Cremation has become increasingly popular as a choice for final arrangements. The benefits of cremation are vast, with many loved ones opting to keep the cremated remains of a beloved family member in place of pride in their home, such as in an ornamental urn on the mantlepiece.
Even more families decide to scatter the cremated remains. However, where you can scatter them is an important consideration, because there are a number of different rules and regulations regarding the practice. You may not be able to scatter them wherever you want.
Here's what you need to know about where you can scatter ashes.
Scattering Cremated Remains on Private Property
Cremated remains are considered safe and inert according to the federal government, and there are no laws that prohibit someone's ability to bury or spread them on your own private property. Additionally, while each state has differing approaches to where and how you can scatter ashes, it's universally accepted that anyone who wishes to do so on their own private property has the full right to do so.
Things get more complex when it comes to the private property of others. Stepping on anyone's land without permission, even for the purpose of scattering, can be construed as trespassing if you're unwelcome. This is why you should always ask the property owner first, and also get their permission for the actual act of spreading the ashes.
Places to consider on private property include:
- Somewhere in the yard the loved one was particularly fond of, such as a tree or garden
- Under a stone, perhaps even with a stone that commemorates the loved one placed there
- In a bed of flowers
- Near the doorway or under the windows
- If not a private resident, an area that was particularly meaningful
- In a scattering garden at a cemetery
Scattering on Public Property
It's often much more difficult to spread cremated remains on public property than private property in the United States. Again, each state has specific rules on where you can scatter cremated ashes, and even if there are no state regulations that bar such a practice, there may be local laws that could prevent you from doing so as well. This doesn't mean that you will find it impossible to do so - you may need to ask permission from your state or local authority, depending on what type of public land you wish to scatter the ashes.
On a federal level, it's generally not permitted to scatter on government-owned lands. There are some exceptions to this, however, as many national parks will set aside specific spaces for scattering gardens. Each national park is different, so you will need to check directly with the park you have in mind.
Places to consider on private property include:
- A park or other similar nature area that carries meaning, provides a sense of peace, or is simply a beautiful site
- Near or in a lake or other body of water
- Within a national landmark or other location beloved by the deceased
Scattering Over Water
The laws regarding where you can scatter human ashes over bodies of water are very clear. Thanks to federal legislation like the Clean Water Act and government watchdogs like the EPA, it's illegal to scatter ashes in the ocean unless you are at least three nautical miles from the nearest shore. Additionally, you must retain the container the ashes were stored in prior to scattering if that container isn't biodegradable.
Closer to shore, things are different. There's no scattering of ashes of any kind permitted on the shoreline or in tide pools. On smaller bodies of water, such as lakes, streams, and rivers, you may be able to scatter ashes if you seek a permit or permission from whatever state or federal agency oversees that body of water.
Other Ways to Scatter Ashes
While we've already covered most of the common places where family members choose to scatter the ashes of their loved ones, there are still a few other options available. One popular choice is a cemetery that has a designated scattering garden, which is a dedicated area for this purpose. It's typically a lovely, serene, well-landscaped area perfect for peaceful reflection.
Another method, though one that is far less common, is scattering ashes in the atmosphere. There are no relevant guidelines to prevent you from releasing ashes from an aircraft, but FAA regulations do make it clear that you cannot drop anything that could pose a danger to those below, such as a container that may fall from height and cause an accident or injury.
Burial and Interment
If you've realized releasing the cremated remains is not your preference, there are ways to lay a cremated loved one to rest that don't involve scattering. They can be buried in the ground, either at a cemetery or on your own private property. Many individuals choose to have cremated ashes interned in a niche in a columbarium, which is the equivalent of a mausoleum but reserved for cremation urns.
Choosing burial or interment is something that you may need to consider depending on the religious views of the deceased. In the Catholic faith, for example, it's not permitted to keep cremated remains at home but instead inter or bury them in a sanctified space like a cemetery.
Considering Where You Can Scatter Cremated Remains
Making final arrangements for a loved one can be an emotionally charged task, to say the least. Choosing cremation based on that loved one's preferences, because of financial considerations, or for any other reason, is a viable one that provides you with a number of different options for the disposition of cremated remains. You can keep cremated ashes in a special place at home, you can bury or inter them in a cemetery, or you can spread them in specific places.
Knowing where you're permitted to scatter those ashes is important. The last thing you want to do is to run afoul of any state or local laws that could get you in hot water. At the same time, you also want to ensure that you can comply with the wishes of your loved one. Remember: unless you're on your own private property, you need to always comply with state or federal rules. That includes asking permission to scatter on public or private property.