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Letter to the Editor: Green burial sought, denied

Township board denies request in Mildred Cemetery

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My request to do a green burial for my mother next to my father in the Mildred Cemetery was denied last month by Pine River Township.

A green burial means that the body is not embalmed, that there is no concrete vault and the burial materials are biodegradable. It is legal in the state of Minnesota. The requirement is that the body is buried within 72 hours.

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Did you know:

Author and natural-burial advocate Mark Harris writes in his book "Grave Matters" (Scribner, 2007) that every 10 acres of cemetery ground eventually hide:

  • 20,000 tons of burial-vault concrete.
  • 1 ton of casket metals.
  • Coffin wood to build more than 40 homes.
  • Enough toxic embalming residue to fill a backyard swimming pool.
  • Gallons of pesticides and weed killers to keep cemetery landscape lovely.

In a letter sent to me, Pine River Township denied my request due to "long term maintenance work that is done in the cemetery and to make it easily assessable (accessible?) to all family members."

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Over the phone, a city board member complained to me about the cost of upkeep of the cemetery. They also expressed a concern of wild animals unearthing bodies. (Regulations require bodies to be buried at least 3.5 feet deep.)

They also expressed a concern of the ground shifting after decomposition.

I will go ahead and find another location to bury my mother the way she wants to be buried. Her stone lies at Mildred along with my dad.

It makes me sad that they won't be buried together because of fears of change and apathy from the township board.

Carolyn Dehnbostel,

Ely

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