Overgrown walking paths used by Vale Cemetery’s visitors during the 1800s will be restored thanks to a $8,100 grant awarded to the cemetery Tuesday by the Preservation League of New York State.
The 100-acre cemetery, which encompasses 15 city blocks, was established in 1857 and can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.
The trails that have fallen into obscurity are located in a hilly section of the 40-acre portion of the property that became Vale Park in 1974. The trails can be found in the section that abuts the Eastern Avenue neighborhood, near Lomasney Avenue.
Once restored, the paths will lead visitors through an area rich with wildlife, trees and wildflowers. The section includes two small lakes, a ravine and wooded areas.
“The lakes have lots of turtles that come up and lay their eggs up here in the park and go back down, and carp, huge carp,” said Bernard McEvoy, vice president of the Vale Cemetery Association, who noted Vale also has nearly 90 varieties of trees.
The Preservation League grant will fund a historic landscape report to be completed by landscape architect Robert Toole. The report will assist in the effort to improve access throughout the cemetery and adjacent park.
Once the trails are mapped, they will be cleared and covered with crushed stone and stone dust to make them walkable. Eventually, interpretive signs may also be installed, McEvoy said.
The report will be completed in the spring, and the trails will be usable in about two years, he estimated.
“The park with the cemetery is a great recreational area,” McEvoy said. “The bike path is here, the Stockade-athon comes through here, the Vale 5K runs through here.”
The Vale Cemetery Association’s ongoing efforts to make the cemetery community-friendly caught the attention of the Preserve New York grant program panel, said Erin Tobin, regional director of technical and grant programs for the Preservation League.
“I know the Vale Cemetery Association has been very interested in bringing the community into the cemetery, using it as a recreational space and opening up its borders so it is more of a porous resource for the surrounding community, and that was very compelling to us in making the grant — to make it less of a hidden treasure and more of a celebrated treasure,” she said.