Year in Review: Music, tragedy and zoning fights made headlines in 2017

JUNE

JUNE

“We’re going to have a real problem this summer,” said Lake Cowichan Coun. Bob Day, echoing the concerns of his fellow councillors.

The worry: congestion (and tempers) at local boat ramps could escalate as more and more boaters want access to Cowichan Lake.

Mayor Ross Forrest kicked off the debate at the council committee session on June 6.

“There is quite a bit of concern out there about boat ramps. We should put that [officially] on an agenda to talk about accessibility,” he said.

Lake Cowichan chief administrative officer Joe Fernandez suggested that maybe talks with the Lake Cowichan First Nation would be useful since they were looking for ways to increase their presence on North Shore Road.

•••

The Mid-Island Co-op in Lake Cowichan held a grand reopening on June 10.

Mid Island Co-op took over the old Esso station at the site more than a year ago and has been slowly renovating it to be a Co-op station ever since.

Spokeswoman Susan Urban said a new feature at the station, located at 137 Lake Cowichan Rd., is the card-lock feature, in which customers with cards can gas up 24/7.

“We think the station has a lot of potential,” Urban said.

•••

Cowichan Lake Days 2017 has passed into the history books and everyone agrees it was a great time for all.

The major outdoor events: breakfast on the town, the grand parade, the Lady of the Lake crowning, the town steak dinner, and the Eagle Eyes concert, mainly dodged some pretty chancy weather, delighting organizers and everybody else.

The crowd lining the street was ready with jackets and umbrellas Saturday morning for the parade.

But the rain managed to hold off, allowing the Cowichan Pipes &Drums to parade without their rainjackets and the Lady of the Lake candidates to show off their stylish and beautiful new dresses.

•••

Desiree Karlsen, Miss Cowichan Lake Lions, was named the new Lady of the Lake, with Brooklyn Kruk, Miss Copper Lane, as First Princess, and Randi Robertson, Miss BPO Elks, as Second Princess.

At the big Lady of the Lake grand ball, on Friday night, Shalyn Jones, Miss Island Savings, was chosen Miss Congeniality, and Brianna Mahaney, Miss Country Grocer, and Shoshannah Ritcho, Miss Scarlett’s Boutique and Espresso Bar, were each awarded a Miss Blossom banner, given to the girls who really came out of their shells during the pageant season.

•••

Lake Cowichan’s curling lounge was filled with a happy buzz on Saturday, June 10 as everyone waited for the latest inductees to the Sports Wall of Fame to be announced.

2017 was an unusual year because seven people were being honoured and all of them were women, Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest told the crowd to begin the ceremony.

Added to the Wall this year were Olympic freestyle skier Tanya Clarke-Young and a group of six figure skaters. They included Linda Atchison Jakubowski, Jolene Cook Livingston, Shannon Knott McKinlay, Justine Miles, Christine Nash, and Kirsten Nimmo Harkins.

“These women were able, by a lot of hard work and dedication to excellence, were able to reach a high level in their chosen sport,” he said.

•••

A new medical marijuana dispensary has opened up in Lake Cowichan.

The Green Tree Medical Dispensary, which currently has locations in Nanaimo, Duncan and Shawnigan Lake, opened a fourth shop on South Shore Road, across from Saywell Park, in mid June.

But Lake Cowichan mayor Ross Forrest said the new dispensary has no business licence to operate, has never sought a business licence from the town, and civic leaders are waiting for the local RCMP detachment to decide how to move forward on the issue.

•••

In June, the Cowichan Valley Regional District removed an illegal gazebo that was constructed on the shoreline at Cowichan Lake.

Development in riparian areas, land located close to streams, lakes and other watercourses, is prohibited in B.C. to protect these fragile ecosystems.

The CVRD regularly receives complaints about unauthorized development in riparian areas and pursues enforcement when violations occurs.

•••

There’s some unfortunate news for seniors in Lake Cowichan as it looked like the seniors’ centre would be closing its doors. For just how long has yet to be determined, but it could be forever, they worried.

A general meeting of the Cowichan Lake District Seniors Association and the Lake Golden Agers Society — the two groups that run the centre — was slated for late June in an attempt to find a way to keep the centre up and running.

