The grave of Doris Stork, the daughter of Fernie’s first mayor, Alfred Stork. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Groups fight to protect historic B.C. graveyard, buried in garbage

About 83 people, including the daughter of Fernie’s first mayor, are buried in the overgrown cemetery

For over 100 years, approximately 83 bodies have rested in a burial ground in the Ridgemont area of Fernie, until recently.

For years groups have been trying to protect an area known as the ‘Stork’ Cemetery, a piece of heritage land owned by the City of Fernie, currently overgrown, unmarked and covered in waste and compost.

Poking out of the underbrush are the remnants of monuments indicating the resting place of individuals including Doris Stork, the daughter of Fernie’s first mayor, Alfred Stork.

The area, located on a City greenbelt off Ridgemont Drive behind Ridgemont Place, has undergone several studies over the years, one by a certified commissioned archaeologist in 2012 who identified the burial spots of up to 83 people.

(Remnants of burial sites in the overgrown Stork Cemetary. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

In 2000, the Lost Souls Society in Fernie was approached by a number of families in Fernie looking for assistance in locating the resting place of members of their respective families. With no records of their deaths, the society undertook a research project to attempt to locate them.

The Lost Souls Society recently unveiled a plaque in the Ridgemont area listing over 350 individuals for whom there is no known final resting place. After years of consultation the society was granted support by the City of Fernie.

In a letter to Fernie CAO Norm McInnis in 2017, Lost Souls Society president John Gawryluk brought to his attention several issues surrounding the ‘Stork’ cemetery, which was designated by the Province as a historic site in 1979.

In his letter he raised concerns of the state of the site, as well as the erection of several fences by surrounding property owners encroaching onto the greenbelt. Furthermore, he explained that because of the state of the burial ground and presence of unmarked graves, the erected fenceposts could have very possibly been embedded into graves.

He stated that waste disposal on the historic site is in direct contravention of several municipal bylaws, and that the actions of surrounding residents could be construed as contravening several sections of B.C.’s Heritage Conservation Act, as the site is considered Historic by the Province.

In a response to a request for comment on August 19, 2019, City of Fernie interim CAO Don Schaffer said that, “…it is not permitted to use City property for the purpose of disposal of any type of waste, including compost. If it can be determined who has deposited the waste, the possibility exists that some type of enforcement action will be taken.”

In 2014, a GPR study of City of Fernie property was conducted by Radarscan Inc., of the ‘Ridgemont Area adjacent to ravine location, where several single family abutted to the treed ravine.”

The results indicated the following: GPR gridlines for data collection were run parallel to the treed ravine for approximately 30 feet along the south side of the treed ravine through the backyards of several residences.

“We were not able to collect data within the treed ravine area due to underbrush and trees,” stated the report. Several large rocks and roots of previously removed trees were found, but, “No artifacts were detected that had the signatures of previous old burial plots.”

The Lost Souls Society in turn insisted the City had the study conducted in the wrong location. To date the site remains unprotected.

(A grave is seen through a pile of waste in the unprotected Stork Cemetary, Fernie. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

In a request for comment from the City of Fernie, Interim CAO Don Schaffer stated on August 19, 2019: “The City recognizes the historical and emotional significance of the unmarked grave sites in the Ridgemont area, and supported the Lost Souls Society’s efforts to identify a suitable location for the monument honouring those individuals who were laid to rest in unmarked graves.

“Preliminary studies of the Stork Cemetery were commissioned in 2014 and those studies indicated more work would be required to provide an accurate assessment of the sites. In the meantime, City staff understand there are encroachment issues in this area and in others around the City and will consider the most effective way to deal with such encroachments and report back to Council on alternatives.”

City of Fernie mayor Ange Qualizza said that it is her priority to assemble all information that exists on the Stork Cemetery.

“It is my priority right now to assemble the information that exists right now on the Stork Cemetery and get the topic in front of Council for review. The topic of the Stork Cemetery last came before a Council in 2014, and it is important for this Council to have an opportunity to review what has been done in the past, and consider options for the future,” she said.

“We are hoping to have that information on a Council agenda shortly, so we can identify any information gaps that Council may consider putting resources into for a more complete understanding of the Stork Cemetery situation.”

(Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)



editor@thefreepress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Safe Surrey under fire for ‘sickening’ social media posts accusing RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Surrey RCMP look for missing man

Tyler Ridout, 36, last seen near Balsam Crescent and 136th Street

Surrey addictions officials say pandemic funding is wreaking havoc on those in recovery

Governments’ kindness taking its toll, recovery operators say

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Police, parks officials say patrols, education and signage have all been increased

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Aldergrove zoo to reopen with staff in masks, one-directional visitor experience to tackle COVID-19

Its June 1 reopening will be ushered in by words from Darryl Plecas, Legislative assembly Speaker

Most Read

l -->