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Year in Review Part 1: Top stories from Cowichan in 2022, January to June

Check out some of the top stories from the Cowichan Valley, month by month

Editor’s note: What stories do you remember from 2022 in the Cowichan Valley? Here’s a sampling of what we covered at the Citizen from January to June. Check back tomorrow for part two, covering July through December.


Firefighters from six Cowichan Valley halls are being lauded for their efforts in saving some of the OK Tire inventory after flames engulfed the building early Sunday morning, Jan. 2.

“They did an awesome job; they need to be commended for sure,” said North Cowichan manager of fire and bylaw Martin Drakeley.

Crews from Ladysmith, Chemainus, Crofton, South End, Maple Bay and Duncan rushed to the tire shop to help after receiving the call out at 3:47 a.m.


The assessed value of an average single-family home in North Cowichan has risen a whopping 37 per cent, from $489,000 to $668,000, over the last year, according to the latest figures by BC Assessment.

In fact, like last year, all regions of the Cowichan Valley saw home assessments rise on average over the last year in BC Assessment’s valuation of homes across the province, which is based on what was happening in the real estate market as of July 1, 2021.

But while last year’s increases ranged from five to 10 per cent in the Valley, this year’s increases range from an incredible 35 per cent to 52 per cent.


Rogers Communications is looking to install a new cell phone tower on land owned by the City of Duncan at 1091 Marchmont Rd., where the city’s pubic works yard is located.

The proposal turned out to be controversial, with neighbours opposing the tower. The plan did not come to fruition.


Members of Cowichan Tribes voted on Jan. 8 to reclaim the right to govern how B.C.’s largest First Nation’s children are educated.

“This is an exciting first step as we reclaim our inherent right to educate our children,” said Stephanie Atleo, the education jurisdiction negotiator for Cowichan Tribes. “Work will now begin on drafting education laws that will outline how we govern education for on-reserve schools. Once these are complete, community will then have an opportunity to review, provide input and approve these laws.”


A big dump of snow on Thursday, Jan. 6 brought a snow day for much of the Cowichan Valley, as residents got out their shovels after approximately 25 centimetres of the white stuff fell overnight, children stayed home from school and some businesses closed.

One day after the return to school for some students, they were back home again. Snow prompted the Cowichan Valley School District to close schools on Thursday, Jan. 6.


No homes or businesses were impacted by the landslide on Indian Road in Duncan on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

A statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the road was closed that afternoon while the trees that slid from the top of the bank were cut up and removed.

Meanwhile, nearby Allenby Road remains closed into 2023 following a landslide there.


Crime, safety and homelessness are the most important issues facing Duncan, the city’s 2021 Citizen Survey has found.

The recently released results of the survey found that, at 44 per cent of those polled, these are the main issues confronting city citizens, the same as the last survey in 2019.


With housing costs going through the roof in the Cowichan Valley, particularly in the Lake Cowichan area, the Cowichan Valley Regional District is considering taking part in the province’s speculation tax regime.

Later in the year, it was announced the province would expand the tax to include North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan and Duncan, but not the electoral areas.


The sale has closed on a prime piece of Crofton property for $560,000 above the asking price.

The 2.47 acres where the old Crofton Elementary School was situated at 1658 Robert St. before being torn down was purchased for $1.81 million by a Vancouver agent representing an undisclosed buyer.



A bystander came to the rescue of a driver after a dump truck plunged into the ocean in Mill Bay on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 26.

According to Ron Beck, chief of the Mill Bay Volunteer Fire Department, the truck was proceeding down a steep hill on Frayne Road when it apparently lost its brakes and went through an intersection before heading down a 50-foot bank and landing upside down in the ocean.

By the time firefighters reached the scene, a bystander had leaped into action and dove into the water to help the driver get out of the truck. Both the driver and rescuer were back on shore when firefighters arrived.


The long-anticipated redevelopment of the Crofton ferry terminal and berth rebuild is now expected to be completed in time for the summer of 2027.

In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan in response to concerns that had been raised about traffic congestion around the Crofton ferry terminal, Brian Anderson, BC Ferries’ vice-president of strategy and community engagement, said the redevelopment of the terminal is an important project to address operational and community concerns.


Al Siebring will not be running for re-election as mayor of North Cowichan in the municipal elections in October.

Siebring, who has been on North Cowichan council for 13 years and has served the last three years as mayor, said he will be almost 65 years old when the next municipal elections are held on Oct. 15, and he now has 11 grandchildren.

