The Baldwin Township Board decided at its July 6 meeting to change its cemetery policy and require that containers holding
cremated remains must be placed in a vault before being buried in the Baldwin Township Cemetery.
Baldwin Cemetery caretaker Lester Kriesel said there is sometimes as little as 6 inches of clearance between grave sites and explained that a locating probe has the potential to disturb adjacent remains if they’re not secured in a vault. He said cremation has become much more popular over the years and that vaults would help prevent cave-ins.
“People bring ashes in just about anything,” Kriesel said.
The Baldwin Board decided to add the same clause from the “interments” portion of its policy to the cremation portion, which states, “no casket or urn shall be interred in the cemetery unless it is enclosed in a concrete vault or cement box.”
The township’s action follows a few others of city government within the region, including East Bethel, which passed a similar vault policy in May. It requires that cremated remains be buried in a container constructed of cement, steel or high-density polypropylene capable of supporting soil weight and burial depths up to 3 feet.
The city of Princeton operates Oak Knoll Cemetery, with City Clerk Shawna Jenkins doing administrative work for the past three or so years and Public Works Supervisor Tim Jensen doing much of the caretaking work for the past 11 years.
They said the cemetery does not require cremation remains to be in a vault and agree that cremation is definitely growing as a burial option. Jenkins said the ratio is about half traditional burials and half cremation burials. Jensen said there might be a foot of clearance between sites. He said gravesite location has never posed a problem, especially once a plot is full and there is no need to disturb it again. He said some people want to be buried in a shoe box, and that’s OK.
“Everybody’s belief is different for how they want to be buried for eternity,” Jensen said.
He said it is important to not have something too tall, since there is less dirt on graves than people think. It isn’t the “6 feet under,” but more like 4 or 4 1/2 feet of dirt.
Jensen said a significant concern at Oak Knoll is faded plastic flowers and the plants people leave. He said the city is authorized to remove and discard any items that become worn and aged or plants that are not in a raised stand so that mowers and weed trimmers can work around them.
Professionals see all options
Local Funeral Director Sara Pearson, with Williams Dingmann Family Funeral Homes, said services are held according to people’s preferences, whether they be simple or elaborate.
Families tend to incorporate some meaning into the container for cremated remains, like a coffee can if the person was a fan of it or a tackle-box container for the person who loved fishing. While a funeral home can help with burial-plot purchase, it’s not unusual for families to buy it on their own and hold a private service.
There are not specific state guidelines about what constitutes an urn or a vault, according to Pearson, but the professionals are aware of varying cemetery requirements. An urn is basically a receptacle for storing “cremated remains,” as funeral directors call them. The urn might be made of biodegradable material, clay or wood, bronze, copper, gold or some kind of synthetic material. Vaults to hold the urn, Pearson said, are usually made of either concrete or a synthetic marble.
She said urns range in price from about $30 for a temporary, black, plastic container to about $1,500 for one made of precious metal. Vaults made of concrete or synthetic marble range in price from about $495-$1,200.
She agrees that about half of all burials now involve cremation. While the practice has its share of critics and opponents, Pearson shared several probable reasons why cremation grows in popularity.
“Some families feel like it’s a greener alternative,” she said.
People perceive cremation as more environmentally friendly, since urns take up less space and the remains are ashes. Cremation also gives families time to gather for a memorial service or delay burial until after the ground thaws naturally. Sometimes a person has asked to have their ashes scattered somewhere, so there is no need for burial.
Many choose cremation because they perceive it to be cheaper, which can be true depending on the options chosen. Williams Dingmann operates its own crematory so that a person is never out of its care.
Pearson said her job is to help people carry out their loved one’s final wishes, which are different for everyone, adding, “It’s really all about what the family wants.”