Two possibilities for Ontario: hybrids and dedicated sites
Dedicated green burial grounds are enveloped in a natural landscape. Some span a hundred acres, and others are smaller, yet nestled in nature in every direction. Dedicated sites aren’t attached to conventional cemeteries. There aren’t any dedicated natural burial grounds in Ontario yet (we’re working on it!), but you can marvel at beautiful sites that inspire us.
Hybrids are natural areas within a conventional cemetery. They are usually between half – two acres. Below are some lovely hybrids that truly follow the tenets of natural burial.
Here are some questions you may want to ask the cemetery:
- Is winter burial offered
- What are the memorialization options (individual or communal marker, or GPS (Legally cemeteries must be able to find a grave, regardless of whether or not there’s a marker)
- What work is the cemetery undertaking to restore the land to its natural habitat
- Can the family participate in the lowering of a loved one, decorating the grave, and filling in the grave
- Costs, and incremental costs (eg, weekend burial, pallbearers, etc)
Willow’s Rest, offers 2 acres of natural habitat nestled at the back of Fairview Cemetery. Nearly two hundred new native trees create an enclosure for the beautiful wildflower meadow. A local artist carved a bench and sculpture from a fallen ash tree. There are several monarch butterfly pollinator gardens, as well as bee hives. An educational program invites school groups to help plant wildflowers and expose them to something natural in life: death. (Green Burial Society of Canada accreditation).
Union Cemetery’s green burial section, which opened in 2012, is Ontario’s first modern day green burial. Behind the conventional cemetery lies a meadow overlooking Cobourg Creek. The managers of the site do all they can to minimize a carbon footprint, including digging the graves by hand. Dedicated land stewards, they also pull out any invasive species by hand. If cremated remains are at home waiting to be interred together with a loved one then they will accept those cremains, understanding that partners and families desire to rest together.
In the middle of the picturesque town of Picton lies a cemetery that dates back to the 1870s. Within the cemetery grounds, Glenwood Cemetery created a final resting place among the trees. Names of the deceased are etched in bronze plaques attached to a large boulder. In this woodland burial site, attention is paid to leave the tree roots undisturbed. (Green Burial Society of Canada accreditation).
The cemetery operator shared a story about checking on a grave that had been prepared the day before the burial. The operator went to the woods to see that everything was ok, and found three blue jays on the grave cover. She conveyed this to the family and discovered that one of them was wearing a t-shirt with three blue jays on the back.
In spring 2022, this quiet corner of Grey County opened a natural burial section at Holstein Cemetery. The inspiring addition to the historic cemetery was donated by a local farmer (whose family has been involved in Ontario agriculture for over 100 years!), motivated by his own wish to be buried naturally. Surrounded by grazing sheep and wide-open skies, the designated acre will be nestled in between the existing cemetery and bordering woodland. And guess who’s keeping the weeds at bay — the sheep! A website’s in the works, but in the meantime, you can get in touch with Brian Stevenson at 519-323-7904.
At the turn of the century (!) a volunteer suggested the idea of a natural burial cemetery for the Roseneath community. “Everyone looked at me like I was crazy”, said the volunteer, who had grown up in the UK where his father was a grave digger. In 2014 St. James Cemetery lay the first person to rest in its natural area, a two-acre field donated by a local farmer, attached to St. James Cemetery (with tombstones dating back to the 1800s). In summer, waist high grasses, and wildflowers like poppies and forget me knots sway in the breeze. From the hilltop bench you can see for miles. Once a year the grass is cut to ward off invasive species, and sometimes that’s done with a scythe. Small flat markers modestly mark each grave. Families can participate in the filling of the grave.
Overseen by the municipality, Mt Hamilton Cemetery offers 840 square metres of natural burial. The grounds are planted with native flowers, grasses and trees returning the land to its natural ecosystem. Communal markers are used in place of individual markers. Ashes can be scattered in the scattering garden or buried in a biodegradable container. Bodies will be buried in a biodegradable container of your choice or wrapped in a shroud with a biodegradable backing board. The cemetery can be reached at 905 546-4704.