•••

On June 14 the Cowichan Valley Regional District defeated two bylaws that, if passed, would have legalized seasonal residential camping at 15 properties on Nantree and Peri roads in Meade Creek.

Directors Klaus Kuhn, Ian Morrison, Mary Marcotte and alternate director Blaise Salmon voted in opposition to the first of the two bylaws — a Youbou/Meade Creek Official Community Plan amendment — while directors Kuhn, Morrison, Marcotte, alternate Salmon and interim director Sierra Acton voted in opposition to the second of the pair, an Official Zoning Amendment.

•••

Two days after it was reported, crews had extinguished a 1.7-hectare wildfire near the Robertson Main 11km mark about 15 kilometres slightly southeast of Mesachie Lake. The fire was reported on Monday, June 26.

“It is a human caused fire and it is under investigation,” said Coastal Fire Centre fire information officer Marg Drysdale.

JULY

Honeymoon Bay’s firefighters marked 70 years of service with a parade, a display of equipment and even more on the Canada Day long weekend. Scheduled to take place just ahead of the community’s Canada Day celebrations at the community hall, the event drew a good crowd, and several other fire departments also sent trucks to add to the celebration. The department also held an open house at their hall, and a dinner as part of the celebration.

•••

Cowichan Lake Idol returned for another year. It was open to all Cowichan Lake residents, who are 18 and under.

The first rounds of auditions were held Saturday, July 1 at Park Place gazebo at Saywell Park.

•••

Lake Cowichan was a busy place on Canada Day.

Starting the day with the singing of O Canada and a few speeches at the Trans Canada Trailhead, everyone then moved over to Saywell Park’s Park Place gazebo to enjoy some great music from the Lake Cowichan Tenors, food, and, of course, a beatiful birthday cake. With hundreds of visitors in town taking to the park to tube down the Cowichan River, the area was buzzing with excitement.

•••

The cool green grass of the Mesachie Lake Skydome ball park welcomed everyone to come out and enjoy a Canada Day evening celebration July 1.

And, with fun and games, a big bouncy castle, onstage entertainment, two Canada Day cakes, and more, folks made their way to the event, organized by Cowichan Lake Recreation.

•••

Honeymoon Bay celebrated Canada Day at the community hall with ceremony, awards, and fun.

The event opened right at 11 a.m. following the fire department’s 70th anniversary fire truck parade through town. The singing of ‘O Canada’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ was followed by the awarding of the Citizen of the Year award.

Brian Peters was chosen. According to Dick Orman, “[Peters] moved to Honeymoon Bay approximately 12 years ago and has never stopped being actively involved in the community.”

•••

Cowichan River users are sounding the alarm after a 46-year-old man nearly died when he got caught under a tree in the river on Canada Day.

The tree had fallen across the river at Horseshoe Bend about two kilometres down from Skutz Falls in early June and was quickly declared a hazard. At some point it was cut but the remnants remain in the river.

“As much of the tree has been removed as safely possible – water levels have prohibited full removal. Water levels in the river have receded and attempts to remove more of the tree are continuing,” said a message from BC Parks.

•••

All fundraising at Lake Days 2017 was aimed at a single project: refurbishing the Duck Pond in Lake Cowichan.

It was a conscious decision by the organizers of the big event, and they celebrated the success of the idea Thursday, July 6 by handing over a cheque for $10,463 to the Lake Cowichan Kinsmen and Kinettes clubs, who have undertaken to raise $100,000 for the work needed at the park.

•••

A woman from Vancouver Island is dead after a tubing accident on the Cowichan River on the afternoon of July 8.

Coroner Barb McLintock, with the BC Coroners Service, said the as yet unidentified 50-year-old woman was tubing with companions when she became separated from her tube in fast-running water near the river’s Marie Canyon.

McLintock said the woman became trapped under the water until she was rescued by other tubers who pulled her from the water and began efforts to resuscitate her.

The woman was transferred by air ambulance to Victoria General Hospital where she died the next morning.

•••

In July a Lake Cowichan School student was awarded a $100,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship to the University of Victoria, where she will be pursuing her engineering degree.

“Excited and grateful” is how 18-year-old Helen Spry describes her feelings toward her most recent accomplishment .

Spry, a Grade 12 student at Lake Cowichan School, was nominated in the fall for the Schulich Leaders Scholarship, which means her scholastic ability had already been duly noted.

