Year in Review: Take a look back at some of the top headlines from Lake Cowichan in 2020

‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ seems to be the tune for these Polar Bear Swimmers at Cowichan Lake on New Year’s Day 2020. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ seems to be the tune for these Polar Bear Swimmers at Cowichan Lake on New Year’s Day 2020. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Maxine McKeown, a resident on Sa Seen Os Road in Youbou, is happy the water hasn’t raised any higher. Her living quarters are still dry but the garage was not so lucky. “It hasn’t been this high since 1992,” she remembered in February 2020. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)Maxine McKeown, a resident on Sa Seen Os Road in Youbou, is happy the water hasn’t raised any higher. Her living quarters are still dry but the garage was not so lucky. “It hasn’t been this high since 1992,” she remembered in February 2020. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)
Police and fire-rescue crews were called to a single-vehicle accident on Highway 18, near Hillcrest Road, at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 4. A black SUV apparently went out of control in slippery winter conditions. It’s unknown at this point if there were any injuries, but the airbags in the vehicle were deployed. More information as it becomes available. (Robert Barron/Citizen)Police and fire-rescue crews were called to a single-vehicle accident on Highway 18, near Hillcrest Road, at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 4. A black SUV apparently went out of control in slippery winter conditions. It’s unknown at this point if there were any injuries, but the airbags in the vehicle were deployed. More information as it becomes available. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Princesses — Hailey Cerrer, Lyla deLeeuw, Peyton Kong, Ryley MacDonald, DelRae Olson and Leva Schnider open the first half of the show “Once Upon a Time” on Feb. 28. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)Princesses — Hailey Cerrer, Lyla deLeeuw, Peyton Kong, Ryley MacDonald, DelRae Olson and Leva Schnider open the first half of the show “Once Upon a Time” on Feb. 28. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)
Skip Craig Lepine of Team Lepine carefully throws his stone, eventually taking his team to gold in the men’s final of the 2020 Connect Hearing BC Masters Curling Championships on March 8. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)Skip Craig Lepine of Team Lepine carefully throws his stone, eventually taking his team to gold in the men’s final of the 2020 Connect Hearing BC Masters Curling Championships on March 8. (Malcolm Chalmers photo)
Panic buying at grocery stores and hoarding of some products, notably toilet paper, was happening in Cowichan and across Canada in March. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)Panic buying at grocery stores and hoarding of some products, notably toilet paper, was happening in Cowichan and across Canada in March. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Country Grocer is stepping up its efforts to ensure shoppers have a safe space to shop amid the COVID-19 outbreak in March. (Warren Goulding/Gazette)Country Grocer is stepping up its efforts to ensure shoppers have a safe space to shop amid the COVID-19 outbreak in March. (Warren Goulding/Gazette)
The view from the foot bridge that runs from the south side of the Cowichan River to the north side. The former railway bridge, made of metal, provides these unusually shaped viewing portals. (Kathryn Swan photo)The view from the foot bridge that runs from the south side of the Cowichan River to the north side. The former railway bridge, made of metal, provides these unusually shaped viewing portals. (Kathryn Swan photo)
Kathryn Swan caught this image in Lake Cowichan, musing that sometimes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. COVID-19 shuttered many businesses right across the country in April, and Lake Cowichan is no different. (Kathryn Swan photo)Kathryn Swan caught this image in Lake Cowichan, musing that sometimes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. COVID-19 shuttered many businesses right across the country in April, and Lake Cowichan is no different. (Kathryn Swan photo)
Photographer Kathryn Swan found this sign at the Lake Cowichan Community Garden inspirational during this time of COVID-19 pandemic. (Kathryn Swan photo)Photographer Kathryn Swan found this sign at the Lake Cowichan Community Garden inspirational during this time of COVID-19 pandemic. (Kathryn Swan photo)

January

On New Year’s Eve, many families were delighted to be able to shelter from a downpour of rain and have a fun evening with the kids at Cowichan Lake Sports Arena. With food, ice skating, and crafts, a big crowd was kept well entertained until 6:45 when it was time for the annual balloon drop. The kids raucously counted down from 10, and then, hands up, they captured the balloons as they fell from the big net overhead. A polar bear swim at Lakeview Park had been arranged for New Year’s Day but with the night so wet, organizers wondered if enthusiasm would be dampened.

