FLASHBACK COLUMN: A possible child thief, abandonment of the CNR rail line, amalgamation on the front burner

The idea of sliding a child through a small space to help with a burglary shocked folks in 1994

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through old newspapers with the assistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago:

In 2009, the Lake Cowichan Gazette said, “There is definitely interest in whether amalgamating the Cowichan Lake area into one municipality is worth pursuing.”

About 100 people attended a meeting in the Lake Cowichan town council chambers to discuss the issue and it was decided “to establish a committee that will start the ball rolling. The whole thing about this is we’re not going to run with it unless people support it,” said Joe Allan, former regional director for Skutz Falls/Cowichan Lake South, who organized the meeting. “We aren’t going to railroad anyone. It has to be done from the ground up.”

Working with Area F and I, and the Town of Lake Cowichan, there were still 14 steps in the approval process, which could take three years or more to complete.

“If you’re lucky, you could be looking at a vote by the next municipal election (November 2011),” said Allan, adding that it could be accelerated if the issues study done in the early 1990s is used again.

Allan said that when amalgamation was last pursued some 15 years ago, several issues made people nervous enough to stop the initiative, including the proposed boundary, policing costs and the potential cost of bridge maintenance. Policing costs are not an issue anymore, since all residents will eventually be paying for policing, compared to the old policy in which only municipalities with 5,000 people or more paid. Regarding bridge and road maintenance, Allan said that could be negotiated with the provincial government regarding who would be responsible.

The problem with the boundary proposed the last time, said Allan, was that it basically traced around the lake and didn’t include any outlying land south and north of the lake. He believes the boundary should basically include all of Area F, Area I and the town.

One man asked why amalgamation is being proposed now. Allan said the raising of the weir has been one of the major issues he’s heard about, as well as having more control over development requests, water quality, land-use issues and simply having more autonomy.

Another big issue during the past year, when Allan was the CVRD director, was when the Cowichan Lake area was asked to help pay for a regional social planning function. Even though Electoral Area F and Area I voted against it, it wasn’t until the Town of Lake Cowichan voted against it that it died at the CVRD board table.

“When Lake Cowichan, the smallest municipality on the region, said ‘We don’t want to pay for it,’ that killed it.”

25 years ago:

The Lake News of March 16, 1994 wondered, “Did a child break into Seniors’ Centre?”

Let’s see what we can find out.

Donatons towards the building fund of the Seniors’ Centre, totalling $420, were stolen in a break-in last Tuesday.

Sam Beldessi, president of the Seniors Association, said it is suspected that an adult and a child were involved. The child was put through a narrow space about a foot wide behind the piano to open the door for the adult thief.

Beldessi said the money was kept in a locked cupboard. It is thought that someone may have had access to inside knowledge of its location.

“We believe we know who did it,” he said.

Police were called. Whether any case can be proved or the money recovered is not known.

Const. Mike Cain, RCMP, said leads were being actively followed up, but it is too soon to say whether the thieves included a child or merely a small adult.

Beldessi said the theft is particularly disturbing to him because the money stolen came from people who wanted to see the centre expand.

The theft won’t stop that, he said, or even delay it.

“We’ll be going right ahead April 1, as planned,” he told The Lake News.

It is intended to double the size of the present centre at a cost of some $225,000, with seniors providing much of the labour without charge.

40 years ago:

“The Canadian Transport Commission has set a hearing for April 10 into abandonment of the CNR line to Lake Cowichan and Youbou,” said the front page story of The Lake News of March 21, 1979.

That’s the line which is still remembered by the Lake Cowichan footbridge between the Duck Pond and Ohtaki Park.

But, let’s continue our read: “Meanwhile, British Columbia Forest Products Ltd., which has a sawmill at Youbou, will be opposing the application by Canadian National Railways, a spokesman said Monday.”

Jim McMartin, manager of traffic for BCFP, said in an interview from Vancouver that company officials are hurriedly preparing a case against the abandonment of the service. He said his company has just received notice of the hearing date, and because of the short time period, is forced to prepare a hurried submission.

“We are going to challenge it,” McMartin said of the application. “We’ll take a serious run at it.”

The CNR applied in 1976 to abandon the line, McMartin said, and it was only last week that BCFP received notice of the CTC hearing.

One of the major arguments the forest company will present in opposing the application will be the extra costs the company will face in changing its operation to accommodate a different form of transportation for its products from Youbou.

Last year, [1978], BCFP shipped more than 400 cars on the CN line out of Youbou.


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