Did you and your late husband have your first kiss in a forest preserve? Do you have favorite memories of duck hunting with your dad at Kankakee River State Park? If your loved one loved the outdoors, a new law now makes it possible to legally scatter their ashes on land owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As we looked through some proposed Illinois administrative law rules, we couldn’t help becoming morbidly curious about how the state of Illinois will be permitting people to scatter human remains on state property. We hope you will find this interesting, and maybe use your newfound knowledge to wow your family and friends. But before you head off to their favorite fishing hole or campground, you need be aware of specific rules and requirements for scattering ashes on DNR properties. Here’s what you need to know.

You need a permit

In order to scatter cremains (cremated human remains) in an Illinois state park or any DNR-owned land, you must have a special permit. Even with a permit, though, certain areas are off-limits, including Illinois nature preserves, land or water reserves, natural areas, state historic sites, state memorials, and various other DNR properties. Be sure to get your application in well ahead of time; applications for permits must be submitted to the DNR at least 14 days prior to the requested scattering date. Then, remember to keep a copy of the permit on you at all times on the actual date.

You need to keep it private

Scattering the ashes of a loved one is a private matter, and the state of Illinois would prefer you kept it that way. The law requires that you scatter cremains out of sight of public use areas (roads, trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, parking lots) and at least 200 feet from any lake, stream, watercourse or creek bed. Ashes are not the fine powder you might imagine; they contain bone fragments that aren’t going to disappear into the elements right away. No one wants to think about people walking on their loved one’s remains, so it makes sense to find a private place away from activities. For added privacy, try to plan your memorial for early in the day, when there are fewer crowds.

You need to leave things as you found them

While it’s natural to want to somehow mark the site of your last goodbye, there are rules about how to leave the spot you’ve chosen for scattering a loved one’s ashes. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources requires you to spread the ashes over an area large enough to avoid leaving any identifiable accumulation. You’re also not permitted to leave any type of container, urn or memorial marker at the scattering site. Flowers, whether real or artificial, are also a no-no; the same goes for planting memorial trees.

You need to also keep in mind…

  • If you plan to scatter the ashes in the wind rather than spreading them on the ground, be sure to gauge the wind direction to avoid having the ashes blow back at you or on other people.
  • If you’re going to be handling the ashes with your bare hands, you may want to bring a damp cloth or hand wipes to use when you’re done.
  • Contact everyone who might have an interest in what you’re doing ahead of time and make sure they’re on board with it.

Scattering the ashes of someone you love in a favorite place can help give you closure and peace of mind, knowing that a part of them will always be in a place they loved. If you have questions about the new law or any concerns regarding estate planning for yourself or a loved one, we’re here to help.