Port Alberni has been a busy place over the past year, with accomplishments both top-notch and dubious hitting the headlines over the past 12 months.
Our most popular story was a nightmare for one family, but a hero’s story for a chocolate lab named Berkeley. Sam Patterson was driving along Highway 4 to join her family in Tofino when her car hydroplaned off the road around Cameron Lake and went into the water.
An anonymous man stopped at the accident scene and helped rescue Sam’s dog, trapped in the back of her sinking car. Once he ensured the dog was safe and in the care of another volunteer who also stopped, the man quietly changed into a dry shirt and continued on his way to Port Alberni to visit a friend. An outpouring of gratitude urged Tim Bell to finally come forward and identify himself to the Pattersons.
From a management review shaking up city hall in January to Thunder on Stamp Avenue drag racing event shaking the windows in August, the roar of the Martin Mars water bomber’s four engines overhead to the uproar over Cantimber Biotech’s emissions, McLean Mill’s management woes to a provincial emergency response exercise, bridge work, runway work, a new nickname for “Pot Alberni” and more, the Alberni Valley News has covered it.
Many organizations celebrated milestones in 2016, including the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s 50th anniversary and Royal Canadian Legion Br. 293’s 90th anniversary. The City of Port Alberni and Abashiri, Japan, celebrated 30 years of twinning in July.
The Alberni Aquarium opened its doors at Harbour Quay, West Coast General Hospital announced it will expand its emergency department, and Pacific Coast University of Workplace Health Sciences announced it too will expand in the new year.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced it will spend a few million dollars over the next few years to improve Highway 4 rather than build a second highway into Port Alberni, and the city’s $50,000 expenditure on bike lanes caused some road rage of its own.
The Alberni Valley welcomed its first Syrian refugee family in May, a couple and their three young children, and paperwork for another family to relocate to Port Alberni is in the works.
The scary spectre of the deadly drug fentanyl hit the Alberni Valley in a real way, and first responders have been kitted with naloxone to counter the effects of drug overdoses.
While many stories were grounded, there were those that took to the air, including many surrounding the Martin Mars water bomber: from the Hawaii Mars’ absence fighting the Fort McMurray forest fires to its presence at the Oshkosh airshow in Wisconsin. Pacific Seaplanes announced its intention last January to fly regular flights to Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, and in December the federal government announced that Airbus’ C295W aircraft have been chosen as the Canadian Air Force’s new search and rescue aircraft—something Port Alberni’s mayor believes will benefit the Alberni Valley Regional Airport.
The regional airport itself was closed to air traffic for much of 2016 as work was done to expand the runway in anticipation of larger aircraft landing in Port Alberni.
On the sporting front, a 53-pound salmon was the winner in the 45th annual Port Alberni Salmon Festival. A pair of Port Alberni dragon boaters, Maggie Slassor and Marilyn Oldfield, represented the city at the world championships in Australia.
Our team of editor Susan Quinn and reporters Karly Blats, Elena Rardon and Katya Slepian (who now works for Black Press’ provincial digital team at our head office in Surrey) brought the news that counts to you over the past year.
Among all the good, bad, sad, celebratory and downright odd news that occurred in the Alberni Valley in 2016, we have chosen a few stories that captured the attention around local water coolers.