Murray United Church near Merritt was destroyed by an arsonist in January. (Photo credit: Pam Taylor)

Murray United Church near Merritt was destroyed by an arsonist in January. (Photo credit: Pam Taylor)

Year in Review: Cache Creek homicide, Merritt church arson, and a fire engine fundraiser

Plus Citizens of the Year, a new bus service, a surprise birth, a forgotten treasure, and more


School District completion rates up

A report released by the Ministry of Education showed that while School District No. 74 (Gold Trail) was slightly behind the provincial average when it comes to overall completion rate, the SD74 Indigenous student completion rate is well above the provincial average. Large gains were also seen in the graduation rates of male students.

The six-year completion rates show the proportion of students who graduate with a BC Certificate of Graduation or an Adult Graduation Diploma within six years from the first time they enroll in Grade 8.

Board co-Chairs Valerie Adrian and Nancy Rempel were both pleased with the results. “We’re really moving forward from when I started [with SD74],” said Adrian, while Rempel noted that It’s exciting, and I’m happy to see the completion rates go up every year.” Read more at

Fire engine fundraiser

An online auction that took place over Christmas 2018 raised close to $40,000 towards the purchase of a new primary fire engine for Cache Creek. Fraserway RV had contacted the Village to say that they had funds available for communities that had been affected by the 2017 wildfires, and said that they would match any funds raised for a new fire engine between Oct. 1 and Dec. 30, 2018.

Lindsay Armitage—the Village of Cache Creek’s payroll and finance administration clerk—suggested an online auction, and she and finance administration clerk Alana Peters set about finding local donors. “The response was fantastic,” said Peters. The items went up on a dedicated Facebook page, usually for a short time, and when the dust settled nearly $20,000 had been raised, which was matched by Fraserway RV. Read more at

Historic Merritt-area church destroyed by fire

The nearly 150-year-old Murray United Church near Merritt was destroyed by fire on the night of Jan. 11; the same night that the Crossroads Community Church on Voght Street in Merritt was damaged by fire. At about the same time, the front door of All Saints Anglican Church on the Scw’exmx (Shackan) Reserve in the Nicola Valley was broken down, and someone attempted to start a fire inside the building, but it did not take hold. A gas can was also thrown through a window of the Roman Catholic church on the reserve, but the fire was contained.

On Jan. 17 police announced that they had arrested 37-year-old August David Caprian of Merritt, who was charged with three charges of arson, along with a charge of break and enter with intent to commit an offence. Read more at and

Mosaic updates

Just as an updated map of the Ashcroft mosaics was made available by Community Futures Sun Country, members of Sage Hills Church unveiled the first public glass mosaic on the Mesa in Ashcroft: one that members of the congregation created alongside glass artist Marina Papais and her husband, architect Daniel Collett.

Deacon Dan Klassen said that the church needed a sign, and congregant Joan Henderson suggested a glass mosaic. Work on the mosaic started in June 2018, with cangregants working alongside Papais and Collett to create the finished artwork.

The new mosaic map expanded on the first edition, which detailed 11 sites and two dozen mosaics. The second edition featured more than a dozen additional sites, for a total of more than 60 mosaics at various locations around Ashcroft. Read more at (Sage Hills church mosaic) and (mosaic map).

Cache Creek homicide

The Journal received multiple reports on Jan. 14 about a fatal shooting in Cache Creek, and on Jan. 15 RCMP and BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that an interaction had taken place between two persons who were known to each other, and that BCEHS had responded to a call of a “possible gunshot wound”.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Cache Creek residents were on edge, with reports circulating on social media about a suspect fleeing through the town. The RCMP Southeast District Major Crimes Unit was called in, but the public were told that police did not believe the incident posed a continued direct threat to the general public. However, Cache Creek Elementary School was locked down on Jan. 15 and 16.

On Jan. 16, 31-year-old Corey Richard Harkness of Cache Creek turned himself into police and was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Brock Ledoux, a father of two. Read more at and

Donation for Loon Lake fire hall

Fraserway RV announced that it would be donating $275,000 to to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) to assist with the rebuilding of the Loon Lake fire hall, which was destroyed during the Elephant Hill wildfire in July 2017. The TNRD assumed responsibility for fire protection at Loon Lake in January 2019, following a referendum in the community in 2018.

