2011: Alberni Valley celebrates the highs and lows in Part II of year-end features

From June to December read all about it from the Alberni Valley News.

Canadian Airforce Captain Kurt Schweitzer

Canadian Airforce Captain Kurt Schweitzer


In the June 3 edition, former Port Alberni resident and Canadian airforce captain Kurt Schweitzer talked about being recognized for bravery during a mission in Afghanistan. The incident came to light as part of the infamous WikiLeaks release of military documents last year. New publisher Teresa Bird came from the North Island Gazette to join the team at the News after former News publisher John Tierney left for Victoria. The former B.C. Ferry Princess Jacqueline, which sat at the Port Alberni Port Authority dock for three years, was sold to a Mexican scrap dealer. More than 56 people were left homeless after fire ripped through the 26 suite Downwtown Manor on Athol Street. The local Zellers store was not on the list of stores cherry picked by its new US owner Target. The store remains open and under the Zellers banner.

On June 10, the News reported that more than 400 people attended the Raven Coal Port environmental assessment public comment session at the Alberni Athletic Hall. Sooke artists Jake James installed his public art piece in front of city hall. The piece depicts an abandoned logging camp in the woods. The city began soliciting comments and ideas for a new pool facility in the Valley. And local teacher Kama Money won a Facebook contest – again – to do humanitarian work in Africa – again.  And donations were pouring in for residents who were left homeless after the fire gutted the Downtown Manor on Athol Street.

The team from Shaw-Mazing was revving up for the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life in the June 17 issue. The relay went that weekend. Meanwhile, a group of rail buffs from Europe, Australia and Slovenia were in town to take picture of the No. 7 steam train.  The once hailed Canals Project, which would have seen a condo complex with lagoon parking for boats, was dead in the water after the city closed its offering of the land after three years. Pacific Coast University signed historic agreements with the University of Bohn-Rhine Sieg in St. Augistine, Germany.  Former mayor Ken McRae cast the deciding vote in council’s decision to purchase two auto-arm garbage trucks for $560,000. And ADSS art foundations students unveiled mural at Clutesi Haven Marina as part of a beautification project.

Alberni District Secondary School valedictorian Tia Sogge and Master of Ceremonies Kari-Lea Charelsworth talked about high school and what awaits them after grad in the June 24 issue.  Another public information session was on tap, this time with schematics, as the new pool process inched forward. VAST students Brody Volk and Leila Fischer talked about life at VAST as the education centre’s grad ceremony approached. The World Fishing Network returned to the Valley to film a video about Port Alberni, which was part of the proceeds when the Valley won the Ultimate Fishing Town title. The Canadian Cancer Society in Alberni announced that the Relay for Life in Port Alberni raised more than $158,000. In arts, long time Rollin Art Centre administrator Gareth Flostrand announced that she was retiring at month’s end.


In the July 1 issue, Port Alberni teachers voted along with their counterparts across B.C. in favour of job action starting in September to protest lack of progress at the bargaining table. RCMP Const. Boyd Pearson talked to the News about the coming Pulling Together Canoe Journey. Some 21 canoes traveled from Tofino to Port Alberni over eight days. In police news, RCMP recommended charges against three Valley residents after more than $70,000 worth of B.C. Bud was seized from a Beaver Creek property. Local resident Stacey Gaiga announced that she was running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election. She subsequently left the race one week before the election. North Island College and the city announced that the Justice Institute was going to deliver a new paramedic course at the NIC Port Alberni campus that fall.  And Valley residents got their first peek at drawings of the new Echo Pool facility. The Port Alberni Chamber of Commerce opened its new 3,000 square foot visitors centre on the Alberni highway.

