Mayor Rod Peters officiates at his first meeting of town council. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Year in Review: Music, celebrations and elections in second half of 2018 at Lake Cowichan

JULY

The Cowichan Lake area celebrated Canada Day in style Sunday, July 1. With the sun finally making a confident appearance, everyone dashed outdoors to enjoy daytime events at Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay, and Youbou, where cake, a market, speeches, flag raising, and other celebrations were the order of the day.

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Music fans braved threatening weather and spent a great Canada Day long weekend at Lake Cowichan enjoying the super acts lined up for Laketown Rock 2018. With a wide variety of bands stepping up on the main stage and The Flats stage, there was exciting entertainment from the afternoon until after midnight.

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Honeymoon Bay Day, on Saturday, July 14, included a fun parade of fire trucks from communities around Cowichan Lake, the big Lady of the Lake float, and several local entries, that led everyone towards the field outside the community hall where the day’s activities continued.

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Local dancers, musicians, pipes and drums inspired, delighted and entertained not only the athletes at Laketown Ranch on July 19, but the hundreds of parents, coaches, officials and volunteers in the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the 40th annual BC Summer Games.

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The ribbon cutting for the new and upgraded $5.5-million Meade Creek Recycling Centre happened on July 20. “This is a great improvement for the community and I’m very happy considering where we’ve come from,” Mayor Ross Forrest said to the group of politicians and dignitaries who had gathered for the occasion.

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Even an unexplained fainting spell couldn’t prevent Youbou’s Mikyla Carlow from achieving massive success in the Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games. Carlow bounced back quickly after passing out early on the day of her first races to win a total of four gold medals in Special Olympics swimming. She set personal bests and won gold in three events that day: the 50m and 100m freestyle, and 50m breaststroke. The next day, Carlow won her fourth gold medal in the 50m butterfly.

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The car of a missing 82-year-old Oak Bay woman has been found on a remote logging road behind Lake Cowichan. A person located the green Honda that belonged to Gladys Barman on July 21. Barman had been missing since July 5. The search was called off on the evening of July 26. Search and Rescue volunteers found her body on July 31 approximately 11 km from where her vehicle was found.

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Tony Jackson, a volunteer with the Sahtlam fire department, died while tubing on the Cowichan River on Sunday, July 29. “Tony Jackson, you were one of the good ones,” Clark Richardson said on the GoFundMe page for his family. “You were one that would give their shirt off their back if you could, compassionate in what you believed in, a key volunteer and a do’er of anything that was needed.”

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Cowichan Lake songbird, Amanda Nixon, sang her way into the hearts of the Duncan Has Talent judges and the crowd at Charles Hoey Park Friday, July 27, finishing second and taking home a prize of $200.

AUGUST

Sunfest 2018 wound up Sunday night, Aug. 5 as a huge crowd swarmed onto the Laketown Ranch site just outside Lake Cowichan to see and hear Eric Church on the big stage. It had been a remarkable weekend. Trailers and campers thronged the highway Wednesday, Aug. 1, before tucking themselves neatly into place for the Sunfest Country Music Festival, held this year between Aug. 2-5.

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In August it was announced Daniel Alfred Sutherland, 71, who was last seen at the Tim Hortons in Lake Cowichan on the morning of July 26, has been found dead, according to police. The Honeymoon Bay resident had not been seen since that day but according to Island RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Tammy Douglas, “The male reported missing has been located deceased. Foul play is not suspected and the file is now with the BC Coroners Service.”

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More than 100 avid pickleball players from across Vancouver Island gathered in Lake Cowichan in August for the 2018 Island championships. Weather tried to play havoc with the tournament, but organizers managed to beat the conditions at every turn.

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Youbou’s Mikyla Carlow parlayed her success at the BC Summer Games into further impressive results at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games earlier this month. Carlow medalled in all of her races at the games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, taking gold in the 50m freestyle, silver in the 50m backstroke, and bronze in the 100m individual medley, 25m backstroke and 50m breaststroke.

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The annual cleanup of the upper Cowichan River saw volunteers active on, under, and alongside the water on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Lake Cowichan. There was less to pick up this year. In fact, every year, the amount of garbage seems to decrease: a tribute to the efforts of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society and other volunteers.

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Music fans held on to summer for one last weekend Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, as Laketown Shakedown completed the festival season at Laketown Ranch. With great music, dancing, booze, food, and friends, it was a super windup to what has been a very busy year at the big facility just west of Lake Cowichan.

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When longtime Lake Cowichan resident Joe Saysell brought up the effect the plethora of tubers in the summer months have on the Cowichan River and the potential harm they are doing to the heritage river with their sunscreen, the folks at the Tube Shack sprang into action. By Aug. 31 owner Aaron Frisby had found a new river-safe sunscreen: Stream2Sea, a mineral sunscreen. “We are 100 per cent sure that this sunscreen from Stream2Sea is safe for humans, fish and rivers,” Frisby said. The company also challenged mayor and council to restrict the sales of dangerous sunscreen in Lake Cowichan.

