The new section of the Burns Lake Cemetery allows only flat and pillow-top headstone

Resident asks for cemetery bylaw amendment

Current bylaw allows for flat and pillow-top grave markers, but not upright headstones.

A longtime resident of the Lakes District is attempting to have the Burns Lake Cemetery bylaw amended or an exemption granted to allow his father to have an upright headstone as a marker for his grave.

Keith Van Tine sent a letter to Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold and council Aug. 27 requesting the bylaw that does not permit upright headstones be amended. In the letter Van Tine states individuals are different in every aspect of their lives and their final marker should also reflect this to allow the person and family to express what they want at their final resting place.

“I care a lot about our cemetery and particularly the aesthetics of it,” said Van Tine, adding that when you look at the older section of the Burns Lake cemetery, the uprights are much more appealing and interesting. He noted when comparing other cemeteries, like the one entering Prince George, the older section is much nicer.

“My father had died a year ago and we bought a plot for him,” said Van Tine, when asked last week why he sent a letter to council. “When we got to ordering the headstone we found out we weren’t allowed to have upright ones.”

Van Tine said from what he can understand the reason behind this is because is it less costly to maintain flat headstones as attendants can mow over them. However, pillow-top headstones are still allowed at the cemetery under the bylaw and a mower can’t go over them. Therefore, uprights are no different in maintenance costs.

He said there are other obstacles in the cemetery such as flower pots and solar lights that people add to graves, so using maintenance cost reductions in regard to no whipper-snipping is a fallacy. An upright headstone is also visible during the winter. Uprights also don’t accumulate moss and staining due to grass clippings and fallen leaves.

“It comes down to a person’s last request [and] if they wanted something distinct and different I think that is what they should have,” he said.

Van Tine said he approached council with the amendment proposal while in the middle of purchasing his father’s headstone and is now awaiting an answer on whether he should proceed.

He said they’ve likely missed erecting the marker during this year, but the family is willing to wait if they can get the one his father wanted.

While discussing Van Tine’s request village staff indicated the cemetery bylaw has been changed six times since 1990 and the reason behind some cemeteries not allowing for upright headstones is the difficulty of access in the wintertime.

Council then asked if there are frequent requests for other types of headstones, but staff members explained this is the first one since the current bylaw was enacted in 2011. Village staff has been asked to bring back a report on the cemetery bylaw to council at a later date.