The Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association is raising money to help spruce up the Old Men’s Provincial Cemetery, located on Sixth Avenue, just south of Columbia Street.
The cemetery is slated to become an arboretum, or tree museum.
Association past-president Chris Ortner said the goal is to raise between $8,000 and $10,000 to install a wrought iron memorial gate, paying tribute to early settlers and immigrants buried beneath the property in unmarked graves. The material was chosen because of its use around the time when Kamloops was incorporated, just before the start of the 20th century.
“There’s the church there, then there’s kind of a road beside it, then there’s a chain link fence and some posts in the ground where you walk through if you’re going to walk over to the trail that drops down into Peterson [Creek],” Ortner said.
“That’s where it will be. Right now, it’s kind of ugly. It’s just some metal posts sticking out of the ground. We just wanted to formalize it, level it out, have a nicer entrance. The idea is to have some wrought iron fencing going along down Sixth also, along the entryway. Just to make it a beautiful entrance.”
The cemetery is a large grassy field with mature trees overlooking the city. It contains more than 1,000 unmarked graves dating back to the Gold Rush and the city’s incorporation in 1893. According to the city, the cemetery was used to inter early settlers and immigrants who came to the region to work in the mining and railway industries, often without family.
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The city is working to create an arboretum in the area, which is essentially a tree museum. The plan is to plant trees native to the area and add identifiers to educate the public, in addition to inclusion of pathways and, possibly, benches and a gazebo. The city has said the large green space is under-utilized.
Ground-penetrating radar recently wrapped up in the area. It was used to identify the graves prior to any work being conducted in the area.
City of Kamloops parks manager Jeff Putnam said he received a report on the radar initiative and will have more information to share next week. Once data for burial locations has been compiled, staff can develop plans for the area. The gate is not the only memorial initiative being mulled. Another idea is matching groves of trees to the home country from where settlers originated.
Ortner said the city is being very careful and respectful.
“I think it’s being done in a great way,” he said. “I’m interested in seeing how it evolves.”
The association has so far raised $1,100, including a contribution from the Italian Cultural Centre. Donations will be recognized on a plaque on the gate. To donate to the gate project, contact Ortner at 250-319-0761 or Frank Dwyer at 250-374-5477.