Denman working toward totally green cemetery

The Denman Island Memorial Society (DIMS) is working toward something that would be a first in Canada — an entirely 'green' cemetery.

  • Aug. 16, 2012 12:00 p.m.
DENMAN ISLAND MEMORIAL Society board member Louise Bell sits next to where she hopes a path will one day run through Canada's first entirely green cemetery.

DENMAN ISLAND MEMORIAL Society board member Louise Bell sits next to where she hopes a path will one day run through Canada's first entirely green cemetery.

The Denman Island Memorial Society (DIMS) is working toward something that would be a first in Canada — an entirely ‘green’ cemetery.

Although there are other areas in the country with green burial grounds, the idea planned for Denman Island is different, according to Louise Bell, DIMS board member and previous Denman trustee for the Islands Trust.

“The existing green cemeteries in Canada are small extensions on large existing cemeteries,” explained Bell. “This one on Denman Island would be the first cemetery that’s totally green. We’re very proud of it.”

The green cemetery or natural burial ground would sit on about one hectare of previously logged land offered by the Denman Conservancy Association (DCA); this land at the corner of Denman and North Central Roads actually sits across the road from Denman Island’s current cemetery.

According to Bell, the current cemetery was created in 1904 and is nearing capacity.

“For 25 or more years there has not been a plot for purchase,” she explained. “They may not all be filled, but they’re all purchased, so in the instances where somebody has been buried more recently it’s because somebody has forfeited a plot.”

Thus, the island needs a new cemetery, and the idea for a green one really started to take shape in late 2008. By spring 2009 DIMS was formed, and since then plenty of behind-the-scenes paperwork and planning has been done.

The community was consulted on what it thought of having a completely green cemetery, and Bell noted Islanders were warm to the idea.

“We worked with the community to hear what they want, and generally have had favourable responses to a green cemetery, although there are a few little variations we’re going to bring in, the most important one probably being that we will have a few family plots,” she explained.

Certain areas would be set aside for family plots, but for the most part specific plots would not be chosen. Instead, each area would be filled with a “paint your way out” method to avoid disruption of grave sites.

Also, visitors would just know the general area of where their loved one’s remains were laid rather than the specific location.

“That’s the philosophy of green burial, that you know that somewhere there in that grove of wildflowers or trees… that somewhere in that area you know your family member is buried,” she explained.

The other, more obvious, part of the philosophy of green burial is to return human remains to the earth with little or no impact on the Earth.

“There’s no embalming, and any clothing on a body that’s being buried must be biodegradable, and then the casket or whatever kind of covering people choose must be biodegradable,” explained Bell.

“There’s no vault in the grave and there’s no tombstone, and there’s no landscaping. Once the plantings are done following the burial then it’s allowed to regenerate naturally, with the exception maybe of removing any invasive vegetation.”

Small, flat markers could be laid on particular grave sites, but people would be encouraged to use the communal memorial, which would be featured in an area called the gathering place and have the names of every person buried there.

The cemetery would feature three sections called Woodland, Meadow and Arbutus, with a separate treed area  containing a scattering garden for cremated remains — although Bell noted cremation is not encouraged because it is less environmentally friendly than green burial. A pathway would run through the length of the cemetery, with gates at either end, and benches would be set up in the gathering area and scattering garden.

DIMS, which has eight board members, has some more paperwork to do before the land can officially be transferred over from DCA, and after that happens the land can start to be prepared.

According to Bell, various groups and individuals have put in plenty of free work on the project so far.

Also, while DIMS still has more fundraising to do for the project, the community has contributed, and the group has received a few grants, one larger grant from Real Estate Foundation of BC, and a couple from the Comox Valley Regional District.

For more information on the project contact dims@telus.net.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton, standing at right, sits on steering committees of two organizations that are tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. File photo
Courtenay councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more… Continue reading

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Numerous Comox Valley projects get CERIP grants

Numerous Comox Valley projects have received grants through the Community Economic Recovery… Continue reading

Thrifty Foods. (Black Press file photo)
Thrifty Foods confirms staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Courtenay

The company currently lists 12 stores within B.C. with confirmed cases

Comox Valley Schools’ distance learning program, Navigate (NIDES), which saw some large gains in enrolment this year, could see a return to normal numbers come September. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley Schools expects enrolment drop come fall

Decline projected online, as more students return to ‘bricks-and-mortar’ classes

Cumberland will be looking to a parcel tax to cover debt for its new water system. File photo
Cumberland plans for parcel tax to cover water debt

Parcel tax review panel would take place March 22, if necessary

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Most Read