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Forest Lawn Cemetery: Nature Is Where You Find It | News

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Forest Lawn Cemetery: Nature Is Where You Find It
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Since its inception in 1849, Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo has been much more than just a cemetery. This verdant burial ground is also equal part park, arboretum, and wildlife preserve.

Forest Lawn predates even Central Park in New York City as one of the state's early green spaces. Today the cemetery has expanded from its initial 80 acres to 269, and is home to an impressive diversity of trees.

Last fall, Forest Lawn completed an extensive tree inventory, an ambitious project done in part to more clearly assess the damage from the "October Surprise" storm of 2006, which took a heavy toll on the cemetery's trees.

"We still have great numbers here, we still have 3,300, a little over 3,300 trees in our inventory, and the health is good," says Matthew Quirey, Forest Lawn's Horticultural Manager. "There's a lot of work to be done, we want to improve those numbers, increase diversity, and start getting the age of the forest here to be diverse, we don't want them all to be the same age, so you can have young and old alike."

The knowledge gained from the arboreal census will help the cemetery plan for the future and decide what new species will work best within the existing woodland.

"We'll just look to expand what's here," says Quirey. "As with any urban forest, the species can be limited. For a variety of reasons, that's the case all over the country; and so we'll just look to increase that with interesting flowering trees, cultivars, varieties as a botanic garden would, in a way."

One of the more unusual species thriving in Forest Lawn is a small grove of Bald Cypress trees, a conifer that is usually found in wetlands in the southeastern United States. These statuesque trees are a living remnant of another important piece of Buffalo history.

"They were originally planted on the grounds of the Pan-Am Exposition," Quirey says. "After the exposition (they) were moved here because they were so great even at that time, and they've grown to become some of our largest, oldest trees here."

A stroll through Forest Lawn may reveal more than its beautiful trees. The cemetery is home to a wide variety of wildlife, too!

"Over the years there have been counts of the different birds here, and we have a deer here, a nice buck, there are beavers and geese, we have wild turkeys," says Quirey. "So you can see a variety of things here at Forest Lawn."

This then, is no garden variety graveyard. Visitors are encouraged to come and enjoy the grounds, take in the sights and sounds, and experience the great beauty of this magnificent landmark.

Forest Lawn provides both final rest for the dead and respite and solace for the living, an unlikely oasis in an urban setting, and yet another precious jewel that Western New Yorkers can be proud of.

"Forest Lawn was one of the first green spaces in Western New York that started out as a cemetery, but it quickly became more than that, with the nature," says Quirey. "But there are works of art here, there are famous people who are laid to rest here, that we can still learn their stories today. So, Forest Lawn is about nature, it's about culture, it's about history, it's about more than just being a cemetery."

The cemetery offers guided tours, or you can just visit on your own! For more information, visit their website at www.forest-lawn.com

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