Years ago, a friend who founded a botanic garden in Massachusetts took me to visit a landscape that he had long loved and admired. It was not just beautiful, but a designated National Historic Landmark—and one that was also a cemetery, on land that was consecrated for the purpose in 1831.
Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts is still all those things—historic, beautiful and a place of burial—but in more recent years, its mission has also been one of environmental stewardship. Insights into how that has been, and continues to be, accomplished in an established landscape is our topic today.
David Barnett came to Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1993 as the cemetery’s first director of horticulture. Today, he is its president and CEO, which he has been since 2008. Good thing Dave had not just a degree in horticulture, but also a PhD in ecology, since he has drawn on that background extensively in recent years to guide Mount Auburn, to see itself as an urban wildlife refuge, and a forward thinking model of sustainability.
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