1. What is a nature preserve cemetery?
A nature preserve cemetery bears little resemblance to a conventional cemetery. There are no manicured lawns or rows of headstones. Our philosophy is that Foxfield Preserve is a nature preserve first . Trails meander through forest and prairie and naturalists are restoring the site by planting native prairie grasses, wildflowers, and trees.
2. What type of burials are permitted at Foxfield Preserve?
We have only natural burials (also referred to as “green burial”). This is how most people were buried throughout the ages. The use of concrete vaults and embalming are relatively new concepts, becoming popular during the U.S. Civil War times.
In a natural burial a person is laid to rest in a biodegradable container such as a wooden casket, shroud, or cardboard cremation container. They are not embalmed and no vaults are used. The body is dressed in natural fibers such as cotton or wool. The goal is to embrace the bodies return to the earth. It is the true “dust to dust” form of burial.
3. Is natural (green) burial legal?
Yes. Most of what you may think is law is either rules of individual cemeteries or common practices assumed to be legal requirements. There is no law that a vault must be used but many cemeteries require this for ease of maintenance and to achieve a higher burial density. Embalming is only required in a limited number of states, and under rare circumstances.
4. Doesn’t embalming preserve a body for all time?
No. It only slows decomposition for a short time.
5. Can I have a viewing if the body is not embalmed?
Family members cannot be denied their right to view the remains. However, a public viewing is something you would need to discuss with your funeral director. Some will allow public viewing with the use of refrigeration, but you should confirm this in advance if this is important to you.
6. Can we bury or scatter cremated remains?
Yes. Foxfield Preserve accepts cremation remains. There are areas of Foxfield Preserve designated for ashes. For a small fee we keep record of the genealogical information and GPS coordinates of a scattering. Over the years many people have scattered the ashes of loved ones at The Wilderness Center.
7. What type of grave markers are permitted?
Grave markers are permitted but optional. Markers must be a natural stone, such as granite or high-quality sandstone. They cannot be polished and should have the appearance of natural stone. They may be engraved. Stones must lie flat on the ground, cannot extend more than 3 inches above the ground and should not exceed 216 sq inches (12” x 18”) of surface area.
8. How large are the plots at Foxfield Preserve?
The plots at Foxfield Preserve are much larger than those at a conventional cemetery. Our plots are 10-feet X 20-feet and are suitable for the interment of one casket, one casket and one cremated remains, or two cremated remains.
9. How deep are graves?
Graves are excavated 3.5 ft. deep, similar to most cemeteries (six feet under is a bit of a myth). Since vaults are not used, soil is mounded over the grave. Graves at Foxfield will settle naturally, depending on weather and precipitation.
10. Will animals disturb the gravesites?
No. Burial is one of the oldest technologies. It is truly a prehistoric technology. Animals simply do not dig into graves. Ramsey Creek, a nature preserve cemetery in South Carolina, has a wild boar population and black bears and they have never had any problem. This is one of those “old-wives-tale” myths popular in scary stories.
11. Does a nature preserve cemetery hurt water quality?
No. Natural land produces cleaner water than urban, suburban, or agricultural areas. The forest and prairie watershed at Foxfield Preserve will provide cleaner water for the Sugar Creek watershed.
12. Can my family dig the grave?
No. Hand digging a grave is very hard labor and requires skill few people possess. Family and friends are welcome to close the grave. Families who have closed graves have found it to be a powerful experience. The cemetery steward will be on hand to quietly supervise a closing.
13. May we have a funeral at The Wilderness Center?
Graveside services are welcome at Foxfield Preserve. Indoor services are best handled by professionals or the family. Rooms at the Interpretive Building may be available to rent for meals or receptions following interment. Families often enjoy holding a memorial in a Wilderness Center picnic shelter during good weather when everyone can see Foxfield Preserve and enjoy walking the trails.
14. Is natural (green) burial against anyone’s religion?
Considering the diversity of religious beliefs that is a tough question. It does not conflict with any major religions. Some faiths require it. Natural burial is in keeping with the most ancient burial traditions.
15. How is the cemetery maintained?
Foxfield is a nature preserve, so there will be very little maintenance compared to a typical cemetery. The trails are maintained to provide easy access to the site and hazardous trees will be removed. If Foxfield Preserve looks like a conventional cemetery, we have failed. It should look like forest and prairie.
16. How will families locate gravesites at Foxfield Preserve?
Ohio Law requires Foxfield Preserve to keep careful records of precise burial locations. These records are kept on paper and electronically. Interment sites can be located precisely by measurements from survey pins. GPS coordinates are recorded for every gravesite; hand held GPS units usually track to about 15-feet at Foxfield Preserve. The Foxfield steward is also on-hand to help families locate a gravesite.
17. Can I plant a tree or flower on my plot?
A native tree or wildflower may be planted on certain sites. Plantings must coincide with our site restoration goals and be suitable for the site. The steward has an approved species list and can help with choosing a memorial planting.
18. How can I purchase a site at Foxfield Preserve?
The Foxfield Preserve Steward can help you arrange for a visit to the site or can help you select a site if you are unable to visit. Informational sessions are also offered at The Wilderness Center’s Hart Interpretive Building each month. Visit our contact page to reach the Foxfield Steward.
19. Should I pre-plan with a Funeral Director?
It is best to visit Foxfield Preserve before Meeting with a Funeral Director. That way you can select a space and have most of your questions answered. The best funeral directors will understand your desire for a natural burial in a nature preserve.
20. How can I learn more about natural (green) burial?
You can visit the Green Burial Council website. This is an organization creating standards and benchmarks for members of the funeral services industry offering “green” alternatives. Those organizations meeting their standards can receive certification and approved provider status.
Consider reading the book Grave Matters by Mark Harris. The book provides information and insight into a growing movement focusing on natural burials.