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Last wishes: Johnson City develops policy for spreading remains at parks

Amanda Marsh • Mar 8, 2012 at 7:31 AM

If one of your final wishes includes having your ashes spread along the grounds of a Johnson City park, just tell your loved ones to fill out a request.

Johnson City’s Parks and Recreation Department has implemented a “Scattering Cremated Remains Policy” for individuals seeking to have a family member’s ashes sprinkled on lands within the park system. To make the request, a relative of the deceased must fill out an application and detail the exact location where the cremains will be scattered and at what time.

The policy was created after the department received a call from a woman who said her mother was an avid hiker who wished to have her ashes scattered at Buffalo Mountain Park.

Mary Ann Kinch, Parks and Recreation marketing and special events, took the phone call and said it was the first time that she knew of anyone making such a request.

“I’ve been here a long time and I’m not shocked at too much,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve come to realize that when you work with the public you can get any question at any time.”

Following the phone call, Kinch went online to search for cremation policies at other park systems in the state, which helped her put together the “Scattering Cremated Remains Policy.”

Parks and Recreation has come up with a few stipulations for the dispersal of cremated remains, such as the time of the memorial, which must be held before noon, and families may not leave an urn or memorial marker of any kind within park boundaries.

Written permission will be granted on a case-by-case basis by the Parks and Recreation director and once approval has been given, the family is supposed to keep the signed document with them throughout the memorial service.

“I think there are a lot of people who love to be in the park,” Kinch said. “Buffalo Mountain is a beautiful nature reserve and people who like it feel at peace there. I’m surprised in over 20 years I’ve been here that I haven’t heard a request for that, and it could be that they’ve done it anyway.”

Even though there’s a possibility that people have scattered cremains without the knowledge of Parks and Rec staff, Kinch says it’s a courtesy to get proper permission. Those who do so will be made aware of conflicting park events so they can schedule a time that is more private.

“You wouldn’t walk on someone else’s property and do that without asking and this property belongs to 65,000 people, so permission is always a good thing.”

The scattering cremated remains request application is available at the Parks and Recreation administrative office at Winged Deer Park, 4137 Bristol Highway, and will soon be available online.

For more information about the policy, call 283-5815.

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