Last weekend I had the opportunity to check out The Okotoks Cemetery and what a delightful surprise to see a small Alberta town invest so much love and commitment towards the landscaping, planning and upkeep of what can sometimes be an overlooked town or municipal department. From the entrance, to the landscaping, to the calm sense of space that one feels at the site, everything seems to be addressed in the planning of this wonderful small town cemetery. After researching the cemetery on line I learned that The Town of Okotoks invested in a cemetery plan in 2008. It is quite interesting to see how the plan is falling into fruition.
The first thing one notices upon entering the cemetery is the beautiful entrance gates that flank the entrance road. Beautiful stone masonry pillars speak to the surrounding earth colors and stand as sentinels flanking the entrance roadway. The wrought iron fencing adds an historical feel to what is often considered a traditional form of cemetery fencing. Wrought iron gates allow the eye to peek through and appreciate the cemetery setting beyond as they define the cemetery border.
The roadways are paved and marked with nostalgic signage speaking to a time long past. Cemetery monument sections are identified to assist visitors to the park. Names such as: Heritage Garden, Garden of St. James, Serenity Trail, Legacy Circle and Serenity Garden are spotted on signs throughout the park.
Rows of concrete monument bases are set in the newer “in ground” burial sections to ensure that the gravestones remain stable and upright. They help to define the rows with clarity and purpose. Daylilies and other small foliage plantings are placed in between the concrete rows to add texture and colour to the site. Benches are strategically placed to capture a view or provide shade under a tree for visitors escaping the sun.
Beautiful columbaria stand at attention towards the centre of the park denoting a space for above ground cremation interment options as well as a family columbaria garden. Further to the north, memorial wall and garden commemorate the unmarked graves of those who were buried in the cemetery over 100 years ago. It is the community’s way to pay homage to those who once graced the community and made The Town of Okotoks what it is today. The cemetery is rich with details about the History of the Town’s Folk and those connected in the surrounding District.
The landscaping is stunningly set against a backdrop of golden fields to the west and big open skies reminding us all of the community’s strong farming and ranching history and the community’s close connection to the land. A wide variety of trees provide shade and foliage to the setting, spruce, ash and elm trees are seen dispersed throughout the park. If you love gardens and flowers that are can survive the harsh climates of the Alberta Foothills come and see the wide variety of foliage: like junipers, tall grasses, daylilies, potentilla and peonies that grace this landscape with such beauty.
A bold commitment was made to follow through with the Cemetery Plan of 2008 and 8 years later it is clearly evident that The Town made a great choice. From the moment one enters The Okotoks Cemetery, one feels that this is a beloved and sacred community park that will be cherished for years to come.