COVINGTON, Ky. -- Greater Cincinnati has a long history of excellence in maintaining local cemeteries, with celebrated examples that include Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Vine Street Hill and Linden Grove in Covington.
Another longstanding tradition in Cincinnati is offering cemeteries for public and community use for a variety of activities. Cemeteries double as green space for walkers and runners as well as arboretums and sanctuaries for nature enthusiasts.
Spring Grove is perhaps one of the region’s most prolific sources for alternative cemetery programming, hosting regular walking tours, after-dark photography sessions, yoga classes, music and more.
But not everyone is on board with the idea of using cemeteries for purposes other than respectful observance. Covington’s Center for Great Neighborhoods, a nonprofit group that has worked to improve the city since the mid-1970s, experienced some blowback when it announced a series of summer movie nights at historic Linden Grove Cemetery.
The ongoing Cinema in the Cemetery series -- which kicked off on Aug. 4 with a showing of "The LEGO Movie" -- is sponsored by the Neighborhood of Peaselburg, the Center for Great Neighborhoods, Historic Linden Grove Cemetery & Arboretum and the city of Covington’s Parks & Recreation Department.
“I think this is an awful idea,” said one user via the group’s Facebook page. “My family is buried there and [sic] don’t like the idea of a bunch of strangers trampling their graves [sic] pretty inconsiderate.”
Another Facebook user offered a different perspective: “These events bring together the lives of so many diverse groups and families in a park-like setting while sharing the space with those who have passed on and have had so many thousands of stories of their own.”
Cemetery leaders are sticking to plans for offering more diverse programming at Linden Grove, but they emphasize that events such as Cinema in the Cemetery are carefully designed for maximum family enjoyment with minimal disruption of family memorials and grave plots.
“This event will not take place over any graves,” said Cole Imperi, a member of the board that was appointed in 1998 to oversee Linden Grove operations. “There are sections of the cemetery that don’t have any burials at all -- large, open lawn areas. Linden Grove offers public programming throughout the year, and all programming takes place on grounds, which do not have any interments, just like at Spring Grove.”
Linden Grove Cemetery is a 22-acre space in the middle of Covington’s urban core, located between 13th and 15th streets. The cemetery opened in 1843 and has hosted musical performances and ministerial talks since its founding. It has also hosted performances by the Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in recent years.
“Linden Grove was basically an abandoned cemetery until the city of Covington and the Kenton County Fiscal Court established an interlocal agreement to arrange for proper care,” said board member Pete Nerone. “The cemetery receives funding from the city and county. The cemetery serves the community by providing a restful and contemplative green space that serves as an outdoor classroom that celebrates the history of Covington while maintaining the dignity and respect for those interred within its grounds.”
Nerone, who is also a resident of the Peaselburg neighborhood where Linden Grove is located, says cemetery leadership has worked hard in recent years to improve the space and attract more positive attention.
“We invite people to visit the cemetery, whether it’s for a specific event or just to enjoy the natural setting,” said Nerone. “We also welcome people to share their questions, suggestions and concerns with us.”
Cinema in the Cemetery will return to Linden Grove on Sept. 8 and Oct. 13. Attendees are encouraged to bring their children, dogs, food, beverages and blankets for the picnic-style events. Visit www.historiclindengrove.org for more information.