Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is part of a fairly recent movement to bring more environmental consciousness and stewardship to the inevitable process of burying our deceased friends and loved ones, while at the same time holding dignified and compassionate space for a wide variety of cultural and spiritual traditions. Our undertaking to date has been no small feat either, drawing on the experience and guidance of many different experts in our somewhat unique, yet universal offering. As we learn and grow, we are continually balancing our conservation efforts with many of the expected and necessary elements of running a cemetery and a public park.
For our first two years at the Sanctuary, our employees, volunteers, guests, and contractors have been getting to know the life on our property. With machine clearing and mowing, weeding, landscaping, and occasional conservation approved herbicide applications, we still have a lot of work to do wrangling exotic and invasive species and establishing native habitats. During this Fall or Winter, we will be working with the North Carolina Forestry Service to set up a controlled burn, with additional burns in specific areas as needed, in the years ahead. Combined with seasonal mowing and occasional targeted herbicide applications (approved for land conservation), the burn will help us to keep the meadow as a meadow, and encourage the wildlife that call our meadow a home to flourish and thrive. Since these management techniques require trained specialists and careful planning, we remind all of our guests and visitors to leave the overall management of the property in the hands of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary staff and our contracted helpers. Although the land won’t be as “pretty” immediately after the burn, plant life will reemerge and the beauty of the land will return. Learn more about controlled burns here.
As we continue to grow and sell more burial spots, many guests have asked how we will track and mark the spots that we have sold. Since the beginning, we have been marking spots with a plain pine stake, not too tall, but color-coded with surveyors tape so that the spots will be visible, but unobtrusive to the natural landscape. And we have used a GIS (geographic information system) to plot and map the coordinates for every spot sold so that we have both physical and electronic records. What we have found in the use of these stakes is that they weather, dulling or even erasing the permanent marker, making the tape brittle and faded, and even rotting the wood from soil and moisture exposure. In the case of our upcoming and future controlled burns, the wood and plastic of our temporary markers are susceptible to fire. In some of our weed eating and mowing efforts, we have also accidentally broken some of the stakes, proving to us an overall need for a different physical marking system.
The GIS locating will still be our primary means of tracking and locating spots for our records, however, starting in late Fall of 2017, we will be replacing the wooden stakes with metal, and use color-coded metal tags to mark the spots that we have sold. They will not be damaged by fire or weather, will visually blend into the environment, and will be easier to mow and weedeat around. In the Southeastern Meadow area, we will also be seeding and managing native grasses so as to make the spots more accessible while also establishing and restoring a mature, native, disturbance habitat. The overall effect will be a natural cemetery space, accessible by visitors, manageable by staff and volunteers, and supportive of the cycle of living and dying.
We are very excited to be moving forward with the next steps of helping to create a safe and quiet place for grief, contemplation, and community with nature. We will continue throughout the coming months and years to offer volunteer opportunities, classes, and workshops for education about our project and ways to get consciously and compassionately involved in our own good living and dying.