The old Tete Jaune cemetery that is located on private land.
The old Tete Jaune cemetery that is located on private land.

By Korie Marshall

A new Tete Jaune cemetery is one step closer, and could potentially be open by fall 2016.
A zoning bylaw amendment was passed at the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George’s Board meeting last week, meeting one of the conditions for a Crown land grant for a new site on Carr Road. No concerns or opposition were raised at a public hearing for the rezoning held last month in Tete Jaune.

Dannielle Alan, Area H representative on the Board, said the public hearing in August went well, with some good questions and answers raised. After the board meeting, she noted it will help take some of the pressure off the Valemount cemetery, which is substantially smaller and nearing full capacity. It also allows Tete Jaune residents to be buried in their community, just as generations of their family.

“The residents of Tete Jaune are incredibly happy (with this cemetery). They have been afraid to die,” said Alan.

The community has been without a cemetery for about 15 years, when the new owners of the private property on which the old cemetery sat didn’t want it used any longer. In 2005, Regional District staff started working with a local steering committee on creating a new cemetery. Residents voted in favour of funding the cemetery through local property taxes in 2012.

“I am awaiting a chance to purchase space in the cemetery if the proposal continues further,” said local resident Morag Telfer in a letter submitted for the public hearing. “I cannot be buried in the Jasper Town cemetery because of their regulations and the Valemount Cemetery looks awfully full, so I hope the meeting will be positive.”

Working with the provincial government, staff identified a suitable location for a new cemetery on Carr Road, which used to be a vibrant part of Tete Jaune before the bridge over the Fraser River washed out. The site is less than a 10 minute drive from the Tete Jaune Hall, and is accessed from Highway 16, just west of the junction with Highway 5.

The Regional district was offered a Crown grant for the property in February 2014, with some conditions. The 3.4 acre parcel was excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve in April 2015, and with this zoning change approved, the project is just two steps away from construction. The property still needs to be surveyed and the paper work forwarded to the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to have the property ownership transferred. A final step before construction will be a Certificate of Public Interest process through the Consumer Protection Branch, required for all cemeteries under the provincial Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.

A staff report to the board for last week’s meeting says the cemetery will be sized for 150 full body plots, developed 50 at a time. The layout is spacious and especially with the growing popularity of cremation, which uses less land, the new cemetery is expected to last well over 100 years. A hopeful timeline is that construction could start in this summer, with the cemetery operating in fall 2016.