This prestigious entrance scholarship is awarded to high school graduates who are enrolling in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at participating universities in Canada.

•••

A man in his mid-60s died after rolling his green pick-up truck on Meades Creek Road at approximately 5 p.m. on Friday, July 14.

B.C. Coroner Barb McLintock said the man, who is from the area, was the only victim in the single-vehicle accident.

She said he died before emergency personnel could transport him to the hospital, though a helicopter landed to take him for medical care.

•••

If it’s not here yet, it soon will be.

That was part of the message Cindy Lise from Our Cowichan Community Health Network had for Town of Lake Cowichan councillors in mid July on the subject of the opioid crisis in the Cowichan Valley. Keeping in close contact with your community is one sure way to help deal with the current crisis she told them.

•••

Fighting the dust in Youbou is an ongoing battle and area director Klaus Kuhn has been talking again with TimberWest about it.

He is hoping to hold a town hall meeting before the end of August so that Youbou residents and property owners can learn the details of a possible plan by the company to construct a logging road higher up the mountain side that would bypass the entire community, hopefully taking the dust with it.

A truck wash has been constructed, with the idea of seeing drivers clean their trucks before they even get to Youbou but the problem continues.

•••

Bob Crandall of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society reported Monday, July 10 that “There has been an apparent riparian area regulations violation of significant size. Many Youbou residents witnessed the south shoreline of Lake Cowichan being cleared by a team of heavy equipment on or around the July long weekend.

“Many land owners who witnessed this apparent violation reported it. CVRD bylaw enforcement officer Nino Morano and Conservation officer Brad Bowman are investigating,” he said.

Asked Tuesday, July 11 about the situation, Morano said the CVRD is investigating.

•••

In July, board members, regular volunteers, and Lake Cowichan School students were overjoyed recently when Erin Richards showed up with a $1,000 cheque from Sunfest’s Laketown Ranch Benevolent Society.

Shelley Davies-Coburn, secretary, DJ, marketing, and fundraising coordinator at Radio Cowichan, was utterly delighted at receiving the $1,000 from the Society as part of the recent Help Us Help Others contest.

“This will pay a lot of bills,” she said, waving the cheque around in the air as friends laughed.

•••

Lake Cowichan will no longer turn a blind eye to construction done without a building permit, the mayor and council decided July 25.

The decision forced seven renters in three suites out of their homes, which are part of 87 South Shore Rd.

With the renters watching from the audience, it was obvious that this was going to be a challenging decision and council gave the property owner, Gilbert Beaudry, close to half an hour to talk about his situation.

What was at issue is, in formal language, a “failure to comply with building and zoning requirements and the construction of habitable living quarters without building permits.”

•••

The Lake Cowichan First Nation hosted opening ceremonies for its first business venture on July 28.

The business, called Kaatza Adventures, is a rental company that deals in kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats and other water craft. Manager Melanie Livingstone, who is also on the band council, said future plans for the business call for providing canoe tours on Cowichan Lake.

•••

Lake Cowichan is moving ahead with a columbarium burial site, said Coun. Tim McGonigle in July.

“It’s been approved. It’s on the budget for this year. We’re still looking at costing,” he said at the last parks, recreation and culture meeting. “We need to distinguish between residents and non-residents [for possible inclusion].”

He explained that while some people might want to see family members who no longer live in Lake Cowichan be given the chance to buy a spot on the site, the town has to watch out how that is done because there are many people who are only interested in the price of a spot and who might even buy up several places if given the opportunity.

AUGUST

Lake Cowichan residents, politicians, and friends of all kinds showed up Aug. 1 to watch an episode of CBC’s Still Standing show.

The Town of Lake Cowichan organized a special party at The Flats at Laketown Ranch, and more than 600 people enjoyed the outdoor celebration, which featured music by Row of Crowz and some games giving away CBC swag supplied for the premiere.

•••

Fans flocked to Sunfest at Laketown Ranch in greater than ever numbers in August.

Over the four-day weekend, more than 50,000 guests attended, the music festival reported, with an average of 10,000 people watching the main stage show each night.

“We are pleasantly surprised to see that Sunfest grew again this year. It’s great to know that after 17 years we are still attracting new guests while keeping our long-time fans happy,” said Greg Adams, owner of Wideglide Entertainment and Laketown Ranch, the purpose-built site that is the home to Sunfest Country Music Festival and more.

