The altar and plaque unveiled at the Ashcroft Chinese cemetery in March. Photo: Barbara Roden.

The altar and plaque unveiled at the Ashcroft Chinese cemetery in March. Photo: Barbara Roden.

Year in Review part one

A sudden death, a CP derailment, and local Band help for the Downtown Eastside start the year.


Chilliwack truck driver killed near Ashcroft

The main story of the January 5, 2017 of The Journal reported the death of Chilliwack truck driver Wayne Beierbach in an accident at the corner of Highway 1 and Cornwall Road near the Esso Travel Centre. The semi-trailer being driven by Beierbach was struck by another in dense fog, and Beierbach died at the scene.

“He loved mototrcycles and AC/DC, children and animals, especially dogs and eagles,” Beierbach’s sister, Roxanne Marr, told The Journal.

CP derailment

On January 12, a CP train carrying a load of metallurgic coal derailed 2.7 miles west of Ashcroft, sending 29 cars off the rails. None of the rail cars entered the river, but it was estimated that between 120 and 160 tonnes of coal spilled down the bank and into the Thompson River.

CP enacted its emergency response process, with dozens of crew members and pieces of equipment rushed to Ashcroft by the morning of January 13. Interior Health (IH) issued a Do Not Consume notice along a 70km stretch of the Thompson River south of the derailment site. CP said that the site would be fully cleaned and remediated to pre-event conditions, a process that was expected to last for at least two weeks. The rail company had to build a road to the site to improve access.

Local Bands assist Downtown Eastside

An initiative of the Bonaparte Indian Band helped provide more than 550 residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with a free dinner of bannock tacos and dessert on January 14. Those who attended also received more than 600 jars of preserved traditional food such as moose meat, deer meat, salmon, and berries, which were prepared by members of the Secwe’pemc (Shuswap) First Nations over the summer and fall of 2016.

“Wild foods are very nutritious to begin with,” said Bonaparte Band chief Ryan Day. “And our traditional belief, when we prepare food, is that it’s always important to put love into what we’re doing… . There are myriad reasons people can’t live in their homeland. Making that connection is important, and it’s nice to make it through our foods.”

Harry Lali not “preferred candidate” in riding

Provincial NDP leader John Horgan made it clear that four-time NDP MLA Harry Lali, who had declared in May 2016 that he would be seeking the NDP nomination in Fraser-Nicola for the May 2017 provincial election, was not the party’s preferred candidate.

Lower Nicola Band chief Aaron Sam was also seeking the nomination. When asked by a reporter if he had been involved in any efforts to persuade Lali to drop out of the race, Horgan replied “I spoke to Harry about the prospects in the constituency. I told him of the desire of a First Nations leader to participate… . I talked to him about the new candidate in the region who is young, dynamic, and someone who would be a new representative for the region. I talked to Harry, he said he’d think about it, he came back and said he wanted to run.”

Lali had previously said that it was up to the membership to decide if they wanted an experienced hand who knew his way around parliament and bureaucracy and who knew how to get things done. “Do they want a proven hand, or a novice? If the NDP wants to win this seat again, I’m the best choice to do so.”

Clinton Ball oversubscribed

The 150th anniversary of the Clinton Ball saw such a spike in demand for tickets that organizers had to move the event from the Clinton Memorial Hall to the Clinton Arena. Clinton Annual Ball Committee chair Claire Warner said there were still 30 people on the waiting list, down from an initial 140 people. The 150th ball sold out before the 149th ball took place in May 2016.


Funding for McAbee business plan

A group of community volunteers who formed the McAbee Working Group in April 2016 to try to get the famous fossil beds near Cache Creek reopened received $10,000 in Rural Dividend funding to produce a business plan.

“How exciting is this?” said Deb Arnott, a member of the working group. “We can start moving forward. It will lay out a business case foundation [for the McAbee site], and we can use the business plan to attract more funding.”

