Fall arrived early, to the consternation of many farmers. On the heels of more historic flooding and wildfires, it added up to a hat trick of challenges for many. Small businesses tying to find or retain employees, small fire departments and brigades fighting the red tape handcuffs of government regulation, farmers facing smoke and cool night temperatures: a toxic combo.
That said, Spences Bridge was dealt another tragic blow: the total closure of the Thompson River on October 1. The justification? Historically low returns of the highly revered Thompson River Steelhead.
Sadly, this will do little to curb the declining numbers. The province has put the mortality rate of the Recreational Sport Fishery for the Thompson Steelhead at one to three per cent. I would suggest that the calibre of fishermen (some of the best in the world) would put this number at the low end.
On the other hand, the 24-hour opening of the commercial Chum fishery is at a time and place when and where the Steelhead are at their highest numbers. It has a mortality as high as 10 times that of the recreational fishery.
The Federal Government has introduced “rolling closures” to DFO regulations to address the recent listing of nine species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Seven species of salmon and two species of Steelhead (our beloved Thompson being one) are close to finding the endangered list.
If ever we needed a “rolling closure” of the commercial Chum fishery, now would be the time. It was my principal topic of discussion at my Minister meeting at UBCM, because closures have consequences. There are new hours for the Packing House; never before have we closed early in October. We have no choice. The fishermen are the lifeblood of local business. No fishermen is a precursor to a seasonal town.
I am hopeful that with the recent appointment of Jonathon Wilkinson, a B.C. guy, as Federal Minister of Fisheries and Ocean, the DFO may indeed implement the “rolling closure”. We shall wait and see with “baited” breath!
In extreme conservation concern,
Spences Bridge, B.C.
The following are the results of a survey I conducted requesting Ashcroft residents to state their top three concerns and to share ideas for solutions.
#1 concern: Recycling. Ideas for solutions: Incorporate recyclables into Village pick-up program (blue bin program as in other communities); have recycle depot in a better location; have bins at a manned location in Ashcroft, then have Village employee take to TNRD recycle depot.
#2 concern: Health care/hospital. Ideas for solutions: Nurse practitioner and/or paramedics working under the oversight or direction of a qualified doctor; attract new graduated MDs to handle routine examination and treatment/referrals of patients for further treatment (incumbent MDs could work on a rotational basis in the ER and oversee the new doctors in both the ER and the general practice area); access to a Medivac helicopter for serious cases to be transferred to Royal Inland Hospital; financially support WHAC and have council/municipality lobby for health care in Ashcroft; have one strong voice from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Bonaparte Band, Ashcroft Band, and surrounding areas that use the hospital and health services to lobby for services in Ashcroft; lobby for a primary health care centre like they have in Lytton and Kamloops with extended hours seven days a week; request MLA to lobby for health care in Ashcroft (people would like the ER open more); lobby Interior Health to create full-time positions to attract RNs).
#3 concern (tie): Housing and promoting/supporting existing and new businesses. Ideas for solutions for housing: Low income housing (seek government funding, meet with senior governments to discuss); seniors’ housing; affordable housing and rentals (contact developers and let them know there is opportunity in Ashcroft as more jobs are coming and there is a lack of housing); contact IH and find out if land [around the hospital] could be purchased by a developer, and prepare a package to present; contact private land owners in Ashcroft who have empty lots and buildings to determine if there are any plans to sell or develop; start a conversation with Ashcroft Indian Band to see if there is a possibility of developing land for housing through lease program (like Sun Rivers in Kamloops); open up and develop lots on the Mesa (work with developers); investigate if it is possible to have Tingley Street apartments renovated (contact owner to see if willing to sell).
Ideas for solutions for business: Promote local shopping to support businesses; sponsor seminars for effective operation business (already being done by Community Futures); encourage new businesses, have a promotional package available on website, offer incentives for existing and new businesses; have a video of what Ashcroft has to offer and have it put out on social media; update Love Ashcroft on website; administration to do follow-up for any interested parties enquiring about Ashcroft; municipality to take action on initiatives for Economic Development plan; have business recognition from Village; development of a regional Chamber of Commerce.
Other issues identified include infrastructure/admin/bylaws; sidewalks (especially to school); signage (speed limits, playground at HUB, signage to info centre); enforcing bylaw for unsightly yards, empty houses, and buildings; fire safety strategies; parking for disabled (more spots in town); ramps for wheelchairs; forest/tree management in parks and around town; more use of facilities (parks, pool, arena); update fire department bylaws (1993 last update); better cooperation with Cache Creek, First Nations; improve communication (Village and community); more support from Village for sports programs for youth (arena open earlier and more hours available); train whistles; more frequent updates to Disaster Plan.
I attended the Village of Ashcroft Public Hearing related to the new draft Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaws on Monday, October 22, along with three out of the four newly elected councillors and about a half-a-dozen other community members.
Two members of the public raised concerns about the new zoning bylaw proposed to repeal Zoning Bylaw No. 738, 2005 and its amendments. Another gentleman and I made comments about the draft OCP. I outlined a few, but not all, of the inconsistencies I had found. One—not mentioned, but nevertheless strange in light of recent catastrophic environmental events—was the establishment of a dog park as high priority to implement, and the improvement of storm drainage in North Ashcroft as low priority to implement.
After the public hearing I stayed for the regular meeting of council to find out the outcome of the two bylaw resolutions. Councillor Roden made the motion to pass Bylaw No 823 (Zoning Bylaw, 2018) and Bylaw No. 822 (Official Community Plan, 2018) as they stood. The bylaws were passed as written without dissent, essentially “rubber stamping” the draft.
If I could find incongruous statements in a single reading of the documents, I asked myself why councillors, who should be reading every document that comes before them with focused scrutiny, did not question irregularities?
Moreover, I wondered why, once points were raised, reconsideration was not given. What was the urgency to enact the bylaws immediately before the new council is sworn in?
It is my sincere hope that the incoming councillors will not only “hear” members of the public, but will actually “listen” with an open mind to suggestions put forth by community members and then act accordingly.
I look forward to reading about future council news in The Journal from the independent correspondent as promised by Barbara Roden at the mayoral all-candidates forum.
Gloria E. Mertens