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More than 1,200 people in the Cowichan Lake area were without power Friday, Jan. 3. BC Hydro listed trees down across wires as the cause for several of the outage pockets. Crews were quickly assigned.

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All schools in the Cowichan Valley were closed Monday, Jan. 15 due to the adverse and icy winter weather and winter-driving conditions throughout the area. Since the snow started to fall in the early evening on Sunday until Monday morning, there had also been eight motor vehicle accidents reported to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment. Most of them were minor in nature, but a couple resulted in more serious collisions.

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More than 4,000 BC Hydro customers in the Cowichan Lake area were without power for several hours on Friday, Jan. 10. The Hydro customers lost power Friday morning after a tree came down on a transmission line, likely due to snow in the area, knocking out power to most of the Lake Cowichan community

•••

Time to bite the bullet and borrow to fix roads, sidewalks, and the sewer lagoon says the mayor. “I would be ashamed to give this to the public. I would hate to have to show the people of Lake Cowichan the amount of capital stuff that’s been done in the last few years. It’s basically nothing. It’s time we bit the bullet, borrowed some money, and did it.” Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters was drawing a line in the sand, calling on his colleagues at the council table to approve the idea of approaching the Municipal Finance Authority for a loan to pay for infrastructure upgrades in town. Peters first brought up the suggestion at the finance committee meeting on Jan. 14.

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Everyone was watching anxiously as the snow piled up in Lake Cowichan during the day Friday and again overnight. What was going to happen to the annual Hockey Jamboree at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, that big day of exciting hockey action and the entertaining skills competition? Fingers were crossed that all would be well, plans were made to get there through the snow, but then, at 9:22 a.m. on Saturday morning, Jan. 18, the Lake Cowichan Minor Hockey Association posted on Facebook, “Just got word the league games and skills competition for today’s Jamboree have been cancelled due to the weather conditions. The skills portion will be held at a later date in the season. Please spread the word and stay safe out there.”

•••

Lake Cowichan saw 36 centimetres of snow fall during last week’s snowstorm on Wednesday and Thursday that closed all the schools in the Cowichan Valley, the most snow accumulation reported on south Vancouver Island. And it wasn’t over yet as Environment Canada released a snowfall warning for inland Vancouver Island forecasting up to 15 centimetres of snow Friday evening and into Saturday for inland Vancouver Island, including Lake Cowichan. Temperatures rose in Cowichan Lake on Saturday and the snow eventually changed to rain

•••

It finally arrived. Reporter Lexi Bainas’s last week of work before retirement. Of course, she was excited for the future, and sad to be leaving all of her friends at the newspaper, It had been more than 40 years since she sent in her resume to The Lake News in answer to an advertisement for a “journalism trainee”.

“Over my journalism life, I’ve worked with an amazing collection of people, and made many, many friends, in and out of the profession,” she said. “But, I’m 71 now and it’s time to give my desk to someone else while I move on to the next stage of my life. I’m not leaving the area so you’ll see me around a lot, trying to add my own thread to our Valley’s tapestry.”

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A small fire broke out one Wednesday afternoon in late January at Lake Cowichan School, bringing the Lake Cowichan Fire Department and crews to the building. According to Mike Russell, spokesperson for School District 79, the fire caused only minor damage and nobody was injured. The fire started at about 4:30 p.m. in a small garbage can in a classroom at the school.

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February

Many residents of Lake Cowichan are still in clean-up mode after the heavy rain and windstorm that struck the town, and the whole Cowichan Valley, overnight from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters said it’s the worst flooding he has seen in the area in about 15 years, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District called a state of emergency in the region on Friday evening as water levels rose across the Valley. “It was pretty bad,” Peters said Monday morning. “The area around Sahtlam Avenue, the pickleball courts, Riverside Road and Saywell Park were all flooded. Some of the roads in the area were under six to eight inches of water, but they were still passable.” Peters said he has no hard numbers at this time, but he expects approximately 50 homes and businesses in and around the town were flooded during the storm. “I expect it may take some time to clean up a number of the buildings, but I don’t believe there was any real serious damage,” he said.

