Summary submitted by Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants
May 2016

In order to determine the potential proximity of burials to utilities that exist within the cemetery boundaries, Infrastructure Ontario hired Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants (TMHC) to conduct a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the cemetery. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is an industry standard method for non-invasive assessment of cemeteries, both in Ontario and beyond. TMHC is a leader in Ontario in the appropriate and accurate application of GPR survey within cemeteries.

As part of the GPR study, historic document research is done to help understand the evolution of the study area over time, and in this case the history of the Huronia Regional Centre (HRC) cemetery area. Document research shows there were three main events over the course of the cemetery’s history that has brought it to the size, shape, and layout it is today

  1. The original cemetery area opened in or around 1899. An access laneway also ran along the western boundary of the original cemetery area
  2. An expansion west of the original cemetery in 1934-35 created the area of the numbered stones, and
  3. An expansion to the north in 1953, before its closure to new interments in 1971.

Historic records show several things happen between 1934 and 1935, supporting that there was both an expansion west and work to improve record keeping.

  • By 1933 the original cemetery parcel was running out of room for new interments
  • In 1935 a “new plan” was made for the cemetery plots (stated in a 1936 letter to Dr. Horne, Superintendent)
  • A number of improvements were made to the neighbouring farm buildings during this time and in 1934 a new watermain was installed
  • Tree clearing or ground preparation occurred (shown in a 1935 aerial photograph), to make room for the first cemetery expansion to the west of the original 1899 cemetery parcel. Burials occurred within the west expansion starting in 1934.

This historic research supports the phases of cemetery expansion and the sequence of events within the cemetery that were revealed by the GPR results.

The GPR survey was able to clearly identify burial rows and the outline of individual burials (grave shafts), and in some areas the size of individual interments can be measured. This data reveals continuous and uninterrupted or undisturbed GPR signatures of individual burials. These signatures are identified from the ground surface to roughly two metres deep (about 6.5 feet) on either side of the former laneway.

Based on the GPR data, comparison with locates survey, and our knowledge of the cemetery history and features, it is apparent that the utility lies within the former western boundary laneway. The GPR data also shows that there is distance of approximately 2.5-3 metres between the burial rows east and west of the laneway/utility line. In all other areas of the cemetery, the average distance between rows is less than one metre. This comparatively wide spacing indicates that the laneway and utility were intentionally avoided when interring new burials within the west expansion after 1934.

In short, based on the GPR results, which are supported by historic research, it is concluded that

  • the utility was installed prior to the western expansion of the cemetery,
  • the existing burials to the east within the original 1899 cemetery area were not impacted,
  • burials to the west were intentionally placed at a greater distance, were interred after the laneway and installation of the utility line, and
  • no burials were impacted by existing utilities.

Excavation or “ground truthing” of the buried utility or neighbouring burial rows is not recommended due to the potential for heavy disturbance of burials on either side of the laneway/utility line. Large boulders in the underlying soil would make any excavation destructive and be a high risk for disturbing burials. These GPR results for the cemetery are high-quality and provide a clear picture of uninterrupted grave shafts on either side of the former laneway containing the utility line. It is our opinion the risk that excavation poses to disturbing burials far outweighs any additional information that such an activity could provide.