A multi-faith natural burial park, in which a body is buried in a shroud or biodegradable casket, is proposed off New Hampshire Avenue. On July 8, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the proposal with minor conditions concerning storm water management and forest conservation.
The conditions must be met before Remembrance Life Inc. receives preliminary plan approval.
The non-profit Reflection Park intends to build a cemetery on a flag-shaped 40-acre tract at 16221 New Hampshire Avenue. The property borders several religious institutions, single family homes, a concrete company and Ednor Local Park.
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Initially, there will be three small buildings erected on the now-forested site. Those buildings include a gazebo, office space for seven fulltime employees and a maintenance shed. There will be 79 parking spaces and spaces to park bicycles.
Future plans include a 6,000-square-foot community center where funeral services and community events can be held.
A variance was requested to eliminate 77 trees, and Josh Penn, an Upcounty Planner, said this would be okay. “There really is no way” to do anything on this forested property without removing trees, he said.
Each grave site will be four-feet by five-feet. The grave itself will be seven-feet deep and four-feet wide. The bodies will be placed at a four-feet depth minimum with two feet of dirt between the body and ground to prevent animals from reaching the body.
Besides being environmentally friendly, this type of burial will be less expensive than a traditional one. According to Cofounders Basil Eldadah and Haroon Mokhtarzada, a burial here will cost about $3,500.
In an earlier meeting, the two men explained why they wanted to create a environmental-friendly and less expensive burial alternative. Eldadah said that when his father died in 2012, he searched for a nontraditional burial. Mokhtarzada said he was interested in bringing down the cost of burying a loved one.
According to Eldadah, a body is not chemically embalmed during a green burial. There are no burial vaults, grave liners or metal caskets used. Instead, the body is interred in a shroud or a readily biodegradable casket that will break down naturally. All grave stones will be flush with the ground.
“Our vision is to make this a community resource,” Eldadah told planning board members. He said hikers would be welcome onto the property. He expects Reflection Park to be “a community resource where burial is seen as more of a natural cycle of life and death.”
When built, it would be the first non-profit green burial park in the county and possibly all of Maryland, Mokhtarzada said.