The TNRD has estimated the cost of rebuilding the main fire hall at around $500,000. A second site further along the lake will have an annex to the main hall, which will cost an additional $150,000. Read more at

Spences Bridge disappearance

The brother of a Spences Bridge man who went missing in October 2017 arrived in the Bridge on Jan. 29, to erect billboards asking for information about the disappearance.

Luke Neville, who was 48, was last seen on Oct. 9, 2017. His burnt-out vehicle was found on a forest service road about 20km from Spences Bridge, but there has been no trace of Luke since.

Mark Neville hoped that the billboards to prompt anyone with information about his brother’s disappearance to come forward. “I think about him every single day. There won’t be closure until we find him, recover his body… we want his remains so that we can bring him home before our mother dies. She’s 84, and asks every day if there’s any news.”


Cache Creek public meeting

Following the homicide in Cache Creek in early January, members of council and Ashcroft RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Kathleen Fitzgerald held a public meeting to address community concerns surrounding crime and safety. Some 70 people were in attendance, asking questions about the recent homicide, gang activity in the Village, the possibility of a Block Watch program, and how safe the community is. Read more at


Search for missing cowboy suspended

On Feb. 3, RCMP suspended the search for Merritt-area cowboy Ben Tyner, who was declared missing on Jan. 28. when his horse—with full gear but no rider—was located. The 32-year-old Tyner was manager of the Nicola Ranch, and had last been seen on Jan. 26. Dozens of searchers scoured the area, but any traces of Tyner were obscured by active logging in the area and herds of wild horses. Read more at

Born under the sign of Chum’s

When Kevin and Leanne Peters of Loon Lake set out for Kamloops on Feb. 11, so that Leanne could give birth to their second child, they had no idea that Carsyn Mary Peters would make a dramatic appearance in Cache Creek.

The couple made it as far as the Chum’s parking lot in Cache Creek, then had to stop when they realized the baby was coming. An ambulance crew was on its way to meet them, but Carsyn arrived before they did, with Kevin and Leanne taking everything in stride. Read more at

More funding for business support

Community Futures British Columbia received additional funding from the Red Cross and Western Economic Diversification to continue the Wildfire Business Transition Project through to the end of 2019.

The project—which helped small- and medium-sized businesses, Indigenous communities, and not-for-profit organizations impacted by the 2017 wildfires—was supposed to wrap up in December 2018, and the extension meant that Community Futures would be able to continue offering support, such as workshops, self-directed training, and more. Read more at

Cache Creek downtown public workshop

Phase 2 of the Village of Cache Creek’s Downtown Visioning Project continued on Feb. 26, with a meeting of interested stakeholders—including business owners, local organizations, and Village council and staff—invited to share their vision of what Cache Creek’s downtown could and should look like.

Participants were encouraged to contribute their thoughts on items such as challenges facing the Village, existing assets, and what exactly constituted the downtown area. Assets included climate, low taxes, land for development, and nearby attractions such as as the McAbee Fossil Beds and Historic Hat Creek. Challenges that were identified included the lack of well-paying jobs, lack of housing and transportation, and aging infrastructure. Read more at


Theatre group welcomes distinguished guest

When the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society’s spring 2019 production of Shrek the Musical, Jr. had its final performance on March 3, it did so with Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the audience. May was there with her fiancé, Ashcroft resident John Kidder, who has been a frequent participant in WRAPS theatre productions.

The play involved 23 children youth aged 17 and under, two-thirds of whom had never taken part in a WRAPS production. There were two performances for students at local schools, as well as performances for the general public that were very well-attended. Read more at

Promoting a “forgotten treasure”

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said that one of her focuses over the next 12 to 18 months would be promoting the Fraser Canyon corridor, which she called a “forgotten treasure”. She cited the corridor’s lack of appropriate pull-outs, washroom areas, and signage pointing out attractions along the highway, and noted that the area was ideally situated for day trips by Lower Mainland residents, with opportunities such as train-watching, historic sites, and a First Nations Village near Boston Bar. Read more at

Load restrictions eased at 10 Mile Slide site

An adjustment of load restrictions at the 10 Mile Slide site on Highway 99 north of Lillooet meant that tour buses and large commercial vehicles were once again allowed through, for the first time since September 2017, when slide activity at the site meant the imposition of of a 50 per cent legal axle weight restriction. The adjustment was good news for the region, with Historic Hat Creek manager Don Pearse saying that he was “very excited” by the news.

