Narrowing down the numerous stories within the Chemainus Valley that occur during a year to a top 10 is never an easy task.
The potential list in 2022 included a bunch of stories from North Cowichan such as the Municipal Forest Reserve review and the aproval of the Official Community Plan. There were also many development-oriented stories such as the debate over the Trans Canada Highway housing project and approval of a complex for Willow Street in downtown Chemainus.
With COVID restrictions being lifted, there were obviously considerable stories about the return to “normal” as well.
We decided to focus on maybe some less conventional stories that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks plus some of the rather obvious most significant occurrences of the year.
In Part One of our year in review, we present the stories that made the cut from No. 10 through 6.
10. New Crofton Fire Hall Approval
North Cowichan’s plans to replace the aging Crofton fire hall with a $4.8-million project succeeded through the Alternative Approval Process. Just six electoral response forms against the project were filed with the municipality.
With elector approval obtained, North Cowichan moved forward with the next step in the process, which was adoption of the loan authorization bylaw at the council meeting of Sept. 7.
The proposed fire hall building will be approximately 3,600 sq. ft. and include training and administration space, as well as dedicated storage space for equipment, gear and electronics.
Members of North Cowichan’s Crofton fire hall have been without adequate training space since 2019 when the second floor was closed due to load-bearing issues.
The existing fire hall in Crofton was constructed in 1964 and the new fire hall is expected to serve the community’s needs for 50 years.
9. Crofton-Vesuvius Two-Ferry System
Salt Spring Island resident David Courtney spearheaded a campaign that eventually secured more than 2,100 signatures on a petition, asking BC Ferries for a two-ferry service between Crofton and Vesuvius Bay on Salt Spring Island to alleviate overcrowding at terminals on both sides of Stuart Channel.
The plea was heard by BC Ferries and Crofton-Vesuvius is included in plans and proposals for the next four years along with a 12-year outlook highlighted by BC Ferries in a newsletter and sent to the BC Ferries Commissioner for approval.
“They’ve actually come through with the two-ferry service and they’re going to bring two brand new ferries,” said Courtney. “This is all going to happen by the fall of 2026 and that’s a reasonable time frame.”
The service upgrade will be complemented by two new ferry terminals at Vesuvius Bay and Crofton. A plan for Crofton has been in the works for years and stalled since COVID, but plans will literally ramp up again before too long.
“These are the first real tangible changes to Route 6 in 50 years,” enthused Courtney.
He was grateful to all the petitioners for taking the time to sign and have a large collective voice heard.
There will be many logistical things to work out between now and the 2026 implementation, but it’s a starting point. BC Ferries will have two of the smaller Island Class vessels yet to be built to work the route.
This will be identical to the two-ferry service commissioned on Route 19 from Nanaimo to Gabriola Island during April.
“That means ferry service every 35 minutes from Vesuvius Bay and Crofton during peak demand times throughout the day,” pointed out Courtney. “Finally we have recognized and addressed our service and traffic gridlock at both terminals.”
8. Maynard Johnny Jr. Coast Salish Raven
Seeing his design on the side of the BC Ferries vessel the Salish Heron for the first time put everything into perspective for Maynard Johnny Jr.
The Penelakut Tribe member and renowned Coast Salish artist was at BC Ferries’ fleet maintenance unit yard in Richmond with his daughter and grandson to view the artwork on the ferry. The enormity of it captivated him right away, considering his project started out as a six inch by two inch sketch.
“I was totally amazed how they could make it on such a large scale,” Johnny conceded. “To see my work that large was cool.”
The wings, tail and beak of Johnny’s Salish Heron design are essentially the size of a seven storey building laid on its side and replicated around the expansive hull of the ship. It left a massive impression with him and his family.
BC Ferries put out the call last summer for designs to grace the Salish Heron. Thirty-six artists made submissions, narrowed down to a short list of six before Johnny’s concept was selected in late September.
The new BC Ferries vessel was built in Poland and is part of a fleet that includes the Salish Orca, Salish Raven and Salish Eagle. The design for the Salish Eagle was done by another local artist, John Marston of the Stz’uminus First Nation.
The Salish Heron is operating between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay and within the Southern Gulf Islands.
“I’m proud of this accomplishment and hope it inspires awareness of the first peoples of this territory and also create the desire to learn about the history,” he indicated. “There’s a lot of misconceptions of the way things are for Indigenous people.
“Of course, I think about my grandkids and hopefully I’m around for my great grandkids. That’s the legacy I want to leave. In the last 10 years, my art allows me to get into places I wouldn’t be able to before.”
7. Ukrainian Family Comes To Chemainus
Canada is like a whole new world in so many ways to Ukrainian woman Oksana Pryshlyak and her two children Danyla Badun, 10, and Zlatasvita Badun, 3.
They’re a long way from home taking refuge in Chemainus to temporarily escape the ravages of war in their homeland and it’s been tough for Pryshlyak to leave her husband Roman Badun behind in the Lviv suburb of Vynnyky where they live. But she’s grateful to Catherine Murphy and Steve Chadwick for taking them in until they can return.
First impressions of Canada for Pryshlyak are “it’s a big country in terms of area and space,” she said through Chadwick’s interpretation.
It took a long time to get here after the family left Ukraine and was offered shelter by a private citizen in Poland until arrangements could be completed to bring them to Chemainus. Pryshlyak and her husband knew Murphy and Chadwick from previous connections in Ukraine and they were only too happy to return the favour.
Chadwick and Murphy are parishioners at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Nanaimo. Chadwick has Ukrainian heritage and knows enough of the language to carry on a conversation with Pryshlyak.
“When we have conversations about specifics about politics, it’s a bit more complicated to explain the subtleties that go with it,” he said. “I’m learning all the time, too.”
The kids are adjusting as well as could be expected.
“He’s the science and math guy and she’s going to be the comedian, you can tell,” laughed Murphy.
They both enjoy jumping on the trampoline at the Murphy and Chadwick home.
“His favourite place to go is the beach,” said Chadwick in relaying Danyla’s response.
“She loves to go the playground,” he added of Zlatasvita’s comment.
Murphy said the mom Pryshlyak is a good cook and “she’s artistic with her presentation.”
“She feels just like she’s at home,” Chadwick said Pryshlyak told him. “She feels very well-received by us.”
6. Chemainus Theatre returns
It was better late than never for the Chemainus Theatre to release a show schedule for 2022.
Under pre-COVID conditions this would normally have been done the previous fall. But with so much uncertainty about whether there was even going to be a season again, sending any performances to the stage was a godsend for the theatre.
“We’ve been waiting so long, it’s hard to believe,” said Randy Huber, the theatre’s managing director.
It was 25 months, in fact, since the Marvelous Wonderettes got pulled off the stage on March 13, 2020 before the end of its run at the outset of COVID. The theatre filled some of the gap with a Playbill Presents series in the dining room as restrictions allowed and forays onto the stage with Holiday Jubilation and Michael Clarke’s The Journey, but it was a long haul.
The official season-opener was The 39 Steps followed by Classic Country Roads, Glory, Dead Ringer and A Tiny Christmas Carol. The productions of 39 Steps and Glory were both on the calendar for 2020 before the season was shut down.
Both Huber and artistic director Mark DuMez acknowledged the donor and community support, with such things as the Return To Stage campaign, has been great while waiting in anticipation for the restart. The $85,000 matching campaign was eclipsed.
“It’s producing the seed money for us to gear back up and produce again,” Huber indicated.
Next Week: Part 2, Top Stories of the Year in the Chemainus Valley from No. 5 to No. 1.