Municipal officials and staff participated in a workshop to chart a path forward for bringing winter and green burials into the County of Haliburton.
The Haliburton Highlands Green Burial Society hosted a winter burial workshop Feb. 4 to showcase how the practice could be brought into the County. Representatives from all four of the lower-tier municipalities attended to hear from expert speakers about the concept.
The society is pushing for the municipalities to start offering winter and green burials, which try to minimize the environmental footprint of traditional burials. Founder Terry Moore said he felt good about how the event went.
“Issues relating to moving towards winter burials got out there,” Moore said. “It was being discussed actively for the first time. There was a lot of engagement here.”
Winter burials are presently not offered anywhere in the County of Haliburton, given the increased difficulty of breaking through the frozen ground compared to summer. Green burials are a newer concept also not yet offered.
But City of Niagara Falls supervisor of cemetery services J.P. Narbonne showcased the variety of equipment his municipality uses to provide burials year-round, which can be purchased or rented out. He noted different conditions can impact speed in both the winter and summer months.
“Weather’s a huge factor. It slows us down, speeds us up,” Narbonne said. “Whatever you have, it will change how long it’s going to take to dig a grave or what you need.”
The workshop also featured a presentation from CemeCare Complete Cemetery Solutions, a contractor that services burials in a wide area and has winter options. They offered a quote for $1,125 to open and close a gravesite, with a $350 surcharge for winter.
“We have good working relationships with municipalities,” director of sales and administration Jeff McIntosh said. “We’ll get your grave open for you.”
Costs became a sticking point in the workshop, as staff asked about different models. The City of Niagara Falls keeps rates flat across summer and winter, but other areas vary costs based on season, as winter is usually more expensive. Moore said municipalities have a choice on the matter but added death is not equitable.
“It’s just the luck of the draw as to when you’re going to die,” Moore said. “Why should somebody’s family who happens to have a member die in the wintertime have to bear that extra cost?”
County Warden Liz Danielsen said all the lower-tier municipalities are at different stages and would have to discuss a way forward. But she added she is confident winter and green burials will come to Haliburton.
“It’s absolutely possible, no doubt in my mind. It may take a little bit of time. It may not be in all four municipalities,” she said.