People who are mourning their loved ones, or want to pay tribute to their memory, may have another option open to them soon in the Village of Alix.
Councillors discussed tree and bench memorials at their Jan. 17 regular meeting.
Councillors heard a report from Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White about a proposed policy, the memorial tree and bench program.
“During 2024 budget deliberations council was updated that nine mature trees have been planted at the cemetery,” stated White’s report to council. “The option of making them available to the public as memorial trees had previously been discussed and council directed administration to develop a policy over the winter for consideration.
“When reviewing memorial tree policies from other communities, it was noted that many of them included memorial benches. Benches were incorporated into the attached policy as a proactive step even though we have not had resident requests for them in the last few years.”
The CAO’s report noted the memorial tree and bench program would operate on a cost-recovery basis; that is, any costs associated with the trees or benches, including things like engraved plaques, would be paid completely by the applicants.
While the Village of Alix usually relies on grant funds to plant mature trees in the municipality, the CAO noted if no such funds are available five to six foot trees cost between $150 and $200 each.
The proposed policy also include the application form and later during discussion the CAO pointed out the village would deal solely with the person who filled out the application form and paid the applicable fees.
Mayor Rob Fehr asked for some clarification on this and the CAO responded the village office sometimes hears criticism from the public who feel cemetery headstones, for example, were not appropriate or accurate, although the memorial may exactly match what applicants requested.
During discussion the CAO noted this is not a revised policy. “It is new,” said White.
The CAO stated, after reading memorial tree policies in other municipalities, another issue popped up: allowing applicants to pick their own tree species. White stated that would be more difficult to accommodate in Alix.
Also, she noted some other communities handle memorial benches by keeping some in stock but Alix municipal staff felt this wouldn’t be the best approach; staff instead felt a bench should be treated the same as a cemetery headstone.
Mayor Fehr asked how the village would handle someone who goes ahead and plants their own tree or installs their own bench without permission or approval.
The CAO stated unusual, unapproved activities do occur. “We have had surprise burials,” said White. She answered the mayor by saying the village’s cemetery bylaw can address unapproved tree planting while an unapproved bench would simply become the property of the Village of Alix which could result in it being returned to whoever installed it, or placed in storage.
Coun. Barb Gilliat asked how many memorial benches the cemetery could accommodate, but the CAO responded the benches could be placed anywhere in Alix, not just the cemetery.
As councillors discussed the proposed policy they agreed the public should have a chance to comment on it before it’s considered for approval.
Councillors unanimously accepted the draft policy for information and instructed White to conduct public consultation about it then return the issue to council at a future meeting.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 24, 2024 at 14:27