•••

Amanda Nixon won Cowichan Lake Idol 2017. She won the honour and the trophy Sunday morning, Aug. 6, with Kirah Masayon finishing second, Jessie Porter third, and Lara Court fourth. In a very special presentation, the Fab Four Finalists were able to sing on The Flats stage at Laketown Ranch during Sunfest, hearing their voices ring out over a powerful sound system.

•••

Owners of properties on Nantree Road aren’t going down without a fight, vowing to keep pressure on decision makers until a suitable solution is found to the zoning issues on their lots.

In mid June, the Cowichan Valley Regional District shot down a group of 15 landowners’ attempts to legalize the common practice of setting up their RVs and campsites on their residential properties to enjoy a summer alongside Lake Cowichan. Previous staff reports recommended moving ahead with rezoning bylaws but the board did not agree.

Property owners Lance Olmsted and Norman Marcy have notified the CVRD they will “vigorously defend” any attempted bylaw enforcement. They’ve encouraged their neighbours and those in similar situations to do the same.

•••

Youbou’s Mikyla Carlow swam to silver and bronze medals at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg in August. Carlow took bronze in the Special Olympics female 100m freestyle final on Aug. 8 with a time of 1:28.59. Three days later, she won silver in the 50m freestyle, finishing second in her heat that morning, and again finishing second in the evening final.

•••

“We’ll see massive changes in your area,” the CVRD’s Kate Miller told Lake Cowichan town council on Tuesday, Aug. 8. “We can’t just go back and wish it away.”

Miller, environmental services manager for the regional district, had come to council’s economic and sustainable development committee to to talk about the future under a new climate change regime.

•••

BC Hydro’s power systems were operating at a break-neck pace earlier this week as a new record for peak summer usage was set.

At the height of demand on Monday evening, usage reached 7,851 megawatts with 1,142 of that coming from Vancouver Island, according to BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk.

The increase smashes the old summer record, set on Aug. 11, 2014, by almost 400 megawatts.

“Certainly we’re rivalling any record for peak consumption in the summer,” Olynyk said.

•••

Residents of Youbou and the surrounding region were invited to a town hall meeting with TimberWest and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on Aug. 28 about plans to construct a bypass route around Youbou Road for logging trucks.

Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said TimberWest, which runs a number of logging operations near Youbou, is considering building a bypass road for logging trucks in an effort to deal with ongoing dust problems on Youbou Road.

•••

The Cowichan Lake 50+ Activity Centre got a new lease on life in late August when an anonymous donor stepped up with $15,000 to keep the centre from closing down.

The money will keep the doors open until about February, according to Ginny Saboe, president of the Cowichan Lake District Seniors Association.

The centre, located on Renfrew Avenue in downtown Lake Cowichan, beside the post office, was a busy hub but had to be more or less shut down for the summer when money ran short to keep it open.

•••

Work on the Lake Cowichan columbarium is moving forward quickly.

On Tuesday, Aug. 22, Lake Cowichan town council gave the first three readings to the Town of Lake Cowichan Cemetery and Columbarium Bylaw.

A columbarium is expected to be in place and operating by October of this year, bringing to a close years of talk and effort by generations of Lake Cowichan residents and politicians.

•••

With new owners, High Times, only taking over the festival a week before it started, this year’s Cannabis Cup at Laketown Ranch suffered from uncertainty that affected the turnout for the event.

Despite such talented acts as Daniel Wesley on Thursday night, Aug. 24, and Magic! and House of Pain on Friday, Aug. 25, crowds were very small for the reputation of High Times and the size of the venue. However, the event gathered some buzz by Saturday, when surprise headliner Lil Kim — added to the lineup only in the middle of the week — took the main stage.

By the final day, Sunday, however, there were still only about 200 fans at the event when Wyclef Jean, another last-minute addition to the lineup took the stage.

•••

Most in attendance at a town hall meeting in Youbou on Aug. 28 were not in favour of the construction of a new bypass route around Youbou Road for logging trucks.

In a letter to the TimberWest forest company which is proposing the bypass road, Youbou’s Alison Coley-Donohue said the majority of the more than 100 people who attended the meeting, and the community itself, want another option to be explored.

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