“Green Burial” Site Permit Requested

Brent Finnegan -- December 15th, 2009

Tomorrow evening, the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors will hear a request from Kenny Kyger for a special use permit to create Duck Run Natural Cemetery, a gravestone-free private park in Penn Laird where people would be buried the old-fashioned, biodegradable way.

According to greenburials.org:

Green burial, or natural burial, ensure the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects. Interment of the bodies is done in a bio-degradable casket, shroud, or a favorite blanket. No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults.

The special use permit report (pages 90 -98 of this PDF) says that the eight-acre property on a former poultry farm would look more like a park than a graveyard, as it would have no gravestones, but may have a “gathering building” on premises.


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The report says, “this is a new concept for cemeteries.” I thought it was the way working-class people have been buried throughout human history until relatively recently.

(Thanks, Karl)

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31 Responses to ““Green Burial” Site Permit Requested”

  1. Justin says:

    Damn, times are tough when we can’t spend thousands of dollars to put a nice shiny box in a hole in the ground.

  2. That will be good for those who like the idea…but I think that when I go, I would like people to actually find my grave and mourn me there…instead of in some kind of communal center (the aforementioned “gathering building”) with other people mourning their past losses.

  3. Emmy says:

    Interesting. It certainly makes sense, but I wonder how many people will go for it. I plan to donate everything that’s viable when I go so hopefully there won’t be much left of me anyway.

  4. Nancy says:

    I think this is a great idea, and I think if it’s approved, it will be a boon to Kyger. I’d be open to doing something like this, but I don’t like to idea of “no headstones.” If my family wants to visit my grave, I think they should be able to.

  5. Renee says:

    Wow, neat.

    I’m with Emmy – I’m an organ donor. Also, I’d rather be cremated than preserved, but this is a nice option, too. I never really understood the whole fancy-casket pricey-burial thing. Unless you’re an ancient Egyptian that believes your physical body is necessary for the afterlife.

    For people that want to be memorialized somehow, I wonder if they have a central monument with engraved names or something in place of tombstones.

  6. It makes more sense to me to have a stone wall, like the Vietnam Memorial in DC, where peoples’ names can be engraved into it.

  7. Brooke says:

    Honestly with land becoming scarcer and scarcer, I don’t even know that we (hubby and I) plan on being buried anywhere. I plan to donate what can be used and cremate the rest.

  8. This is good for those who are into this sort of thing…but I’d rather have a headstone, myself. That’s just my preference.

  9. Bill says:

    Stick me (whats left after any useful things occur) in the ground with acorns on my chest. Maybe someone can build a table out of the tree some day. That would be a nice marker.

  10. Give my feet to the footloose
    Careless, fancy free
    Give my knees to the needy
    Don’t pull that stuff on me
    Hand me down my walking cane
    It’s a sin to tell a lie
    Send my mouth way down south
    And kiss my ass goodbye

    –John Prine, Please Don’t Bury Me

  11. republitarian says:

    The idea of no gravestones to mow around intrigues me. Could you use GPS to “mark” where each body lies so family members know exactly where their loved ones are buried?

  12. Renee says:

    republitarian – yes, within probably a couple of meters

  13. For Republitarian and any others interested-Unless you have expensive survey grade GPS, then standard receiver isn’t more accurate than to ten feet and even less under trees. This why we supply 60 UK burial grounds with an underground microchip marking system to ensure they bury family next to each other or exhume the correct remains if required by coroner. Happy to give you or Brent more details if you email, as only a little under case studies on our website. Would be good if Duck Run pioneered in USA, as now being adopted in Australia too. Stephen

  14. Brian says:

    I don’t know why anyone would to forego the gravestones. It makes no sense to me.

  15. Don Kidd says:

    I always thought I’d like to be cremated, after removing anything that’s still usable. Then take my ashes to Dearborn, MI and sprinkle them in the ashtrays of new Fords as they go down the assembly line. But since they aren’t putting ashtrays in new cars any more I guess that’s another dream that won’t be coming true! :-)

  16. Brian, Many burial ground owners allow no markers because they are man made and just interfere with the natural landscape, which for many is how the earth should be preserved. Many families now prefer that view to remember their loved one by rather than in the middle of a forest of polished marble.