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A long-running Cowichan Lake tradition — the Nichole Stock Penny Drive for the Variety Club Telethon — has ended. Carolyne Austin, one of those who has been looking after it in recent years made the announcement Jan. 23 in a post on Facebook. In it, she gave a history of the campaign. “These days coinage is scarce and other charities in our area are collecting funds to help their causes,” Austin said. “Therefore we have decided to end coin collecting this year, take the containers out of businesses and send all the funds we have collected to this year’s Variety Club Telethon that will be on Global Television Feb. 9.

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Kam Bains said he’s cautiously optimistic that the long strike at Western Forest Products is finally coming to an end now that a tentative deal has been struck. Bains, who has almost 25 years in the forest industry, including the last four at WFP’s mill in Cowichan Bay, said he had not expected to be on strike for more than seven months. “But I’m not surprised,” he said as he stood around a fire to keep warm with other strikers at the entrance to the mill on the morning of Feb. 10. “The company kept us out all this time for just a few little things [in the bargaining process]. The company wants more and more and has been shipping logs out to their mills in the U.S. to keep them running while we were on strike. It’s ridiculous.” Bains said the strike has been rough for everyone. “We are used to having regular pay to support our families,” he said. “Nothing is cheap.” It was announced Monday that Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 have agreed to the terms of a tentative collective agreement.

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Many Cowichan Lake residents love the area’s abundant wildlife. Despite groans about elk pounding down shrubs or turning gardens into all-you-can-eat salad bars, concern quickly rises to the surface when Wilderness Watch shares a message on Facebook that big Bob or Henry are in trouble for some reason. Those big bull elk are famous around the island now, but big herds are frequently seen by the side of Highway 18, especially at night, making driving dangerous. According to Lake Cowichan Coun. Tim McGonigle, there have been meetings about the problem of what to do about wildlife incidents on the highway. “For the safety of people along that route, we’re anticipating a future meeting with both [the Ministries of Transportation and Forests] on possible mitigation possibilities,” he said during a council meeting that was reported on in the Feb. 12 Lake Cowichan Gazette.

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The province is offering financial assistance for many of those affected by the flooding in the Cowichan Valley last weekend. The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General have announced financial help will be made available to those not covered by insurance within the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and six other local districts, impacted by heavy rains and flooding. The rainstorm and flooding began when a Category 4 atmospheric river passed over the Island overnight on Jan. 31 and into Feb. 1, bringing torrential rains that flooded the region, causing numerous evacuations and a state of emergency to be declared by the CVRD due to road closures and the swell of rivers and lakes in the district that flooded buildings and closed parks.

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Rhiannon McCrea and her boyfriend Ryan Tikk are lucky to be alive after disaster struck on an evening ride around Cowichan Lake on a logging road on Feb. 3. McCrea said she and Tikk entered the logging road near Youbou at about 5 p.m. that day in their 2017 GMC Canyon, just days after heavy rain in the area caused a local state of emergency to be called due to the flooding. “Almost half way around the lake, I suggested we turn around and I’d drive back,” McCrea said. “It was getting dark and I didn’t feel like going the whole way around. All of a sudden, through the darkness, I saw two huge boulders fall. Ryan yelled ‘rock slide, rock slide! Put it in reverse!’ I put the truck in reverse, but before I had a chance to step on the gas, an entire rock slide came down on us, instantly disabling the vehicle. It happened so fast.”

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For the second straight year the annual Lady of the Lake competition has taken a hiatus but, instead of cancelling the program altogether, organizers are looking ahead with optimism and charting a course for a successful future. The event, which has stood the test of time pretty well, having run for most of the last 75 years, is looking to change with the times according to Cowichan Lady of the Lake Society president Jocelyn Lundberg.

