Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

Melanie Livingstone-Hamilton and her husband Aaron Hamilton have been named the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Citizens of the Year. (Submitted)

Melanie Livingstone-Hamilton and her husband Aaron Hamilton have been named the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Citizens of the Year. (Submitted)

October

Carol Blatchford will soon be honoured for her 32 years of service to the Cowichan Lake Community Services Society. The non-profit society intends to rename its building on Point Ideal Road after Blatchford, the long-time executive director of the CLCS before her retirement in June. The society provides programs and facilities to the people of the Cowichan Lake area intended to enhance and support the quality of their lives through education, prevention, recreation, counselling and support groups. Amanda Sawatzky, a family therapist who has been with CLCS for 27 years, said it’s only fitting to rename the building after Blatchford considering all the work she did to access funding and galvanize the community to help construct it in the late 1990s, as well as all the other work she has done over the years. “Renaming the building after her is a way to honour her many contributions to this community,” Sawatzky said.

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Online crime reporting is now available in the Cowichan Lake area. Residents can report non-emergency crimes to the RCMP via the recently created Online Crime Reporting tool, but emergencies should still be reported to 911. The Online Crime Reporting tool is available at https://ocre-sielc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/lakecowichan/en or by searching “Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment.”

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Mayoral hopefuls in Lake Cowichan faced a barrage of quick-paced questions at the all-candidates meeting, hosted by the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, held in Centennial Hall on Oct. 8. The questions, which came from the floor and online, covered a wide range of topics and issues, including what each of the candidates would do about the shortage of affordable housing in the community, how they would improve ease of access for city services, how they would support businesses, and what would their priorities be in the remaining two years of their mandate. Four of the five candidates to replace Rod Peters, who resigned in July for personal reasons, in the byelection on Oct. 24 were on hand for the meeting, which was broken up into three sessions over the day for social distancing purposes, and broadcast live for those at home to participate. Candidates Bob Day, Ross Forrest, Mike Hallatt and Corrie Helliwell attended the meeting, while Jayne Ingram was absent.

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Bob Day is the new mayor of Lake Cowichan. Preliminary results on election night had Day ahead of former mayor Ross Forrest 488 votes to 469. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Day said. In third place was Jayne Ingram with 170 votes, followed by Mike Hallatt with 130 and Corrie Helliwell with 106. Day served three terms on town council for a total of 10 years before running for mayor in 2018. He finished second to Rod Peters in that election, with then-incumbent Forrest in third.

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Is it really Halloween without the annual events at the Youbou Hall? The Youbou Halloween volunteer committee, the volunteer fire department, and the CVRD are feverishly working to ensure that a spooky Oct. 31 evening is had by all — just with a few rather significant changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety issues means no haunted house this year but the costume contest will forge ahead — digitally that is.

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What did you do on your summer break? Moira Mercer rode her bike and collected empties. “I had no idea that I would collect so many recyclables in just two months!” exclaimed Mercer. Two months and more than 6,500 empties later, Mercer’s efforts will benefit a non-profit on the other side of the world. The Lake Cowichan School education assistant spent her summer break riding her ebike five days a week and stopping to pick up any empties she spotted as she rode.

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John Horgan and the B.C. NDP are headed for a majority government, based on election night results from 87 constituencies across the province. It takes 44 seats for a majority, and the NDP were leading in 55 seats with most of the election-night results reported. The B.C. Liberals were elected or leading in 29 constituencies and the B.C. Green Party was ahead in three. Results in closer races will likely have to wait for two weeks to see the result of a flood of mail-in ballots as voters chose that option in the COVID-19 pandemic. Sonia Furstenau, the new B.C. Green leader, won re-election in Cowichan Valley.

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The Ts’uu-baa-asatx First Nation’s Melanie Livingstone and her husband Aaron Hamilton have received the honour of Lake Cowichan’s 2019 Citizens of the Year. The Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce handed the award out during its socially distanced Fall Fling event on Oct. 17. “I just wanted to thank the chamber and the Lake Cowichan community,” Hamilton said to the group, in his speech. He said the award is a testament to all the hard work, determination, pride and leadership qualities that his wife has shown over the years.

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Also receiving recognition during the Fall Fling were the following: (The winners are in bold.) • Youth of the Year: Simone Hinojosa and Aidan Sidhu • Nichole Stock Community Service Award: Ginny Saboe, Jim Spice and Parm Birk • Customer Service Award: Erin Butler of Butler Locksmithing, Michelle McCoy of Country Grocer, Joseph Pearson of Canada Post and Jodi McKenzie of Lake Cowichan Chiropractic • Citizen of the Year: Melanie Livingstone-Hamilton and Aaron Hamilton, Carolyn Graham, and Cathy Craft • Island Savings’ Business of the Year: notary public Patricia Thompson, Mesachie Lake Automotive Repairs, and Cassy’s Coffee House • Above and Beyond winner: Dr. David Froese • Lifetime Achievement Award winner: Dick Orman.

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November

New banner poles, interpretive panels, and new lighting are being added to the Ts’ubaaasatx Nation’s waterfront along North Shore Road and, boy, do they look sharp! The plan was to add some lighting to the area but it’s become so much more. “Over the years we’ve done a park, a memorial pole, a mini-longhouse, a washroom facility, Kaatza Adventures, and the walkway,” Aaron Hamilton, the band’s operations manager noted. “What was missing with the walkway all the way through was there was no lighting. We thought that if we were going to do any lighting, we should do something with some vibrancy about it.”

