stories, and how we all connect in one way or another. 
We also must consider the safety and well-being of the walkers and riders, the ones who are living the story that is unfolding.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The dogs. Ugh. Off-leash dogs are against the cemetery regulations, I believe, and lots of people take their dogs there and let them run around off-leash. With you, I think that this is a larger source of stress on the cemetery and disrespect for the dead than an increment of walking and biking traffic would be. I think that Friends of the Pioneer Cemetery may tolerate a good bit of "bad behavior" they know, like the dogs and excessive motor vehicle use, and fear what they don't know, like the bicycling boogeymen - in this context sometimes I fear "bicyclist" is a proxy for "homeless" or "derelict," but that's another matter.

What you say is maybe the best case of all for creating a connection between Hoyt and Rural: If the area wasn't structured as such a dead-end, wasn't so tightly walled-in, people with friends and family buried there would visit more often; and people with an interest in history would also visit more often. The physical connection of a path would ring out and reverberate with emotional and historical connection for people in many different ways! The walls and barriers protect, but they also hoard up the cemetery more than a little - and we have to figure out a way to let down the guard a little to invite people in. As the cemetery brings the past into the present, it should be a "living end" and not a "dead end"! I know there's a way!

The cemetery will always be vulnerable to malefactors; even with limited access as it has today, someone determined to vandalize or desecrate could do so easily. Creating a path connection will make it slightly more vulnerable in some ways, but it will also increase the eyeballs and ears of interested citizens on the cemetery, and will reduce its vulnerability in others.

And as your visits confirm, the increase in connection will create value many times over any of the ways that the cemetery would become more vulnerable. Indeed, we might wish to think of the cemetery in this way as we would think of a person and human relationship: An important part of its meaning and value comes from being wisely vulnerable. We would not want to make the cemetery foolishly vulnerable, but by trying to make it invulnerable, we may diminish its value in crucial ways.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The staff report is out, and the recommendation is still to vacate the alley - and to make a connection between Hoyt and Rural more difficult.

If you and any interested readers wanted to send a note to, additional support for postponing the vacation and in favor of a connection between Hoyt and Rural could be very helpful.