Group envisions a ‘green’ ground on land in Jaffrey
By Casey Farrar
JAFFREY — Right now, it’s an empty 5.7-acre field on Davidson Road in Jaffrey.
But members of the town’s Quaker Meeting hope that soon, they’ll have a 60-by 90-foot “green” burial ground in that field near the meetinghouse.
If all goes as planned, the space will allow for members and attendees of the meeting to choose to have green burials, something that’s not allowed at the town’s cemetery.
A green burial is one that doesn’t involve the use of chemicals — such as embalming fluid — and uses simple caskets made of wood or burial shrouds. Caskets are buried directly in the soil, unlike many cemeteries, including Jaffrey, that place the caskets in concrete vaults to prevent sinkholes in the ground.
Earlier this month, Dorothy Zug and her husband, Frank E. Bateman, who are members of the Jaffrey meeting, presented the group’s proposal to the Jaffrey zoning board, applying for a special exception required to allow the burial ground.
The hearing was postponed until Feb. 2, when the zoning board will next meet at the Jaffrey town offices, because an abutter had not been notified.
Zug and Bateman have been doing research on burial grounds and green burials since last summer, when members of the meeting decided to move forward with opening their own burial ground, Zug said.
Under state law, a “burial ground” is defined as a family or religious institution’s cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium — a vault for urns containing ashes. It is on private property and not available for public use.
“Cemeteries,” however, are owned and operated by cities and towns and are public.
Quakers aren’t required to have green burials, but over the last several years the Jaffrey group has been considering its own burial ground and several members would like green burials, Zug said.
“The idea is to make it more simple, and the way that we used to do it,” Zug said. “Quakers value simplicity.”
Recently, the group hosted a workshop on living wills and funeral arrangements, which generated further interest in green burials and helped to get the ball rolling on the project, Zug said.
In researching for the project, Zug and Bateman visited a Quaker meetinghouse in Framingham, Mass., that has its own burial ground — something not uncommon among Quaker meetinghouses, Zug said — and the Richmond cemetery, which last year opened a section dedicated to green burials.
Zug has also talked to a casket-maker in Gilsum who makes simple pine caskets without metal hinges that sell for about $600, she said.
“One aspect of green burials is also that they’re less costly,” Zug said. “The only other expense families would be looking at would be renting a backhoe to dig the hole, if that’s what they wanted to do.”
The average funeral in the state costs about $5,000, according to a report by the N.H. Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Bureau.
The Jaffrey Quaker meeting was founded in 1957 and met at various locations around the town until it moved to its current home on Davidson Road in 1992, Zug said.
If the group gets town approval — which hinges on being granted the special exception and then going before Jaffrey’s planning board — the members of the meeting will work out more details of the burial ground, Zug said.
They haven’t, for example, decided how many plots they’ll offer or whether all burials on the grounds will have to be green or not. Members will also have to make decisions about the kinds of headstones allowed at the burial ground and whether non-members will be able to purchase plots there, Zug said.
The group hopes to open the burial ground by late s