Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Keene adopts green burial cemetery plan

norton cemetery in keene

The Town of Keene is creating a Green Graveyard as part of the expansion of its Norton Cemetery.   This is believed to be the first significant Green burial ground in the Adirondacks.

The Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday Dec. 13 to embrace the new plan, beginning with burials in 2023.    

–Burials in this section will be for families desiring that their loved ones be buried without embalming fluid, without a full casket, and without a concrete vault or concrete grave liner.

–Biodegradable wooden or wicker caskets are permitted.  Bodies may also be wrapped in a shroud made of natural fibers and buried without a casket of any kind.

Only flat grave markers of natural stone will be allowed, with a maximum size of 24” x 12.”  Cars will not be permitted to drive in the Natural Burial Section.

The newly expanded cemetery is being developed because the old graveyard is almost full.  The Natural burial section will be separated from the traditional burial section in the new Norton, and will not be landscaped in the traditional cemetery way.  Grasses and wild flowers will be allowed to grow, and mowing will take place only once a year.

The Natural burial policies reduce the environmental impact on the area, and costs will be lower for families and for the Town.

Plots in the three new sections – Green, traditional, cremation urns – are expected to be available in 2023.  Families may contact the Keene Town Clerk to join a waiting list.   Burials are limited to town residents or families with a town connection.  At least 150 Green plots will be ready for sale in 2023.

green burial section of the cemetery in keene

The Town cemetery sexton will dig the graves and can assist families in the burial service.   All appropriate public health standards will be observed.   State law requires that a funeral director be involved in the transfer of all bodies.

Green burials have been growing in popularity around the United States, often as part of traditional cemeteries, although no other town in the Adirondacks has so far started one.   A number of towns in northern Vermont offer Green burials, and found them to be very popular, outselling traditional plots by a wide margin.  There are also Green cemeteries in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys of New York.

Green burials have been taking place on family land and small conservation easements in the Adirondacks for some years. 

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Peter Slocum lives in Keene and is a trustee of the Essex County Historical Association and a volunteer at the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm.      

11 Responses

  1. ADKresident says:

    And the estimated cost to purchase a green burial plot would be…???$?

  2. David Gibson says:

    A wondrous, and fitting way to incorporate in some end of life decisions for those who walked amongst the green of the magnificent peaks of Keene. Thank you for this good news.

  3. Bridgett Allen says:

    Spirit sanctuary in Essex is very similar. Great plan.

  4. Herb says:

    There is another one in the Adirondack Park called Spirit Sanctuary near Essex in the Wildlife corridor. I don’t know why it’s excluded as a “cemetery ” in this article. It may have a different definition but it is a green burial site. You do not have to be connected to the town to qualify to use it.

    • Peter Slocum says:

      There is indeed a reference to the Spirit Sanctuary at the end of this article, and a link to a full article about it, which Beth R has also provided in another comment. Thanks.

  5. Beth Rowland says:

    Here’s more info on the Spirit Sanctuary:

  6. Lorraine Duvall says:

    Thanks for your leadership Peter.

  7. Only flat grave markers allowed. Interesting. Is that intended to reduce future problems with upright grave markers, which tend to require more maintenance? We’ve all seen those problems with heritage cemeteries, where stones eventually lean and fall.

    • Flat grave markers require much less maintenance. Being level with the ground they can just be mowed over when maintaining the grounds rather than using weedwhackers or other equipment around typical upright gravestones.

  8. Mark says:

    I know having embalming fluid is bad for environment, but can anyone link me study on exactly how bad/which compounds get released?

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