Partnering with Land Trusts

Two things are essential in a burial ground: It must be close to where one lives, and the land must be beautiful.

Ed Bixby of Steelmantown Cemetery in NJ

A few years ago, GBM conducted an online survey and we learned some things about what is desired and even required for a successful green burial ground. (See the survey results here). Respondents told us that two things are essential in a burial ground: It must be close to where they lived, and the land must be beautiful.

A Local Burial Ground is Best

We understand the importance of your neighborhood and the desire to walk to the local cemetery. We also know that as local cemeteries fill up, people still want to be buried near a place called ‘home’. For some that might be in a so-called eco-region. The Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance (SEMPBA) is helping to conserve land from Plymouth to Cape Cod and the Islands. Recently, a group of us from GBM, SEMPBA, and Connecticut Green Burial Grounds visited Steelmantown Cemetery in Steelmantown, N.J., a natural burial ground in a forest of pitch pine and scrub oak with sandy soils.

Surprisingly, southern New Jersey feels a lot like Southeastern Massachusetts. Steelmantown Cemetery is a perfect example of how natural burials can help protect a pine barren eco-region.

GBM continues to be inspired by Leigh Youngblood’s determination to find property for a green burial ground. Leigh is Executive Director of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and sees that “a green cemetery sets aside open space for natural habitat and encourages the public to visit a beautiful destination for generations to come. Combining natural burials with land conservation demonstrates another way that protected land can benefit people as well as the land.”

Land Must Be Beautiful

GBM began working with Kristin DeBoer, Executive Director of Kestrel Land Trust in 2017. She says, “The idea of creating a conservation cemetery in the Pioneer Valley has captured my imagination. I would love to find an inspiring parcel of land with views of the Mount Holyoke Range and Mount Tom Reservation, or the distant blue hills of the Berkshires, or the sparkling silvery bend of the Connecticut River—a flowering field or deep green forest that can touch the heart and soothe the soul. Kestrel Land Trust hopes to help Green Burial Massachusetts acquire a parcel of land that captures the beauty of the Valley’s landscape to offer nature’s consolation to friends and family who come to bury and mourn the loss of their loved ones who also loved this special place in Massachusetts.”

Since 2014, we have considered dozens of parcels; and driven by or walked through about a dozen of those in both the Central/North Quabbin and West/Pioneer Valley regions. All of us at GBM are heartened by working with our dedicated land trust partners to find properties that are just right for natural burial grounds.

The idea that our bodies will some day help conserve beautiful land propels us onward toward our goal of establishing green burial grounds in Massachusetts that are affordable and open to all.

Partnering with Land Trusts
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