Council debates cemetery plan

Whitehorse is planning to expand the Grey Mountain Cemetery to include a pet cemetery, woodland sections and culturally specific areas.

Whitehorse is planning to expand the Grey Mountain Cemetery to include a pet cemetery, woodland sections and culturally specific areas.

The final draft of the Grey Mountain Cemetery Master Plan was tabled last week.

However, not enough public input has been worked into the plan, said councillor Doug Graham.

Only one person attended a public meeting on the cemetery plan.

As a result of this low turnout, the city set up a display in the Canada Games Centre with feedback questionnaires.

Only 47 of these questionnaires were returned to the city.

Two cemetery concepts were offered to the public.

The final plan was a hybrid that pulled ideas from both concepts.

“The public has not seen this document and I just saw it today,” said Graham. “This plan is quite different.

“It’s very expensive and I’m not sure if it’s a good expenditure in its current makeup.”

The plan is too conceptional and vague, added Graham.

“This is something we struggle with all the time,” said Mayor Bev Buckway.

“We ask for public input, but how do you decide that enough is enough?”

The plan will meet some public needs, including a section that will allow double headstones, said Buckway, adding she was pleased with the plan.

The cemetery’s current policy prohibits double plots or shared headstones and has provoked complaints.

The cemetery has been serving the community since the 1960s and became the city’s sole resting place after the downtown Pioneer Cemetery was decommissioned.

The plan should help secure enough capacity to meet the city’s burial needs for the next 20 years. It would be implemented in four phases.

Phase A, which would begin this spring, will cost the city around $400,000 and include a new road and a section to accommodate 600 new single-internment plots.

Phase B should also cost around $400,000 and would begin sometime after 2010.

This second phase would include a neotraditonal (such as circular arrangements rather than linear ones) and woodland sections as well as a gathering place.

The woodland section disperses the plots throughout a wooded area and would accommodate larger or unique monuments, double plots and family plots.

This section may also be able to accommodate green burials, which allow remains to decompose in a more natural way. The body is generally laid to rest in more biodegradable wooden caskets without the preserving chemicals used in embalming.

This more environmentally friendly form of burial is a growing trend in Canada.

Phase C would begin around 2020 and would include more plots, a garden for the scattering of ashes, a culturally specific section and a pet cemetery.

Phase D plans for another expansion around 2030.

Fees for each plot will continue to be charged based on a 50 per cent cost recovery target.

We should not take advantage of the dead, said Stockdale.

“Why do we make them pay 50 per cent when we only take 30 per cent in taxes from the living?”

It was not clear whether he was joking.