MILTON, Ga. — For the last three years, Jim Bell has been running Milton Fields, the only state-regulated green cemetery in Georgia.
But he’s got an idea that he wants city leaders to get behind. Bell wants to have a section of his 23-acre cemetery “dedicated to the founders of the city of Milton.”
“I’m going to let them define it,” Bell said. “It’s not just elected officials, volunteers, public servants and people who have never worked for the city, but were very involved.”
Because this is an idea in the works, Bell said he will let the city of Milton decide what can be considered a “founder.”
The city was incorporated on Dec. 1, 2006 out of unincorporated Fulton County.
What makes his cemetery green are larger lots, Bell said, meaning there are 400 graves per acre instead of the typical 800 per acre.
“There’s a 6-foot walkway around the graves,” Bell said. “No embalming, only bio-degradable caskets and no concrete vaults. That makes it green.”
Bell said he wants to get the community involved in making a commitment to being green, “forever.”
“In addition to adopting a road, or a river clean-up, there will be a spot for people who can commit to being green — permanently,” Bell said.
Being state-regulated means that Milton Fields has set up a perpetual care trust fund with the state.
As a business, it means that a lot of people throughout the state want to be buried there.
“We’ve had people from Blue Ridge, Warner Robins and other areas buried there,” Bell said. “We attract a wider area. I’m just trying to get the city of Milton people involved in it.
Bell runs the only private cemetery in the city, located six miles north of Crabapple, 1150 Birmingham Road. Most other city cemeteries are small church-owned lots.
His cemetery looks like a farm field from the roadway, but upon closer inspection, 1-foot wide flat markers can be seen.
There are three kinds of cemeteries: a state, a church and a private cemetery. Another green church-run cemetery exists in Conyers — Honey Creek Woodland Cemetery — but they are not state-regulated, Bell said.
“It’s another alternative to cremation,” he said.
Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood said he thinks the concept could solidify the history of the city.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Lockwood said. “I would certainly support it.”
As far as plans for burial, Lockwood said he would entertain this concept.
“It’s a weird feeling to plan it, but it’s something that is important and needs to be done,” Lockwood said.
The definition is open to interpretation and Lockwood is unclear if the issue would have to be brought up to council.
“It’s a nice way to preserve some beautiful land,” Lockwood said. “It’s a nice concept for a final resting place.”