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Summit Land Conservancy moves ahead with plans for eco-cemetery

City-owned land along Pinon Lane in northeastern Oakley could become a conservation cemetery, the first of its kind in the state of Utah.
Cheryl Fox
Summit Land Conservancy
City-owned land along Pinon Lane in northeastern Oakley could become a conservation cemetery, the first of its kind in the state of Utah.

Oakley residents can learn more about plans for a conservation cemetery at an open house next month.

The Summit Land Conservancy has been working with Oakley for months to create a small sanctuary on city-owned land. It would be open for public access and some trails and would look similar to natural public open space area. Conservancy CEO Cheryl Fox says the main difference is people could also be buried there.

“Conservation burial, we sometimes call it pioneer burial, it's really what humans have done with their past loved ones for centuries, which is to wrap them in a simple shroud and place them gently in the earth. It’s also kind of the best thing to do with our carbon, once we're no longer using it.”

She says this is one more way to save open space. In this case, it would protect about 100 acres the city already owns on Pinion Lane.

“This is just sort of an interesting way to do that without costing the city any money, basically.”

Following the open house and public hearing, Fox says the Oakley City Council will make a decision. In the meantime, the conservancy will do a site analysis to make sure it’s an appropriate place for the eco-friendly final resting place.

“Conservation cemetery is fundamentally different than a regular cemetery,” she said. “There's no lawn, there's no headstone, there's no fertilizer. Bodies are prepared in a very natural way. And so, there's certain benefits and restrictions. But also, if you go to a normal cemetery, a portion of your fees that you pay go to maintaining lawns and fertilizer and sprinklers and things like that. In this situation, those fees instead go to protect the land, restore the land and preserve more land in the area.”

Bodies would not be embalmed and would be placed in biodegradable caskets or cloth. According to the Green Burial Council, decomposing bodies are not health risks as long as there are appropriate soil and water setbacks.

The conservation area could have public trails, and it’s also been suggested a wall could be built with the names of those buried to inform visitors.

Oakley has yet to announce a date for the August open house.