The city is undertaking an expansion and improvements to the Elk Falls Cemetery

Cemetery expansion to begin this year

Construction on alternate ways to remember loved ones will get underway at Elk Falls Cemetery this spring or summer

Construction on alternate ways to remember loved ones such as columbaria cremation niches, and a green burial area will get underway at one of the city cemetery’s this spring or summer.

City council, at its Monday meeting, approved spending $175,000 on the first phase of an expansion plan for the Elk Falls Cemetery along Highway 28.

For the last two years, city staff have been working with LEES+Associates consultants on proposals to upgrade and expand Elk Falls Cemetery.

Coun. Ron Kerr said he was very pleased to see the project finally coming to fruition.

“This gets me so excited,” Kerr said. “I think this is one of the most important projects I’ve ever been involved with in my time on council.”

The project is aimed at creating more traditional in-ground casket burial space and at the same time add more cremation interment and memorialization options to encourage more Campbell River residents to use Elk Falls Cemetery.

“The cemetery only serves approximately five per cent of the citizens who choose cremation. This equates to only 15 cremation interments out of more than 300 that occur in the community each year,” Richard Cook of LEES+ Associations told council at its Monday night meeting. “Many Campbell River residents are purchasing alternative cremation interment options, provided by other communities such as Courtenay, or are choosing not to inter or be memorialized in any cemetery.”

Cook said a draft master plan was presented to the public last December at which time questionnaires were given out. The forms that were returned demonstrated overwhelming support for proposals that included new traditional burial and cremation burial inventory, as well as options for woodland cremation gardens, community and family columbaria, scattering gardens, family vessels, boulder markers, upright markers, memorial walls and green burial.

With that in mind, Cook said his team has come up with a plan that balances what the community is asking for versus council’s budget. Proposed are: 60 new in-ground casket burial lots with upright markers which will provide seven more years of capacity, new columbaria above ground cremation niches (good for five to seven years), a new green burial area with a communal marker (10 years), a new main entry drive sign and gate, improvements to the cemetery gatehouse including controlled access to washrooms during cemetery services, new benches, and new native tree and shrub planting. Coun. Larry Samson questioned whether improvements to the parking lot, which is located on Highway 28, will be coming.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear is the people who attend the church service, they go up to the cemetery, they’re in the clothes they attended the church in and they get out to a gravel, sometimes muddy, parking lot.”

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, suggested council could consider adding parking lot improvements in the 2017 budget, possibly as part of phase two of the cemetery expansion plan. The city has been looking to expand the cemetery for years. Cook said Campbell River’s population is expected to grow by 16 per cent over the next 15 years and the cemetery’s traditional in-ground casket burial inventory is only expected to last for two more years.

“It is projected that the cemetery will see an average of 16 internments per year over the next 25 years.”