For families who have chosen cremation for a loved one, the next decision involves what to do with the remains. Some choose to keep the cremated remains in their home, have them placed in a columbarium niche at a local cemetery, or scatter the ashes in a meaningful place.
Cremation provides families with more time to arrange where and how to scatter the ashes. While there is no policing agency overseeing scattering, there are some basics you should know:
Cremated remains bear little resemblance to ashes; they look and behave a lot like small-grained gravel. However, there are some fine-grains mixed in so be sure to check the wind direction before scattering into the air or a body of water.
The technique of trenching is another option. Dig a small trench in the location of your choice, place the remains (or a biodegradable urn containing the ashes) within, and cover with soil.
Raking is another technique used. Pour the remains on the surface of the soil and use a rake to mix the ashes.
You may also wish to check out our selection of scattering urns prior to making plans for your ceremony. Should you need advice on how to design a meaningful ceremony, feel free to call us.
Get Permission for Scattering on Private Property
For private property that you own, you are able to scatter without permission or without any issue. For property owned by other individuals or parties, you must obtain permission before scattering. To avoid any legal trouble, get signed and dated written permission from the property owner before scattering.
Sports Venues & Amusement Parks
Sports venues and amusement parks have thousands of visitors every year, but people need to remember that these locations are not public spaces. You can ask for permission to scatter ashes at these venues but often these requests are declined. If you scatter without permission, these venues will likely call the police and the ashes will be removed.
For some public places such as local parks, several cities require you to obtain a scattering permit. For uncontrolled public lands, often there are no regulations or restrictions, but we have to use our best judgement. Under any situation, do not spread ashes within 100 yards of any public trails or roads.
Scattering Ashes in National Parks
National parks are beautiful and make for amazing locations to scatter ashes. Many National Parks grant permission to have scattering ash ceremonies, but often there are stipulations. Make sure you speak with the chief park ranger, get written permission, and clearly understand any specific rules. Similar to scattering ashes in public spaces, stay away from trails or developed areas that receive a lot of regular foot traffic.
Scattering Ashes in Waterways
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), scattering ashes at sea or over oceans is permitted but there are a couple of rules. The scattering must occur from boat or plane at least 3 nautical miles from the coastline. Furthermore, after finishing the scattering you must notify the EPA within 30 days.
The scattering of ashes over inland waters such as rivers, ponds, and lakes is not subject to the federal regulations we discussed above. We will work with your local environmental agency, mortuary board, or city office to learn about the specific laws that apply to each body of water.
Being Considerate of Others & the Community
Even if you are legally allowed to scatter ashes in a spot, please be mindful and considerate of others. Avoid any location that receives heavy foot traffic. Think of your own family. You would not want to be out walking with your family only to discover someone’s ashes. Spread the ashes in a place where they can lie and rest in peace.
Cremation provides families will have more time to arrange where and how to scatter the ashes. Many families choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes at a location that reminds them of their loved one or at a place that their loved one enjoyed going to. Parks, beaches, mountains, family vacation spots, and waterways are common locations for scattering ashes.
Choose a spot that is special to your loved one, a place where you bonded with your loved one, or somewhere that just reminds you of him or her. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, there are laws and regulations on where you can scatter ashes. Before finalizing a spot, make sure you are allowed to scatter ashes at that spot.