On July, 8 local provincial prosecutor and golfer extraordinaire Christina Proteau pondered turning pro after winning her third B.C. Amateur womens golfing title and was headed to the US Open in Colorado Springs. Meanwhile, Darlene and Barry Manson along with their two sons found new housing after fire gutted their Lugrin Road trailer the previous week. Members of the Port Alberni Fire Department announced they were participating in a calendar initiative to help raise money for the West Coast General Hosptial Foundation. There was a catch though – no beefcake. Catalyst Paper Corp. and the Hupacasath First Nation collaborated on a $2 million upgrade to the Robertson Creek Dam at Great Central Lake. The Class of Alberni District Secondary School class of 2011 crossed the stage as teens then into the grown up world at their grad ceremony held at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. And the Alberni Valley Bulldogs announced that Rick Schievink was joining them as director of hockey operations.

Port Alberni RCMP Const. Tom Gill talked to the News for the July 15 issue about the grueling training regime he was undertaking in preparation for the Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock in September. City officials breathed easier as Catalyst Paper Corp. paid its $4.6 million tax tab in full. Back at the Downtown Manor on Athol Street, Port Alberni fire chief Tim Pley reported that traces of asbestos were found in the building, thus delaying its demolition. The 21 canoe strong 2011 Pulling Together Canoe Journey pulled into the Alberni Valley and enjoyed a welcoming by Tseshaht and Hupacasath peoples at Clutesi Haven Marina.  The city began taking orders from residents for its new specially designed garbage cans to be used with the new auto-loading truck. Jen Fisher-Bradley announced she was running of mayor in the upcoming municipal election.

In the July 22 issue, after being politely turned away at the city local mom Brenda Patterson announced her intention to revive the playground at Weaver Park. The Alberni Clayoquot Regional District said it was concerned about 50 untenured float homes at Great Central Lake. The homes were part of the confidential mediation process between the Hupacasath First Nation and the province of British Columbia over TFL 44. Suncoast Waster Services moved its recycling operation from Fourth Avenue to the former Revelstoke store on Third Avenue two blocks away. Toyota moved into brand new digs on the Alberni Highway. Walmart announced it was upping its game by adding a meat and produce section and was converting to a super centre format. The Vancouver Island Raiders of Nanaimo held their main camp at Bob Dailey Stadium. And the Alberni Valley Bulldogs announced that they signed five players, including Yan and Artsiom Kalashnikov.

On July 29, School might have been out for summer but not for the 250 students from Grade 9-12 who were attending the summer session at VAST. The session gives students a chance to better their grades and pass classes. Brenda Patterson doggedly continued to pursue reclamation of Weaver Park by meeting with the Let Them Be Kids organization, who provide grants for building playgrounds.  The city rewarded $493,000 new garbage can contract to Rollins Machinery Ltd. Erin Girling was announced at the new executive director of Ty Watson House. A videographer from Port Alberni named Jaeger Mah was announced as a finalist in the Live@YVR contest that would see him spend 80 days and nights at YVR filming short documentaries.


In the Aug. 5 issue, husband and wife teams Ron and Elaine Mani and Rick Robertson and Annette Clement talked about their participation in the upcoming Thunder in the Valley, which was slated to go at the Alberni Valley Municipal Airport. Canada Border Service reported that there was still no sign of the five men who jumped ship from their freighter when it was docked in Port Alberni the previous week. In other news, the B.C. Coroners Service was probing the death of Robert Nixon, 42, who died after being caught in a fishing net set at Harbour Quay. ADSS teacher Kama Money departed for Rwanda, Africa, to do humanitarian work as part of the Smart Girl contest she found and won on Facebook.

On Aug. 12, the votes were in and counted and Yaeger Mah was named the winner of the live@YVR contest. Mah received 4,128 voted. His nearest rival received 1,916 votes. More than 7,000 people watched the 280 racers compete in Thunder in the Valley 2011. With less than one month to go Tour de rock rider Tom Gill participated in a dress rehearsal for the real thing. And federal fisheries minister Keith Ashfield announced that a floating wharf project in Port Alberni would be the recipient of a grant for an unspecified amount.