He said he wants the time to watch them grow up.


The landmark cross that for years looked out over Cowichan Bay from atop Mount Tzouhalem before being removed last July, has mysteriously returned to its plinth.

Nature Conservancy of Canada spokesperson Lesley Neilson confirmed the cross is back but didn’t have a clue as to who re-attached the religious symbol, or when.


The increasing number of complaints in 2021 about people living in recreational vehicles in undesignated rural areas in the Cowichan Valley Regional District is raising concerns.

At the CVRD’s electoral areas services committee meeting on Feb. 2, a year-end staff report on bylaw enforcement in the district’s nine electoral areas indicated that of the 62 zoning complaints received in 2021, the majority were about people illegally living in RVs.

But Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said he thinks the number of complaints the district received in 2021 is just a fraction of the actual number of people living in RVs in the electoral areas outside locations where they are allowed.

“We’re having an affordable housing crisis and I think it’s getting worse.”


With its population finally tipping over 5,000, the City of Duncan will be required to help pay for its policing costs for the first time.

The city now has a population of 5,047, up from 4,944 in 2016, according to the 2021 Census information released on Feb. 9.

That means the city will now be required to pay 70 per cent of its policing costs, with the federal government paying the remaining 30 per cent, as required by the provincial Policing Act.


The importance of protecting and enhancing the ecological benefits of North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare municipal forest reserve was a strong theme during the first phase of the public-engagement process to determine the future of the reserve.

Megan Turnock from Lees & Associates gave a presentation to the municipality’s committee of the whole on Feb. 8 summarizing the consultant company’s findings after hearing from 1,275 community members through an online survey, four online workshops and other outreach strategies.


North Cowichan’s South-End Fire Hall is expected to have a new approximately $1.46 million aerial ladder fire truck in operation as soon as this summer.

Council approved the purchase at its meeting on Feb. 16 after a staff report recommended the municipality buy the new truck from Pierce Manufacturing because the aerial fire truck that is currently stationed at the South-End Fire Hall is near the end of its useful life.



The empty lot at 135 Kenneth St. in Duncan is planned to be an integral part of the new world-class art gallery, studio and educational centre that the Cowichan Public Art Gallery Society is proposing.

At its meeting on Feb. 22, Duncan city council voted unanimously to negotiate a purchase option with the non-profit society for the future acquisition of the property, which the city paid $351,000 for in 2019, that would be used for a section of the new 30,000 sq. ft. gallery.


A tree trimmer was taken to hospital with multiple injuries Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 23 after his bucket truck tipped over at a job site on Shawnigan Lake Road.


Lydia Hwitsum is the new chief of Cowichan Tribes after the election of chief and councillors that was held on Friday, Feb. 25.

Hwitsum is not new to the role of chief of Cowichan Tribes, having served as chief for a total of eight years; from 1998 to 2001, and again from 2007 to 2011.


A Duncan man has been arrested in the case of a homicide that happened in January of 2020. The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit arrested 45-year-old Andrew Steve Alphonse on March 1. He has been charged with manslaughter. The court case in ongoing.


Crown counsel has approved a charge of manslaughter against an 18-year-old man after the death of another man on March 1, 2021.

The charge was approved on Feb. 27, 2022, though the crime took place a year ago. The man charged will not be named, as he was a youth at the time of the crime. The Youth Criminal Justice Act prevents the publication of the names of young offenders.


Picket lines are up at Vancouver Island Library’s Cowichan branch, as of 9 a.m., Wednesday, March 9.

“The picket is the first step in escalated job action from the librarians who are awaiting response to their latest counteroffer from the employer via the Labour Relations Board mediator,” said a press release issued by the BCGEU.

The strike ended in April.


Brentwood College won’t be having fireworks at its 50th annual Brentwood Regatta, to be held April 29 to May 1, as organizers had planned.

Despite the recommendation from a bylaw officer in the Cowichan Valley Regional District that the fireworks show be allowed, the CVRD’s electoral area services committee decided at its meeting on March 2 not to allow the fireworks. In 2022 the CVRD even considered a ban on fireworks in the region because of ill-affects on wildlife, domestic animals and people with conditions that respond poorly to sudden, loud noises.


Students from Lake Cowichan Secondary School took to the streets of the town on March 3 to show their support for Ukraine as the European nation continues to desperately fight a massive invasion from Russia.


