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Grave concerns lead city to cemetery master plan

Headstones in the Pioneer Section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery. The city has developed a 25-year master plan for the publicly-owned graveyard.
January 16, 2015 - 12:14 PM

KELOWNA - The first phase of a 25-year plan to ensure the eternal viability of Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery, the municipally-owned cemetery, begins this year giving new meaning to the phrase rest in peace.

With an aging infrastructure, changing consumer trends and limited space, cemetery manager David Gatzke says the time was right for a hard look at where one of the city’s first graveyards will be 25 years down the road. The 52-acre cemetery sits in the shadow of Dilworth Mountain and was originally an Anglican graveyard before being taken over by the city in 1911. Graves in the oldest pioneer section date to the 1890s. The city may own it but the cemetery operates on a cost-recovery basis, Gatzke says, meaning plot sales must cover all annual operating costs and capital expansion.

Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery
Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

The remains of some 18,000 people lie in the graveyard and Gatzke says demand for a further 12,800 spaces is expected by 2040.

“We are getting to the point where the available land is filling,” he says. “We are looking at the demands of the community to determine what space we will need.”

A shift in consumer preference from below-ground interrnment to cremation has made opening new spaces that much easier, Gatzke says, and will be the focus of part of renewal plan. The city has earmarked $660,000 this year for the project.

“Space has been identified around the existing Bennett Memorial area,” he says. “With the cremation trend in mind, we saw some land that could be developed for cremation niches.”

Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery.
Pioneer section of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery.

Given its location, Gatzke says, a geotechnical analysis of some parts of the site is also in the works.

“It’s due dilligence. We’re at the base of a mountain with shale and some sandy deposits,” he says. “We’re irrigating, so we need to know how much water we can put into the ground.”

Gatzke says demand is strong for space in the cemetery because of its status as a city-owned facility.

“People like the idea that the city owns it,” he says. “There is the expectation that it will be here forever.”

To that end, 25 per cent of plot sales revenue is returned to a government-mandated long-term care fund. The money and the interest it generates will be used to maintain the cemetery once it reaches capacity.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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