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The annual Lake Cowichan Santa Parade has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the events that typically take place at Saywell Park after the parade. The chamber also planned to have a prop Santa, instead of a real one due to social-distancing protocols, on display at the visitor/business centre during the last week of November for kids to have their pictures taken. Masks will be mandatory, except for children three and under, and there will be hand sanitizer at the door.

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The federal government announced $24.2 million to reduce the impact of climate change on the Cowichan watershed’s ability to deal with increased winter storms and summer drought. The announcement was made by Catherine McKenna, minister of infrastructure and communities, at a virtual news conference on Nov. 4 that included William Seymour, chief of the Cowichan Tribes, and Aaron Stone, chairman of the Cowichan Regional District.

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Two days shy of exactly a year from the day he went missing, the Lake Cowichan RCMP has announced that the body of 70-year-old Colin Court has been recovered from Cowichan Lake. Court’s remains were found by an internationally recognized underwater search and recovery team on Nov. 6, according to an RCMP news release. Having exhausted all avenues closer to home, the Mounties had reached out to a couple from Idaho that have gained recognition over the last two decades for their dedication to recovering the bodies of drowning victims. The divers located Court’s body under 206 feet of water near Little Shaw Creek and went back down the following day to recover it, with help from the BC RCMP Underwater Recovery Team.

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Part of the $24.2 million federal grant to assist with the protection of the Cowichan watershed will be used to support work to replace the old weir on Cowichan Lake. A press release from the Cowichan Watershed Board doesn’t specify how much of the funding, announced last week by Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna, will be earmarked for the replacement of the 50-year-old weir.

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The Remembrance Day service in Lake Cowichan was far from normal on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lake Cowichan Legion had requested people to stay away from the annual event, which usually draws a large crowd to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and other smaller conflicts.

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It was a big day for Oliver Finlayson when his pool arrived on Monday, Nov. 16. The pool will be a life-changer for nine-year-old Oliver, and it wouldn’t have happened without the help of the Cowichan Lake community. Through generous fundraising and in-kind work, the community made Oliver’s pool possible. “I’ve never lived in such a special place where everyone still gives people the shirts off their backs,” Oliver’s mom, Amie Mattice said. Oliver lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and time in the water is a big help in coping with the condition. Hydrotherapy helps him relax and helps him get stronger, not to mention that he just loves swimming.

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It took crews from the Lake Cowichan Fire Department hours to fully put out a house fire on Mountain View Drive in The Slopes development near Lake Cowichan on Friday, Nov. 27. “We’ll be here for a while yet,” said Lake Cowichan Fire Chief Doug Knott at around 1:30 p.m Friday. The fire started around 11 a.m.; the cause is unknown. An explosion was heard from what was likely a propane cylinder beside the home that caught on fire, said Gary Miller of the Lake Cowichan Fire Department. Knott said while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the tank is not what caused the blaze.

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December

For some, it’ll be the perfect background noise for deep sleep induction, for others though, Lake Cowichan town council’s move to begin offering online live-streaming of their council meetings will offer a chance to continue, or renew, engagement with the town’s leaders. “We’re probably two to four weeks away from perfecting that,” Mayor Bob Day confirmed last week. Getting those meetings online was one of his election platform issues so he’s excited to check that box off so early into his term.

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New Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day said the Town of Lake Cowichan’s council hasn’t had a chance to sit down and talk about how to use their $1.158 million grant from the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The money, allocated under the COVID-19 safe restart grants for local governments, hasn’t been deposited into the town’s coffers yet. “We just got the announcement at the last finance meeting so we haven’t sat down and discussed it yet but we will at the Dec. 8 meeting. That’ll give councillors some time to think about it,” Day said.

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Cowichan Search and Rescue found a man stranded in his car, which was stuck deep in the woods on a logging road, last weekend in the Skutz Falls area. The Lake Cowichan RCMP began the search after the man texted a friend to say he was stuck sometime after 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 when he left his home. But the battery on the man’s cell phone went dead soon after and the authorities couldn’t get a fix on his location. The RCMP searched all night along the logging roads with no success, so Cowichan Search and Rescue were called in during the early morning hours. “A hunter finally spotted the car in an area we were not searching in and called conservation officers who contacted us and we found the man on an old logging spur road deep into the forest still in his car about 14 hours after he left his house.”

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Yet another accident involving an elk on Highway 18 is raising calls for something to be done about the ongoing problem, which has proved fatal in the past — to both elk and people. Sherry Treftlin said her co-worker was driving from Lake Cowichan to Duncan one night recently when, about four kilometres east of Lake Cowichan, she struck an elk so hard that her car had to be written off due to the damage. Treftlin, who was travelling in a vehicle just a few car lengths behind her co-worker when the accident occurred, said the elk had been hit twice. “The elk was first hit by a car going in the other direction, then it ran into the woods before returning to the highway.

Lake CowichanYear in Review

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Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

An organizer of the event makes sure the wreaths are lined up just so at the cenotaph at Lake Cowichan for the Remembrance Day ceremony in 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Gazette)

An organizer of the event makes sure the wreaths are lined up just so at the cenotaph at Lake Cowichan for the Remembrance Day ceremony in 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Gazette)

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