Cemeteries get creative to steady finances, stay independent

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CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) – Forget the old joke about people dying to get in. Cemeteries are getting more interested in attracting the living.

With cremations expected to outpace burials for the first time this year, it’s a way to make up for lost revenue.

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The Cortland Rural Cemetery recently opened a new “cemetrail” using a $30,000 grant. Visitors linger at signposts to read about the people buried there, the geology of the rock used for markers and the trees that shade them.

Larger cemeteries with famous figures have embraced cemetery tourism, charging admission for guided excursions. But independent rural cemeteries without such obvious draws have taken advantage of other assets.

Northern New York’s Black River Cemetery has allowed some selective logging. Riverside Cemetery in Alexandria rents some of its land to grow hay.