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April 2024 updates

This was a difficult winter, but a successful one in that we were able to remain open for burial. Roxbury is right in the heart of the Green Mountain “snow belt,” and we have been measuring storm accumulation in feet rather than inches. But access to the Cemetery was no problem once the roads were clear following any of the major snowstorms; the main challenge, as anticipated, has been the mud. Aside from one two-week period in March, though, Tracy Hill Road and Beaver Meadow Road were in good enough shape that we were able to stay open for visits, as well as for burial, through the winter. We are enormously thankful for the hard work of the Roxbury Town Garage.

Next, tours! I’ve lost count of how many times I thought “well this will be the last snowstorm, certainly.” Even now, I am a little wary about setting a date, but we’re also very excited to share what’s new and what’s planned. So, on Thursday, May 16, we’ll welcome guests to the forest for the first guided tour since the fall. We will continue to have weekend tours as well, but we have heard from many people that events during the week would be welcome.

There was an almost-overwhelming amount of interest last year, and we have every reason to anticipate that will continue: I've been getting more emails about tours than any other topic! So we are actively looking for volunteers who are willing to guide groups through the different areas of the Cemetery. Anyone who has taken a tour can introduce the Cemetery to newcomers; nothing is required other than your voice and your enthusiasm. Please email and let us know if you are interested.

If you came to our opening event last October, you may have noticed some young people holding cameras. Students from the prestigious Park School at Ithaca College captured that day and our very first burial for a documentary called From Earth to Earth. With their kind permission, we will be holding showings of this work-in-progress throughout the area. Our first event at Kendal Residence in Hanover was very well-received, and we look forward to a showing and talk at the magnificent new Phoenix gallery in the heart of Waterbury on May 10, and at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier on May 29. If you would like us to bring this groundbreaking documentary to your community, please email and let us know!

The heavy accumulation this winter gave us an opportunity to explore the land on snowshoes, which provided a great way to gauge terrain and the suitability for burial in some of the more remote areas. Our plan has always been to have sections that are accessible to everyone (including those who use mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs), and sections that will be allowed to re-wild. The latter sections—where markers will be smaller if they are used at all—can be toured on foot or in our four-wheel-drive vehicle once we extend our Northside Lane down to the western property bound this summer.

If you’d like a preview, you can take a look at the map I’ve been working on. All names are temporary, with the thought in mind that some may be moved to name a trail, a burial area, or a whole section in remembrance of someone who has passed. If you are curious about naming rights, please reach out to us.

We are very excited to announce that we will be breaking ground on the first permanent structure in the forest, which will be a small office adjacent to the parking area. Last year’s priority was to begin burial operations: to finally make natural burial in the forest possible for people who have been waiting for us to open. This year, we will be expanding accessibility and guest services, including the office, Wi-Fi internet access thanks to Starlink, and a composting toilet rather than the unlovely porta-potty that graced our parking area last year. This will always be a rustic place, and all future development will strive to minimize our impact on the land. However, Vermont Forest Cemetery is meant to be a place for those who mourn, and we intend to make that place as welcoming and comfortable as possible without changing the character of the forest.

We have come a long way, and the feedback from the families and friends of loved ones who have been buried in this special place has been heart-warming and very touching. We still have a long way to go, though. This year, we plan to build sheds and barns, to extend the Northside Lane, and to continue to develop the trail system. If you’re interested, there are many ways you can help with these efforts: by keeping an eye on your email for volunteer calls, by making a tax-deductible donation, or simply by spreading the word to friends and families and to your local newspapers.

This is a community, and we just could not do what we do without all of you.

We hope to meet more of you in the forest this year!

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