Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does it cost to be buried in the Narrow Ridge Natural Burial Preserve?

A: Breakdown of potential costs associated with burial in the Narrow Ridge Natural Burial Preserve:

  • Burial Plots Available on a Donation Basis: Because we feel strongly that the death of a loved one should not result in debt or financial hardship for family members, we have no set fee for a cemetery plot within the burial preserve. However, Narrow Ridge encourages donations in appreciation of the Natural Burial Preserve and the time required of staff to maintain and oversee this important initiative. We hope that those who are able will give generously and also consider naming Narrow Ridge as the recipient of memorial donations.
  • Opening and Closing of the Grave: The opening and closing of graves in the Natural Burial Preserve is usually performed by Narrow Ridge authorized, local backhoe operator, who currently charges $300 to open and close a grave. This fee is paid directly to the backhoe operator on the day of burial rather than through Narrow Ridge or a funeral home. Alternatively, friends and family may elect to dig and cover the grave by hand. Please note that digging a 3 ½ foot  grave site by hand is time and labor intensive work. 
  • Casket or Shroud: Expenses for burial containers or caskets are the responsibility of individuals choosing to use the Natural Burial Preserve. 
    • Shrouds: Narrow Ridge has 100% linen shrouds from Kinkaraco available for purchase for $385 (wholesale priced). PurelightTM shrouds have handles for carrying, straps for lowering and a back board for stability name of shroud. BUTTON Order Here 
    • Wooden caskets may be available for pre-order by local casket maker(s) (provide link). Homemade shrouds and caskets are permitted in the Natural Burial Preserve (see Terms of Use of Natural Burial Preserve for information on burial coverings/container requirements).
  • Services of a Funeral Home: Narrow Ridge Natural Burial Preserve is not affiliated with any funeral home and does not provide any services of a funeral director such as holding, preparing, or transporting a body for burial or filing a death certificate. Fees for the services rendered by a funeral home are the responsibility of individuals who choose to use the Natural Burial Preserve. Fees paid to a funeral home do not provide compensation to Narrow Ridge for burial space or upkeep of the burial preserve. 

Q: How do I make an appointment to see the Natural Burial Preserve and/or reserve a site?

A: Please call us at 865-497-2753 or email us at community@narrowridge.org if you wish to make an appointment to visit the cemetery and choose your burial site.  Please do not come to Narrow Ridge without calling first. Because our staff is limited and our grounds are quite extensive, there is a good chance that there will be no one on hand to assist you if you arrive unannounced.  If you have no preference and prefer, Narrow Ridge is happy to choose a site for you.

Q: So, the Natural Burial Preserve has been chosen for me and/or my loved one. What immediate steps need to be taken at the time of death?

A: There will be many tasks to be completed after the death of a loved one. The guidance provided below pertains only to making arrangements for burial in the Natural Burial Preserve:

  1. Notify Narrow Ridge of the incident of death by calling 865-497-2753 or after hours at 865-497-3603 or 865-497-3566.
  2. If using the services of a funeral home, notify funeral home personnel of the incident of death. If you have not chosen a funeral home, Narrow Ridge has worked closely with Cooke-Campbell Mortuary in Maynardville (provide link to their website). 
  3. If not using the services of a funeral home, assure that a death certificate is completed by a physician or County Coroner and provide Narrow Ridge with a copy of the death certificate.
  4. If not using the services of a funeral home, make plans for transporting the body to the Natural Burial Preserve.
  5. Notify your chosen pallbearers. Due to the coronavirus, Narrow Ridge does not provide this service any longer.

Q: Is it legal to bury an unembalmed body?

A: Yes.  In the state of Tennessee, embalmment is not required for burial.

Q: Am I required by Tennessee law to use a funeral home?

A:  No.  While Tennessee law does not require the use of a funeral home in burying a loved one, many people find the services provided by a funeral home to be very helpful during a difficult time of loss. We strongly recommend end of life planning whether or not the services of a funeral home will be employed.  In particular, it is important, when possible, to make plans ahead of time regarding the filing of the death certificate and transportation of the body. Such planning is the responsibility of individuals choosing the Natural Burial Preserve and not the responsibility of Narrow Ridge. 

Tennessee law, or the Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) 62-5-102 states, 

“Nothing herein shall be constituted to prevent or interfere with the ceremonies, customs, religious rites, or religion of any people, denomination, or sect, or to prevent or interfere with any religious denomination, sect, any body composed of persons of a denomination, or to prevent or interfere with any church or synagogue from having its committee or committees prepare human bodies for burial or to the families, friends or neighbors of deceased persons who prepare and bury their dead without charge.”  

Q:  What do I do if a family member dies at home?

A:  If a death occurs at home, despite it seeming natural to die at home, the County Coroner or Medical Examiner office and local law enforcement must be notified to investigate the circumstances of the death (unless the death occurs under Hospice care at home).  Law enforcement must go to the home to ensure that no foul play or trauma is involved, and that a physician or County Medical Examiner will be available to complete a Tennessee death certificate.  If you call a funeral home directly, they will (or should by law) ensure that the County Medical Examiner and local law enforcement have been notified before they remove the body.  This protocol must be followed even if the death is an apparently natural death at home.  

Q:  What is a transit permit?

A:  If the body is to be transported across state lines, whether by a funeral home or privately by a family, a transit permit may be required by the receiving state.  Transit permits are not necessary if moving a body within in the State.  Some embalming restrictions may apply to inter-state transportation.  Consult the County Health Department’s Vital Records Division for these restrictions and other information about transit permits.

Q:  What about a Tennessee death certificate?

A:   By law, Narrow Ridge can only allow burial of individuals in the cemetery who have had a death certificate filed with the County of residence. Tennessee has an online system for the filing of a death certificate which can only be accessed by a physician or mortician.  For this reason and others, many choose to use the services of a funeral home.  However, others have been able to meet the requirement of filing the death certificate with the help of a physician. We advise you to have a plan for how you will meet this requirement. Speaking with your family physician, the County Coroner, or a funeral home would be a good place to start.

Q: What is the environmental impact of conventional burials?

A: In the United States (from the 2009 book, Going Out Green, by Bob Butz):

  • Embalming fluid: We bury enough embalming fluid (which includes formaldehyde) to fill an Olympic size swimming pool each year* 

(827,060 gallons annually)**

  • Concrete vaults: We bury enough concrete to build a 2-lane road from New York City to Detroit [Knoxville to Orlando, FL] every year and enough steel to build and rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge every year* 

(3 billion 272 million lbs of reinforced concrete vaults and 28 million lbs of steel)**

  • Metal caskets: We bury 180,544 million lbs of copper and bronze every year** 

*From Joe Sehee of the New Mexico based Green Council in an article he wrote for the Detroit Free Press in 2009.

**Statistics provided by Mary Woodsen, a Cornell University Science writer from Ithaca, NY based upon her research on the 22,500 cemeteries in the US at the time of her study.

Q: What is the environmental impact of cremation

A: Carbon Footprint of Cremation (from the 2009 book, Going Out Green, by Bob Butz): 

  • Electric and natural gas fired crematory ovens use 2,000 cubic feet of energy to incinerate 1 cadaver, producing 250 lbs of CO2 which is equivalent to the amount of CO2 produced by the average US home in 1 week. 
  • In 2009, the EPA estimated that anywhere from 600 lbs of mercury from dental fillings came out of crematory emissions.
  • The EPA does not regulate the emissions that result from cremations.