‘You’re never too old,’ said newly married Hazel as she and her husband, Art Beech, set out on a bicycle built for two in this photo from the July 18, 1979 edition of ‘The Lake News’.

Lake Flashback: Problem tubers on the river, coliform closes Duck Pond, and a timely whale rescue in Nitinat Lake

Plus this week: special newlyweds from 1979, and a unique idea for island garbage

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:

“With the hot weather, it’s tubing time again: The problem is how to address the drunkenness, garbage” was a top story in the July 15, 2009 edition of The Lake Cowichan Gazette.

It was a hot topic at last week’s parks and recreation committee, chaired by Coun. Bob Day.

“I think tubing is a great economic generator,” said Day. “We just have to try to deal with some of the problems and make it better. One of the big complaints I hear is people urinating on peoples’ properties.”

Day suggested putting portable bathrooms along the river to make it easier for tubers, although it was noted that would probably require approval from senior levels of government.

“We do need a presence on the river,” he added. “With the temperature above 30 degrees Celsius on Saturday, hundreds of tubers headed down the Cowichan River.”

The RCMP did do some spot checks in Saywell Park on Canada Day and they did confiscate some alcohol.

Sgt. Dave Voller of the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment said they definitely intend to get out on the river with their aluminum river boat, complete with 30-horsepower jet propulsion. He suggested they may invest in an electric motor as well.

“We want to get out there every so often, unannounced, with the hope of discouraging all the drinking,” said Voller. “We’ve got to try to address the problem.”

Coun. Jayne Ingram, said that many of the problem tubers bring their own tubes and party coolers and that by the time they get to the Ingrams’ place, just downstream of the trestle near Greendale Road, “they’re drunk and they don’t care about anything. Most people are great, though.”

25 years ago:

“Duck Pond is closed to swimming” was the shocking headline in the July 2, 1994 issue of The Lake News.

Hoo boy! What was up?

In a move that shocked Lake Cowichan residents, health inspector Ron Cook declared the water of the Duck Pond [park] polluted and ordered it closed to swimming until further notice.

By late afternoon, signs were posted according to law. The same night, they were torn down. Ray Miller, works department superintendent, was to report the sign removed to police.

“It’s foolish to remove the signs. They’re there for the protection of people. Children could become sick if they play there,” he said.

Ron Cook, health inspector, told The Lake News that two samples had been taken at the Duck Pond. One gave a reading of 500 coliform bacteria per 100 mm of water, the second, 950 coliforms. The acceptable level is 200.

The river and lake were not tested apart from the Duck Pond area.

The polluted water could cause a wide range of illnesses, from earache to diarrhea, and eye-, nose-, and throat-infections, mild or serious. The bacteria could also cause skin conditions by entering through broken skin.

Cook said he believes that ducks and geese may be responsible for the contamination. Taking pets to the Duck Pond beach could also be contributing to the problem. The bacteria concerned are found in the feces of people, animals, and birds.

“People could help by not feeding the wildfowl or encouraging them,” he said.

40 years ago:

“Whale rescued by local men” really caught our eye on the front page of The Lake News of July 18, 1979.

“A juvenile whale was saved from drowing in Nitinat Lake by several people Sunday in an unusual rescue drama.”

RCMP Sgt. Ed Olfert, fishing guide Joe DeBodt, and two other men used a sharp knife and quick wit to cut free parts of a fishing net and rope which were wrapped around the whale’s body, slowly draining it of energy.

The whale, which, according to Olfert, appeared to be too exhausted to survive much longer was entangled in a yard of fine meshed net and strong rope, effectively preventing the whale from using its tail.

Large styrofoam floats were entangled in the flukes of the young mammal.

Olfert said that drama started on Saturday when two constables from Lake Cowichan detachment spotted the whale in the gap between the lake and the ocean. Warren Cecchini and Brian McAllister reported to Olfert that a net was obviously impeding the movements of the young whale, believed to be one of a group of three grey whales, which frequent the area.

The constables were at the lake searching for the body of a Seattle man, who had drowned earlier. Olfert, who concluded the unsuccessful search for the body Sunday, said that he and three other men managed to help the whale.


In another short item on the front page of the same paper, we read that MLA Barbara Wallace had a unique idea for keeping Vancouver Island’s rail system going.

She suggested that a “garbage train” be developed as a partial solution to the energy problem.

The member of the Legislature for Cowichan-Malahat makes the proposal in her regular weekly column in The Lake News.

She suggests that such a train would collect garbage from different points on Vancouver Island and deliver it to one or more plants which would produce methane gas. In this way, she says, garbage would be recycled to produce energy, of which there is a supposed shortage.

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