New cemetery in Sedgwick County, KS offers something unique

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Mark Brown of the Wichita Indian United Methodist Church spreads ceremonial tobacco during an opening ceremony for the Prairie Home Scattering Garden on South 79th Street recently. The new cemetery is designed for people to bury or spread the ashes of their loved ones who were cremated.

The Wichita Eagle

A unique cemetery will soon provide a peaceful resting place that sometimes resembles what it was when wagons rolled through the vast Kansas prairie.

Prairie Home Scattering Garden, in a rural part of Sedgwick County between Derby and Rose Hill, will soon open with the aim of providing an affordable and secluded place for those wishing to bury their loved ones.

The cemetery and almost all of the adjoining land surrounding it was donated in 2003 to two non-profit organizations by Raymond Fleming Jr., an oil and gas investor who died in 2015.

One of the non-profit organizations, Sunflower Land Trust, specializes in land conservation. The other, Breakthrough – Episcopal Social Services, aims to help people living in poverty and suffering from mental illness.

The two have teamed up to ensure affordable burials in a location that will continue to appear virtually untouched even after thousands have been buried there.

“If you go out and it’s morning or evening, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back almost 100 years,” said Jim Michael, CEO of Sunflower Land Trust.

Some homes near the cemetery and traffic on 79th Street can interrupt some of the scenic, but Michael said that sometimes when human life moves more slowly, the sound and images of nature dominate the landscape.

And the plan is to keep him as distant as possible.

There won’t be a big funeral or overwhelming flowers. Instead of leaving flowers, he is encouraged to donate to have mounds built and adorn with pollinating flowers native to Kansas that will attract birds and butterflies.

The site will also not have large tombstones breaking the horizon. Only flat tombstones, with the possibility of burying the ashes of the loved one in ecological bags, and scattering of ashes will be allowed. Ashes from pets can also be scattered, for a lesser fee.

Michael said he believed it was the first cremation-only cemetery in Kansas.

Cremation cemetery only

Cremations are more popular than traditional burials in Kansas, according to Pam Scott, executive director of the Kansas Funeral Directors Association.

Scott said the majority shift to cremations happened a few years ago. Affordability and more mobile lifestyles may have contributed to the shift to cremation, she said.

Cremations overtook traditional burials in Sedgwick County in 2015, according to data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from 2010 to 2020. More than 58% of those who died in Sedgwick County in 2020 have been cremated, according to the data.

Cremations offer a more affordable alternative to traditional burials. A cremation, flat headstone and private funeral at the Prairie Home Scattering Garden cost less than $ 3,500, Michael said.

The national median cost of a funeral with one visit and one burial in 2019 was $ 7,640, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Ashley Cozine, president of the Wichita-based Cozine Memorial Group, said flat headstones started to gain popularity in the 1950s. Memorial parks are often made of flat headstones, he said.

In Wichita, the landscape of the Resthaven Gardens of Memory is dominated by flat headstones.

Cozine, the former president of Kansas and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), said he did not know of any cemetery reserved for cremation in Kansas, but that he knows of elsewhere.

The NFDA predicts that cremations will gain even more popularity, with around 70% of people cremated by 2030.

Rural environment

Conservation work on donated land has helped restore streams, Michael said. The six-acre cemetery will be mowed down, but a portion of the adjoining property, filled with bromine, will be mown.

A dedication ceremony with the clergy and a Native American blessing was held recently amid high winds.

It was one of the last stages before the earth became the last resting place of loved ones. Michael is just waiting for state papers, which he will be expecting in the next few weeks, before opening the cemetery.

For more information on the cemetery and the services offered, visit prairiehomescatteringgarden.com.

Michael Stavola covers the latest news at The Wichita Eagle. He won a national award and several state awards during his six years of newspaper work in Kansas. He completed his MBA at Wichita State University in the spring of 2020. Michael enjoys exercising, hunting, and spending time with his wife and their dog, Marley.


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