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Gravestones falling into river at Cape Breton cemetery

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It's a pretty enough spot for a final resting place, but some of the graves in the Centre Glen Cemetery, a pioneer cemetery in Big Baddeck, N.S., have fallen victim to nature.

"The cemetery is currently falling into the river,” said Jeffrey Parks, an antique dealer in nearby Middle River, N.S., who has been checking up on the cemetery for a few years now.

Parks says during that time about 10 graves have been lost and at least two headstones have fallen into the river.

"I've pulled one out and laid it somewhere along the bank,” he said. “There are multiple depressions that have fallen in. I have found pieces of coffin, I’ve found handles. I know one person has even found a human skull along the river."

Victoria County warden Bruce Morrison says this isn't the only case in the area where river and brook washouts, along with erosion, have exposed graves.

"Once the community has left and the church has left from our homesteaders, the graveyards are left and we're starting to see the impact,” Morrison said.

An example came nearly 10 years ago, when human remains could be seen sticking out of a cliff below a graveyard in Ingonish, N.S., back in April 2014.

The question is, what can be done in cases like these?

"At this point we're not sure,” Morrison said. “We have advised community groups that are interested to approach the province of Nova Scotia to see if there's funding to help remediate the sites and do some reconstruction on the graves."

The Centre Glen Cemetery is in a remote area.

It's a 10-minute walk through the woods just to get to the cemetery, which makes it harder for anyone to do anything about it.

However, Parks says doing nothing isn’t acceptable either.

"You shouldn't leave peoples' remains to float down the river,” he said.

Many of the headstones in cemetery date back to the 19th century, but at least one person was buried there as recently as 1985.

While he’s eager to see a solution found, Parks agreed that options for a fix are limited.

"The only thing that could be done is either you move the headstones and the graves back further on the dry side, or have the river rerouted somehow,” he said.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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