A STRING of vandalism incidents has forced the city to lock the vehicle gates to its cemetery on the Kalum Lake Road.
“Things were getting destroyed, some of the plots are getting destroyed,” said Carmen Didier, the city official who manages the cemetery. “Plots have been tampered with, some quite seriously.”
One of the more serious incidents involved someone digging holes in the ground at one of the grave sites.
“On April the 14th we received a report of a disturbed grave,” said Const. Angela Rabut of Terrace RCMP. “A couple of holes were dug.”
Rabut said that the holes were roughly one foot deep each, and that the extent of the damage was some moved dirt.
She said it is unknown when the event happened, as it could have been prior to snowfall.
The city has since locked the vehicle gates to its cemetery, leaving open the pedestrian walk-through gate, citing vandalism as the primary reason for the decision.
“There are also a few more issues at the cemetery that have contributed to this change in practice,” said Didier.
“These being that people have been installing their own headstones that do not comply with cemetery headstone size regulations,” she explained.
City regulations state that headstones must be installed by city staff and be of a certain size or dimension, Didier said, adding all above ground ornamentation on plots require authorization and permit.
The city will issue the permits.
A local resident who has two children buried in the city’s cemetery said that locking the drive-in gates has an unfortunate consequence.
Arlene Ridler said the locked gates are keeping seniors and those with mobility issues from visiting loved ones.
Recently, one of Ridler’s children that is buried there had a birthday, and Ridler’s mother-in-law went to visit the gravesite.
“My mother-in-law went and couldn’t get in,” she said. “(She) couldn’t bring flowers.”
Ridler is also not convinced that locking the vehicle access gate will prevent vandalism.
“I don’t think the (locked) gates are going to deter vandalism,” she said, adding that anyone with the intent to vandalize is still able to walk through the pedestrian access gate.
“There are a lot of people who are elderly who go to visit their spouses,” she said. “For some people, that’s a real healing process. It’s much easier when you can get a vehicle in there.”
Ridler suggested an alternative, which would be locking cemetery vehicle gates after regular hours.
“I don’t think [the gate] should be locked during the day,” she said.
And despite city regulations setting standards for grave appearances, Ridler said she empathizes with those people that adding customizing ornamentation is an act of healing for many.
There have been previous complaints to the city that ornaments on top of grave locations are removed by city workers to make it easier to mow grass.