North Cowichan council approved a development permit for a 39-foot high three-storey building that will be adjacent to the popular Secret Garden in Chemainus and its businesses, despite concerns raised by the local business community.

It was a controversial decision, with a number of neighbours of the project opposed.


Almost 500 people took to the streets in Duncan on a cold and rainy night on Feb. 26 to raise money to help the homeless.

It was the first year Cowichan hosted a “Coldest Night of the Year” fundraiser.

The 67 fundraising teams that took part in the Cowichan event raised more than $92,000 as they walked either a two-kilometre or five-kilometre route through the streets of Duncan to get some sense of what it is to be homeless on a cold winter night.


Laketown Ranch, the site that hosts the popular annual Sunfest Country Music Festival and other events, is looking to add a large residential area and an industrial zone to more than 40 hectares of land it owns adjacent to the festival site.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s electoral area services committee gave the comprehensive project the green light to proceed to the next planning stage, which will include a public hearing, in a 5-3 vote at its meeting on March 16.


Coronation Avenue in Duncan could soon have bike lanes from Ypres Street to Trunk Road.

At a council meeting on March 7, the City of Duncan approved a staff recommendation to add $15,000 from the city’s budget for 2022 to design the bike lanes, which is the first step in a grant application to the BC Active Transportation grant program.


City of Duncan workers were busy this week in City Square and Station Street removing a number of American sweet gum trees and replacing them with other, more suitable, tree species.

The American sweet gum trees in City Square were planted in 2005 when upgrades in the area were completed.

A staff report by Brian Murphy, Duncan’s director of public works and engineering, said that it has become evident that these trees are not suitable for the locations where they were planted.



The costs for seismic and other upgrades at Duncan’s historic City Hall is estimated to be more than $10 million.

Rachel Hastings, Duncan’s manager of building and bylaw services, said in a report that the costs of the construction of a new building on a different site would be between $7.2 million and $8 million, so the cost to upgrade and protect the existing

City Hall is approximately $2.5 million relative to a new building on a new site.

“This construction premium of $2.5 million is essentially the cost to preserve arguably the most iconic building in Duncan and perhaps the Cowichan Valley,” Hastings said.

“With that said, the city does not currently have [more than] $7 million in funds to replace City Hall, and staff believe that there is a far greater likelihood of grant monies to fund the preservation of a heritage building than to fund a new City Hall on land that city does not as of yet own.”


The Shawnigan Lake Museum will receive a government grant of up to $1,078,000 for its expansion project.

The Shawnigan Historical Society said the funding for the expansion, called Project Impact, is from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program - Rural and Northern Communities Program.

Project Impact is a community supported capital expansion project to triple the size of the Shawnigan Lake Museum from 2,100 sq.ft. to more than 6,000 sq.ft.


It’s been a cool and wet spring so far in the Cowichan Valley, and warm and sunny skies may not be coming any time soon, according to Environment Canada. How right they were. Summer weather did not begin until well into July.


The first residents of BC Housing’s new supportive housing development on Paddle Road, the first facility of its kind in the region, are expected to begin moving in this week.

The project, which saw delays during the COVID-19 pandemic, is intended for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in North Cowichan.

The facility, called Sq’umul’ Shelh Lelum’, is a four-storey wood-frame structure with 52 individual studio suites, each with their own washroom and kitchenette.



Responding to roughly 200 emergency calls a year and with the population expanding, Cowichan Bay Volunteer Fire Rescue needs a safe and appropriately sized headquarters to operate from, says CVRD board chair and Cowichan Bay director Lori Iannidinardo.

A new $16-million fire hall is proposed. The funding was approved later in the year in a controversial Alternative Approval Process.


Phase three of the controversial Shawnigan Village Rail Trail project was given the green light to proceed by the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s electoral area services committee at its meeting on April 20.


The cross overlooking Cowichan Bay from the rocky bluff atop Mount Tzouhalem has been vandalized again.

It’s not known exactly when the latest destruction occurred but the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which owns the property, became aware on May 2 that the cross had been bent more than 90 degrees and possibly even cut, according to Conservancy spokesperson Lesley Neilson.


The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is asking the public for information related to the poaching of two cougar kittens near Hill 60 Forest Service Road sometime within the last week.

According to officers, the animals were found with their paws and heads removed.

Poaching wildlife is a serious offence under the BC Wildlife Act, reminds the Conservation Officer Service, and it is illegal to kill cougar kittens (any cougar with spots or under one year of age), or cougars in a family unit.


