From the Roanoake (Va.) Times of June 17, 2005:
Fake headstones turning heads in Blacksburg
A Virginia Tech project could help cemetery operators and average homeowners with their lawn care.
By Kevin Miller
New River Current
BLACKSBURG -- Mike Goatley had anticipated the questions from curious callers. After all, you can't create a graveyard overnight next to a well-traveled Blacksburg road without attracting attention.
Had Virginia Tech opened a pet cemetery? Could Hokie fanatics buy a burial plot on this near-sacred land just around the corner from Lane Stadium? Or were the simple, white headstones meant as a political statement?
In truth, the only thing planted in the soil of Goatley's Southgate Drive cemetery are grass seeds. But the Virginia Tech researcher believes the eventual findings of this eye-catching experiment into turf types could be of monumental interest to anyone who spends time tending a lawn in Southwest Virginia.
Goatley, a turf specialist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, and his assistants are trying to figure out which grass types achieve the best look for the least amount of work. He then intends to convey his findings to cemetery owners, who devote countless hours to grounds maintenance.
"It truly is for cemeteries, although the data will apply to anyone," he said.
But why the headstones?
The headstones help delineate the different treatment areas. Goatley's research team also painted lines two inches from the headstones' base to determine when the grass needs mowing.
Lastly, they're a good way to get the public interested in the research. Goatley set up a similar fake cemetery at Mississippi State University, his former employer, and got plenty of attention.
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