Oakhill Cemetery becomes West Michigan’s first accredited arboretum

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As a Level I Arboretum, Oakhill Cemetery can serve as an educational space promoting tree diversity, conservation, research and history. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

A cemetery on the city’s southeast side has become the first accredited arboretum in West Michigan.

The city of Grand Rapids-owned Oakhill Cemetery, at 647 Hall St. SE, joined more than 400 accredited arboreta globally recently when the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and Morton Arboretum granted Oakhill accreditation for achieving standards of professional practices deemed important for arboreta and botanic gardens.

Now classified as a Level I Arboretum, Oakhill Cemetery can serve as an educational space promoting tree diversity, conservation, research and history.

Criteria to reach Level I accreditation include an arboretum plan, organizational group or governing body, a minimum of 25 unique tree species, staff or volunteers, and at least one annual opportunity for public education. Level I is the first level, with opportunities to reach up to a Level IV with added criteria. The city hopes to work toward higher accreditation levels in the future.

“This accreditation supports the city’s strategic priority of ensuring the health of people and the environment are advocated for, protected and enhanced,” said David Marquardt, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation director. “This collaboration with ArbNet directly supports the department’s mission of responsible management and collaborative stewardship of the city’s natural, educational and cultural resources.”

“Our city cemeteries are more than just final resting places,” said Joe Sulak, Parks superintendent. “They have a history dating back to the early 1800s, serve as places of reflection and contribute to our goals of increasing tree canopy and tree species diversity in Grand Rapids.”

More details about ArbNet and a link to a registry of accredited arboreta are available online.

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