The working group wanted to consider future research and visitor infrastructure at the site, and what that would look like. The McAbee site is recognized as containing the most diverse array of plants and insects from the Eocene Epoch in the province.

Rural towns take a hit in census results

The first swathe of information from the 2016 Canadian census showed that while many urban centres grew since 2011—some massively—that growth came largely at the expense of small rural communities.

In the Thompson-Nicola Regional District the largest centre—Kamloops—grew by 5.4 per cent, from 85,678 to 90,280. However, many of the smaller communities within the TNRD shrank or showed only modest gains, with Ashcroft going from 1,628 to 1,558; Cache Creek going from 1,040 to 963; and Logan Lake going from 2,073 to 1,993.

Clinton went from 636 to 641; Lytton went from 228 to 249; and Merritt went from 7,113 to 7,139.

Provincially, British Columbia’s population increased by 5.6 per cent, with 4,648,055 now calling the province home. Nationally, Canada’s population now stands at 35,151,728, an increase of 5 per cent since 2011.

United Church Bean Supper cancelled

The United Church Women of Zion United Church in Ashcroft announced that they would not be holding their annual Bean Supper. It was the first time in 70 years that the event would not be held.

Derailment aftermath

Six weeks after a CP train derailment west of Ashcroft that sent more than 100 tonnes of metallurgic coal into the Thompson River, a Do Not Consume water notice put in place by Interior Health along a 70km stretch of the river south of the river was downgraded to a Water Quality Advisory by Interior Health.

Remediation efforts by CP were still ongoing at the time of the downgrading of the water advisory at the end of February.

The cause of the derailment was under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board, which said it could take up to a year to complete the investigation; but at the Ashcroft open council meeting of February 27 Mike LoVecchio, CP’s director of government affairs, said that the derailment was probably caused by a “catastrophic” failure of the rail line.

In a PowerPoint presentation, LoVecchio said that the probable cause of the derailment was a “rail flaw which failed rapidly under the train,” adding that the most recent track inspections of the area had been carried out on January 9 and 11, with no defects noted.

“A very rapid failure of the rails occurs very infrequently, but they do occur,” he said. He added that other factors included the extreme cold temperatures at the time of the derailment on January 12, the fact that there are two very tight curves in the area, and that the trains going through the area are transitioning from a dropping grade to a rising grade.

Funds received to demolish Clinton Elementary

Nearly seven years after it closed in June 2010, School District No. 74 received funds from the Ministry of Education to demolish the Clinton Elementary School building. The news was welcomed by the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society, which has long hoped to be able to utilize the site for an assisted living facility.

“It’s a big, big step that should help us out a lot,” said Judy Hampton, chairperson of the society. The goal is to provide at least 10 units of affordable supportive seniors’ housing in Clinton on the former school property.


Local musician gets orchestra invitation

Cache Creek saxophonist Carmen Ranta had played with symphony orchestras before; but when she received an invitation to perform with the Thompson Valley Orchestra in March, it was the first time in more than 25 years that she had had that opportunity.

Ranta—who plays the soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones—said that the event was a special one for her, and that she was thrilled to have the opportunity to play with the orchestra, after doing a lot of solo saxophone work, or working with a pianist.

“I really have longed to connect with other musicians. It’s a thrill to share something I really love.”

Fraser-Nicola one to watch

Veteran political commentator Keith Baldrey told The Journal that the Fraser-Nicola riding was one to watch in the May provincial election.

Baldrey called the upcoming battle in the riding one of the most potentially exciting ones in the province, and said the situation surrounding NDP nominee Harry Lali being declared not the preferred candidate by the party’s leader was “very unusual. I can’t remember a leader asking someone of Harry Lali’s stature to stand down.”

He said of Fraser-Nicola that “I think it’s a riding in play for both parties. It also might be a riding that summarizes the campaign themes of jobs, resources, and industry [for the Liberals] versus more government services and the fight against climate change [for the NDP]. It all might play out in Fraser-Nicola.”

