Montgomery Co. considers plans for a green cemetery for natural burials

Opportunities for green burials could be coming to northern Silver Spring in Maryland by year’s end, as applications for the project progress through the Montgomery County approval process.

The nonprofit, multifaith natural burial ground would inter bodies free from embalming or chemicals, covered in a shroud, and/or in a readily biodegradable casket that then breaks down naturally. It’s planned for 16621 New Hampshire Ave. north of Spencerville Road.

Remembrance Park’s website states its mission is to reduce the cost of burials, preserve the natural life cycle with the environment, and restore people’s relationship with the natural cycle of life.

Plans for the 40-acre site include a trail system with meditation spaces, where people could reflect upon life, death and renewal.

“The cost of the burial at this location will likely only be approximately $3,500, which is about a third of the average cost of burial in the state of Maryland. It includes the burial lot and burial services,” according to documents provided to the Planning Board by the park’s lawyers, summarizing what was discussed at a public hearing held last December.

Other information shared during the meeting that covered frequently asked questions includes:

  • Neither state nor federal law requires use of burial vaults or grave liners.
  • No evidence to date shows green burials impact ground water. Likely because of mandatory setbacks from water sources and soil filtration abilities.
  • Planned burials of 4 feet are deep enough to prevent animal predation, but shallow enough to promote the fastest decomposition.
  • The Green Burial Council strongly discourages use of herbicides, pesticides, etc. to ensure an environmentally sensitive process.

The Maryland National Park and Planning Commission planning board will conduct a hearing on the matter Thursday. Staff recommends approval of the application “with conditions.”

The Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings will hold a public hearing on July 30.

If everything proceeds smoothly, Remembrance Park anticipates opening before the end of the year.

Editor’s note: While documents filed early in the process to Montgomery County note the location as Remembrance Park, current review of the website indicates the current name of the site is Reflection Park.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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