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Town seeks agreement to improve Holy Cross Cemetery

Recent complaints about the state of Holy Cross Cemetery prompted the Town of Fort Macleod to take action.

Council last week directed administration to formalize an agreement with the Catholic Church to have the town maintain and improve the cemetery.

“The Union Cemetery is looking wonderful,” interim chief administrative officer Liisa Gillingham said. “We have a wonderful guy who takes great care of it and we’ve had tons of compliments on it.”

“I think it’s only fair that we help pay the same respect to the Holy Cross Cemetery as well.”

Council discussed the cemetery following a report at its Sept. 27 regular meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.

The discussion was sparked by two recent letters to the editor of The Macleod Gazette.

The first letter from Margaret Moore of Sherwood Park, detailed concerns with the lack of upkeep of Holy Cross Cemetery.

Moore in her letter noted the cemetery is riddled with gopher holes, has trees and weeds growing through the graves, the grass appears dead and it appears there is little or no upkeep.

“The cemetery is very old with many of the local pioneers and the builders of the community buried there,” Moore wrote. “Also there are a number of military graves plus the graves of children.”

Moore also sent her letter to Bishop William McGratton, calling on the Catholic Church to improve cemetery care.

In a subsequent letter to the editor, which was also sent to council, Frank Eden explained the Town of Fort Macleod took responsibility for the cemetery in 1964.

“For whatever reason the cemetery has been neglected and allowed to deteriorate to its present condition,” wrote Eden, who formerly owned the local funeral home. “It is not only full of weeds, but has been taken over by gophers as well as badger holes.”

Eden said the cemetery is a historic site and the resting place of many pioneer families and community leaders including members of the North West Mounted Police.

“We did have a little bit of conversation last year about improving the area, working with the Catholic Church in order to do that,” Gillingham said. “Those conversations have kind of stalled.”

Gillingham said since the Town of Fort Macleod does not own the land on which Holy Cross Cemetery is located, it can’t install irrigation or make improvements on its own.

“There’s a little bit more of a conversation that has to happen with the church,” Gillingham said. “And a little bit more planning for the area.”

Gillingham sought council’s approval to continue discussions with the Catholic Church.

Gillingham also said maintenance of Holy Cross Cemetery could likely be handled by the town’s cemetery worker in the summer.

Director of operations Adrian Pedro said it is easy for people to identify areas that need work.

Getting that work done isn’t quite so easy.

“There’s a lot of logistical things in the background that have to happen,” Pedro said. “Unfortunately those haven’t happened yet. We’re open to having those conversations.”

Coun. Marco Van Huigenbos asked administration if the information in Eden’s letter was verified.

“If it is, then it’s pretty clear on our responsiblity,” Van Huigenbos said.

Van Huigenbos said it is unfortunate such agreements weren’t put in writing and kept on file at the Town Office.

“We have no reason to believe that is not the way that it happened,” Gillingham said. “Right now we don’t have any record of it. We want to formalize that process down to an agreement and just make sure that it is done properly.”

Gillingham said improvements to Holy Cross Cemetery could be part of ongoing development in that area, which could include a parking lot where the composit depot was formerly located.

Mayor Brent Feyter welcomed the information on the cemetery history supplied by Frank Eden.

“I think it’s good to be able to look into this some more,” Mayor Brent Feyter said.

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