Grave Decisions: Our Cemetery Master Plan

The SCRD is responsible for three cemeteries: Kleindale in Pender Harbour (closed), Elphinstone Pioneer Cemetery (not selling new plots), and Seaview at the top of Lower Road in Roberts Creek. For years we had a project on the books to do a “business plan” because staff knew we needed to do capital planning, especially for Seaview, but the plan kept getting deferred.

Finally staff simply hired a consulting company to write the plan. This plan was presented to the board for the very first time on July 28, 2022 (see agenda), and we were expected to approve it right then and there! There had been no previous consultation with us, much less any consultation with the public, but we were expected to endorse recommendations such as spending $6 million to acquire a new property to provide space when Seaview runs out of burial plots.

That’s when I kicked up a fuss. Granted, Seaview needs to expand on its existing site and has other maintenance concerns, but I knew that if this plan was passed by the board as presented it would become enshrined as our Eternal Master Plan. So, in the end the board voted to endorse the plan as a “draft” with an understanding that it will come back to us in future.

OK, now for my rant. This report had all kinds of nuggets in it, like recommending that we ban people from leaving memorabilia at graves (referred to as “grave adornment”) because it’s “untidy” and an “unattractive aesthetic” and interferes with lawnmowers. I mean what is our priority here, people’s grief or lawn worship? And why do we need grass anyway? Can’t we look for suitable alternative groundcover that is drought resistant and doesn’t need mowing? Heck, this is Roberts Creek, not Shaughnessy, and we are certainly not competing to attract more business.

There is also a long section about the Elphinstone Pioneer Cemetery that was poorly researched and did not mention the many constraints on that property (for instance: no maintained public road to the entrance, no parking, and very difficult access for anyone with mobility problems).

I’m not opposed to maximizing the available burial space in Seaview Cemetery, but I am very reluctant to look at opening a new cemetery.  Under BC law, cemetery owners are responsible for the properties “in perpetuity.” We need to think very carefully before taking that on.

At present Seaview has only about a dozen burials per year and twice that number of cremation interments.

Finally, end of life customs are changing. In 1970, only 6% of Canadians were cremated. These days the cremation rate in BC is around 85%. And non-traditional alternatives to both burial and cremation are springing up, such as being buried in a pod under a tree or liquified via alkaline hydrolysis. It’s very hard to know where we’ll be in another 50 years.

The Elphinstone Pioneer Cemetery is a hidden gem of Area E. Heavily populated with moss, old stone grave markers and bears, it’s a beautiful site to visit. Warn the bears you’re coming!

Posted by Donna