Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery is a nonprofit organization that has found creative ways to merge historical and environmental preservation. The resting place of many pioneering homesteaders, Warren Ferris Cemetery is a culturally significant historical site in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Dallas. Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery formed in 2019 and has been dedicated to restoring historical cemeteries for their communities ever since. There are over 50,000 Texas cemeteries, and of those, 15,000 are historical. After realizing that one third of these cemeteries are neglected, Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery identified an opportunity to rehabilitate these historical cemeteries while expanding habitat corridors for local and migratory wildlife.
Since 2019, they have amassed a number of achievements including obtaining 501c3 non-profit status, planting over 175 native trees and plants, and earning $13,000 in grant funding from the Summerlee Foundation and the Texas Urban Forestry Council. Their mission revolves around raising awareness for the importance of historical cemeteries while revitalizing the environment through the reintroduction of native species. They have created a model plan that they hope can be implemented at historical cemeteries everywhere.
Project Description & History
The Constellation of Living Memorials program is a native landscape restoration project. Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery has designed a plan to transform historical cemeteries into native wildlife habitat in order to bring attention to their histories and increase native biodiversity. A highlight of this process is the attention to detail and intentionality at each step. As soon as a cemetery is identified, ownership is determined, and official boundaries are defined, habitat zones are mapped, and a primary plant survey is conducted in each zone. Finally, a plan is developed with landscape design and a timeline for execution. Additionally an iNaturalist page, similar to this one, will be set up to help track the rehabilitation progress and be an ongoing and interactive way to log flora and fauna sightings over time.
The initial installation of the program took place at Warren Ferris Cemetery in 2021 and has seen promising results since. They plan to expand the program and have identified six additional historical cemeteries in Texas that are great candidates for increased exposure on both the historical and environmental fronts. In addition to the Constellation of Living Memorials project, the Friends of Warren Ferris Cemetery have launched the Tree of Life Project, in which they relocate young trees from the Warren Ferris Cemetery to other locations to avoid overcrowding and maintain a healthy ecosystem on and off the cemetery grounds.
The goal of Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery is to restore the beauty of natural spaces and honor the history of the sites, all while increasing their accessibility to the public and environmental impact. The group identified a problem of vandalism and neglect locally at the Warren Ferris Cemetery and saw an opportunity to create a solution that could be replicated statewide, or even nationally. Currently, there are 275 people subscribed to their monthly newsletter, and many members of the Forest Hills neighborhood show their support for their mission through donating and volunteering. Friends of the Warren Ferris Cemetery builds community through hands-on volunteer work at the cemetery and at other sites, and has found an engaging and impactful way to merge important Texas history with its environmental future.