Opening of the first wooded site in France for incinerated ashes

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The first wooded site in France to be classified as a cemetery for ash urns is open for burials.The creation of new private cemeteries is prohibited in France but a French lawyer claims to have found a way to offer a legal alternative to the current means of burying the ashes.

Elia Conte Douette said the key to unlocking restrictions came to her when she realized decisions about cemeteries were made by local town halls.

Elia Conte Douette now operates the Cime’Tree funeral society, which helps municipalities to develop wooded cemeteries

Ms. Conte Douette, a lawyer who works as a consultant in sustainable development, understood that she was going to have to become a funeral director to move the project forward.

“By having the diploma, the municipal Council can work with me on cemetery projects, ”she said.

She now runs the Cime’Tree funeral society, as well as a consultancy firm, Taoma, helping municipalities to create wooded cemeteries.

The first commune with which she worked, Arbas in Haute-Garonne, set aside a wooded area of ​​1.25 hectares in the forest of Fontaine de l’Ours at the foot of the Pyrenees. It has been declared a cemetery.

A sign marks the entrance to the area and gives rules such as a ban on hunting in the area, known as cinerary forest (ash forest). However, it is not fenced and anyone can enter it.

The ashes are placed at the foot of trees or in clearings in wooden, linen or felt urns.

“We didn’t do any advertising but the demand was constant,” said Conte Douette. “You don’t have to have a connection with Arbas to use the site and one of the first cases involved the family of a person who died and was cremated in Angola.”

“Most seem to be motivated by ecological considerations, but not all”

“There has also been a constant demand from people who are making arrangements to find out how they would like their ashes to be disposed of.”

It works with five other municipalities to develop their own forest sites.

The price at Arbas is 375 € paid to Cime’Tree (cime-tree.fr) to cover administrative costs.

It includes accompanying parents in the woods, selecting sites, the urn and organizing a ceremony.

In addition, the municipality charges a perpetual concession. Single sites are priced at € 250, sites for two ballot boxes € 500, sites for five at 10 € 1000 or € 2000, or collective sites at € 200 per ballot box, each site accepting up to 10.

Legally, the crematorium must put the ashes in an urn bearing the name of the deceased and the place of cremation. The ashes can be kept in a crematorium for up to a year, while the family decides how to dispose of them. The unclaimed ashes are strewn in the nearest cemetery.

You cannot keep the ashes at home or scatter them in a private garden.

The options are:

  • Place the urn in a cemetery. It can go to a grave, be put in a columbarium, be cemented on a commemorative plaque, be buried in a common area for five years, or be scattered in a designated area of ​​the cemetery.
  • Spread the ashes in nature. They must not fall on a road or a public space. If you get scattered at sea, most municipalities require a boat to take them 50m from the coast. Often, the SNSM will help you with a donation.
  • Keep the urn in a memorial on private property.

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