Legal Places to Scatter Ashes
There is a popular story floating around about scattering the remains of a loved one at Disneyland. It is illegal to do it, and you can get kicked out of the park if you are caught, but that does not stop thousands of people from trying every year anyway. In fact, it is such a problem that the camera system is designed to catch people in the act and dispatch workers to clean up the remains before they become a health hazard. This means your loved one won’t, as you probably hoped, be spending eternity in the happiest place on earth. In reality, they will be sucked into a special vacuum and tossed out with the trash.
This kind of thing is common in places like Disneyland, where millions of people have happy memories. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of individuals wishing to be scattered there, it is impossible for the park to accommodate everyone. The same is true of popular tourist destinations all over the world (including places like the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building), which is why they put firm restrictions in place.
However, there are public locations where you can, with the appropriate permits, scatter your loved one’s remains with impunity. Always make sure you call ahead of time to learn the regulations, and follow all guidelines for travel before you go anywhere with human remains.
- U.S. National Park System: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National Park…these popular and breathtaking sites almost all allow the scattering of ashes, provided you follow their individual rules. Yellowstone, for example, only allows it by air (and at an altitude of 1,000 feet). Others request that you only release ashes and not commemorative birds or butterflies, as these disrupt the wildlife balance. Still others simply ask that you stay 200 feet away from trailheads or water sources. You do need to call ahead, and the approval process can take up to two weeks, but this is both legal and free to do.
- Oceans: Bodies of water like rivers and lakes can be tricky, but it is always legal to scatter ashes in the ocean provided you are at least three nautical miles from shore before doing so. You are also only allowed to release biodegradable items in the water with the ashes (such as flowers or cardboard urns). You are asked to notify the EPA one month before you are planning to do this.
- Scattering Garden: Many cemeteries offer “scattering gardens” where you are welcome to spread the ashes of a loved one in a setting that is peaceful and serene. However, expect to pay for the privilege, since most cemeteries charge a fee for this. (Mostly because they will be the ones maintaining the garden for the next hundred years or so.)
- Private Property: The best bet for anyone hoping to scatter the ashes of a loved one is to do so on private property (with the permission of the owner). There are very few restrictions on private land as long as you are not contaminating a direct water source in the process. You should always get the permission in writing, however, since this can help you avoid tricky legal issues later on down the road.