Year in Review: Orphan bear cub, plane on road

2016 was off to a good start for proponents of Sunfest’s bid to relocate the festival

JANUARY

2016 was off to a good start for proponents of Sunfest’s bid to relocate the festival to a large piece of land just outside of Lake Cowichan in Area I. On Jan. 13, the CVRD voted overwhelmingly to approve the bylaws, with only Area E director Alison Nicholson opposing the motions.

“All of us who are involved with Laketown Ranch and with Sunfest are all very excited that we can move forward with our plans,” said Sunfest owner Greg Adams, who added he was not surprised by the CVRD’s decision.

The approved bylaws amended the Youbou/Meade Creek Official Community Plan and Youbou/Meade Creek zoning, and enabled Sunfest to begin development of the land, which included a stage, an outdoor amphitheatre, event parking and festival camping.

Some area residents were upset with the CVRD’s decision and said performances like those at Sunfest would cause unbearable noise issues and disruptions to local life.

FEBRUARY

An orphan bear cub was visiting the backyards of Lake Cowichan this month, and kept conservation officers on their toes responding to sightings.

“We’ve been trying to catch up to this baby bear. The sooner we catch up to it, the better it is for the bear because we’d like to get it to rehab,” said conservation officer Scott Norris on Feb 2.

Norris said the increased bear sightings around the Lake are due to people leaving household garbage outside, which attracts bears from the woods.

“The longer it spends in town the more habituated it gets to garbage and human food sources, that’s not going to be a possibility because the rehab centre doesn’t take habituated bears or cubs.”

The baby bear was eventually darted and relocated, but ultimately had to be euthanized when it returned to town.

On Feb. 9, motorists watched in disbelief as a home-built Zenith CH801 airplane made an emergency landing on Highway 18 between Lake Cowichan and Skutz Falls. Pilot Stewart Hicks cited fuel starvation as the issue that forced him to land, the exact cause of which is still unknown.

He said the engine cut out just above Lake Cowichan.

“My first thought was getting it down in one piece. And me with it,” he said. “I just came in for a normal landing, with no engine, and on the road. And fortunately there was no truck coming in the other direction.”

The pilot was assisted by members of the public in pulling the plane off to the shoulder.

RCMP Cpl. Rory Goncalves said there were some “close calls” that afternoon due to motorists trying to stop and take photos.

MARCH

In March, parents and children in Lake Cowichan were on high alert following a disturbing instance of child-luring in the town.

On March 3 at approximately 4:30 p.m. an 11-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister were waiting for their mother to pick them up on South Shore Road near the A&W when a vehicle pulled up beside them and its occupants (a male driver and female passenger) began speaking to the boy, telling him they found a “good swimming spot”.

The boy began making a commotion to attract attention to the incident, and the vehicle sped off. The RCMP opened an investigation and school staff went to all the classes and spoke to students about the risks strangers can potentially pose.

The Lake Cowichan Food Bank moved its operations to a new location this month. The organization is now working out of a space at 205 South Shore Rd. after years in the Mildred Child Annex.

“We now have space to actually move around,” said volunteer coordinator and food bank secretary Cindy Vaast, noting that the group now has between 800 and 900 square feet to operate in — almost twice the room it had before.

Also, on March 18, a representative from the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit spoke at the Cowichan Lake and District Chamber of Commerce monthly dinner event.

“We want to do as much spin-off as we possibly can, whether it’s tours or promoting the lake and all of that that can happen,” said Evans.

“We’re really putting out a lot [of information] about what there is to do on Vancouver Island.”

Chamber members were enthusiastic about the potential impact the track, which opens in June, might have on local business at the lake

The venue will be for membership only. He said there are currently no plans to host races at the circuit.

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