Carolina Memorial Sanctuary
Updated: Nov 8, 2018
Does the idea of taking a walk among burial mounds bother you? It shouldn't.
Western North Carolina is a very eco-friendly region. What's the most eco-friendly way to, as Shakespeare put it, shuffle off this mortal coil? If you said cremation, you're not quite right - carbon footprints and all that. The greenest way to go is through a "natural burial" - when you're done with your body, use it to feed the trees.
“It's just the spot where someone decided to literally return to the earth in a biodegradable casket or a simple shroud, nourishing the soil in this calm and peaceful place.”
That's the idea behind Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, a green-burial cemetery and one of the
few in the U.S. that is certified as a natural conservation grounds. Opened in 2016, the 11-plus acre grounds that were once used for cattle grazing is in the process of removing invasive plant species and restoring the native habitat, while also providing an alternative to traditional burials or cremations.
A vigorous walk, or a final rest
The grounds of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary are open to the public, and caretakers have woven a number of trails and paths through the hillside. There are dozens of species of plants and trees, from Sourwood and Sassafras to St. John's Wart and Joe Pye weed. There are also varied small ecosystems including meadow, creek and wetlands. On the day we visited, groundskeepers were in the process of removing invasive bamboo.
As you walk along the paths, from time to time you'll pass an earthen mound off to the side. It might have a marker or a bench, or it might not. It might have some flowers laid on it, or it might be growing some "weeds." In any case, it's nothing to be bothered by - it's just the spot where someone decided to literally return to the earth in a biodegradable casket or a simple shroud, nourishing the soil in this calm and peaceful place. Some of the graves contain the ashes of the departed, not just human but also of pets.
How to Find It
Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is on land once owned by the neighboring Unity Church, which also shares its driveway on Old Fanning Bridge Road, not far from Highway 191. When you enter the driveway, you'll park down below the church, there are several small clearings available for parking.
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/CKVK7HFa6522
Web site: https://carolinamemorialsanctuary.org/