SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Tina Evans has been laying flowers on her mom’s grave every Mother’s Day since she passed away in 2014 and says she was stunned to find the cemetery closed due to the pandemic Sunday.
“They said they had it closed because of COVID and I was really upset about that because not everybody could get in to see their moms,” she says.
She says when she arrived at the gates of Valley View Cemetery, 72 Avenue in Surrey was crowded with cars. The congestion and confusion even caused a minor crash.
Valley View is one of many cemeteries in the region that made the decision to close this year on what is usually one of its busiest days.
Patrick Downey, Western Region Director of Arbor Memorial says the move was difficult.
“This was very tough for us,” he explains.
“Our primary responsibility and effort is to serve our families.”
But he says the cemetery also has an obligation to ensure physical distancing, and to comply with orders against gatherings of more than 50 people.
“With the normal level of visitation that we have we felt that this decision was necessary to make sure that we weren’t facilitating a large gathering,” he says, adding hundreds of people visit on this day each year.
Limiting the number of overall visitors and maintaining space between people coming to pay their respects would not have been possible, according to Downey.
“We were erring on the side of safety, for the health and safety of everyone involved.”
He says notice of the closure was posted online and to social media two weeks in advance in an effort to prevent people like Evans from being disappointed.
“We did our very best so that people would get the message,” he says. “We’re very sorry, we just had to make a decision to comply.”
He also says it is possible to schedule a visit in advance to protect against crowds.
Evans says she thinks they could have made it work.
“For the most part people are very responsible and they’re only going to go visit their loved one. They’re not all there to have a picnic and gather in one area,” she says.
“I think they could have monitored it, they could have had people come in and say to people ‘please ensure that you keep your distance’ and I think people would have really respected that.”
Her mother and father are buried together, and Evans also visits on Father’s Day each year.
Downey says it’s too soon to say whether things will change by June.
“We’re waiting, as others are, to see when restrictions can be eased and when we are able to do so we will certainly invite visitors back to the cemetery.”