Havelock (Peterborough, Hastings)+Amid the century old maple and white pine, Maple Grove Cemetery created a natural burial area which opened in Fall 2023. They are looking forward to seeing the wildflowers sprout from the seeds they planted in the spring.They hope to create a website, but in the meantime, if you call the township, Toll Free 1-877-767-2795, they can put you in touch with the cemetery operator.
Some cemeteries offer natural sections which follow some of the tenets of natural burial grounds, including the requirement for a biodegradable casket or shroud.
- Jordan has a 1/3 acre section within St. John’s Public Cemetery. While the grass is mowed and there isn’t an effort to bring back native species, this cemetery can make arrangements for families to dig the grave. This traditional ritual can be very meaningful. Families can also plant wildflowers. The natural section will be expanding.
- Brampton, Pickering offers 1/3 acre sections at Meadowvale Cemetery and Duffin Meadows, respectively. They are part of the Mount Pleasant Group chain.
- In Waterloo, Parkview Cemetery has created a small natural burial area, 3/4 acre, alongside the cemetery’s road. Unfortunately equipment which is stored alongside detracts from the sense of nature, but in the summer the wildflowers abound.
Sites in the works
There’s a team of advocates in Kingston working hard to bring a natural burial ground to the area. The city of Kingston, and the Pine Grove Cemetery board has approved the creation of 83 natural burial plots. Pine Grove Cemetery is located about half an hour north-east of downtown Kingston on Brewers Mills Road. The group continues to look for expanded opportunities.Visit Green Burial Kingston to learn more about this site and membership in this dynamic group.
Through an opening among the trees at the back of the conventional cemetery is a lovely natural section, and plans are underway to create a natural burial ground which may be Ontario’s largest hybrid.
Stay in touch by signing-up for updates, and please provide your postal code so we know you’re from the Perth area.
Haliburton Highlands - opening summer/fall 2024!+
The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society (HHGBS) has tirelessly been advocating for green burial options within all four of the County’s Townships, and a hybrid at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church Cemetery has been approved! There are a few more t’s to cross, but it’s slated to open in the spring or summer of 2024.
HHGBS championed the case for winter burial and St. Stephen’s will offer burial year round. We hope other cemeteries in Algonquin Highlands will follow St. Stephen’s lead with natural burial all year round.Follow the Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society: FacebookAnd get in touch with Terry Moore, president of HHGBS at [email protected]
Climate Action Sarnia-Lambton (CASL) is working hard to bring a natural burial ground to their community. You can reach CASL at [email protected].
Please sign-up for updates.
Jenna Parascandalo advocated strongly for a natural burial ground in Hamilton. It’s a go, and now Jenna’s moved to Burlington, where she continues to champion the natural burial movement. You can reach out to her with any questions at [email protected].
Sign-up to lend your voice to the cause and get semi-annual updates.
Guelph - coming in 2024!+
Woodlawn Cemetery has a natural area at the corner of the original cemetery. It’s a lovely 3 acres housing trails that wind around the mature maple trees. Currently they are working on the landscape master plan and it’s anticipated the natural burial site will open in 2024.
Stay tuned for Guelph updates. Plus, every sign-up tells municipalities throughout Ontario that there’s a growing demand for natural burial, so thanks for your support.
Ottawa Valley - and Pembroke+
This group has formed a co-op non-profit, and you can become a member. Their goal is to create a natural burial ground in the Ottawa Valley, open to all. While working towards this, they are advocating for and offering education on green burial, and developing relationships with local funeral homes, cemeteries, and municipal councils.
GBOV and Lockley United Church Cemetery has partnered to create a natural section within this non-denominational cemetery. Reach out to GBOV if you’re interested in a plot in this gorgeous field that’s surrounded by red pines.Please also register your support with NBA and sign-up here.
