INNISFAIL – The old cemetery along Lakewood Drive is filling up.
And the town is now taking a big step forward to ensure there’s always a future final resting place for dearly departed citizens.
At town council’s regular meeting on Jan. 27, Meghan Jenkins, manager of community planning and sustainability, presented a report that outlined the findings of consultant Lees & Associates, a Vancouver-based company that specializes in cemetery design and memorial planning.
The company conducted a workshop with council last fall to better understand the need to plan and develop new cemetery capacity.
Included with the report’s many findings was that lnnisfail Cemetery's developed inventory of lots would accommodate just two years of sales demand at the site. The current active 21-acre site has 37 casket lots, 63 cremation lots and five columbaria niches now available for sale.
The consultant did say in its report the town could opt to increase cemetery inventory at its existing site by in-filling redundant roads, expanding the range of cremation garden interment options and extending it onto adjacent lands.
However, the town has long owned 20 acres of land along the C & E Trail in north Innisfail that has been earmarked for a future cemetery.
“We are reaching a point where we need to make sure that we are getting our new cemetery land off the C & E Trail, and we will need and want to get trees planted before we run out of room,” said Jenkins, noting the new cemetery land is currently being rented out to a farmer. “It’s just pasture at this point. That is what this design plan will give us, a layout and we can start making the appropriate roads and planting trees so when we do start using it, it doesn’t just look like a pasture.”
She said there is “definitely” a reduction in the demand for cemetery space because people today are looking at different options.
The consultant’s report detailed the continued increasing preference for cremation. The national average cremation rate increased from 67.1 per cent in 2014 to 72.1 per cent in 2018. The cremation rate in Alberta is the fourth highest in Canada, averaging 71 per cent from 2014 to 2018, and is expected to rise to almost 78 per cent by 2023.
As for the Town of lnnisfail, the cremation rate averaged 80 per cent from 2014 to 2018.
In the meantime, new cemetery trends and options could be included in the design for the new local cemetery.
“There are some different types of options cemeteries are offering now, things like scattering gardens and memorial plaques where you don’t necessarily even inter any remains,” said Jenkins. “There is just a plaque, so there’s some sort of physical record of someone but you’re actually not interring any remains.”
Following Jenkins’ presentation council approved the consultant’s report as information along with an estimated expenditure of $18,000 to move forward with the design work for the new and existing cemeteries.
She said the town will receive a design and a layout from the consultant in spring, and if approved by council the town can move forward with the new cemetery improvements.
Jenkins said no firm timeline has been established for actual work on the new cemetery but it could be later this year or in 2021.