Buried and Returned to the Forest

On June 21, 2012, EcoEternity LLC and Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Ohio (LOMO) signed a contract to implement LakeSide EcoEternity Forest at LOMO’s Camp Luther. This forest is the second of its kind in Ohio, and seventh in the country.

Camp Luther's director, Corey Wagonfield, standing with one of the earmarked trees to serve as a memorial tree at the LakeSide EcoEternity Forest

Camp Luther’s director, Corey Wagonfield, standing with one of the earmarked trees to serve as a memorial tree at the LakeSide EcoEternity Forest

EcoEternity Forest, LLC, was started back in 2006 in White Stone, Va., by Jack Lowe and Axel Baudach with the intent of partnering with businesses and landowners to create these alternative burial forests. However, the idea of a memorial tree is not a new one. The concept for these trees has it roots in Europe, where Ueli Sauter, from Switzerland, founded the first “Friedwald”. In 2000, Mr. Baudach discovered the work of Sauter and began establishing EcoEternity Forests in Germany. In June 2006, Baudach and Lowe founded EcoEternity LLC with the intent to adapt the concept to American culture and laws. Since the founding of the organization, EcoEternity has been partnering with municipalities, churches, and private forest owners to plan and preserve their forest property for extended periods as a burial ground and implement these memorial trees.

When an individual passes away, should they choose to be buried in an EcoEternity Forest, their body is cremated, put into a biodegradable urn, and buried at the base of a chosen mature tree so that their body may be returned to the earth and assist in the growth of that tree.

A consecration at Camp Highroad's EcoEternity Forest in Virginia

A consecration at Camp Highroad’s EcoEternity Forest in Virginia

EcoEternity Forests are designed to remain in a “natural state”. There are trails that wind through the forest to allow visitor access to memorial trees – Camp Luther staff were the ones to clear these paths at the LakeSide EcoEternity Forest. Headstones, plastic flowers, ornaments, or the like, are not allowed in the forests, but visitors are encouraged to enjoy a walk through the forests and bond with nature in a spiritual way. It is the hope of EcoEternity and those organizations that partner with them that these natural burials will assist in the conservation of old growth forests for at least 99 years (EcoEternity, LLC).

Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Ohio decided to partner with EcoEternity to make use of unused forest land, provide a low-cost alternative to traditional burials, and to continue to move in the direction of their mission statement. They worked with EcoEternity to decide which of their outdoor camps would be the best location for the forest and decided on Camp Luther in North Kingsville, Ohio. According to Penny Christensen who serves as the Executive Director of LOMO, “The addition of the CreekSide EcoEternity Forest completes our mission to bring people together to experience Christ through our natural settings and programs.  This forest demonstrates faithful stewardship of creation through our lives and in our deaths. It embodies the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ” (EcoEternity, LLC). Corey Wagonfield, the director of Camp Luther said that churches in the area had expressed interest in the concept and that they “had a great initial up swell of support from our camp constituents and local community.  People in our community who have never had interaction with the camp (some who have never stepped foot in an actual forest before) have come out to walk the forest and learn about this new type of eco-interment.” LOMO is very pleased with the success of the forest as a final resting place and a place for campers and community members alike to become closer to nature and experience their faith. “The success lies in the fact that this helps us to show our community and campers that there are ways to ways to minister to people from not only the time they are born, but also to the time their earthly body expires.  We have provided a place with a Christian background, in the heart of God’s creation, where their ashes can be returned to the earth in a manner which honors God’s creation.”

Further reading:

http://starbeacon.com/local/x500780432/Burial-beneath-the-branches
About Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Ohio: http://www.lomocamps.org/
About EcoEternity: http://www.ecoeternity.com/
About Camp Luther’s LakeSide EcoEternity Forest: http://www.ecoeternity.com/our-forests/ohio/ecoeternity-lakeside-conneaut-ohio.html

 

This profile was contributed by Amanda Schneider, OSU Student

 

 

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