Lake Flashback: Tubing, cougar, and fiery drive through town

Remember these stories?

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson 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

Summer was in full swing this time a decade ago as tubers flocked to the Cowichan River.

“The Cowichan River has taken on its annual polka dotted appearance, with an influx of tubers flocking to the area from throughout Vancouver Island, and even further, in order to take part in one of the Cowichan Lake area’s main tourist attractions.”

That was the top story on the front page of the July 28, 2010 Lake Cowichan Gazette.

“Taking a moment to discuss what a recent televised news report referred to as a ‘tubing mecca,’ Town of Lake Cowichan council discussed the importance of tubing in relation to the local tourism industry during their July 20 meeting. Having recently returned from a Tourism Vancouver Island meeting, Cowichan Lake Education Centre manager Dalton Smith said that Lake Cowichan is well known throughout the island as a tubing destination.”

“They’re aware of tubing, but not much else,” he said, adding that there’s room for other aspects of the Cowichan Lake area to be better promoted.

Mayor Ross Forrest told council that there’s a possibility that Tourism BC will be sending some students out to Lake Cowichan in order to conduct a study on tubing on the Cowichan River, including things like counts and surveys. “It would be nice to know the economic benefit we get from it,” Forrest said, of tubers.

25 years ago

The date was Aug. 2, 1995 and it was “the end of an era,” according to the Lake News.

“Thousands of people walked across the footbridge and to many it was an old friend. The footbridge, condemned as unsafe, was removed several years ago but its supports have stood as commemorative skeletons ever since. This is the last time they’ll be seen as Wayne Nash prepares to cut them away with an underwater saw,” said the front page caption.

Also making the front page was the headline: “Victoria woman in shock after encountering cougar.”

The story went like this: “Cheryl Smith, a Victoria woman, is reported to have been in shock after encountering a cougar Saturday at Wardroper Creek. She was in a bush with her two dogs when she spotted the cougar. She picked up her two dogs and ran screaming ‘Cougar!’ towards her camping companions. Heather Henderson, who reported the incident to the Lake News, said her husband tried to look big and started screaming at the animal which appeared ready to pounce. ‘It turned and bolted,’ said Henderson.”

Also reported 25 years ago in the Lake News, the residents of Greendale Road got Village water.

“Some have been trying to have their properties admitted within Village boundaries for years, so that they could get water,” said the story.

“Provided there are no technical concerns, the proposal can be implemented in probably, September.”

40 years ago

“Smokey the Bear would have seen red.”

The front bottom right-hand side of the Aug. 6, 1980 Lake News had a story about a rather curious fire.

“A B.C. Parks Branch vehicle — one used to collect garbage from provincial campsites — was observed recently driving through town with its back ablaze. The truck with its burning cargo of garbage was halted just on the outskirts of town by a motorist who hailed the truck driver. The fire was fully extinguished at Darling Tire and the driver continued — without further endangering any of B.C.’s green forests.”

It’s a good thing Lake Cowichan didn’t burn down because the community was hopeful their leaders would try harder to promote its beauty. On the same front page there was a headline of “More area promotion urged”.

A Youbou motel owner Friday called for more government effort in promoting tourism for the Cowichan Lake area. Eric Meuser, owner of the Sa-Seen-Os Bay Motel, criticized the authorities for the “absolute and total lack of promotion of this area.”

“Meuser made his comments in a survey taken by the Lake News in which many hospitality trades people indicated that business wasn’t that bad despite the poor early season weather. He said he was lucky that only 50 per cent of his business was made up of tourists.”

“Tourists have to be nudged to venture off the main highway,” he said. “They seem to have lost their knack for going off the beaten track.”

“Meuser said he is frustrated that none of the highway signs mention that there is a beautiful lake here.”

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“Thousands of people walked across the footbridge and to many it was an old friend. The foot bridge, condemned as unsafe, was removed several years ago but its supports have stood as commemorative skeletons ever since. This is the last time they’ll be seen as Wayne Nash prepares to cut them away with an underwater saw. In the background at left are pieces of debris waiting to be loaded onto a truck.” (Lake News, Aug. 2, 1995)

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