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Trail cemetery project adding space for cremains

Workers were busy pouring yards of concrete at the Mountain View Cemetery on Friday for a foundation for a columbarium. - Guy Bertrand
Workers were busy pouring yards of concrete at the Mountain View Cemetery on Friday for a foundation for a columbarium.
— image credit: Guy Bertrand

Mountain View Cemetery isn’t running out of space for burial plots, but anyone wishing to be laid to rest in the 84-year old grave site will soon have another option.

An above ground project between the City of Trail and Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services is underway on top of the gently sloping hills that by fall, will give residents the choice of resting for eternity in a columbarium.

The function of a columbarium is to provide an above-grade structure designed for the interment of the cremated remains that could house two urns in a niche space of about 12 inches by 12 inches.

The city’s public works, the department responsible for maintaining Trail’s cemeteries, poured a slab of concrete adjacent to the mausoleum Friday morning.

A 64-unit stand alone structure will be installed once the concrete has cured, explained Alternatives funeral director Bill Clark, adding that the columbarium will be attached to the mausoleum by walkway.

“The reason is not because the inventory of plots available for cremation or earth burials is diminishing,” said Clark.

“It’s a complement to the existing mausoleum and creates an option for people who for their own reasons are not wanting to be placed in the earth.”

The province’s cremation rates range from 36 per cent to 83 per cent or higher depending on where you live, noted Clark, and the columbarium’s niches are simply a choice that creates an opportunity for internment of those remains.

He said the concept flows with the mausoleum’s design and as time passes, additional structures can be added to the first unit that includes bronze nameplates to mark each niche.

“My main concern is to develop it in such a way that it makes sense for future development,” said Clark. “Because we want to take advantage of the outdoors and the surroundings that are there to truly create a park-like setting.”

Based on its 85 per cent cremation rate, another local municipality has been providing the choice of columbarium internment since 1999.

With most people choosing cremation, Fruitvale added an additional columbarium to its cemetery in 2003, and this year, two more.

“Most of our burials are cremains now,” said Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale’s chief administrative officer. “We have made quite a few changes at the Fruitvale Memorial Cemetery over the last year.”

After a shortage of burial space two years ago, the village added an adjacent strip of land next to the cemetery that provides 82 additional full burial plots, although the plot layout has yet to be approved by the province.

“After that we will be in a position to sell plots as they are required, not in advance,” said Cresswell. “We only had one full burial request last year that we had to decline for lack of space.”

She said Fruitvale currently has approximately 20 burials per year and with only three of those full burials, the balance being cremations, the 82 additional plots could potentially extend the life of the cemetery for up to 25 years.

Maintaining the area’s cemeteries is a regional function, and this year Trail received $95,000 from the East End communities of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to begin re-paving Mountain View’s roads and repair retaining walls, curbs and gutters.

Another problem requiring attention is “sinkers,” which are aged grave sites that over time collapse into the earth, creating a hollow or dip.

“We raised approximately 3,000 sinker graves a number of years ago,” said Larry Abenante, Trail’s public works manager. “Now the situation is starting to happen again.”

The sinker situation may soon be a problem of the past however, because Abenante said when caskets are now lowered into the ground, a fibreglass liner is in place that prevents rot by shedding moisture away from the coffin.

Another project under the city’s capital plan that’s in the engineering phase this summer, is to replace Mountain View’s water source.

“Right now we’ve got water coming down from Rossland in an old pipe that is on private property and above ground,” said Abenante.

The water route is about 100 years old and only available during the summer months, he added.

“It’s under size and in poor condition and a new larger size service will provide more efficient water buried below frost levels and provide water year round.”

Fruitvale’s operating budget is $50,000, with a capital budget for cemetery expansion exceeding $70,000.

“In addition, a new memorial stone has been installed for plaques to honour those who may not be interred in the cemetery,” said Cresswell. “But are former residents and their families and friends wish to remember.”

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