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Flashback: Wildlife warning, special needs and caring for the fish

A look back at the history of the Cowichan Lake area

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old newspapers with the assistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago

“Students learn about protecting waterways from pollution,” was the headline of the day in the April 18, 2012 edition of the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

“Lake Cowichan Salmonid Enhancement Society president, Bob Crandall, along with Kai Rietzel from the Cowichan Land Trust, were at Palsson Elementary on April 11, educating students about local watersheds and the effects of pollutants and litter in Lake Cowichan waterways. Crandall and Rietzel spent about an hour with students in Miss Walter’s grade two class, first educating them about pollution and how garbage and other pollutants such as oil, gas, herbicides and pesticides can get into the Cowichan River and other local waterways, through storm drains.”

The edition also cautioned residents to “Watch out for wildlife on [the] roads”.

“Keep your eyes open for elk, say Lake Cowichan RCMP. This reminder comes after an elk was struck in the early morning hours of April 10, by a vehicle on Highway 18 across from the Slopes subdivision. The animal was not killed on impact, and had to be put down by Lake Cowichan RCMP before it was taken away by Main Road South Island Contracting employees. Sgt. Dave Voller says that locals need to remember to be aware of the animals, especially during the morning and evening hours and in the fall when it’s rutting season.”

The paper also featured news about a tourist looking for a man who fell in the river.

“At approximately 12 a.m. on Sat. April 14, a man in his late 50s from Calgary Alta. who was visiting his brother in Lake Cowichan, was reported to police to have fallen into the Cowichan River from a property located on Greendale Road. Lake Cowichan RCMP, Lake Cowichan Fire Dept., and paramedics attended the scene but were not able to locate the man. The Cowichan Valley Search and Rescue were then called in and they conducted a ground search along the river which continued into the morning throughout the day. Throughout the day on Sunday, search and rescue efforts continued and added divers into the river with the assistance of local guides and their boats. At approximately 5 p.m. of the same day, the search for the man was called off.”

25 years ago

“Amalgamation causes major cuts to ‘special needs’” was the headline on the front of the April 23, 1997 Lake News.

A shortfall of $2,091,814 in the District 79 budget estimate for 1997-98 will particularly hurt special education. The new budget kicks in July 1. Next year there will be more deep cuts in special education grants from the provincial government the board has been told. Those facts emerged at a public meeting of the school board in Lake Cowichan last week. About 12 people came to listen. The news has been so uniformly bad that the superintendent of schools, Geoff Johnson, and the secretary-treasurer, Bill Brown, have been nicknamed “Gloom” and “Doom.”

“Pam Campbell, chair of the school district, said the board has been doing its best to meet its attenuated funds and a preliminary budget was produced at the meeting. However the board has little time to change anything now since its budget must be presented to the government by April 25. It has, in any case, not much elbow room.”

In other news reported in the April 23, 1997 edition, Updesh Cheema’s Grade 4 class at Palsson elementary is taking a hands-on approach to learning our local history. The two day outdoor study program will be held at the Cowichan Lake Education Centre at the end of April. The students will retrace the steps of Robert Brown who surveyed this area in the 1860s. This program will be activity based with students playing the role of different members of the expedition from biologist to cook. This is a unique opportunity for the students to experience part of our area’s heritage.”

40 years ago

“Subdivision protested by fish & game club” was the headline of the day on the front of the April, 21, 1982 Lake News.

“Valley Fish & Game Club has written to Lake Cowichan village council protesting the plan to develop 80 acres of land on the upper reaches of the Cowichan river into a hotel and subdivision.

“A development company, Red Cedar Development Corporation, has approached council with plans to build a 90-lot subdivision and a hotel–restaurant complex on 80 acres of land just east of present village boundaries and along the Cowichan River across from Little Beach. Club secretary R.J. Cumpstone, in a letter to council, said ‘this subdivision would be extremely detrimental to the Cowichan River fishery as it is situated along the main spawning beds and rearing area of this system.

“‘As this land is primarily of clay base, you can imagine the effect the run-off would have on the spawning beds. The beauty of this area has to be seen to be appreciated and we feel it is deplorable to allow it to be spoiled for the financial benefit of a few at the expense of all those who enjoy the beauty of a wild river so easily accessible as the Cowichan’.”

There is neither a hotel nor a restaurant at that site now so I gather we all know how that turned out.

And finally, The April 21, 1982 Lake News reported “the Lake Days theme this year will be based on an old time logging or ‘Paul Bunyan’ topic, the Lake Days committee decided Tuesday.”

Choosing a theme must have been a big deal back then because it was selected via secret ballot. It was our friend Lexi Bainas that had submitted the theme for consideration.