Riverside Cemetery Gets Some TLC from MSU Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events Students


Posted Thu, Oct 31, 2013


MSU Denver's Hospitality, Tourism and Events students forge ahead with their preservation efforts of Denver's Riverside Cemetery. Photo Credit: Helle Sorensen

MSU Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events students forge ahead with their preservation efforts of Denver’s Riverside Cemetery. [Photo Credit: Helle Sorensen]

DENVER — Cemeteries are the resting ground for loved ones to be cherished and remembered, but some historical sites like Denver’s Riverside Cemetery have become an afterthought due to financial woes.

“It’s more than just a historical cemetery, it depicts ethnic diversity of the early settlers,” explains Patricia Carmody, executive director of the Fairmont Heritage Foundation.

Riverside Cemetery, founded in 1876, was declared a national historic district in 1994, and is Denver’s oldest operating cemetery. It is also the resting place of the city’s first female entrepreneurs such as Augusta Tabor and Clara Brown- who was also the first African-American female entrepreneur to be inducted into the Society of Colorado Pioneers. Its rich and diverse history extends further to include Miguel Otero, Barney & Julia Ford, Cpt. Silas Soule, and Gov. John Evans, as well as 1,200 Civil War veterans.

It’s because of its rich history that it requires such delicate maintenance of the property.

“Riverside features one of the largest known collections of zinc monuments in the world,” says Carmody, who added that the property requires a drip irrigation system so as not to damage the monuments.

MSU Denver’s Professor of hospitality, tourism and events Helle Sorensen teaches a course devoted to voluntourism and sustainability topics- many of the issues that affect Riverside.

“Voluntourism typically is the time you devote contributing to the benefit of the place you’re visiting by volunteering on professionally organized projects with local orphanages, wildlife centers or community centers,” explains Sorensen.

“I take students to places that most have never been exposed to,” says Sorensen who brought 32 students last month to Riverside and has made this project part of her course curriculum since 2011.

Sorensen takes her students two to three times a year to discuss the issues affecting the historical site. The students typically perform invasive yard work and helped to restore the property this year by mulching, weeding and planting of the new heritage iris garden.

“It’s not glamorous, obviously it’s a cemetery,” says Sorensen but added that while most associate fear and gloom with cemeteries, Sorensen sees all the sustainability awareness opportunities.

Riverside is a hidden gem and is just as tour worthy as any other historical cemetery in the nation and its impact on Denver’s tourism industry could benefit the city while preserving our historical assets.  New Orleans has managed to fund their historical education and restoration projects through proceeds from ticket sales on cemetery tours that attract thousands of visitors annually.

“Most people cringe when they think of cemeteries because they think of death and disaster,” says Sorensen who aims to change that stigma with the help of her students and community awareness. “But it’s an important place, full of history, culture and a rich landscape that future generations should be able to enjoy.”

“Our foundation is purely funded through donations,” said Carmody and added “Helle’s students are a tremendous help to our cemetery.”


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About Elizabeth Deluna

Elizabeth Deluna is a Denver-area journalist and publicist at DeLuna Communications L.L.C.

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