  17. Emmy says:

    I’ve only visited the grave of a loved one after burial once with my grandmother. I guess it’s just not something I do, but I can see why people would want to. Oddly enough while waiting at a stoplight next to a cemetery the other day I started thinking about my own headstone and realized it really isn’t something that I’m concerned with one way or the other. I think it would be nice for my children to come and visit a nice park to remember me perhaps with something like Brent suggested; a nice wall with names engraved. Seems a little less depressing.

  18. Karl says:

    As I sit here listening to Kenny speak about the proposal to the BOS, I wonder a couple things…

    No vaults…vaults became required in many states (not Virginia) as a safety measure to ensure the integrity of the land underfoot for those visiting and those working a the parks. What if Virginia decides in the future to make vaults a requirement?

    I also hope folks don’t change their mind. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes bodies are moved as relatives move or decide they don’t care for the cemetery. This wouldn’t be a viable option here with lack of real caskets and vaults to protect the body.

    Funny that the BOS heard about how dangerous it was to bury a cow due to adverse affects on water table, but seems to be buying that 900 dead bodies per acre isn’t going to do anything to a persons well at the end of the road. Maybe farmers should move into the cemetery business.

  19. Lowell Fulk says:

    Quite honestly, what happens to this body after I’m gone holds no concern for me. I am an organ donor but I question which ones will still be any good when I’m done beating them up.

    I want my children to think of me when they see a sunset, or a songbird, or a flower, or an apple, or when they hear music or view art, because I’ve tried to teach them to see the beauty and appreciate their blessings. Beyond that, gravestones just don’t mean so much to me, and I won’t be needing the vehicle I’m now running into the ground anymore, so no sense in saving it…

    Maybe fuel for the composter? Perhaps as a study aid for medical students? Perhaps as an example to say, “Don’t let this happen to you”?

  20. Karl says:

    Issue tabled by BOS

  21. Emmy says:

    I’m totally with you on that one Lowell. The only thing I don’t really care for is the idea of having my body used in one of those cadaver farms. Aside from that, I’m starting to think I’d be OK with just about any other option.

  22. Deb SF says:

    RE: Lowell @ 9:16 — Amen.

  23. I see your point, Lowell, and I agree with you on how I want my kin remember me…but even after my soul has left my body, I want people to have a place to come visit me until they can join me in whatever afterlife we will meet again. Call me sentimental, that’s just how I am.

  24. Karl makes some good points above, too.

  25. republitarian says:

    The Old Orders up the road bury in plain boxes with no vaults. The family is responsible for filling in the grave as the body and box deteriorate. We’ve buried cows all over our farm because there is no rendering service. While composting is an option, you still have bones. Obviously, we bury them away from water sources…so Bandit doesn’t have to worry about filing some false claim with the DEQ against me……

  26. Lowell Fulk says:

    I understand and respect your thoughts Phil, and many share your sentiment and philosophy, I’m only speaking of where I am.

    My brothers and sister visit our parent’s grave site regularly and with faithfulness.

    I see my Mother in my daughters when we use her recipes this time of year to bake cookies and breads and such. I see Mom in my daughters when we work together to be a blessing in someone’s life through service because my Mother dedicated herself in that direction.

    I see my Father in my girls when they bravely stand up for someone who is being unjustly treated or when they call BS on someone who is attempting to justify in some fashion being unproductive or dishonest or unfair.

    I rarely visit graves. But that is just me.

  27. eso says:

    My understanding is that Jewish tradition is to bury directly into the ground. Or if a coffin is required by law, a plain wood box. Some even drill holes in the box to speed up decomposition. So similar to this plan.

    But I just can’t see a big market for such a cometary in this area.

  28. seth says:

    “Some even drill holes in the box to speed up decomposition.”

    my mother is a fish….

  29. Huskerdee says:

    I love the idea. And I love that I live near that area. But, Mr. Kyger, at least spend the dime for some kind of fixture so that relatives can find the graves, even if it’s a detailed map based on the lay of the land, outcroppings, etc.

  30. Kyger has a write-up today in Tonic about green burial sites.

  31. linz says:

    Special-use permit for Kyger to develop Duck Run Natural Cemetery was approved 3-2 yesterday by the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.

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