News / Calgary

Green plots pitched for new Calgary cemetery

Designating space for green burials has become a grave concern for those designing Calgary’s first new cemetery in more than 70 years.

While eco-friendly funerary plots have long been considered, city cemetery boss Gary Daudlin noted the growing enthusiasm for more natural end-of-life options.

“We could very well be looking at green burial space,” Daudlin said. “That is something that the public has asked about.”

There are different hues of so-called green cemeteries.

In general, unembalmed bodies are enclosed in biodegradable coffins and laid to rest in hand-dug sites. In some cases, trees and stones are used as grave markers or handheld GPS units are used to locate unmarked graves.

Three detailed design plans for Calgary’s southeast cemetery will be unveiled at an open house on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Ralph Klein Park, which borders the new memorial grounds.

Some of the proposed concepts reflect the city’s cultural diversity by offering more spaces for cremations, different orientation of graves or a mausoleum that appeals to ethnic groups that don't believe in burying the dead below ground.

Other ideas cater to living Calgarians. There’s talk of adding multi-purpose buildings for events such as weddings, more walkable pathways and open park spaces.

“Our cemeteries are a reflection of our times,” Daudlin said. “Those things we look at today that we want in our communities — our cemeteries are very similar.”

This development comes as four of Calgary’s five municipal cemeteries are full, and the 140-acre Queen’s Park could be filled within the next decade.

Still, not everyone is pleased.

Barbara Zimmer has railed against the project, fearing it will sink the value of her neighbouring property. Once built, Zimmer’s undeveloped prairie parcel will be landlocked between the cemetery and an existing railway line.

She’s “disappointed” with the city’s solution that grants her an access road through cemetery land.

“The city has a political will to do what they choose, so this is the situation,” Zimmer said, acknowledging: “It sounds bizarre.”

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