Fultonville is exploring the establishment of a natural burial ground at the village cemetery, a change that would make the village the second place in the Capital Region to offer environmentally friendly burials.
Village historian Ryan Weitz, who also serves as the cemetery sexton, or superintendent, said natural burials are growing more popular among segments of the population concerned with their impact on the environment.
Weitz said embalming in its current form dates back to the Civil War, when war dead were preserved to ensure they made it home for their funeral. Today, the dead are embalmed with often-noxious chemicals that require a concrete vault to prevent contamination of the surrounding ground.
With a natural burial, embalming is skipped altogether and the dead are typically buried directly in the ground with a shroud or wooden coffin or other biodegradable material.
“A lot of people see it as a new trend,” Weitz said.
Last year, the Roman Catholic Church’s Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna began developing a natural burial preserve after queries about whether the practice was available there. The next-closest spot for such a burial is Rochester’s White Haven Memorial Park, which opened in 2010.
Fultonville Mayor Robert Headwell Jr. said it’s important to hear from the community before taking the step.
“The cemetery is in the village, so we want to get all points of view,” he said. “It needs to be researched. We don’t need to jump into a decision instantly.”
It would be a less-costly option for those interested in being buried on a hill above the Mohawk River, Headwell said.
Weitz envisions the roughly two-acre, forested portion of the cemetery as an ideal spot for natural burials. The woodlot wouldn’t require maintenance like lawn-mowing, a practice antithetical to those trying to live — and die — with as little impact on the environment as possible.
Weitz said the village spends roughly $10,000 maintaining its cemetery each year, so revenue from the sale of natural burial plots would help with upkeep of the grassy parts of the cemetery.
Weitz said Fultonville’s natural burial ground, if developed, would be the only non-sectarian cemetery in the Capital Region, so it could draw the interest of families of all religions.
The village will hold a public hearing on the idea at 6 p.m. Monday, June 24. People interested in providing comment can mail letters to Fultonville Village Hall, 10 Erie St., P.O. Box 337, Fultonville, NY 12072.