April got off to a rocky (or at least dusty) start for residents in Youbou, who clashed with TimberWest and the provincial government over the longstanding issue of dirt carried through the community on logging trucks — filling the air as dust during dry weather and caking the roadway with mud during wet weather.
Don Beldessi, a director with the Youbou Community Association, has lived in Youbou for more than 40 years and said he has been complaining to TimberWest and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure since 2000.
In December, TimberWest installed a truck wash station where its private industrial road meets the pavement leading into Youbou. Beldessi said within a matter of weeks it became clear the system was not working.
The young stars of the Cowichan Lake district took to the stage this month as part of the Kaatza Lakeside Players’ production of Annie starring 11-year-old Isabella Atchison as the red-headed orphan. The play was a hit and also included the talented Lindsay Anderson as Miss Hannigan, Terry Finch as Daddy Warbucks and Brandon De Pol as Rooster.
April was an entertaining month in the community, with Jonny Harris’s visit to town. He was filming an episode of the CBC television program Still Standing, in which he visits towns “on the ropes” across Canada, sharing their stories and poking some fun along the way. The week of filming culminated in a free performance of Harris’s Cowichan-themed standup material, which will then be used in the episode.
Harris’ standup routine delved into the Lake’s history, its abundance of natural beauty and some of the important area landmarks including the Riverside Inn and Youbou Lanes. He shared stories and jokes about some of the people he met here including the Lady of the Lake team, Ahamida Segee, Greg Adams and Mayor Ross Forrest, who took Harris out for a boat tour on the lake.
The Cowichan Lake district mourned the loss of Lake Cowichan First Nations chief Cyril Livingstone who died of natural causes on May 17. Livingstone had served for the past 38 years as LCFN chief, and dedicated much of his time and authority as chief to providing homes, employment and other services to his community.
“He will be sadly missed by all,” the LCFN stated in a written announcement prior to Livingstone’s funeral. “Cyril loved spending time with his family and could always be found telling stories, jokes, listening to music, singing, dancing or laughing heartily; especially with his grandchildren, whom he cherished.”
Livingstone oversaw the signing of a protocol agreement between the Town of Lake Cowichan and the LCFN three years ago, and a similar signing earlier this year between the LCFN and the CVRD.
“Cyril’s leadership created a level of influence far greater than one would expect from a Nation of Lake Cowichan’s size,” said Area F director Ian Morrison. “That is a testament to Cyril’s commitment to his people and the skilled people he brought in to work and serve in his community.”
May was the first of many dry months in the Cowichan Valley this year, with officials announcing that the Cowichan River was in danger of drying up before the fall rains return. A lack of rain this spring and little water from snow packs is the cause of the water crisis. In response, Catalyst Paper reduced the flow of water out of the lake, explaining that if the water isn’t slowed down now, what’s held back by the weir in storage would be tapped out by the beginning of July.
Also in May, Cowichan Lake Recreation hosted the provincial U18 Invitational Selection Camp, which was an intense five-day training and selection process for the top 80 under-18 female players from across British Columbia, all gunning for the chance to play on Team BC this fall.
Brianna Davey, BC Hockey program manager for female high performance, commended the staff and facilities at the arena, describing them as “phenomenal.”
On May 26, Lake Cowichan resident Margaret Davis received the 2016 Impact Award for Leadership in Community Engagement from the National Council of the Canadian Cancer Society for her years of volunteer service with the organization’s Duncan chapter. The news of the recognition left her “shocked” because she sees herself as “just part of a team at our office [where] everyone works hard and everybody contributes.” Davis said it was a great honour to receive the award.
In June, students at Lake Cowichan School completed a large mural on the wall that borders school property along South Shore Road. It was the first large-scale project that involved students from every grade at LCS. The mural features images reflecting the heritage of the Cowichan Lake area, including the names and operation dates of the local lumber mills; the Lady of the Lake (formerly known as the Lumber Queen), the railroad, the changing forest industry, recreational activities and more.
“The biggest benefit for the kids was a unifying project. Bringing our school community together,” said principal Nicole Boucher.
The mural was the brain child of history teacher Sean Battye and artist-in-residence Eva Sniatycka.
Mid-month the verdict was in and a 2016-17 Lady of the Lake had been chosen: Chailyn Vensel received the distinction at a crowning ceremony in Saywell Park. The event capped off a busy competition for Vensel and her fellow candidates. It also wrapped up Lake Days 2016.
“I loved the little events with all the other girls,” said Vensel. “I’m so proud of all of them. I’m so grateful that I shared this experience with them and I know they’ll do wonderful with everything else that they choose to do.”
The title first princess went to Alexis Cage (South Shore Cabinetry) and second princess went to Teresa Melchior (Royal Canadian Legion).
On June 26, the power went out at the Lake and it stayed out for about 12 hours. This was a scheduled event by BC Hydro, which was performing upgrades on the transmission line that runs from Duncan to the lake communities.
Ted Olynyk of BC Hydro said the work is long overdue, stating that some of the equipment in our area has been in use since the 1960s and emphasizing if the work wasn’t done now the region would experience a lot more unplanned outages going forward.
Some business owners were upset about the decision and its potential impacts on their bottom line. Country Grocer rented a generator in order to keep the store open that day. They also had a barbecue outside for anyone unable to cook at home and looking for a bite to eat.