A nun (Sister Sharon) and a minister (Kay Heuer) and other have formed a group called Transition Town. They want to make North Bay greener — and that includes a natural burial ground. They hope for a hybrid cemetery or ideally a stand-alone natural burial ground; somewhere green where the Sisters of St. Joseph and others can depart in a way that respects the earth and returns to simpler, traditional burial practices.Kay and Sharon are collecting names of people interested in green burial so please get in touch:Kay Heuer <[email protected] or Sharon Miller -705-474-3800 x 417
Sue and Tom Omstead love spending time outdoors in nature and have tried to be as environmentally conscientious as possible throughout their lives. They hope to be able to carry that approach through to the end, and beyond, whenever that may be!
They have long been interested in natural burial and are working toward the goal of developing a natural (or as they prefer to call it, a conservation) burial park in Essex or Kent County.
Sue & Tom envision returning a local property back to its natural state (ie planting much needed trees) and allowing people who share the same concern for protecting nature to be able to choose a final resting place that is consistent with those objectives.
Bobcaygeon - a dedicated site!+
Carrie Hoskins has 180 acres of stunning forest of maple, oak, pine, cedar and spruce, and she’s in discussions with the Municipality of Trent Lakes, Curve Lake First Nations, Kawartha Land Trust, and Kawartha Conservation in the hopes that one day this can provide a final resting place where the forest will be conserved. To learn more, explore nogiesnaturalburial.com.
Northern Bruce Peninsula+
There’s an advocacy group near Lion’s Head that’s actively pursuing a hybrid. They’re running into obstacles because the cemetery operators say they can’t perform winter burials. Winter burials are performed in Thunder Bay, so surely they can be performed further south!
Sign-up so we can add your voice to the growing chorus of people interested in natural burial.
Owen Sound +
In 2020 Owen Sound approved a natural burial area within the municipality’s Greenwood Cemetery. It’s 1/4 acre. On three sides the area shoulders the conventional burial ground, and one side sits along a lovely valley. A landscaper has been hired.
As of Jan 2021, there has been one burial, Robert Garnett. Bob loved nature and had worked to bring this burial area to fruition. While the site is unfinished, his family chose for him to be buried here, knowing that Bob would have felt honoured to be buried in a place he’d help create and which one day, will return to its natural state.
Sign-up for updates on the progress in Owen Sound, and to lend your voice to the chorus of support for natural burial grounds.
The Blue Mountains - a hybrid in 2024+
Led by the Climate Action Now Network of The Blue Mountains, council approved 7 – 0 the creation of a natural burial ground within the Thornbury Clarksburg Union Cemetery. Here’s an article that tells it all! The Review – June
Sign up for updates and to add your voice to those who’d like to see a natural burial ground in their community.
Sault Ste Marie+
Early 2023 a group of advocates formed with a mission to launch a hybrid natural site in the region. They’re a dynamic bunch — it’s going to happen!
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Grand River - a dedicated site!+
Near Grand Valley, abutting Luther Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is 103 acres of land that has been organic for over forty years. The dream is to locate the natural cemetery at the back of the farm next to the conservation land, thereby extending the naturally conserved land.
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Paisley+The wheels are turning! Imagine a natural section adjoining the Paisley Cemetery . In September 2023, local advocate Sibylle Walke presented the idea to Council with other advocates there to show their support. It’s early days, but the response was positive for a natural cemetery which could be home to tall native grasses and pollinators.Please email Sibylle if you’d like to support her efforts.
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Norfolk County+In the picturesque village of Lynedoch, lies Evergreen Cemetery, with historic stone tombstones and statues. Along its west border is untouched woodland that would be a lovely area for natural burial. Tracy Schott, who has family buried in the cemetery, has joined the cemetery’s board in the hopes of making it happen!