Town Designates ‘James Marceline Arboretum’

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Education

The late James “Jimmy” Marceline, whose name has now been given to the new arboretum at Island Pond Cemetery. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH The late James “Jimmy” Marceline gave generously to the town of Harwich as a civic leader, a businessman and a compassionate neighbor. He believed particularly in the value of education, having been a key supporter of Cape Tech and the Harwich schools. In a gesture of thanks last week, selectmen voted unanimously to place Mr. Marceline’s name on a new educational space: the proposed arboretum at Island Pond Cemetery.

If all goes well, the arboretum will be fully operational by early this summer, Cemetery Administrator Robbin Kelley said.

“He was an advocate for education, and this is going to be an educational learning facility for both the young and the old,” she said. The cemetery has at least 52 different species of trees, and is a natural classroom for botany and local history. It’s already a destination for students from the Monomoy and Lighthouse Charter School districts. “We have little scavenger hunts where they have to locate leaves from certain trees, or famous people located in the cemetery,” Kelley said. They plan on having one on Veterans Day, encouraging students to find graves from those who fought in World War I, the Civil War and other wars, as well as a woman veteran.

Mr. Marceline died two years ago at the age of 92, and is buried next to his wife Lillian, whose grave in Island Pond he tended lovingly for many years. Plans were already underway to establish an arboretum at the cemetery, which is arguably one of the town’s most attractive public spaces, and shortly after Mr. Marceline’s death, the cemetery commission voted unanimously to support naming the arboretum in his honor. Last week, selectmen approved the request.

“This is a proud day in the history of Harwich,” Selectman Donald Howell said. “This guy was an amazing human being.”

The town is working collaboratively with the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and with members of Americorps Cape Cod, two programs of Barnstable County government, to research the various tree species. From yews and towering Norway spruces to Japanese flowering cherry trees, the cemetery has more than twice the number of species needed for listing as an arboretum on the accrediting website. The application for accreditation will be made in June, but Kelley said she wanted to make sure Mr. Marceline’s name could officially be put on that application before it was submitted.

The town is in the process of purchasing special three-by-five-inch tree tags that will identify each species’ common name, its taxonomic name, and a few interesting facts. The tree tags will be linked to a mobile app that will serve as a guide for visitors with smartphones. Kelley said the town has just opened bids from companies interested in creating that app, and the contract should be awarded soon.

“They’re going to be taking photos of the trees by the spring or early summer” for use in the app, she said.

Much of the work on the project has been done at no cost to the town, and volunteer artists are even being sought to help sketch some of the tree species’ leaves for use on the tree tags. The town is also preparing an application for a Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Grant from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to help fund improvements at the site.

As part of an ongoing replacement of signs for the town’s cemeteries, a new sign will be installed at Island Pond that includes the designation “James G. Marceline Arboretum,” Kelley said.

Before finalizing the name, town officials talked to members of the Marceline family.

“Their whole family thought this was a great idea,” she said.

A World War II veteran and an inductee in the Harwich Hall of Fame, Mr. Marceline owned a salvage company for more than 50 years, and was a staunch advocate for education, affordable housing and natural resources protection. For years, he was a respected voice at town meeting, which he always attended wearing a suit coat and tie.

“I think it’s important that his legacy lives on,” Kelley said. “He did a lot for this town. It would be a shame if future generations didn’t know what a good guy he was.”

Resident Leo Cakounes said there are many in town, not just the cemetery commission members, who support adding Mr. Marceline’s name to the arboretum.

“I think it’s an excellent project, and it certainly stands for all the things my friend Jimmy stood for,” he said.