Monday, 05 September 2016 08:00

New park area commemorates 100th anniversary of Hillcrest Mine Disaster

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The Hillcrest Mines Cemetery was part of the new Hillcrest Mine Memorial Park and helps remember those lives lost during the Hillcrest Mine Disaster. The Hillcrest Mines Cemetery was part of the new Hillcrest Mine Memorial Park and helps remember those lives lost during the Hillcrest Mine Disaster. Photo contributed

A Hillcrest Mine Memorial Cemetery and Commemorative Park has been created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster.

The Hillcrest Mine Disaster was the deadliest mine disaster in Canadian history.
The north slope of Turtle Mountain came crashing down in 1903, burying the Frank Mine and most of the town of Frank. There was 82 million tonnes of limestone crashing down on the town, killing more than 70 people.
In 1914, the Hillcrest Mine Disaster occurred, where a methane explosion ripped through the underground tunnels, killing 189 men.
It was widely believed that up until this, the Hillcrest Mine was the best run and safest mine in the Crowsnest Pass.
There are several phases taking place for this park and Shar Cartwright, secretary-treasurer for the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative Society says, phases one and two consisted of significant research and development of the interpretive panels surrounding the mass gravesites in the Hillcrest Cemetery, depicting the story of the mine disaster, identifying the locations of the miners and where they were buried and a reflective area of the mass grave sites. Phase one and two took place from 2000-2011.
Phases three and four began in 2011 and continued through to this year. These phases included providing visitors a sense of arrival to the significant site in Canadian history.
“The project included landscaping and fencing of the park and monument areas; a walking trail; picnic tables and benches; lighting, in the form of Miners’ lanterns; interpretive panels, which tell … various other interesting stories of the human elements of the miners; … site signage and commemorative plaques acknowledging all of the financial sponsors for the final phases of this project,” says Cartwright.
Costs for phases three and four were in excess of $552,000. This didn’t include the many volunteer hours of labour put in at the location or the research and organization by the committee and community.
“The committee was grateful to receive funding from all levels of government,” adds Cartwright.
Funding was received from the Federal Building Communities through Arts and Heritage, the province of Alberta CFEP; Municipality of Crowsnest Pass; Teck Coal; Community Foundation Lethbridge and Southern Alberta and many other generous sponsors.
People are encouraged to take a self-guided tour throughout the memorial park and cemetery to learn more about this tragic disaster and remember those lives lost.
“The Hillcrest Mine Disaster Cemetery and Commemorative Park are located off Highway 3 on the road into Hillcrest, Alberta. The site provides for a self-guided interpretive tour and besides the park and monument, visitors are encouraged to walk further into the cemetery to the mass grave sites for more history on the significance of this disaster. The Hillcrest Cemetery remains an active cemetery in the community,” adds Cartwright.
In 2000, there was a Millennium Memorial created and placed in front of the cemetery to commemorate those lives lost in coal mining disasters across Canada.
This memorial includes individual monuments that are cut form stones native to each of the provinces and territories arranged around the central monolith.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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