GPS Replacing Headstones?

January 14, 2010
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imageFor the first time in 70 years, the City of Calgary has a new strategy for the city’s soon-to-be-full cemeteries: green burials and GPS locators for finding the dead.

Four of Calgary’s five municipal cemeteries are full, and officials estimate the Queen’s Park burial lands, which opened in 1940, will run out of space within 10 years.

A council committee approved a strategy Tuesday that incorporates technology, including global positioning system units, and environmentally friendly techniques to make the most use of new cemetery land.

Two new cemeteries, approved for the southeast and the north of the city, will have sections for green burials, where there won’t be any grave markers, said Archie Lang, the city’s manager of cemeteries.

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A family visiting the cemetery will be given a hand-held unit to find loved ones.

“It’ll have the GPS location on there,” Lang said. “They’ll be able to go right to the head of the grave and they’ll know exactly where their loved one’s buried.”

In green burials, embalming fluids will not be used, and the remains will be placed in a biodegradable casket, he added.

The cemeteries, which will still have sections for traditional graves with headstones, will also look a bit different.

“You don’t cut the grass,” Lang said. “You don’t have smelly machines looking after things on a daily basis. It is indeed native prairie fescue.”

Rough fescue, Alberta’s official grass, has roots that can grow three metres deep and stores carbon in the ground.

Land has already been set aside for the southeast cemetery ? which should be operating in about five years ? while officials are actively searching for land for another cemetery on the northern outskirts.

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