Ashcroft Chinese Cemetery receives altar

A Chinese altar, adorned with a plaque from the B.C. government and beautiful glass carvings and a mosaic, was unveiled at the Ashcroft Chinese Cemetery on March 17, with close to 150 dignitaries, guests, and residents on hand for the occasion.

The legacy project, funded by the provincial government, came from the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC), which provided the government with advice to ensure successful implementation of the legacy projects resulting from the “Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report” (2014). LIAC looked at sites around the province where legacy projects celebrating B.C.’s Chinese heritage could be situated; and the efforts of many local volunteers to restore and enhance Ashcroft’s Chinese cemetery put the site on the radar.

“I’m proud to be part of a community that honours and respects our Chinese heritage,” said MLA Jackie Tegart at the unveiling of the altar. “The Ashcroft Rotary and Lions clubs took this project on, and now people can feel pride in the cemetery, which honours those interred here.”

Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, called the site “a place of peace and tranquility. This is a special place, and it is a fitting spot to honour the Chinese community. It stands as a place of contemplation and remembrance. Thank you to Rotary and Lions for their tireless work and devotion to make this possible. This beautiful monument will serve as a fitting tribute to the Chinese community.”

Lali wins NDP nomination

At a nomination meeting on March 18, Harry Lali became the NDP’s candidate in Fraser-Nicola, defeating Chief Aaron Sam of the Lower Nicola Band and setting up a re-match between Lali and Liberal candidate Jackie Tegart in the May provincial election.

With less than eight weeks to go before the election, Lali admitted he had a lot of work to do, but that he looked forward to the challenge of taking on Tegart. “Nothing excites me as much as public campaigning. I like debates, door-knocking, meeting people. I’m looking forward to that.”

Fraser-Nicola incumbent already in campaign mode

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said she was already in campaign mode for the May provincial election, with plans to open a campaign office in Ashcroft on March 10. Tegart—who in May 2016 was the first Liberal candidate in the province to be nominated—said her team had been organized since last fall, and that all the key people were in place.

“I’m working weekends, door-knocking, and working with my campaign teams. We’re ready to roll, out doing what we need to do,” she said.

Tragedy in Venables Valley

Harvey Volaine, his wife Melissa Penner, Penner’s 10-year-old-son Kaylex, and the couple’s seven-year-old son Ay were found dead in their Venables Valley home on March 24. The four were residents of the community called Saranagati Village, a Krishna spiritual community.

Investigation confirmed that the family died of carbon monoxide poisoning. “We’re all in shock,” said a Venables Valley resident. Grief counsellors were brought in to help residents of the valley deal with the tragedy.

No track grinding in fire season

CN Rail confirmed that, after a resolution brought to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board by Steve Rice, TNRD Area “I” director, the company would not be doing track grinding throughout most of July and August; peak fire season.

Rice said there were four fires in Boston Bar and TNRD Area “I” in the past two years, three of which were possibly caused by track grinding. “I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the track grinding schedule. This is really, really cool and I’m very excited. It’s a small step, but it could eliminate a couple of wildfires.”

Funding for Cache Creek

The provincial government announced a long-anticipated widening of Highway 97 north of Cache Creek, as part of phase three of the government’s Cariboo Connector expansion program. The two-lane bridge over the Bonaparte River at the north end of town would be widened to four lanes, along with a stretch of Highway 97, improving safety and access. at that end of the Village

Cache Creek mayor John Ranta, who has been lobbying for the widening of the bridge and highway for many years, said he was delighted by the announcement. “The fact we have a two-lane bridge is demonstrably an impediment to the economic development of the community.”

The provincial government also announced it would be providing $150,000 for the purposes of flood risk assessments, floodplain mapping, and flood mitigation plans in Cache Creek, and Ranta said the announcement was good news. “In May 2015, the community was devastated by a one-in-200 year storm event that resulted in significant damage throughout the community.

“To have $150,000 to study what needs to be done to prevent damage to the community in the case of another rainfall event is very proactive.”

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