“I’ve already contacted a couple of the tour bus companies, and … they’ve indicated that they’ll be re-routing [in 2019] back to the Whistler route along Highway 99 … it will be wonderful to have them back.” Read more at

New online community channel announced

The Ashcroft HUB announced an exciting new venture: an online community channel that would utilize video equipment given to the HUB by the Ash-Creek TV Society to provide new content, live stream local events, and link to other content provided by area organizations. Read more at

Disappearance of cowboy ‘suspicious’

RCMP confirmed that the disappearance of Merritt-area cowboy Ben Tyner was deemed suspicious, and that the circumstances surrounding his disappearance might have been criminal. Police had downplayed the idea that foul play was involved in the disappearance, but after investigation said that they believed Tyner did not disappear of his own accord. Read more at

Inter-city bus route licence awarded

Williams Lake-based Adventure Charters was awarded a licence by the Passenger Transportation Board to operate two inter-city bus routes in the B.C. Interior: one from Prince George to Surrey along Highways 97 and 1, and one from Williams Lake to Kamloops.

Neither route had had bus service since Greyhound ceased service in Western Canada in October 2018. The licence had previously been awarded to Merritt Shuttle Bus Services Ltd., which failed to obtain enough buses. Adventure Charters co-owner Janna Gertzen said that the pick-up and drop-off points would be similar to those offered by Greyhound, and that the company had the ability to add more buses if necessary. Read more at

Clinton Citizen of the Year

At a ceremony on March 23, Alfreda Westcott was named Clinton’s Citizen of the Year for 2018. The mother of four and grandmother of six was recognized for the kindness she extends to others — such as playing taxi driver for friends in need — and for her commitment to the community. She has been a member of various Clinton organizations, and is seen at many community events, usually as a volunteer. Read more at

Rotary Citizens of the Year

Gary and Meghan Winslow (Cache Creek), Jim Duncan (Ashcroft), and Skylar Dubois (youth) were named the Ashcroft/Cache Creek Rotary Club’s Citizens of the Year on March 30. All four were praised by several speakers for all they do for their communities.

The many organizations to which Duncan has devoted his time for many years were noted, and Meghan and Gary were singled out as “unsung heroes” in their community. Dubois was praised as someone who shows up in a big way whenever called on: emotionally, physically, and intellectually. The speakers also noted the importance of volunteers in our small communities, and all they do to make things happen. Read more at

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Congregants of Sage Hills Church in Ashcroft in front of the mosaic they helped create with the assistance of artist Marina Papais and her husband Daniel Collett. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Congregants of Sage Hills Church in Ashcroft in front of the mosaic they helped create with the assistance of artist Marina Papais and her husband Daniel Collett. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

A billboard in Spences Bridge appeals for information about the disappearance of Luke Neville from that comunity. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

A billboard in Spences Bridge appeals for information about the disappearance of Luke Neville from that comunity. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Kevin and Leanne Peters with their two-year-old daughter Morgan and newly born daughter Carsyn. (Photo credit: Submitted)

Kevin and Leanne Peters with their two-year-old daughter Morgan and newly born daughter Carsyn. (Photo credit: Submitted)

Clinton’s 2018 Citizen of the Year Alfreda Westcott (second from l) with (from l) Andy May, Sandi Burrage, and Yvette May. (Photo credit: Raven Nyman)

Clinton’s 2018 Citizen of the Year Alfreda Westcott (second from l) with (from l) Andy May, Sandi Burrage, and Yvette May. (Photo credit: Raven Nyman)

Rotary Citizens of the Year (from l) Skylar Dubois, Meghan Winslow, Gary Winslow, and Jim Duncan. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Rotary Citizens of the Year (from l) Skylar Dubois, Meghan Winslow, Gary Winslow, and Jim Duncan. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

John Kidder and Elizabeth May (far left) with the cast and crew of Shrek the Musical, Jr. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

John Kidder and Elizabeth May (far left) with the cast and crew of Shrek the Musical, Jr. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

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