“We understand that times are changing and perhaps there are barriers to participating in our program that we are unaware of,” she said. “It’s very sad. The program is so well known in our community and the public events are always such a highlight during the Lake Days week,” Lundberg said. “Having gone through it myself as a teen I truly believe in the value of it and what it can do for the confidence of the young ladies who participate in it.” For two straight years there’s been a lack of prospective candidates to be able to run the program. But, for some anyway, there’s always next year.

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The Cowichan Lake Minor Hockey Association held their annual skills competition on Feb. 17 at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena. The event had to be rescheduled from earlier in the year due to a storm that prevented some from attending. It was a full house on the 17th, however, as the young hockey players showed off their on-ice skills in a friendly rivalry.

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The rain storm at the beginning of the month that flooded many areas of the Cowichan Valley has also impacted the course of the Cowichan River. Parker Jefferson, vice-president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, said all the rain at the time caused water levels to rise and has cut a new channel and diverted the river just below the “Washout” run in the 5400 block of West Riverbottom Road. He said the river used to travel through a U-shaped bend in that area that is approximately one-kilometre long, but a shorter side channel began forming through the centre of the oxbow over the past few years. “Now, after the big storm, all the water in the river is now flowing through the approximately one-half kilometre side channel and away from the oxbow,” Jefferson said.

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After winning the provincial seniors (50-plus) title in Vernon this past weekend, Cowichan Valley curler Wes Craig will look to add another B.C. championship when Lake Cowichan and Duncan host the 2020 Connect Hearing BC Masters (60-plus) Curling Championships starting next week. This past week, from Feb. 18-23, Craig led his defending champion Kerry Park/Nanaimo rink of third Steve Waatainen, second Keith Clarke and lead Craig Burton into the senior championships in Vernon, where they went 6-1 in the round robin, then defeated the Kelowna/Comox Valley rink skipped by Steve Wright 7-1 in the final.

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The strike that battered the coastal forest industry for nearly eight months is officially over. Eighty-one per cent of the United Steel Workers Local 1-19137 membership voted in favour of ratifying the tentative agreement with Western Forest Products. The agreement includes a 12.5 per cent increase in wages in two- and three-per cent increments over five years, increased premiums for those with first aid, a safety boot allowance and changes to policies on shift work. It also includes zero concessions.

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The director for Electoral Area F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) is “saddened and disappointed” to report to his constituents that “significant vandalism” over the weekend of Feb. 22-23 has added to the price tag of the Mesachie Lake Sewer Upgrade project.

“This was not a crime of opportunity or of someone acting on a whim,” director Ian Morrison wrote in a notice to residents of Honeymoon Bay and Mesachie Lake. “It was intentional and premeditated, and required tools and tenacity.” Morrison said a pick or an axe was used to damage a section of the newly installed main and “a number of critical valves were dismantled or disassembled and rendered non-functional.”

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March

It’s the stuff of nightmares for Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters. Seriously, he dreams about it. The completion of the town’s water treatment plant may well be on the horizon but he’s still losing sleep over the project because the finish date has been set back so many times he’s lost count. “I get lied to a lot,” Peters said on Wednesday. “It’s dragged on and on and on and every time we think we’re getting close, something else comes up.” The latest hold up has been related to a set of check valves. One has been installed and the other was slated to go in last week. Once that work is complete, Peters has been told the system will be functional by March 15. “My fingers crossed but my hopes aren’t too high,” he admitted.

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Ted Gamble has had enough with the lack of use of the curling rink at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena. The issue is one Gamble, who had an unsuccessful run for town council in the 2014 election but has since left politics, has been working on for the last several years — at least as far back as 2017, but has had an interest in for much longer. He said a report as far back as 2008 indicated the curling rink should be removed. “That report was buried and nothing was done at that point,” he said. “It was definitely recommended that curling was on the way out and the number of people it was serving was not good enough.” The Cowichan Lake Sports Arena underwent extensive renovations and re-opened in 2011 but Gamble wasn’t impressed with the result. “They did not put in the gym in the major reno and I think that got replaced with the curling lounge, which has a bartender on curling nights and in my view that’s not recreation,” he said.