SEPTEMBER

On Saturday, Sept. 1, Sunny, the inquisitive budgie decided to roam a little too far from its Lake Cowichan home. On the evening of Sept. 4 a fellow from Lakeview Campground found a yellow and green budgie at the campsite. “He put the bird in an insulated zippered food bag and took it to the only place open: the Best Buy Cold Beer and wine store,” bird owner Allana Shillito said. It just so happens Shillito worked part-time at that liquor store. “My co-worker Gerrie phoned me and I zipped down and got her,” she said.

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Dalton Smith, manager of the Cowichan Lake Education Centre, told councillors Sept. 4 that he and his crew have had a busy and successful summer at Lakeview Park campground, where the rush is now winding down for the shoulder season. “It’s been extremely busy. We’ve had about 20,000 people visits,” he said.

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Firefighters from Sahtlam and Lake Cowichan departments were called out about 8 a.m. on Sept. 6 to fight a blaze in the bush near Cowichan River Provincial Park. According to Dorothy Jacobsen of the BC Coastal Fire Centre, the fire was about half a hectare in size.

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“It’s been a long process,” said Lake Cowichan Coun. Tim McGonigle as he and colleagues voted to call in the heavy equipment to deal with several derelict buildings in town. These included buildings located where Neva and MacDonald Roads end, just south of Highway 18, plus a building at 182 Neva Rd., called “a major eyesore”. All had been the subject of requests and discussions at Lake Cowichan council tables for some time.

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Three candidates announced they would seek the mayor’s chair at the Town of Lake Cowichan. Incumbent Ross Forrest wanted to remain mayor while longtime councillor Bob Day and businessman Rod Peters also threw their hats into the ring.

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Gail Dawson-Russell announced her candidacy for the position of Youbou/Meade Creek area director on the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board to challenge long-time incumbent Klaus Kuhn for the Area I seat.

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Defenceman Josh Anderson attended his third training camp with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and his first since signing a contract with the team this past spring. Anderson was born in Nanaimo and grew up in Lake Cowichan and Duncan.

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“Well, here we go again. A majestic bull elk was poached last week in the Cowichan Lake Area…” the terse message was posted on the Valley Fish and Game Club Wilderness Watch Facebook page by Denis Martel, well known in the Cowichan Lake area for his untiring efforts to protect the district’s wildlife from the careless and callous human actions.

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Officials and supporters were in a party mood, despite threatening weather, on Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Cowichan Lake area’s main bus stop on South Shore Road. They were celebrating 25 years of bus service to Duncan.

OCTOBER

The hopefuls for seats around Lake Cowichan’s council table joined together for a meet-and-greet. Instead of each candidate holding“coffee mornings” or evening chat fests. The whole gang were available in the dining room at the Riverside Inn from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

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The public was urged to be on the look out for an elk with a wire mesh wrapped around its head in the Lake Cowichan area. A woman said she was driving into Lake Cowichan on Oct. 4 when she saw a small herd of elk on the side of the road. She noticed that one of them, a young elk that is approximately two years old, had what appeared to be wire wrapped around its head that had been there for some time.

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Longtime Lake Cowichan resident Nels Olson, sometimes called Mr. Lake Cowichan, and known for his big smile and happy demeanour, and his never-ending willingness to help out, died Oct. 9. He was 94.

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Fun, festivity, and friendship were in the air Oct. 12 at Cowichan Lake Sports Arena’s multi-purpose room as the Ohtaki visit wound up with a big, boisterous banquet. The group from Lake Cowichan’s sister community in Japan arrived in town in the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 10.

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Oct. 13 in Youbou meant Oktobeerfest. The Youbou Community Association held their first ever such event, a party at the Youbou Hall.

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Longtime member of the Valley Fish and Game Club, and advocate of Cowichan Lake’s Roosevelt elk, Denis Martel died on Oct. 16. He was 67.

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With 479 votes, retired Lake Cowichan businessman and former town councillor Rod Peters was elected mayor Lake Cowichan in a tight race Saturday, Oct. 20. It had been a clash of the titans at the Lake, with three popular candidates vying for the mayor’s chair. Bob Day was second with 435 votes while incumbent mayor Ross Forrest was third with 408.

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Incumbent councillors Tim McGonigle, (825), Lorna Vomacka (796), and Carolyne Austin (651) were all re-elected, with former councillor Kristine Sandu (628) taking the fourth place at the table. The other hopefuls also did well, with Rocky Wise garnering 477 total votes, Beverly North 397, Loretta Puckrin 347, and Janet Kirk, who had to withdraw still collecting 175 votes.

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Klaus Kuhn was re-elected as the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Electoral Area I (Youbou/Meade Creek). Kuhn took 282 votes in the Oct. 20 municipal elections, beating out his only challenger, Gail Dawson-Russell, who had 107 votes.

