The effort to save access to the Ashcroft Slough at this point in its history is a reminder that hindsight is 20-20 vision.
For example, Ashcroft’s most precious heritage — Chinatown block, considered by a Heritage Canada official in the 1980s to be “The finest example of western Canadian heritage” — was deliberately leveled. Reason? It was considered a fire hazard threat.
I remember this event so well that I still feel the loss. I had painted the streetscape of shops with their false fronts and balconies, and I had written about Chinatown’s history and the people who had lived and worked there for years. A few of the original Chinese pioneer folk had given me their time and stories, and they were featured in my Pioneer newspaper and also in the Ashcroft Journal. The Ashcroft library has a permanent collection of paintings of portions of Chinatown and Ashcroft streetscapes. These buildings are gone, but happily, a visual record remains in perpetuity.
In more recent times, I’ve watched the Plein Air artists from as far away as Victoria and eastern B.C. painting the sites I found so exciting to depict over 40 years ago. The slough’s history is really not so long ago. When I arrived in Ashcroft in 1973, Dupont Chemical had purchased the ranch area that is now being totally restructured to provide a rail port. The company had banned entry to the site because it was being used to make explosives. Nevertheless, people were still able to venture over the rail tracks to the river. After the spring freshet, pools of water lay throughout the area known as “The Slough”, which was a favourite picnic place. Wild asparagus grew among the cobbles, as well as poison ivy. I fished the river for rainbows and picked asparagus for my supper.
The next phase of the destruction of access to the slough was when the railroad had ditches dug on either side of the tracks. Still, people could park their cars at the side of the road and cross the tracks on foot. I’m sure there are still people around who remember this. The odd bear would wander in to feed on Saskatoon berries. I know this because I came face to face with one. One year a fox had her pups at the slough. Ospreys and eagles flew in and around the site where the river turns sharply. I painted at least a couple of dozen paintings of the canyon and buttes en plein air. “In Praise of the Thompson River” was the title of my solo exhibition in the Prince George Art Gallery in 1990.
Too late, we recognize what we have in this priceless portion of the Thompson River. I wish for the group trying to retain even a small portion of what we had every hope possible. But the price of progress, as they say, can inevitably be high.
My husband and I are retired Canadian citizens. We were stuck behind border closures in Europe since April. We finally found a flight out at a time we believed it was safe to travel. We arrived Aug. 19. We quarantined and are healthy.
In order to have a safe place to quarantine away from our family, which includes an older adult, and a safe place to live while COVID-19 plays out, we decided to buy an RV to stay in while being with family. A perfect solution we thought. So the RV (trailer) is parked at my family’s house in Ashcroft.
We received a letter dated Sept. 15, not even 30 days after our arrival, directing us to stop living in the trailer as it violates a local bylaw. We also found out through this process that RVs are not allowed to be parked at your home during the winter and that guests or visitors who come with an RV are only allowed to stay up to thirty days.
We came here to be with family during the global pandemic and be home in Canada. Dozens and dozens of RVs are parked on private property throughout this community. Dozens of RVs are plugged in to homes, dozens are parked on city streets, many with electrical extension cords crossing public sidewalks, many on the same street as city hall, some have been there for months. We could have applied for a variance but that would only buy us time not solve the issue.
And yes it’s all complaint based, but in the middle of a global pandemic one would hope that people would have compassion and that the Village of Ashcroft with a zero vacancy rate would show some leadership and long before this have created some temporary bylaw accommodations, in the face of a global pandemic.
Not having a solution to the issue, we have now sold a brand new trailer at a loss and are moving on. In a world full of suffering and loss of life and so much uncertainty for people, it’s shocking to me that people have little else to do but file complaints about people just trying to get through this horrible time. So Ashcroft will never be home for us and I am angered by the inconsistent and arbitrary manner in which bylaws are policed.