Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon defends a proposal to expand the town’s cemetery into a ball diamond park, calling it a “very fair and equitable compromise.”
The Kinsmen Club of Lacombe and neighbouring homeowners have raised concerns about the plan to take out one of four ball diamonds in 2011 to make way for more plots for the Fairview Cemetery. Other ball diamonds would be removed — likely not for decades — as future cemetery expansion was required.
Gordon said the town plans to build another ball diamond park in the northwest part of the community by 2011, which means there will be seven diamonds — up from four — available for many years.
An existing playground will not be touched and the town has agreed to plant trees and bushes between the cemetery and nearby English Estates homes, where some residents have vowed to fight the cemetery plan.
“We want to ensure people in English Estates are not affected, nor offended, by cemetery expansion,” said Gordon.
The Kinsmen Club, which runs the ball diamond park, has reservations with the proposed ball park, which would be built on a former landfill site. The club has expressed concerns with safety, its remote location and a lack of landscape features.
Gordon said when the town presented its plans to Kinsmen members earlier, they were supportive.
The town demonstrated the landfill site poses no safety risk for the public, she said. “We would not jeopardize the youngsters of Lacombe by putting in a ball diamond in an unsafe area. We would not do that.”
Gordon said the town has almost no cemetery space left and no suitable land could be found within town boundaries to build another cemetery. The town said its staff searched for other sites based on suitability, price and whether it would be a safe location for funeral processions.
That leaves locating a new cemetery outside the town as the only other option.
Gordon said a number of residents have told her they don’t want to see a cemetery built outside the town because it be difficult to reach and will not get the same care and attention as the original cemetery, which has served the community for a century.
On Monday, Lacombe council gave first reading to a number of bylaw changes required to convert municipal reserves used for a ball diamond park into future cemetery use. A public hearing has been set for July 13 and Gordon said she hopes residents turn out.
“I don’t think everyone is quite aware of what is intended here.”
Gordon pointed out that only one ball diamond will be needed for cemetery expansion for many years. It is estimated a small initial expansion, plus the space provided by removing one ball diamond, will provide about 1,200 burial and cremation plots. The town currently needs about 50 to 60 plots a year.
“By the time all the four ball diamonds are fully utilized for cemetery plots, there won’t be very many of us left that we’re talking to right now,” she said.
“I think we have been very fair about this and we have said that we will just take these ball diamonds as needed.”
A Kinsmen Club member said in an email on Wednesday that details of the town’s plan were being circulated to members “in the hopes that we can present a strong voice against this proposal.”