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Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Allée Dream Coming True

East view Allée Memorial Day 2013

East view Allée Memorial Day 2013

By Sue Hunter Weir

It’s been ten years since we planted 150 trees in the cemetery. The trees are well grown now as are the children who helped plant them. On May 17, 2003, Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery was the regional Arbor Day planting site. It was a landmark year for the cemetery; it was its 150th anniversary. The theme for the day was “Renewing Our Legacy: 150 Trees for 150 Years.”

Hundreds of volunteers came to plant. There were elected officials, Boy Scouts, city staff, friends, neighbors and people who have an occasional urge to hug a tree. Minnesota Territorial Pioneer newspaperman James Goodhue (played by re-enactor Shawn Hoffman) was on hand to greet guests. The Minneapolis Police Band provided the music.

Children paraded down the cemetery’s only road led by the Tree of Life from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. In the spirit of Johnny Appleseed the children wore pots and pans on their heads and carried large spoons and ladles. They stopped at each new tree, watered it and offered the following blessing:

“In this quiet place,

Here amidst memory and dreams

We ask the sun and the rain to nourish

Through the spring, summer, fall and winter.

May you grow well,

And thank you for the home you will provide for the animals

And the oxygen for us to breathe.”

This planting fulfilled the dream of the Minneapolis Cemetery Protection Association, an organization of volunteers that in the 1920s and 30s stepped up to preserve the cemetery. It had been their dream to create an allee of elm trees along Elizabeth Avenue, the cemetery’s roadway. The City Engineers Office drew up a plan but the Depression was in full sway and the trees were never planted. The plans remained in the office gathering dust until 2003.

As it turned out, the delay was probably a good thing. Dutch Elm disease and Emerald Ash borers have taught us that relying too heavily on a single species is not a good thing. Instead of a single variety of trees, we planted dozens. There were large shade trees, such as Autumn Blaze and Green Mountain Sugar Maples. There were medium-sized trees like Ohio Buckeyes, Amur Chokecherries and Showy Mountain Ash. Twenty-seven specimen and evergreen trees were planted throughout the cemetery to provide species diversity and to create habitat for wildlife. Trees were provided by the U.S. Forest Service Inner City Grant Program and by Foster Wheeler Twin Cities, Inc.

The planting was a partnership the included numerous city and neighborhood organizations including the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Committee of Urban Environment, Tree Trust, Green Space Partners, City of Minneapolis Division of Public Works, the Corcoran Neighborhood, the Phillips Community and Friends of the Cemetery. Local businesses were generous sponsors.

The tenth anniversary of the planting means that the cemetery has reached another important milestone in its continuing story. It has now been 160 years since ten-month-old Carlton Keith Cressey was the first burial in what was known as Layman’s Cemetery and which today is preserved as Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, the oldest existing cemetery in Minneapolis.

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