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RCMP Sgt. Lita Watson believes that police should always be actively engaged with the community in which they serve. That’s why the new head of the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment, with its 11 members, is a big fan of proactive policing and believes that officers should be visible and spend time on foot patrols so they can get to know the community members and learn what their issues are. “Input from the community plays a key role in helping us determine our priorities and strategies to policing in Lake Cowichan,” Watson said. “In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be meeting with the community’s leaders and local business people for their input as to what we need to do in regards to policing.” Watson is replacing Staff Sgt. Stuart Foster, who headed the Lake Cowichan detachment for two and half years and has been transferred to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment.

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Brent Clancy was upbeat as he looked back on a year that saw more visitors to the area and continuing financial challenges for the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce. Clancy, owner of Vancouver Island Labour Services, is winding up a two-year term as president of the business organization and has indicated he would like to continue in that role. “The Chamber is a voice for business and to have more voices speaking out is powerful,” he suggested. “It’s important to counteract hidden money and hidden forces,” Clancy told members attending the annual general meeting on March 5. On the operations front, Clancy said the Chamber played a role in the positive things that are happening in the region.

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Visitors are continuing to flock to the Cowichan Lake area whether it’s to take in concerts at Laketown Ranch or to soak up the natural beauty. “We’re getting more and more winter travelers, more and more winter campers,” Chamber of Commerce manager and Visitor Centre coordinator Katherine Worsley says. “It’s amazing what they’re looking for,” Worsley told members attending the Cowichan Lake Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting on March 5.

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The Kerry Park/Victoria/Comox Valley rink skipped by the Cowichan Valley’s own Wes Craig came up just short of a provincial masters curling title in the championship that wrapped up at Lake Cowichan on Sunday. With six wins and one loss in round-robin play, Craig’s team had the best record on the men’s side at the 2020 Connect Hearing BC Masters Curling Championships and earned a bye straight to the final on Sunday morning, where they were defeated 8-4 by Craig Lepine’s Langley/Royal City/Penticton/Cloverdale foursome. “It’s too bad,” Craig said. “We just didn’t have our best game. We had a good week; we just lost the wrong one.”

•••

COVID-19 hit.

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The Cowichan Valley Regional District has established a Regional Emergency Operations Centre to assess and respond to the public safety risk posed by COVID-19. “The CVRD is working closely with its partners, including member municipalities, First Nations, school districts, and Island Health to fully understand the situation across the region and coordinate decision making,” said Brian Carruthers, CAO of the CVRD. “We are reviewing essential service levels across all aspects of our workforce, recognizing that this situation is likely to worsen and require reduction or periodic elimination of services.” While the BC Ministry of Health has confirmed the multiple cases of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island as of Monday, March 16, the public health agency has no evidence of community-based transmission in B.C.’s Island Health region.

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The Lake Cowichan 50+ Activity Centre has shut down for two weeks due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Centre spokesman Al Hall said the facility opened to begin the week of activities and programs on March 16, but with so few people visiting the facility because of the heath crisis, the decision was made to shut its doors at least until the end of March.

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The Cowichan Valley Board of Education decided March 5 that in light of the coronavirus situation, no students will be leaving the country as part of a school trip for the remainder of the school year. All international field trips have been cancelled. “The decision to cancel all international trips was not made lightly,” said Candace Spilsbury, chair of the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District. “Once we weighed all the factors we realized that the situation with COVID-19 is too fluid and too serious and we are ultimately responsible for the safety of our learners.”

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The two-week spring break for the students in the Cowichan Valley school district is scheduled to end on March 23. But as of Monday, March 16, there was still no word on whether the district will keep the doors of its schools closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as they have in many other jurisdictions. Mike Russell, the district’s communications director, said the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and the Provincial Health Officer make the calls on school closures, and the district is continuing to follow their recommendations.