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Following the lead of several like-minded groups in the region, 100 Laker Women has formed to assist local Lake Cowichan area charities. The group’s first voting meeting took place on Oct. 24 at the Cowichan

Lake Sports Arena and Palsson School PAC was the first group to receive funding, to the tune of $2,500.

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The sport of cyclocross made its return to the Cowichan Valley the last weekend in August with an event in Lake Cowichan. Dubbed “Psycho-Cross,” the competition took place at Lakeview Park amid torrential rain at times.

NOVEMBER

A Lake Cowichan institution closed its door for good on Nov. 30. The Shaker Mill Restaurant was a fixture on the main drag for 20 years. The news was confirmed on Facebook on Nov. 1 and customers, residents and tourists alike, took it hard. The owners of the restaurant opted not to comment on the closure.

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Cowichan Symphony Society received a welcome donation from Sunfest producers, the Laketown Ranch Benevolent Society on Nov. 4. Each year, the Benevolent Society decides which Valley organization will receive a financial boost. This year it was the hard-pressed Symphony Society, who have been struggling for years to provide concerts in spite of an aging audience that doesn’t get out as much as it used to.

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Monday, Nov. 5 was an emotional night for Lake Cowichan firefighters as they officially said goodbye to colleague and friend, Tom Padjen, who retired after 30 years. Doug Callsen, who joined the department on the same day as Padjen, also received his 30-year-award while Greg Smith was recognized for 25 years and Mark Johnson for 20 years of service to the community.

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Mayor Rod Peters and his council, Tim McGonigle, Lorna Vomacka, Carolyne Austin, and Kristine Sandhu, were sworn in officially in an impressive ceremony in Lake Cowichan on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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Ian Morrison was elected the new chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District at the board’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 7. He was acclaimed director of Electoral Area F for another term in the municipal elections in October. Morrison said he was pleased to be finally elected chairman after three attempts during his decade on the board.

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Great weather and a hockey tournament at the sports arena next door helped to boost numbers at the Lake Cowichan Holiday Market on Nov. 10. Right from the opening, at 10 a.m., the stalls were busy with eager customers streaming in.

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Ever since Mayor Rod Peters dropped the bombshell at the all-candidates meeting that the former Kingdom Hall might be a new municipal hall, talk around Lake Cowichan had been buzzing. As the new council took its first steps together, the Town of Lake Cowichan CAO urged the members to “carefully review all its options” and not to make a decision “on a whim”. Joe Fernandez had been reporting to council during a Nov. 13 committee meeting.

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After pleading guilty in July to three counts of tax evasion under the Income Tax Act and to one count of tax evasion under the Excise Tax Act, Lake Cowichan businessman David Gonyea has received his sentence.

On Nov. 15, Gonyea, Coast Hydrovac’s bookkeeper, was given a nine month conditional sentence which includes a fine of $50,496.50 and 30 hours of community service.

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Merriment and mayhem were on the menu as the Kaatza Lakeside Players present Fractured Fairy Tales: Cinderella! Cinderella!, Big Bad, and Rollin’ in Dough in Mistletoe Nov. 22, 23, and 24 at Centennial Hall in Lake Cowichan.

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Conservation officers asked the public for help in identifying the person or people who shot an elk with a crossbow along Highway 18. Officer Robin Sano said the male elk was shot near the highway, about three kilometres west of the Skutz Falls area, likely sometime on Nov. 22-23. He said the elk was shot just below the shoulder blade, and there was no attempt to claim the animal, or butcher it for food.

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The Youbou Save Our Holmes Society invited area residents and supporters to a meet and greet on Saturday, Nov. 24. The informal meeting was aimed at updating neighbours about the ongoing concerns with TimberWest’s plans to log Mount Holmes and Mount Good.

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Late November saw Sgt. Scott Norris of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service remind citizens it’s that time of year again, the one where bears are out and about looking to stock up on snacks before heading off to hibernate. “There’s lots of bears around. They’re trying to fatten up,” Norris noted. “It’s people’s it’s their duty and by law under the Wildlife Act, they must lock up their garbage and any other food attractants so they don’t attract bears to their property.”

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Breakout star Maren Morris, Kip Moore, Randy Houser, long time Valley fave Terri Clark, and Michael Ray are joining Jason Aldean for Sunfest 2019. Wideglide Entertainment and Laketown Ranch named their “second wave” of artists at the end of November, whipping up even more interest in next summer’s big country music festival at Lake Cowichan.

DECEMBER

Island Savings’ gala event held at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit recently came up big for the Cowichan Valley and Lake Cowichan food banks. More than $13,000 was raised with the help of local businesses, Island Savings staff members and volunteers from the community.

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Rain couldn’t wash away smiles as Lake Cowichan kicked off the holiday season with its annual Santa Claus Parade.

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