Thinking Ahead: Willow Glen Cemetery opens natural burial plot

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As more and more people are choosing to be buried naturally, Willow Glen Cemetery in Dryden wants to help accommodate their green requests. The cemetery recently became certified with the Green Burial Council and have opened up a plot for natural burials free of embalming, coffins, and large polished headstones.


The Willow Glen Green Burial and Natural Area is located on a vacant piece of land that the cemetery has owned for some time now but has yet to make use of. Over the years, natural burial has become a popular option and Willow Glen is excited to be able to offer people the option.


“Through the funeral service career that I’ve had for the last 50 years we have seen an increase in the number of people who say ‘I wish I had a green burial,’” said Brad Perkins, the President of the Board for Willow Glen Cemetery. “You can put a green burial in the regular cemetery but there’s other obstacles that prevent it from being a green burial. So, this is a nice private area, it’s a long way from the state highway, it’s available to be visited year-round.”


To be considered a natural burial cemetery, Willow Glen had to become certified with the Green Burial Council, located in California. The certification means that the natural plot at the cemetery must follow certain rules. At Willow Glen, that means that the person being buried must not be embalmed, must be buried in a container and clothing that will decompose, grave liners including steel vaults or concrete are not permitted, and if there is going to be a stone or tree to mark the grave, they must be natural to the area. Only one person, as a body or as cremation, may be buried in each plot. There will be a winter burial area in case of unfavorable conditions. If a burial cannot happen at a chosen plot because of winter conditions, the site must be exchanged for one in the winter burial area.


According to the Green Burial Council website, cemeteries, preserves, and burials can generally be considered “green” if they meet these criteria: caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.


“This is sort of parallel to what’s being done in the Greensprings Natural Cemetery [Preserve] in Newfield,” said Brad Perkins. “But, in this end of the county, there’s no other cemetery doing this. So, we decided to keep up with the modern trends and offer this as well as continuing to offer burials in the regular part of the cemetery which is 203 years old.”


The natural area will not be mowed. Twice a year the paths through the area will be mowed but the graves will remain untouched.


Anyone interested in claiming their plot in the natural area can do so right now. A 10-foot by 10-foot plot is $1,000. For those who wish to be cremated but would still like to put their ashes in a natural area, a 5-foot by 5-foot plot is $500. The same rules apply to cremation plots that apply to burial plots.


Willow Glen is accessible by TCAT, which travels up Route 13 right by Willow Glen.


“We do endeavor at the cemetery to offer all of the services that the public might request,” Perkins said.


Along with Willow Glen becoming an approved green burial cemetery, the cemetery works with local funeral homes that are also certified with the Green Burial Council.


As the plot becomes more popular, the price of each burial plot will likely go up.


“I predict it won’t be too long before that price might increase more to the market rate,” Perkins said. “So, it’s a good time right now to buy a green grave.”


The regular cemetery has 7,500 people buried in it, and there will be an equal amount of space for the green burial site.


“This is a nice thing to provide the community, and the whole county, and the area around us with,” Perkins said. “We’re well-equipped to provide this way into the future.”


More information about Willow Glen, the green burial rules, and contact information for the cemetery can be found at willowglencemetery.org, or by calling the cemetery at (607) 844-8161. The cemetery caretaker can be reached at (607) 229-5301.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Willow Glen works with a Dryden funeral home that is certified for green burials. The cemetery can work with any funeral home, several of which locally are certified for green burials.

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