Dave Barnett on Sustainability at Public Gardens and Mount Auburn
Dave Barnett’s first words were ‘Public Garden’. Well, not really, but public gardens are in his blood. As a past president of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), Dave’s a passionate advocate for all public gardens including historic Mount Auburn Cemetery. For two decades here at Mount Auburn, he has overseen the integration of ecologically friendly practices in landscape maintenance, integrated pest management (IPM) practices at the greenhouse, and most recently a tremendous shift to an almost zero-waste landscape maintenance recycling program.
Dave knows we only have one planet with finite resources. Sometimes it may feel like we have an abundance of water, or oil, or gasoline; but those resources are as precious as our children. In a recent conversation with me, Dave said:
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen climate change become a political hot potato. If our elected officials don’t rise to the occasion, then we have to. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made at Mount Auburn. We are a cemetery with so much to offer in addition to burial space. We provide opportunities for people of all ages to embrace nature – to experience individual plants and communities of plants like the woodland we’ve rejuvenated around Consecration Dell. I’m eager to use our newly constructed greenhouse for teaching opportunities that inspire not only our professional colleagues, but homeowners and those who rent apartments with limited outdoor space, about sustainable ways to garden, irrigate, and patrol for pests.”
On a more personal note, Dave relayed a story to me. “Early in May, I had the pleasure of walking around Mount Auburn with my niece and my little 16-month-old grand niece, Olivia. I can’t tell you how long we spent playing at a puddle at the base of a sugar maple tree. She was stepping in it, touching it with her fingers, and doing things just like my kids used to do more than two decades ago when I was the Assistant Director living on the grounds of Planting Fields Arboretum in New York. Unlike my kids did, Olivia lives in an urban setting with concrete sidewalks, lots of asphalt, and a few street trees. Mount Auburn allowed her to experience a 100+ year-old Sugar maple as well as birds, frogs and insects. Places like Mount Auburn are valuable classrooms for experiencing nature.”
Yes, Mount Auburn still performs about 500 burials a year and still sells new grave space, which perhaps is another lesson in sustainability; but there is so much for the living to experience here. Ultimately, sustainability is for the kids. It’s the right thing to do. It’s about precious resources that we value with our lives.