Los Angeles (Orange County), California

Scattering Remains in Southern California

Want to see frowns in the Happiest Place on Earth? Get caught scattering cremated remains at Disneyland. Scattering ashes on private land in California requires written permission from the landholder. Scattering without that specific permission is a misdemeanor violation of California Health and Safety Code. Even though ashes pose no health risk, such a letter of inquiry submitted to the poobahs of the Mouse House will rate a swift "no." Ditto golf courses.

Even when you have permission, you need to make sure the ashes you scatter are unobtrusive -- "not distinguishable to the public" is how the code reads. And not to be obvious, but scattered ashes mean that: no chucking a container into the brush; the ashes must be fully distributed from their container, whether you choose to scatter ashes at sea, onto land or over land.

But if ash scattering on private parts of Southern California can be problematic, lots of public places approve scattering and the ocean is wide open. Sea scatterings must be performed at least 500 yards offshore, which, given the sunny climate, allows friends and family to watch air scatterings from beaches or piers. Loved ones who wish to perform the scattering themselves can charter boats or airplanes. Most firms accommodate requests that honor the decedent and emphasize a dignified farewell. Prices are as many and varied as outfits offering the service, which are many and varied. Shop around for rates and conveniences, and ask lots of questions to make sure you will receive what you expect. Some services record GPS coordinates so friends and family can visit the scattering site at any time. One service, Fanta Sea Yacht in Marina del Rey, offers private Santa Monica Bay memorial cruises for groups of up to 150. Fanta can provide food, flowers, an officiant and a trumpeter to play Taps at the moment of scattering.

National parks have a general policy allowing scattering but each park manager must give final approval. Parks closest to LA are Channel Islands National Park, the so-called American Galapagos, known for its protected habitat -- the islands are home to more endangered species than any other national park unit -- and Joshua Tree National Park, a favorite climbing spot, most of which lies in Riverside County. Channel Islands does not allow remains scattering on any of the islands. Officials don't want the introduction of modern remains with the historical ones already there. Scattering remains is allowed in waters near the islands; remember that state law calls for being 500 yards offshore and park officials would remind you to pour ashes out of the container and do not just chuck the urn overboard. Out at Joshua Tree, protocol is easier to remember: Not allowed. Officials there fear"cultural contamination" with remains in native Indian burial grounds within the park.

Companies such as Tanabe Flying Services, which offers A Journey with Wings, and Final Flights arrange approval for many popular locations and offer viewing site ideas. State parks have a policy of allowing scattering but, again, individual parks hold final say. National forests have no rules about scattering but because California does, permission should be sought from each local forest manager. Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests are closest to Los Angeles. A Journey with Wings has owner approval for scattering in a spot near Saddleback Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest. Pilot Jamie Tanabe can refer friends and loved ones to viewing areas or can accommodate as many as four family members to fly along. Final Flights offers scattering at five Southern California locations but can accommodate other scattering locations such as Grand Canyon National Park, Malibu Beach, Mount San Jacinto and El Mirage Dry Lake. Both Tanabe's service and Final Flights also scatter cremated remains of pets.