A lot has happened in the Robson Valley over the last year. We want to thank all of our readers for consistently looking to our paper for their local news, and take the opportunity to remind the people of the Valley, the stories lie with you. The Rocky Mountain Goat Newspaper staff is looking forward to a fantastic 2017, and sharing the stories of the valley with as many people will read them. As the communities in our valley continue to grow and change, so do we at The Rocky Mountain Goat Newspaper. Happy New Year!
Resolution of 2014 grizzly slayings The case dates back to 2014, but in early October the crown prosecution charged a Dunster farmer, Arland Harry Baer, with six charges in relation to the shooting of four grizzly bears, a mother and her three cubs. Baer was charged by the Crown under the Wildlife Act. But the Wildlife Act holds a provision to protect livestock. Baer was fined $500 for failing to report killing or wounding of wildlife, the Ministry of Justice says. All other charges were stayed.
Dunster School now debt free
The headline says it all, as the Dunster School has paid off its mortgage. The mortgage was a seven-year-mortgage worth $39,500, or $44,000 with three per cent interest. Six years ago, the Prince George School District voted to shut down the K-7 Dunster Fine Arts School and send its 27 students to McBride or Valemount. Community members occupied the school for five days. In November of 2010, the newly formed society signed the school’s mortgage, to take over ownership of the vacant building from School District 57. It is now a community learning centre.
Train derails in Dunster
A CN train carrying coal derailed in Dunster on Nov. 15. Sixteen cars on a westbound coal train derailed after a sudden erosion of soil under the roadbed, according to CN spokesperson, Kate Fenske. CN environmental crews were on site to remove coal spilled from the cars, as a stream was adjacent to the site of the derailment and silt fences were placed in the stream to prevent coal from moving.
McBride Village Council & Community Forest
It hasn’t been a great year for the McBride Village council. In late September, The Goat reported the Village of McBride had been operating in the red, essentially spending more money than the municipality was bringing in. Mayor of McBride, Loranne Martin, told The Goat that the Village hadn’t used up all its reserves and had more than enough funding to cover the $367,000 shortfall this year, $215,000 of which came from the McBride Community Forest Corporation.
Martin says part of the issue was the decreased cut caused by previous overharvesting. Last year the Community Forest also let go of their general manager and hired a consulting firm until a new manager was hired. The community forest then settled a $95,000 lawsuit with the former manager.
Martin attributed the $152,000 shortfall incurred by the Village to the Lagoon Road washout; the repairs were recorded as $212,000. But hope arrived in the form of a new EDO, Karl Johnston, who was hired in Oct. Unfortunately, his employment with the Village lasted less than a month. Around the same time as the newly hired EDO left, Councillors Ralph Bezanson, Sharon Reichert and Edee Tracy submitted their walking papers, leaving Councillor Rick Thompson and Mayor Loranne Martin as the only remaining members of council. The Province restored quorum to the remaining councillors to sustain basic village operations only and appointed Isabell Hadford, as municipal advisor. The Village will now hold a by-election on Mar. 4, 2017, to elect three new councillors for the remainder of the 4-year term.
As far as MCFC, Carrier Lumber Ltd. withdrew its offer to sell a portion of its Robson Valley forest license to the McBride Community Forest (MCFC). Jeff McWilliams, an MCFC board member, said the key reasons cited for withdrawing the offer included Carrier being behind on their rate of harvest and nearing the end of the current “cut control period” for the forest license included in the offer. In December, MCFC announced they would look to fill the positions by way of election, a new concept for the organization. MCFC at the time suggested they would have the election in mid-January. What can only be categorized as a sub-par year, to say the least, the MCFC cutting permit expired in September, meaning the organization had to shut down logging operations. The current board is made up of Chairperson, Joe Rich, Loranne Martin — also the Mayor of McBride, and Bryan Monroe.
Museum and Library on the move
McBride taxpayers voted to increase taxes in order for the library and museum to move into a new building on Main St. Recently, large machinery seen grading the property outside of 521 Main Street. Librarian Naomi Bella-Boudreau says the grading means the library will be able to build wheelchair accessible ramps and entrances once grant funding is confirmed. The McBride & District Public Library and the Valley Museum & Archives Society have applied for a number of grants to help fund most of the major renovation work — including an application to the Regional District’s Enabling Accessibility Grant Program — Bella- Boudreau says, as the goal is to keep the use of tax dollars, and overall cost, to a minimum.
One year since the Renshaw avalanche
It has been almost a full year since five people died in an avalanche in the Renshaw area near McBride. Four separate groups of snowmobilers and a total of 17 people were swept away in the avalanche, which was roughly 700 metres in length by 800 metres in width. The avalanche claimed the lives of Vincent Eugene Loewen, 52, of Vegreville, AB, Tony Christopher Greenwood, 41, of Grand Prairie County, AB, Ricky Robinson, 55, of Spruce Grove, AB, Todd William Chisholm, 47, of St. Albert, AB and John Harold Garley, 49, of Stony Plain, AB.
Starting in July, Mandy McMinn and Gail Burbidge were hoping Valemount would become the smallest community in B.C. to boast a rainbow crosswalk, but instead it became the first community in B.C. to reject one. Two weeks later, Valemount Council passed a motion to refer the idea of painting a rainbow crosswalk in downtown Valemount to senior Village staff for “research.” But at the July 26 meeting, Village council voted unanimously to axe the idea of painting a rainbow crosswalk, citing liability and cost as the main reasons for rejection. After Council’s decision local mobilized to chalk a rainbow crosswalk downtown instead. They have also created a Facebook group and continue discussion on what can be done as a sign of support for LGBTQ2 youth.