Some Port Alberni residents were flipping out and climbing the wall in Alberni in the Aug. 19 issue as they demonstrated Parkour, a fitness regime that combines running, tumbling, gymnastics and wall climbing. Local provincial prosecutor David Kidd was named the new deputy regional crown counsel with the criminal justice branch on Vancouver Island. Firefighters fought a stubborn brush fire in Shoemaker Bay that flared up several times. ADSS teacher Kama Money returned home from Rawnda and talked about her experience while there. Theresa Scales, manager of the local retail outlet The Source, beat 54 other store mangers across the country to be named to the chain’s Leader Club – a first for Port Alberni.  More than 15 women participated in a women’s hockey camp at the AV Multiplex that was put on by former Port Alberni hockey product Carly Haggard.

The News turned five years old on Aug. 26. The Canada Border Service reported that the five men who jumped ship in July were arrested in Montreal. The Canada Food Inspection Agency announced it was testing fish from B.C.’s West Cost for radiation resulting from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. The agency would not say though if Salmon from Barclay Sound were being tested. Federal NDP leader Jack Layton, 61, died of Cancer in his Toronto home. Layton developed a fondness for Tofino and visited when he could. KidSport and Alberni Valley Minor Hockey announced they were teaming up on an initiative designed to get more used hockey gear donated to them. Tseshaht tribe member Sam Barney talked about the possibility of bringing an MMA event to his reserve.


On Sept. 2, the Community Stakeholders Initiative to End Homelessness announced it was interested in securing the old post office building on Argyle Street. Teachers were starting school under phase one of their job action, which included withdrawl of administrative services, not attending staff meetings, and not performing supervision duties. And the West Coast General Hospital Foundation announced it raised $165,000 for new overhead patient lifts.

On Sept. 9, more than 100 provincial, federal and municipal dignitaries attended the opening of Pacific Coast University, which just finished construction the day before.  And Guy Desbiens’s reeled in a 35.9 pound Tyee and was announced as the winner of the Port Alberni Salmon Festival derby.

On Sept. 16, with the salmon festival over it was time for the fall fair, and up to 600 motorcycle enthusiasts were expected to participate in the weekend’s Port Alberni Toy Run. And oops, city hall accidentally charged residents $244,000 more in property taxes than they should have. The amount would be applied as a credit against next year’s property taxes.

On Sept. 23, the News took an in-depth look at the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who were now 10 years old. In police news, a 22-year-old man was killed after he plunged over a 200-foot embankment on his ATV. Alcohol was a factor, police said. Twenty students were enrolled and taking classes in the new paramedic program being taught at North Island College. And fish tested negative for radiation on the West Coast, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said.

The Tour de Rock started rolling on Sept. 30, and back in Alberni Tour de Rock junior rider Brett Wasykniuk, who is fighting cancer, awaited their arrival a week later. Yaeger Mah was having the time of his life as he reached the mid-point in his 80 day stay at YVR. And six patients were being tested for blood-born diseases after being operated on with unsterilized medial tools at West Coast General Hospital.



The News kicked off October by reporting on the efforts of volunteers who operate the breakfast program at Alberni Elementary School. Across town at, Kailee Carr returned to the West Coast from Boston, Ma. and was readying for the difficult job to come of being the new principal at  Haa huu Payak school. Legion Branch No. 55 on Fourth Avenue was sold to Little Bavaria owners Kathy and Joe Krznaric. And the 22-rider strong Tour de Rock arrived in Port Alberni.

On Oct. 14, long time Log Train Trail advocate Frank Stini announced that a debilitating back problem forced him to retire from repairing the trail. At city hall, officials said better luck next time to Weaver Park Playground advocate Brenda Patterson’s request to them for financial assistance with the project.  And the new age came the Paramount Theatre, which converted to showing movies on a digital projector. On Oct. 21, the News reported that Seaspan Marine Corp. won the $8 million federal contract to build non-combat ships, and that local firm Alberni Engineering was set to benefit with some of the spill-over work from the Nanaimo ship yard. The Capitol Theatre was finished its renovations and celebrated its grand re-opening in style. On the waterfront, Western Forest Products opened a new dryland sort on Harbour Road. And municipal candidates hit the trail as the city went into full election mode.

