GET ACTIVE: Woodland workouts combine nature and history

With more than 200 peaceful, hilly acres, thousands of trees and abundant wildlife — not to mention a wealth of Dayton history — Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum is more than a final resting place for 112,000 people, it’s a popular location for walking and running.

“It’s beautiful here and when people visit, the history really intrigues them,” said Misti Spillman, Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum manager of preservation and community outreach.

Founded in 1841, Woodland is considered one of the oldest rural cemeteries in country. The Dayton cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Daytonians including the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Erma Bombeck and Charles Kettering.

“We’re still paying tribute to our history,” Spillman said. “And we’re still that space where people can escape and enjoy a peaceful setting.”

Woodland hosts a variety of historical and nature walks and also partners with local organizations for events like the upcoming Free Your Soles 5K/10K sponsored by Up and Running on April 28. The run – which brings in about 150 participants annually – has been held for more than a decade at Woodland with proceeds benefitting the Woodland Arboretum Foundation.

“It’s safe, first and foremost, and it’s a beautiful place to be,” said Susie Stein, Up and Running owner. “It’s also really challenging because it is so hilly. I always tell people it’s not against the rules to walk.”

Whether it’s a competitive run or a casual historically themed walk, Woodland’s eight miles of roadways offer a picturesque setting for fitness.

Living nature

More than a cemetery, Woodland is also accredited as a Level II arboretum with more than 3,000 trees and 165 native species. The Woodland Arboretum Tree Tour — led by guide Kay Linden — highlights this unique natural space that includes 25 species of Oak trees including 10 current or former state champion trees.

For those whose interest is focused on high-flying friends, the Spring Bird Walk offers a unique opportunity to spot warblers, wrens and Cardinals. Participants are encouraged to bring binoculars to help spot and identify various species with the help of tour guide Jason Antonick.

Tours require a reservation and there is a suggested $5 donation. The donations support the Woodland Arboretum Foundation which focuses on the restoration, preservation, horticultural and educational projects needed to keep Woodland a cultural resource.

Walk through history

Inventors and innovators, criminals and counterfeiters – and even the queen of the Gypsies – Woodland Cemetery is the final resting place for a variety of famous and infamous Daytonians.

The Woodland Historic Tour, always popular History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder Tour and new Influential & Notable African Americans at Woodland Tour bring history to life while guests also log some serious steps. And Woodland hosts 10-15 tours a month so there are plenty of opportunities to lace up your walking shoes.

“One of the things I reassure people is that there are plenty of stops on these tours, so it makes it much less daunting,” Spillman said. “And experiencing the history take people’s minds off the physical part, you almost forget you’re exercising.”

Most tours meet at the Eichelberger Plaza at the main gates of the cemetery. For information or registration, visit

Woodland Cemetery upcoming events

April 27 – Influential & Notable African Americans at Woodland, 2-4 p.m.

April 28 – Free Your Sole 5K/10K, 9 a.m., day-off race registration available. Visit for information.

April 29 and May 6 – Woodland Historic Tour, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

April 30 and May 3 – History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

May 4 – Spring Bird Walk, 9-10:30 a.m.

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