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Vic Tyler says he’s digging in with his fight with the Cowichan Valley Regional District over his tiny house and won’t move it. Tyler, who bought a half-acre of property near the fish ladder at Skutz Falls to live on in his retirement, has been informed by CVRD bylaw officers that he must have his tiny house, that he built, and two sheds, removed from the property by March 15 or possibly face fines of up to $1,000 a day, as well as legal action.

One of the reasons given was that the house and sheds were within the riparian zone of a fish-bearing stream, and no structures are permitted within 30 metres of the stream. The other reason is that, according to the district’s bylaws, tiny houses are not permitted as residences in the CVRD. Since he received the notice, dated Feb. 5, from the CVRD, Tyler has moved his tiny house to another part of his property that is further than 30 metres from the stream, and has temporarily moved into an apartment in Lake Cowichan until the matter is sorted out.

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In a continued effort to ensure safety of staff while delivering essential services during the COVID-19 crisis, the Cowichan Valley Regional District is further curtailing its non-essential services. A press release from the district said that after completion of a detailed essential service assessment, the CVRD will be focusing on delivery of a number of essential services in the coming weeks

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The directors of the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce are working hard to help local businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, according to its president Brent Clancy. In a newsletter to members, Clancy said that he had discussions with Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor last week in which he stressed the need for financial help for business owners, as well as their employees, from Ottawa during the crisis.

•••

The weir at Cowichan Lake resumed operations for the 2020 season on March 18.

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Seniors and the immunocompromised have been taking advantage of Lake Cowichan Country Grocer’s exclusive 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. shopping slot confirmed store owner Jo-Anne Pimlott, who said the new hours are just one of many adjustments that have been made to how things are run at the community supermarket. “It seemed to be well used this morning,” she said March 20 — not too well used though, as there was plenty of room for social distancing — something shoppers are getting used to. They’re working on it. “For the most part people are good. People are understanding. It’s a matter of teaching about social distancing and about sanitization,” Pimlott said.

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Students in the Cowichan Valley did not go back to class after their spring break ended this week. In-class instruction in public schools in the Valley, as well as across B.C., is to be postponed until further notice due to the growing COVID-19 crisis. Standing next to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Finance Minister Carole James, Education Minister Rob Fleming made the announcement on Tuesday, March 17. Fleming said the government needed to take quick action because the crisis is evolving quickly.

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The Cowichan Valley School District said it is preparing plans to provide education to its students during the school closures announced Tuesday, March 17, due to the COVID-19 crisis. But Robyn Gray, the superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District, said that although the district senior leadership and educational teams are continuing to plan for providing educational services in the Valley, district officials realize that a fundamental shift in the district’s educational delivery model will take time.

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Vancouver Island Regional Library closed all of its library branches to the public on March 16 at 8 p.m. until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation and recommendations put forward by the province’s chief medical health officer. This includes libraries in Duncan, Chemainus, South Cowichan and Lake Cowichan.

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April

Like much of the rest of the Cowichan Valley, and the province, all municipal buildings in Lake Cowichan are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 crisis. Joe Fernendez, CAO of the Town of Lake Cowichan, said the municipal hall, public works building, Cowichan Lake Education Centre and the town’s Lakeview Park Campground, as well as all public washrooms and playgrounds in the community, are closed until further notice.

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Vic Tyler’s tiny house and his two sheds are still on his property near the fish ladder at Skutz Falls, more than a week after they were ordered removed. Tyler said he has yet to hear from the Cowichan Valley Regional District after bylaw enforcement officers issued him a notice on Feb. 5 informing him that he must remove the structures by March 15.

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With the recycling centres in the Cowichan Valley Regional District having been extremely busy on the weekend of March 20-22, the district is asking people to consider holding off on their visits to the centres until after the COVID-19 crisis improves.

