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The Beaver Creek Cemetery will soon have a 150-site natural burial area

painting by Patty YatesSusie Kowalczyk, Leah Kominak, and Jocelyn Murray have been working to establish a place where people can once again bury their loved ones in a natural casket or shroud directly into the earth without embalming or a concrete vault.

Both Kowalczyk and Kominak report strong public support for their efforts. 

Washington State does not require embalming, but the dead must be interred in certified cemetery grounds.  Cemetery certification can cost up to $25,000. As of 2010, two of the 11 certified burial grounds in the country are in Washington State, at Ferndale and Goldendale. Beaver Creek Cemetery will be a third in this state.

"The cultural norm of embalming bodies started in this country during the Civil War. People wanted to be sure that fallen soldiers could be returned home,” Kowalczyk said.

Graves in the planned Beaver Creek Cemetery Natural Area will be mounded to compensate for any ground settling after a burial and planted in native drought tolerant grasses. Trees and wildflowers will be mixed in with the native grasses.  In the rest of Beaver Creek Cemetery, concrete vaults are used to maintain level ground for ease in mowing and maintenance.

The cemetery’s sexton will still open and close the sites, but families may be more involved, allowing more opportunity for healing the grief of losing a loved one.

When should the new area be ready? “I hope in the fall,” said Kowalczyk  Both Kowalczyk and Kominak are on the Beaver Creek Cemetery Board. Murray is a volunteer.

Anyone who wants to reserve a site may call 997-4412 or 997-3268.