The full auditorium at Cowichan Secondary School broke into applause and cheers on Dec. 18 when B.C.’s Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that the province is finally moving forward with a new high school for the Valley.
It was the culmination of more than a decade of tireless efforts by school, municipal and provincial officials, as well as many others, to replace the aging and seismically unsafe CSS, and Fleming’s announcement that Victoria is kicking in $80 million for the new facility was one of the worst kept secrets in the Valley that morning.
Mike Russell, the Cowichan Valley school district’s communications director, did his best to keep mum on the reason for the press conference and large gathering that was being planned at CCS.
But the fact that the minister himself was coming to make the announcement, and almost every local leader from the Valley was attending, left little doubt to us in the newsroom as to what was going on.
The new school, which will be constructed on the Cowichan Place property next to Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus, should be open for classes by September, 2023.
It’s just one of a number of construction projects that the Valley can expect to see come to fruition in the coming years as the area grows and modernizes.
Premier John Horgan showed up at the Cowichan District Hospital in the summer of 2018 to announce the Valley will have a brand new hospital by 2024.
That announcement was also very well received by those who attended the press conference because the construction of a new hospital for the Valley to replace the aging CDH has been considered to be Island Health’s No. 1 capital priority for years.
The new state-of-the-art hospital, which is expected to be much larger than the CDH with more beds and health services to meet the region’s growing population and needs, will be built on Bell McKinnon Road.
Since the current CDH was opened in 1967, the Valley’s population has more than doubled, and is expected to grow by another 20 per cent during the next few decades.
The final cost of the new hospital has yet to be determined, but it was estimated that it would cost approximately $350 million when the idea was first raised a number of years ago.
Plans are also progressing that will see a new approximately $40-million facility for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment to call home built on a five-acre property owned by the Municipality of North Cowichan bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road.
The detachment building was originally scheduled to be replaced in 2012, at a cost at the time of approximately $23 million, but the project has faced multiple delays.
The new facility will replace the detachment’s current facility on Canada Avenue, which is too old and small to meet current demands, and will bring together the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment, Forensic Identification Services, South Island Traffic Services, and First Nations Policing under one roof for the first time.
Mix in those projects with the large housing developments that are planned for the Valley in the coming years, and I expect the area’s builders and contractors will be kept busy for some time.
These are exciting times for the Cowichan Valley.
I wonder what it will look like in another 20 years?