Merritt’s local cemetery is getting a new design after the city council’s unanimous decision during the latest council meeting on August 22.

According to the City staff’s report presented at latest the council meeting, the city-operated Pine Ridge Cemetery, located at 1675 Juniper Dr., will add two 60 niche columbarium units during phase 2 of the expansion project, as well as retaining walls, landscaping and a scattering garden.

City of Merritt’s Cemetery Master Plan of 2017 aims to not only address the city’s growing burial needs but also its commitment to long term sustainability of the cemetery’s operation. In the report made by City staff, a total of 570 cremation interments are needed through 2042.

Rick Green, City of Merritt’s director of engineering and public works, said in the council meeting that the plan for the new design is to work around the existing columbarium.

“We’re going to centre an area now around where that existing (columbarium) one was and make room for a couple three, two more of them, and then a scattering garden on a smaller scale with a lot less retaining wall,” he said.

Green also said that the new design will also allow to add more niches to the cemetery in a one to five years timeline.

“That’ll give us time to then plan the future depending on how the growth requirements go with the cemetery,” he said. “We’re not stuck with sort of just one small amount here. This is going to be an ongoing development at the cemetery.”

Green also added that the new design will allow them to realign the roads at the cemetery, making sure there’s more space to develop it.

The design presented and approved at council meeting on August 22. /Contributed: City of Merritt.

City Councillor Wendy Charney raised questions regarding the grass presented in the new design, considering the water restrictions that are effective at the moment, and if there are any other alternatives.

Green said that areas pointed out by Coun. Charney are “shade of trees, and we can definitely tune things up.” 

Mayor Mike Goetz brought up in the meeting that the Merritt & District Hospice Society has approached him about the ‘wind phone’, a project that was designed in Japan and connects callers to lost loved ones.

“What has been done around the world is a phone that hooks up to absolutely nothing,” he said. “It’s put up there where people can go up and say the words they feel like they need to say, that they didn’t get a chance to say.”

Mayor Goetz said that a phone has already been donated for the project and reminded that the cemetery is a sacred place for a lot of people in Merritt.

Regarding the new design, he said in the meeting that he loves the expansion plan.

“I think it’s really great. I’ve gone up to look at the columbarium, and matter of fact, I talked to a lady up there who had some questions (about the plan) and I think it looks really nice,” the mayor said. 

All members of city council voted unanimously to approve the newest design and recommended City staff will continue to detail design tendering and the construction of the project.