District of Kent City Council received a presentation last Wednesday about what can be done to improve Valley View Cemetery in the years to come.

District of Kent City Council received a presentation last Wednesday about what can be done to improve Valley View Cemetery in the years to come.

Breathing new life into a cemetery

Kent Council considers ways to improve Valley View Cemetery

Cemeteries are not just important for the physical place they provide for loved ones to rest, post-life.

They also add other important functions in the community according to Erik Lees, of Lees and Associates cemetery planners.

“That is where history is literally writ in stone,” he said. “You’ve got graves there that date back almost a hundred years.”

A pilot from the First World War, pioneers of the Agassiz community—they’re all memorialized in the same place: Valley View Cemetery.

And even the place itself has history, providing the higher ground for camps as residents escaped the rising waters of the 1948 flood.

“And so we want cemeteries to remain active places,” Lees told the Observer.

The industry expert, planner and landscape architect presented his findings last week from a report his firm was commissioned to do for the District of Kent (DOK) to analyse the needs of the municipality’s outdated cemetery bylaw.

“The key number is the cremation rate because that means that a lot less land is needed to bury our dead,” Lees said.

The rule of thumb is that 80 to 85 per cent of cremated remains don’t even make it to the cemetery, a space saver for planners.

But the purpose of a cemetery is to offer a space for people to add their relatives’ remains in a place of community memorialization.

Though the perpetual relationship between limited land space and more people dying seems to lead to a dead end, Lees and his report might breathe new life into the district’s cemetery strategy.

“There need to be more cremated remains interment options and more forms of memorialization,” he said. “And there’s lots and lots of examples of how that can happen.”

There should be the opportunity for people to choose green burial options, for example (headstone is community memorial; no embalming of the deceased; simple wood casket; some form of native planting on or near the grave).

And even simply making the cemetery a more interesting place will make it more sustainable over time, Lees said.

Compared to neighbouring communities, the DOK cemetery lacks some of that product and service variety.

But fees are under the average, and Lees suggests raising those rates, adding special child and veteran rates and increasing prices every year to reflect annual inflation.

Valley View cemetery only has seven years of cremation interment capacity plus five years of at-need/pre-need cremation lot sales capability.

That’s compared to over 100 years of casket interment and 38 years of at-need/pre-need casket lot sales capacity.

Which prompted the recommendation from Lees to convert casket lots into cremation-only lots. That’s in addition to other recommendations to gain more land capacity, such as creating an infill strategy and a plan for dealing with unclaimed lots.

Adding a memorial wall and a scattering garden were among further recommendations from Lees.

He also recommends a stricter memorial tree planting policy, and has a list of advice for a revamped bylaw.

The final Lees and Associates report will come back to DOK staff who will make their own recommendations to district council sometime in the future.

“It’s a jewel really,” Lees said of Valley View. “It’s a sacred landscape that could be even better.”

Quick facts

• District cremation rates (82 per cent) are a little bit under the provincial average (84 per cent), which is one of the highest for North America.

• The area’s average death rate (including all Agassiz Harrison and health area boundaries) is a bit higher than the provincial average at 8.3 per thousand and even a little bit higher even than the national average (7.5 per thousand).

• Valley View serves 54 per cent of residents buried and 21 per cent of those cremated.

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Black Press file photo.
COVID exposure recorded at Kent Elementary

Students, families encouraged to keep monitoring for symptoms

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read