New Mexico Baby Boomers Now Have a Natural Burial Ground

Oct 21, 2016 | 1 comment

La Puerta Natural Burial Ground

La Puerta Natural Burial Ground

Green burial in New Mexico has been a long time coming. Actually, given the state’s high desert dry climate, it’s really brown burial – so let’s call it natural burial.

The prospect of natural burial appeals to Baby Boomers. The good news: there’s now a natural burial ground open for business in the state.

For years, there was hope that a natural burial ground would be started near Santa Fe as part of the Galisteo Basin Preserve land conservation and community development project. However, the project ran into problems with zoning and funding.

In 2016, Linda Canyon and Donal Key, a married couple, founded the La Puerta Natural Burial Ground an hour south of Albuquerque at the base of the Manzano Mountains. Canyon and Key have worked for decades in health care, including hospice. They saw a need for a kinder, gentler, affordable, and environmentally sound option for patients at end-of-life.

La Puerta Natural Burial Ground is a 40-acre conservation natural burial site. People can select a patch of high desert ground and pay a relatively affordable $450 for burial rights. It’s currently the only Green Burial Council certified natural burial ground in New Mexico.

“People dealing with end-of-life matters didn’t realize what all the options were, and we wanted to find out for ourselves the different things that we could do. We found people who were so under-resourced, they couldn’t afford a cremation,” said Key. “It’s possible for people to be buried wrapped in a shroud as naturally as possible, and make it affordable.”

The La Puerta Natural Burial Ground accepts un-embalmed bodies wrapped in shrouds or other natural materials such as cotton or wool blankets. Plain softwood caskets such as pine or poplar are also accepted. Cremated remains can be buried in biodegradable containers.

When someone purchases a burial plot, a GPS reading of the spot is recorded in the sale paperwork and the Office of the Registrar. The spot can be marked with a natural stone that lies flat to the ground.

The land is restored to its natural state. There is no upkeep of the cemetery, so there is no perpetual care fund. Native plants that don’t require watering can be placed on the grave, such as a cactus or yucca.

Families can be fully involved with the funeral arrangements, caring for the body, digging and filling the grave, and filing the paperwork themselves. Key and Canyon, members of the National Home Funeral Alliance, provide guidance to families that want to do it all themselves.

“Death does not have to be as scary as we make it. Planning ahead takes a huge burden and worry off of families at end-of-life. We offer a kinder, gentler end-of-life, getting back to nature,” said Canyon.

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A Good Goodbye