Exploring Green Burial Resting in a Green Space: Conservation Burial

February 10, 2022

Photo: Bo Howes

Bluestem Conservation Cemetery, the first conservation burial ground in The Piedmont, will open in February on a gorgeous 90-acre property in Cedar Grove. Bluestem will place the property under a conservation easement to be held by Eno River Association and Triangle Land Conservancy.
In 2015, long-time conservationists Jeff Masten and Heidi Hannapel started LandMatters to develop a vision for a conservation cemetery in partnership with community organizations, land trusts, private landowners, nonprofits, and conservation burial professionals.
Located in Cedar Grove and 12 minutes north of Hillsborough, North Carolina, Bluestem straddles the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers. The 90-acre property contains 3,500 linear feet of stream frontage, 20 acres of agricultural fields prime for grassland habitat re-creation, 50 acres of forest habitat, and a quintessential Piedmont farmstead. Upon completion, this nature preserve and conservation cemetery will offer a 2-3 mile natural trail system that connects visitors with sensory experiences amidst a serene and sustainable burial option. It is an open and inviting space for everyone to celebrate, honor, grieve, mourn, heal, and restore.

Green Burial is an alternative, low-impact choice for burial that respects and restores nature. Bodies are not embalmed or encased in metal caskets or concrete vaults. Instead, biodegradable materials such as a pine box, a cloth shroud, or a favorite quilt are used. Each burial site is recorded so that family and friends can visit anytime.

                                                      Photo: Bo Howes

Conservation Burial Grounds are green burial sites with conservation easements placed upon them. These easements are voluntary, legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust (or governmental agency) that permanently limit the uses of the land to protect its conservation values. A conventional cemetery has a density of 1,200 burials per acre. Bluestem will host only 100-150 burials per acre.

About Bluestem

Bluestem is a community conservation project in which TLC is proud to play a part. It conserves the natural, historical, and cultural resources of these watersheds while providing a place for community connection to these resources, each other, and our deceased. Eno River Association and Triangle Land Conservancy will co-hold a conservation easement on Bluestem and monitor the development and management to ensure the conservation values are protected in perpetuity. In return, a portion of the revenue generated from this conservation cemetery will support our land trusts. This unique and meaningful project will help diversify the conservation portfolios of both our land trusts while providing continued opportunities to collaborate and make connections with our community. 

Founded by two land conservationists, Heidi Hannapel and Jeff Masten, Bluestem conservation burials address the resource-intensive traditional ground burial practices while protecting important community lands. “A conservation cemetery designed as a place of reverence in a nature preserve, with a trail network, quiet areas for reflection, open space for contemplation, and designated areas within its restored landscape for natural burial.”

For more information on Bluestem, visit https://www.bluestemcemetery.org.

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