All about the work that goes into finding a suitable property for a conservation cemetery.
Green Burial Massachusetts, along with our partner Kestrel Land Trust, has reviewed 20 different properties in the Connecticut River Valley since 2019 in the search for suitable cemetery land. Each time we are alerted about a property through your calls or by real estate listings, here’s what is set into motion:
Soils. We begin our site research by looking at a database of soil conditions, which is based on data provided by both the Natural Resource Conservation Services and a retired soil scientist who helped us categorize suitable soils for the burial of human bodies. (To learn more details on the importance of soils, watch this recording, The Dirt on Soil, hosted by GBM on October 5, 2021).
Water and land boundaries. Through the power of geographic information systems (GIS) and the wealth of information available through the MassGIS Bureau of Information, we are able to remotely perform an initial analysis of a site’s wetlands, streams, floodplains, public water supply, conserved and protected areas, and parcel boundary lines.
Site visit. If the soils look suitable, and the GIS information is favorable for a cemetery, then we make a site visit. While there are some people who can imagine the views while looking at a map, there’s nothing like being on site to experience the beauty of the land. As we walk onto a site, we listen for road noise, notice proximity to neighbors, and ease of access. We can confirm the types of trees, ponds or other wet areas, and take in the iconic vistas of the Connecticut River Valley. Often on a hike, we can find little nooks that would be perfect for a burial or perhaps a burial service. We ask ourselves, what would it be like to have a funeral procession–say a group of 30 people–walking and transporting a casketed body through this terrain? If we think it’s doable, then we proceed.
Present to town boards and commissions. We take this information to town boards and committees to find out what they think or know about green burial, the idea of a conservation cemetery, and how their community might respond to a conservation cemetery. If we have a positive response from the town, we dig deeper (literally!) into the soils. We also request the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to confirm what impact, if any, a cemetery will have on the public water supply.
Business plan.The results of our analyses of soil, water, and community response are compared with our business plan, which is based on 50 to 100 acres of conservation land with at least 10 to 20 acres of suitable cemetery land.
After more than 15 site visits (out of 20 possible properties), in April 2021 we landed on a property that spanned the Northampton | Westhampton boundary. We had high hopes that this property might be a new conservation cemetery, but unfortunately it did not meet our business plan requirement for acreage.
While we haven’t yet located a suitable property, we have learned a lot along the way, and are committed to putting what we’ve learned toward making this vision a reality. Our search for a conservation cemetery is back ON!
All our hard work is supported by people like you. Thank you for your interest, words of encouragement and on-going financial support.