Irricana residents, the mayor, and staff from the municipal government are condemning the recent use of snowmobiles in the local cemetery, calling the act highly disrespectful and insulting to the families whose loved ones are laid to rest there.
After a heavy snow dump last week, some Irricana residents took to social media to criticize snowmobilers who had taken their machines into the town's local cemetery and driven them throughout the site. Photos posted on Facebook showed fresh snowmobile tracks in the powder throughout the graveyard.
“The Town is aware that snowmobilers have repeatedly used the Irricana Cemetery as a place for joyriding, said the municipality's chief administrative officer, Doug Hafichuk, in an email to the Rocky View Weekly.
“Although this activity is clearly prohibited by the Parks Control Bylaw, the lack of compliance isn’t even the primary issue. Cemeteries are parks that offer a peaceful resting place for those who have passed, and a place of solace for those who have lost loved ones. Its unfathomable that a person would think that this shameful behaviour is appropriate.”
The town's mayor, Jim Bryson, doubled down on those comments, adding he “can’t think of anything more disrespectful” than violating a cemetery.
“They’ve gone right over some headstones,” the mayor said. “It has upset a lot of people in town, just because it’s so damn disrespectful.”
According to Bryson, the Town hasn't yet caught the people responsible. While it does appear to violate one of the Town's Parks Control Bylaw, he admitted it's hard to say what the municipality would be able to do in terms of recourse if they do catch the snowmobilers in the act.
“I think it would be pretty hard to charge anybody or do anything else right at this time,” Bryson acknowledged. “We haven’t actually caught anyone – there are just the snowmobile tracks, which were quite prevalent.”
Nevertheless, in order to deter the activity from happening again in the future, Bryson and Hafichuk said this Friday, Town staff would be erecting some fencing along the southeast corner of the cemetery, as that appears to be the entry point the snowmobilers were able to gain access.
Bryson added the Town will look at more permanent measures in the spring.
“We’re going to put up a snow fence there for now, and in the spring, I’m pretty sure we’ll be putting up a proper gate with a lock, and only Town staff will have a key,” he said. “No one else will have access.”
Bryson said the most frustrating thing about this is that there is plenty of empty land to ride on just next to the cemetery.
“There’s no reason to go into the cemetery,” he said. “It’s not like it’s the only location in town for them to ride.”
According to previous Rocky View Weekly reporting, the Irricana Cemetery is over 100 years old, and the oldest headstone is from 1911.
In September 2021, the Town of Irricana approved the formation of a new committee to oversee the rehabilitation of the site. Bryson, a Town councillor at the time, was named the committee's first council liaison – a role that means the recent activity of the snowmobilers was even more personal for him.
“To have this happen is just upsetting,” he said. “I can’t think of another term.”