With cemeteries filling up, local trustees are adding land and allowing cremains

The Old Cemetery in Rootstown, pictured in 2022. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Brimfield trustees are looking to buy more land for the township cemetery, which is running out of space.

They’re hoping to obtain five acres adjoining Restland Cemetery on state Route 43, but the owners of that acreage, Pitts Retreading & Tire Company of Cuyahoga Falls, has so far rejected the township’s $25,000 offer. 

Knowing that Restland may fill up in about seven years, the trustees have directed their law firm to pursue “any and all legal action” to obtain the acreage, up to and including eminent domain.

Restland isn’t the only cemetery in potential need of space.

Randolph Township has Hillside East and Hillside West Cemetery, split by Hartville Road, said township Fiscal Officer Mary Rodenbucher. Hillside East is full, and township trustees realized that the low cost of plots was attracting nonresidents.

To combat that, in 2022 trustees restructured plot prices to $300 for residents and $3,000 for nonresidents, she said. Even so, Hillside West could fill up in a decade. Trustees have authorized up to four cremations per plot and say there is land available to expand if they need to.

Randolph Township has two smaller cemeteries, both of which are full: Center Cemetery on state Route 44 and German Reform Cemetery on Hartville Road.

Windham Township Cemetery on Windham-Parkman Road has about 70 plots left and may run out of space in five to eight years, Trustee Rich Gano said. The trustees are looking for a grant to fund a 96-spot columbarium at the cemetery and allow up to three cremains per plot.

Knowing they will have to absorb the cost, trustees are now setting aside 10 plots for burials of indigent residents. When the cemetery fills up, township residents will be laid to rest in a 17-acre space that trustees acquired in the mid-1990s, Gano said. That land is about an eighth of a mile south of Windham Township Cemetery.

Suffield Township has three cemeteries, but all are full and have been for more than a decade, Fiscal Officer Lori Calcei said. Some residents are able to be buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Randolph, but others must choose different areas, she said.

Families and friends of loved ones can opt for cremation and keep the cremains in an urn or scatter the ashes in approved areas. They can also bury their loved one in the backyard, which is legal but requires a slew of regulations, not to mention the close oversight of a funeral director.

There is a fourth option.

Foxfield Preserve Nature Cemetery in Wilmot, in the southwest corner of Stark County, provides burials designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Shrouds and caskets must be made from natural materials, and embalming fluids and concrete vaults and liners are prohibited.

Plots are much larger than those at traditional cemeteries, measuring 10 by 20 feet. Foxfield Preserve allows up to 300 burials per acre; traditional cemeteries may have up to 1,200 in the same space. The extra space is necessary to accommodate the lack of concrete vaults and liners and to protect root systems and sensitive flora and fauna, Foxfield Associate Director Hannah Mann said.

Plot costs for natural burials are more expensive, but they end up being less expensive overall once the cost of embalming, liners, traditional caskets, funeral home services, etc. are factored in, she said.

Only natural stones approved by cemetery staff may mark a grave, she said, adding that some families opt for trees or native plants as markers.

No cemeteries in Portage County permit natural burials. Maple Grove Cemetery Superintendent Mark Gabriel said the larger space required for such a burial would mean local cemeteries would run out of room more quickly.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.