Thousands of people were without power in the Cowichan Valley Wednesday morning, May 18, as a windstorm walloped the area.

Many may have thought Cowichan had dodged the worst when they woke up Wednesday morning to a sunny day, with nothing more than a few wind gusts, after the storm had been predicted to hit Tuesday night.

Winds got progressively more severe, however, as the morning moved towards afternoon, with multiple power outages reported by 10:30 a.m. throughout the Cowichan Valley, from Shawnigan Lake to Chemainus and Saltair, affecting thousands.


It’s the end of an era as Candace Spilsbury, a fixture on the Cowichan Valley board of education for 16 years, most of those as its chair, has announced she will not be seeking re-election come October.


Honeymoon Bay Fire Rescue has served the community for 75 years and Raymond Wear has been there for more than half of them.

On Monday, May 2, the Honeymoon Bay Fire Chief received his 40-year Exemplary Service Bar from Cowichan Valley Regional District board chair Lori Iannidinardo on behalf of the Governor General of Canada.



Following a nine-hour battle to contain a fire that razed the vacant Pioneer Square Mall building on Friday, May 27, Mill Bay Fire Rescue took to Facebook for some thanks and reflection.

“The fire many people were anticipating occurred this afternoon,” the post begins, referring to numerous call-outs the department has had to the property, fighting fires there on at least two previous occasions in the last seven months.

Located at Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road and the Trans-Canada Highway, the building has stood empty and boarded up for many months, creating concerns for the fire department as the building contained a lot of old, dry cedar, and was a frequent spot for squatters to take shelter.


Rowing Canada is working towards phase two of its project to make Quamichan Lake its long-term home.

Rowing Canada, which made a commitment in early 2019 to move its operations to North Cowichan, is applying for a $220,000 grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust’s Capital and Innovation Program to help pay for the establishment of a National Training Centre on Quamichan Lake.

Phase two of the project is estimated to cost approximately $1 million, and Rowing Canada expects to make up the rest of the financing through private donations and other means.


The group looking for the West Shore Motorsports Park’s next home is eyeing four options in Greater Victoria and the Cowichan Valley.

Steve Copp, president of the Vancouver Island Safe Speed Association, said one of the sites is fairly close to the existing park in Langford, while another is a 35-minute drive away. The other two are in the Shawnigan Lake area. Each have their perks and drawbacks — some are without water or electrical connections, while others would require rezoning applications which could delay construction.


North Cowichan will soon be looking for public input into what will replace the aging Maple Bay Wharf.

At the municipality’s committee of the whole meeting on June 7, Tenille Thompson, a consultant from Urban Systems who is working with North Cowichan on the project, said three options are currently being considered.

The first option is to replace the wharf as is in its current configuration, the second is to replace the wharf with a new structure that could improve its functionality and accommodate other uses, and the third is to remove the wharf completely and provide improved beach services.


The curbside pick up of garbage and recycling materials on a number of routes in the Cowichan Valley Regional District has been postponed due to the high rate of mechanical failure in some of the district’s curbside collection trucks.

Doug Stevens, the CVRD’s manager of solid waste operations, said that on May 30, one of the trucks experienced a full engine failure and fire, which resulted in the truck being taken off the road as the engine is being rebuilt.

He said that on June 8, a second truck experienced a leaf spring failure that will keep it out of operation until sometime this week, and June 10, the CVRD’s third collection truck experienced a significant hydraulic line failure.

“These are old trucks that are already two years beyond their life cycle,” Stevens said.

This saga is continuing into the new year as the CVRD waits for new trucks to be available.


After two river rescues in the last week and ahead of the Canada Day long weekend, the Lake Cowichan RCMP have issued a notice from multiple area officials reminding river and trail users to be safe.

Members of the RCMP, Lake Cowichan Fire Department, BC Emergency Health Services and the Town of Lake Cowichan want for residents and tourists alike to enjoy the outdoors, but with the conditions in mind.


The City of Duncan will discontinue commenting on its Facebook page.

Council made the unanimous decision at its meeting on June 20 after a staff report recommended it.

Allison Boyd, Duncan’s corporate services coordinator, said social networks like Facebook provide positive and negative experiences.

She said on the positive side, social networks can provide support in times of need, but comments from the public can also be negative in ways that are inappropriate, inconsiderate, hurtful, condescending, or maligning.

Andrea Rondeau

About the Author: Andrea Rondeau

I returned to B.C. and found myself at the Cowichan Valley Citizen.
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