Is it Legal to Scatter a Person’s Ashes in Colorado?
Have you been faced with the responsibility of fulfilling a person's request and scattering their ashes? When it comes to the state of Colorado, is this legal? If so, where can you legally release them?
According to The Living Urn, the great state of Colorado has few limits to scattering ashes. It seems the cremation process renders ashes harmless and there is no related health risk associated with scattering ashes. With that, though, the webpage maintains it's always advisable to use common sense when scattering and avoid places that may be offensive to others.
I've been requested to do this twice - with my mom's ashes and my dad's. In both cases, they requested their ashes be scattered at Mesa Verde National Park and at the Bookcliffs. In both cases I fulfilled their wishes.
Fast forward six months, and the following discovery was made. According to Google, when it comes to Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park:
The BLM does not consider scattering cremated remains a threat to archaeological resources, so consultation with Native American tribes is not mandated. While scattering human remains is allowed on certain Park Service lands, it is not at Mesa Verde National Park.
I promise you I do not make this statement lightly, or with any disrespect to our public lands, but... oops...too late. It's not like I can head down to Mesa Verde with a Dustbuster and undo this action. An assumption was made, in this case an incorrect one, and I proceeded with carrying out the request before checking with the park.
According to The Living Urn, each county and city in Colorado may have their own regulations. In addition, places such as state and national parks have their individual rules. The website advises you to contact these locations directly to inquire.
What about Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park? According to nps.gov:
A permit is required from the Chief Ranger's Office to scatter ashes in the park. There is no charge for the permit.
At Rocky Mountain National Park, some guidelines need to be kept in mind when filling out the request:
- There are no designated sites for scattering of ashes, but the location you choose must be away from developed areas (parking lots, trailheads, campgrounds, picnic areas) and at least 200 feet from any water source such as a lake or stream.
- Discretion should be exercised in spreading ashes; doing so is generally a very private moment and care should be given not to disturb other park users.
- Ashes should be spread about and not buried or placed in a pile.
- No markers, cairns, displays, signs, or plaques may be placed in the park.
- We suggest early in the morning as a good time of day for your memorial as the afternoons are usually more crowded and afford less privacy and solitude
What about private land? In Colorado, according to nolo.com, you are allowed to scatter ashes on your own private property. You can scatter ashes on another person's private land, but you're encouraged to get permission first.
There is another option - scattering ashes by air. This would be an effective way to scatter ashes over a wide area across Colorado. According to nolo.com, while there are no state laws, federal aviation laws do prohibit dropping any objects that might cause harm to people or property. The United States government does not consider cremains to be hazardous material, so long as you remove the ashes from their container before scattering.
As you can see, the laws seem somewhat casual when it comes to scattering ashes in Colorado. As listed above, some state parks and monuments allow it, while others do not. For those that do, the application process is simple. Should it fall to you to carry out this task, you will probably find it easy to get answers from individual locations across the state.