Parks & Recreation


DATE:           April 8, 2008


TO:              Dave Corliss, City Manager

                    Cynthia Boecker, Assistant City Manager


CC:               Diane Stoddard, Assistant City Manager


FROM:          Ernie Shaw, Interim Director Parks and Recreation


RE:               Green Burials


The purpose of this memo is to discuss “Green” or Natural Burial options for the City of Lawrence. Green burial ensures the burial site remains as natural as possible in all respects. Interment of the bodies is done in a biodegradable casket, shroud or a favorite blanket. The process uses no embalming fluid and no concrete vaults.


This is a fairly new concept especially in the midwest.  There are only a few approved provider sites scattered around the country, including DeFuniak Springs and Dunedin, Florida; San Jacinto County, Texas; Conyers, Georgia; Westminster, South Carolina; Newfield, New York; Limington, Maine; Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Francisco, California.  Green burial sites are proposed in Denver, Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Blaine, Washington; and South Orrington, Maine.


We contacted Joe Schee, President of the Green Burial Council to discuss approved standards and practices for a natural burial ground. In order for the City of Lawrence to be classified as an “approved provider”, we would have to meet one of three classification levels. After review and staff discussion, it was determined that we could meet all three levels of classification if that is the direction desired.  Level 3 would be use of vault-less burials, no use of toxic chemicals (embalming) and use of burial containers made of biodegradable materials.  Level 2 would require deed restriction/assurance to prevent the cemetery from accommodating conventional burial.  Level 1 would be having a restoration specialist on staff.  It was determined that our horticulture staff would be classified as such.  All the approved standards and practices of the green burial council could be placed in our rules and regulations.


On March 3, we invited all three local funeral homes to a meeting to discuss the concept of the city opening a green burial cemetery.   Warren-McElwain and Rumsey-Yost were present and the Lawrence Funeral Chapel was not represented.  Representatives from the two funeral homes in attendance did not have a concern about this option and said that they currently have these requests and are practicing this type service with the Jewish community.


We also contacted Mack Smith, Director of the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts, he expressed that he does not have any concerns with the City opening a Natural or Green Cemetery. His only comment was that the funeral homes would need to continue to follow state laws. 


The City’s Legal Department researched whether any state or local laws exist that would prohibit green or natural burials form occurring. They found no state laws or regulations which would prohibit the City from offering green burial options.  State laws will continue to have to be observed and people exercising the option for a green or natural burial for a loved one will have to comply with the state laws governing the transporting and interring of dead human bodies, including requirements for burying a dead human body in which the death resulted from an infectious or contagious disease.


It would still be up to the funeral homes to prepare the body for the green burial and our role would not change much from our normal duties of managing the plot, opening and closing the grave site and returning the plot to its natural setting.


We have identified property at Oak Hill cemetery (see attached map) that we can coordinate with Public Works to plot. The area out lined on the map is approximately 50 X 60 feet and estimated to accommodate 54 burials which can be expanded if the need arises.  The estimate for startup cost would be minimal at this site. We would need to remove some underbrush, level the area and plant some additional natural grasses and flowers. We would recommend allowing natural living trees, wild flowers or ecologically functional stones or boulders inside the natural area as grave makers.    


Should the commission so direct the city to open a natural “green burial” cemetery we feel we can handle start up costs with in budget and if needed phase in plantings over a few years.



The following web sites provide additional information regarding green burial: