The City of Fernie is expecting to get the ground penetrating radar (GPR) results back from suspected gravesites very soon. GPR was used to assess the site known as the Stork Cemetery, located behind several houses off of Ridgemont Drive. I myself have visited the site, and it is very obvious that there are human remains on this land. What’s not clear is why locals continue to encroach on the land. There is yard waste and even buried animals in this area that was deemed a heritage site in 1979. This means that the land is protected under the Heritage Act, which forbids anyone from altering the land in any way.
I am optimistic that with the GPR results coming forward, further steps will be taken to ensure this land is properly preserved and recognized as a historic burial ground.
The heritage site is just one spot where people were laid to rest in Fernie. Hundreds of buried individuals have gone missing, and I’m glad the city has finally stepped up to do something about this. I think it’s important for the people of Fernie to respect their heritage, and to treat gravesites as sanctuaries rather than dumping grounds. Just because these people are dead and gone, doesn’t mean that their heritage doesn’t live on.
One of the gravestones located off Ridgemont Drive is Doris Stork’s, the former mayor of Fernie’s daughter. There is a legacy and a history hiding within these buried grounds and it’s a history Fernie needs to restore.
Bodies initially went missing when developers began building an elementary school four decades ago. Remains were found multiple times, but the building of the school continued, with gravestones being pushed aside like rubble. After that, the land was sold to a private developer and again, remains were found. This is clearly an issue that should have been resolved decades ago, and it seems odd to me that it took this long to take these first steps.
There are families still looking for their loved ones. For nearly 18 years, John Gawryluk and Corlyn Haarstad of Cherished Memories Funeral Services have been gathering data on misplaced bodies, and trying to find answers for these families. I can only hope, that once the GPR results come in, these historic gravesites will be properly fenced and protected from human interference.
The City of Fernie has vowed to create a monument for the hundreds of lost souls in Fernie, but this monument will be meaningless without proper historical data. I hope that these two parties can work together collaboratively to preserve Fernie’s heritage and to ensure these mistakes are never repeated.