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Green cemetery set to host public at third annual picnic

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 7:26 p.m.
Submitted photo
Penn Forest founder and owner Pete McQuillin talks with attendee's at last year's picnic. This year's picnic, which is free and open to the public, will take place June 1 at the cemetery, on Colorado Street.
Submitted photo
Visitors take a tour of the cemetery grounds during last year's picnic. This year's picnic, which is free and open to the public, will take place June 1 at the cemetery, on Colorado Street.

Penn Forest Natural Burial Park founder and owner Pete McQuillin organized the cemetery's first picnic as a “thank-you” to the people who had helped him establish Pennsylvania's first fully green cemetery.

Over the past two years, McQuillin has found common ground with local eco-friendly companies, and the picnic has evolved into more of a miniature green event.

“It's all about reuse,” McQuillin said of this year's picnic, which will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on June 1 at the cemetery, located at 155 Colorado St.

McQuillin said the first picnic was enough of a success that he began building on it.

“Everyone here is really like family,” he said. “The people who come here are all cut from the same cloth: we're all into doing things that are friendly to the earth.”

In that spirit, the picnic will feature demonstrations by Zero Fossil Energy Outfitters, a supplier of alternative and green energy products, workshops on sustainability, recycling and composting and tours of the grounds.

The cemetery also has formed a partnership with the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Verona. Because of the burial park's completely natural, 32-acre wooded setting, center officials thought it an ideal place to release rehabilitated animals.

“We have similar interests and overlapping goals: creating a forest,” said Gilda Arroyo, humane and environmental educator at the wildlife center. “So we want to release animals into their natural habitat. Since we serve the same community, we thought it would be a good match.”

Arroyo said the relatively untouched setting and lack of traffic made the burial park ideal.

“This seemed like the perfect place to release squirrels, chipmunks, that type of animal,” Arroyo said. She will be on hand at the picnic with center volunteers with educational materials and to make people aware of the center, which is located on Verona Road.

McQuillin said he hopes the picnic, which is free and open to the public, will be a big draw.

“A lot of people want to tour the place, but they think we'll try and sell them a cemetery plot,” McQuillin said. “That's not the case. It's just a fun event, and a way to get people here,” he said.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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