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The Cowichan Valley Regional District has closed a number of its park facilities and installed signage at its park and trail entrances to reinforce public safety requirements during the COVID-19 crisis. Sport courts, tennis courts, offleash dog parks, picnic shelters, playgrounds, washrooms and other park facilities at all CVRD parks are now closed to the public to protect the public and limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

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The Lake Cowichan Food Bank is doing its best to operate as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several local organizations and individuals have stepped up to help out. According to treasurer Katherine Worsley, the food bank has switched largely to cards from Country Grocer to provide assistance to families and individuals in need, and the community is backing their efforts. The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Cooperative is among the biggest supporters, committing $4,000 for each of the next three months, and pledging for a fourth month if necessary. Also donating to the cause are the Cowichan Lake District Skating Club, Mid-Island Co-op, Su-Casa Rescue, Cowichan Green Community, and Mosaic Forest Management, who are also looking into providing wood to those who need it.

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A local fire crew and members of the public took part in the dramatic rescue of a 75-year-old woman from Cowichan Lake on April 3. At about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, the Lake Cowichan RCMP received a report of an overturned pleasure craft near the community of Caycuse, at the north end of Cowichan Lake, after numerous people reported seeing a woman in a vessel on her own several hours prior to seeing the vessel overturned. Members from the Caycuse community and fire department were able to get out on the water in their personal water crafts and pulled the woman from the water shortly after police arrived.

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A Cowichan Valley man is warning users of backroads in the area after coming across a homemade spike strip while he was out for a ride on his ATV. The man, who asked not to be named, took his eight-year-old daughter for a ride up Hill 60 off Highway 18 on Thursday morning. They were puttering along slowly when something caught his eye. It turned out to be a homemade spike belt, buried about an inch and a half under the gravel. It consisted of thick plastic, with three-inch metal spikes driven through it. “I’m not sure who would do this or what their motivation is,” he said.

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The Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce is promoting the use of gift cards to help local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. A press release from the chamber said a lot of businesses promote gift cards online, but not all of them have the tools to sell gift cards when their doors are closed to the public.

•••

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is investigating after three Roosevelt elk were illegally harvested in the Cowichan Lake area between the middle of March and the first week of April. The first two elk were found near North Shore Road in the Cottonwood Creek area, a sensitive area that is closed to hunting. Further, there is no open season right now. “It’s unfortunate,” Sgt. Scott Norris said. “When they come so close to the road, they become easy targets.” The third elk was found off a spur road further up into Mosaic Forest Management land. A gate had been cut open to allow access to the land, but Norris doesn’t know if it was cut by the hunters or by someone else earlier.

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Students in the Cowichan Valley school district will continue their school year, but not in classrooms. District officials and teachers have developed a new curriculum during the COVID-19 crisis that will allow students to continue with their educations at home.

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Organizers of Lake Days have announced that the 2020 event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, British Columbia Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that all large-scale events scheduled for this summer would have to be cancelled to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes everything from parades to large weddings — and festivals such as Lake Days, where the community comes together for a series of fun family events.

••••

Work to bring a new weir to Cowichan Lake to control water flows into the Cowichan River has started. “On behalf of the project partners, we are all very relieved to see this project come to fruition and reiterate our thanks to our senior governments for their funding support,” said Aaron Stone, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and co-chair of the Cowichan Watershed Board.

•••

Cowichan Lake Idol is going virtual. The annual singing contest can’t compete with COVID-19 but the show must go on, event spokesperson, Katherine Worsley, has confirmed. “With COVID-19 we are changing up the way we do things for this year until we can get back to some kind of normal, yet we want to be there for the community, keeping them engaged and having something to look forward to as we see how many events are cancelling all around us,” she explained. A lot of longstanding events around the Lake have been put to rest for the year including, but not limited to Lake Cowichan Family Heritage Days, Lake Days, the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival and more.

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Laketown Shakedown and Sunfest have both been postponed until 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but ticket holders will have multiple options with regard to refunds or credit for future events.

•••

The Mesachie Group has cancelled its ball tournament and auction for 2020. Concerns around COVID-19 forced the executive to postpone the event until 2021. This year’s tournament was scheduled for the Fathers Day weekend.

To be continued in the next edition of the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

Lake Cowichan