In January, the Village rescinded their conflict of interest policy, to rely solely on the Community Charter. Councillor Sandy Salt was the sole Council member opposed. During the same meeting, the Council decided the mayor and staff’s travel claims would no longer be public. In February, Corporate Officer Andrew Young took a new position with the District of Wells, B.C. In March, Mark Macneill was hired as the Chief Administrative Officer, taking over from interim-CAO Ken Weisner. In April, the Village had hired Mark Brennan to take over as Corporate Officer. But the Village’s two hires were short-lived, as the Village fired Mark Brennan on July 13, and Mark Macneill’s employment concluded by Aug. 31. Former corporate officer Mark Brennan is suing the Village and Mayor Jeannette Townsend. Brennan confirmed he was dismissed by the Village in mid-July, which he says constituted a wrongful dismissal, and he subsequently filed a Notice of Claim against the Village, and Townsend, in the amount of $47,000. The position of CAO has been once again assumed by an interim, Gord Simmons. The Village named Simmons to the position in September and are still in the hiring process for a permanent CAO.
VARDA settles into its new home; Bike Park upgrades
There is no other way to say it, other than Valemount Area Recreation Development Association VARDA has been busy in 2016. It started with VARDA finding a new home: The former bottle depot on Commercial Drive, which has since been renovated. Once summer hit, the organization began Phase Two of its bike trail development. The second phase finalized the new version of the Swift Creek Trail, added a new downhill trail and a flow trail. VARDA said Turducken trail is one of the park’s more advanced trails and will attract new riders.
VGD Master Plan approved
It’s true, after years of red tape and bureaucratic hurdles the Province has approved VGD’s Master Plan. The approval came in August. The last step before construction is completion of the Master Development Agreement (MDA), with construction expected to begin in the summer of 2017, though the opening of the resort will no longer happen in December 2017, VGD says, as the timelines have been pushed back once again. The resort will feature a modern lift system designed for sightseers and skiers, as it will bring visitors to the summits of Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Twilight Glacier, Glacier Ridge and Mount Arthur Meighen, according to VGD. The resort is expected to have a 1,997-bed unit base area development and the largest vertical drop in North America. Joe Nusse, a Valemount resident who initially helped to pitch the idea to the Obertis, says while this project was conceptualized over five years ago, it’s proof of success for people who dream big.
Simpcw First Nation
Saturday, Aug. 13, marked the symbolic return of the Simpcw people to Tête Jaune Cache, 100 years after their forced removal from the area to the current reserve, Chu Chua. “I carried the flag home today, with honour,” said Jara Jules, daughter of Joe Jules. The sun beat down on the 70 in attendance, Jara fought back tears as she carried the Simpcw First Nation flag toward Tête Jaune, and explained what an emotional experience it was. Chief of the Simpcw First Nation, Chief Nathan Matthew says the band is compiling evidence of its people’s history, and they will soon present it to the federal government in the form of a specific claim for a reserve, It’s estimated that between 60 and 70 Simpcw people were forced from Tête Jaune, with some renditions of the story saying the trek took long enough for a full change in season, with the Simpcw leaving Tête Jaune in the fall and arriving in Chu Chua in winter. Chu Chua is roughly 243 kilometers southwest of Tête Jaune, as the crow flies. Joe’s father, Jara’s grandfather, was one the Simpcw people forced to relocate.
School District 57 and rural schools
Starting in February, an ad hoc committee gave 14 recommendations to SD57 to improve rural schools. The passed motions include a pilot project for billeting in schools during tournaments, improved rural hiring practices, more local maintenance of school property, and improved Internet and connectivity. Among the ideas turfed or not considered, were changing the name of the school district and the hiring of a District Principal of Rural Education. But local municipalities are asking for even more change. Rural municipalities are asking SD57 for direct representation. This year there were also changes to the curriculum. As students in today’s society have virtually instant access to a limitless amount of information, the new curriculum emphasizes how students learn, focusing on teaching concepts and processes rather than factual content. The new curriculum also places emphasis on Indigenous worldviews. 30 per cent of SD57’s student population identifies as having aboriginal ancestry. Tim Bennett is currently chairperson of the board.
In February, Valemount hosted Borealis Geopower and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association at a geothermal conference, and conversations of geothermal development in the Village have been heating up ever since. A month after the workshop, locals pointed to evident potential at Valemount Community Forest’s new industrial park in Cedarside, potential to build a direct-use geothermal industrial park. Then in March, Borealis jumped on board with the idea. Borealis proposed a small power-generating project at the Valemount Community Forest’s Industrial Park in Cedarside. In July, news broke of the Valemount Community Forest signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Borealis in reference to the potential of direct-use geothermal heat at the Cedarside industrial property. The Village of Valemount’s Direct-Use Heat Committee, according to its chair, has been exploring options in order to run the utility on the proposed industrial park since announcement of the MOU, a role that to date, no one has offered to fill. Utility, simply defined, is the management and distribution of a resource. After a developer has drilled for the resource, an organization must connect to the resource, distribute it, and manage it for the consumers. The Valemount Geothermal Society was also formed in 2016, with the intention of giving Valemount’s community a voice, and guaranteeing their involvement in future geothermal projects.