On Oct. 28, mayoral candidates Ken McRae, John Douglas, Stacey Gaiga, and Jen Fisher-Bradley revealed their election platforms to residents.  ADSS civics 11 students started their campaign to increase voter participation in the upcoming civic election. Next time….city council did an about face at their Oct. 24 meeting with a $22,000 loan to Brenda Patterson’s group, which was trying to recclamate Weaver Park.



On Nov.14, the local chapter of Meals on Wheels reported that to continue on with their program they were in desperate need of drivers. Independent power projects by the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations may be impacted by a provincial government decision that would determine whether or not power could be bought from them or more cheaply from the US and Alberta. Candidates in the upcoming municipal election were grilled  by students at a forum at ADSS. And the federal and provincial governments said that there would be no join panel review for the Raven Underground Coal Project.

It was Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, and the News told the story of how former German Luftwaffe member and now Port Alberni resident Herbert Albrecht quietly marked the day.  And mayoral candidate Stacey Gaiga announced she was pulling out of the election and throwing her support behind John Douglas.

The News launched its Pennies For Presents campaign on Nov. 18 with the proceeds going to the venerable Port Alberni Toy Run. Two cases of Hepatitis A were reported as having sprung up in the Alberni Valley. Residents were set to go to the polls on Nov. 19 as the municipal election was drawing to a close. Walmart was opening its new meat and produce sections on Friday.  On Nov. 29,  John Douglas talked about assuming the mayors seat from Ken McCrae after defeating him in the election 2,556 votes to 1,794. Joining him in office were incumbents Hira Chopra, Cindy Solda and Jack Mcleman, returnee Dan Washington, as well as newcomers Wendy Lee Kerr and Rob Cole. The Salvation Army launched its kettle campaign. And local resident Gillian Shearwater was seeking fellow Trekkies in an effort to get an Alberni Starfleet club off the ground. The story captured the attention of an Atlanta Georgia news personality, who featured it as part of a ToonNews cast on YoutTube.



The winter issue kicked off on Dec. 2 with a story about School District 70 holding back $30,000 in Professional Development money from the Alberni District Teachers Union. It was the last city council meeting for the old regime and former mayor Ken McCrae and councillor Kenn Whiteman were awarded with freedom of the city honours. The Island Coastal Economic Trust announced approved the Port Alberni Port Authority’s $3.5 million application to fund the revamping of Fishermen’s Harbour.

In the Dec. 9 issue, the Alberni Valley Rollergirls were set to duke it out at a roller derby event in Alberni on Dec. 10. At city hall, a crowd of more than 60 spilled out into the hallway to watch the new city council get sworn in. The Port Alberni Medial Clinic announced it would be closing its doors in early 2012. But officials with the Integrated Health Network clarified that they would remain housed in the building and continue to provide their services. The Huu-ay-aht First Nation made history by becoming the first recipient of a First Nations woodlands license. In sports, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs named Kevin Willison as their new head coach. The team fired former coach Paul Esdale after he couldn’t dislodge the team from the bottom of the bottom of the BCHL Coastal Conference.

On Dec. 16, the Valley was decked out in decorations as residents prepared for Christmas.  Bob Dailey Stadium needed a $700,000 facelift, Parks and Rec director Scott Kenny said. Local resident Melissa Netzer made a pitch to city council for longer staffing of the CT scanner at West Coast General Hospital after her mother died of an aneurism earlier in the year. Plans for a new pool look appear headed for the shelf because of the $17 million price tag, lack of city funds, and few grants available for the work. The boilers at the RCMP building were going to have to be replaced at a cost of $90,000.

Christmas was almost upon the Valley on Dec. 23. The News wrote about Christmas past in the Valley with information from the Alberni Valley Museum.  But we also wrote about Christmas present with a look at how one local small retailer was doing this season. Police identified the man found dead in Fishermen’s Harbour as jack Wayne Woods, 56. Local youth Brendan Hamilton is headed to Uganda in February to do humanitarian work in Uganda. Port Alberni set a record when the local Salvation Army raised more than $18,000, a record of anywhere in Canada on the Saturday they raised. And the News announced that its Pennies for Presents campaign raised more than $1,200.