Skip to content

Fork Lake cemetery running out of room

Rural cemetery between St. Paul and Lac La Biche was founded in 1923

FORK LAKE - The Fork Lake community cemetery turned 100 years old in April, and the rural burial site is showing its age.

The two-acre cemetery is also running out of room. Currently, the cemetery has 678 plots, of those 606 are assigned, leaving just 42 burial plots and 30 cremation plots available.

"In the not too distant future, we will run out of plot space," says Fork Lake Cemetery committee member Dennis Bergheim.

He is hoping to expand the site, by leasing at least two acres of adjacent property that is government-owned Crown land. That process, which the committee began more than a year ago, is a lengthy, time-consuming and somewhat costly one for the volunteer group. 

The cemetery lands are owned by the United Church of Canada, and the local society has managed the property since 2004

Bergheim and the committee have asked Lac La Biche County officials for $21,000 in funding to assist with the land transfer. They have also asked municipal officials to apply for the expansion land on the society's behalf.

"We would suggest that the application submission for the expansion be applied for in the name of Lac La Biche County," he said, "which would expedite the application process."

With the land title registered to the municipality, Bergheim says the provincial government would likely "gift" the adjacent two to three acres of lands for cemetery purposes. While that part of the process would see minimal costs, other expenses involved include professional consulting fees, Indigenous consultations, Alberta Environment and Parks application fees and survey costs. 

While the funding request for the process is important, Berhgheim says the possibility that the municipality could speed up the process is the biggest factor.

"It could be six months, or it could be as much as two to three years," he said.

With an average of about five burials a year, and up to 10 plots reserved each year, the existing space is under tight time frames.

"There's not a lot of years left," Bergheim said, explaining that the community and cemetery have a long history that remains strong. "It's all about being there for our future generations."

The Fork Lake Cemetery is located about three kilometres south of the Fork Lake campground and about 10 kilometres north of the border with the County of St. Paul.  

This year's request from the Fork Lake group for $21,000 is about half of the available funds in Lac La Biche County's 2023 Community cemetery Improvement Program. In recent years, the cemetery committee has successfully secured municipal funding for cemetery improvements at the site. Over the last two years, the committee received $31,000 in municipal funds for new fencing, gate entrance, the removal of trees and ground surveys.

The other half of this year's funding budget has been requested by the committee over-seeing the Normandeau Cemetery.

Lac La Biche County's elected officials have opted to research the possibility of taking over the Fork Lake Cemetery land title before agreeing to the funding request. A response on the amount the municipality will facilitate the Fork Lake request is expected at an upcoming meeting.

The Fork Lake Cemetery was founded on April 15, 1923. The site was selected by settler Samuel Johnson to bury is son Raymond. According to a cairn at the site, the cemetery is dedicated to the pioneers of Fork Lake and district.

Since the creation of the Community Cemetery Improvement Program in 2018, the municipality has awarded about $240,000 to 10 cemeteries.

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks