Clearwater Times Year in Review: Part one

  • Jan. 9, 2020 2:30 p.m.
Alexandria Campbell of My Black Treasure displays some of her products, called Chibals, which have been gaining popularity across Canada and abroad. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
Members of Wells Gray Community Forest Society stand with those of the Evergreen Acres Seniors Housing Society during a cheque presentation for the Evergreen Acres expansion project in February 2019. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
Rapper and motivational speaker, Duane (D.O.) Gibson, would be stopping at Raft River and Barriere Elementary schools where he’d be holding assemblies, combining motivational speaking and live performances to engage students with his message of positivity. Photo submitted
Narinder Heer, president of the Guru Tegh Sikh Temple, stands in front of the temple that was sold in the spring of 2019, the proceeds of which were donated to more than 20 charities in the Clearwater area. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
Cricket wranglers Greg Dudley, Joey Bedard and Bill Parman of Clearwater Cricket Farms Inc. started the company last year with a goal of raising crickets for human consumption. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
The fundraising group 100 People Who Care donated $1,350 to the Clearwater and District Food Bank, which was raised in less than an hour at its first meeting. (L-r) Margot Venema, vice president on board of directors for the food bank, Pearl McAloney, secretary for the food bank, Shelley Sim and Lynn Frizzle, organizers of 100 People Who Care. Photo by Jaime Polmateer


One Clearwater entrepreneur’s business had been starting to take off over the past year, with her product’s reach going national.

Alexandria Campbell, whose brand My Black Treasure offers various clothing items and a unique stuffed animal line called Chibals, was seeing success across the country, picking up in provinces as far away as Quebec.

Though the clothing appears to be doing quite well, it’s the Chibals that are gaining interest, prompting her to expand the mediums and forms the stuffed animals and their world.

“They’ve taken a turn on their own; basically they’re now in schools from B.C. and as far as Quebec,” said Lee Campbell, Alexandria’s father.

“In B.C. they’re being used in a reading incentive program and in Quebec they’re being used as incentives for children in a behavioral program—so that’s where they’ve gone so far.”

Clearwater and District Hospice Society’s seventh annul Lights to Remember campaign saw a record breaking year in terms of funds raised, which would cover training for its members in 2019.

Eva Gebert, treasurer for the organization, said sales of cards were up by 50 compared to the year previous, bringing in a total of $1,950 for the group.

“I’d just like to thank all the people who participated and let them know their money will be going to a good cause,” she said.


Wells Gray Community Forest Society (WGCFS) made a donation to the Evergreen Acres expansion project that when complete will see the facility able to house a minimum of 24 more seniors.

The planned addition will have 16 one bedroom units and four two-bedroom units, all of which will be single story structures with ground floor entry.

“This is a group that’s done tremendous work throughout our valley in enhancing the social, cultural and economic aspects of our area,” said Ken Kjenstad, former Clearwater councillor, who attended the presentation where $1,050,000 was donated.

Kjenstad said the amount was originally for $300,000, but after the discovery of a finacial gap, another $750,000 was kicked in, bringing funding up to par for the project.

Other funding sources for the project include roughly $80,000 from the District of Clearwater (DOC) of in-kind donations for development fees and a $2 million grant from the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which was received last November.

One person had died in an avalanche in eastern British Columbia.

North District RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed the victim died when a slide came down on a group of snowmobilers south of Valemount in the Blue River area.

The Clearwater branch of the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library had a new branch head, to be responsible for making sure operations run smoothly and the needs of patrons are met.

Kaylea Prime, who took over the position following the retirement of long time branch head Darlene Cowie, said the job combines a few of her favourite passions and she’s excited to take the reigns.

“I’ve always liked working in customer service and I love helping people in the public, so my love of literature and books combined with wanting to help people was a perfect fit for libraries,” said Prime, who also has an undergraduate degree in English Literature.

The Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC) was accepting applications for the Deertrails Naturalist Program, which offered aspiring naturalists a chance to learn a variety of skills from experts in various fields of study.

“(Participants) will be hiking throughout TLC’s Clearwater Wetland and Wildlife Corridor in Upper Clearwater Valley into the forest and through Wells Gray Park itself,” said Dianna Stenberg, deputy executive director of TLC.

“The concept is, we’ll follow the natural paths of deer as they go through the property, which isn’t necessarily how mankind would travel, but looking through their eyes we’d see how they get through paths as well as because they’re the prey for other species, we’d also see the evidence of other species along this path.”

The program took place from May 7 to 13 and those who signed up learned from experienced naturalists and teachers Lyn Bladwin, Briony Penn, Trevor Goward with additional instruction from ornithologist Nancy Flood, mycologist Andy MacKinnon and volcanologist Cathie Hickson.


The Turcotte Compound Snowarama Drag Race and Freestyle was going into its second year and organizers had stretched the event across two days to offer twice the action from its inaugural run.

“Last year we only did a one day event and we just found we had so many people come and support us, we needed to do a two day event this year because we barely had enough time to get through the racers for the day; last year we had 120 entries and this year we have 130,” said organizer Niki Turcotte.

“We’re doing double the racing and double the freestyle shows.”

A man Clearwater RCMP had been chasing was arrested and released on conditions, after a months long investigation.

Police executed a warrant on Azure Drive where they arrested the suspect before laying a list of charges including traffic violations, flight from police and escaping lawful custody. The man, who is in his mid 30s, was released on bail Feb. 28.

On Aug. 7, 2018, RCMP caught the suspect driving a grey Mazda without a driver’s licence near Little Fort. After handing over registration and insurance papers for the car, officers also noticed a discrepancy between vehicle identification numbers on the documents.

The man managed to escape during a pat down, ran away on foot and jumped into the North Thompson River.

Rapper and motivational speaker, Duane (D.O.) Gibson, was heading on a B.C. school tour, where he held one-hour assemblies combining motivational speaking and live performances to engage students with his message of positivity.

Gibson’s tour stopped at Raft River Elementary School on April 2 and Barriere Elementary School on April 4.

“My name D.O. stands for defy the odds and so I talk about overcoming challenges and adversity,” said Gibson, who’s been doing these school tours for almost 20 years.

“What I want kids to know is they can overcome challenges and adversity and achieve their dreams if they have persistence.”

After a few years of uncertainty the Brookfield Centre had been sold to a new owner, who was looking for tenants to set up shop in some of the building’s vacant units.

The shopping centre, located at 74 Young Rd., was bought by C.W. Chang of Kelowna for roughly half a million dollars.

“It’s great (to see), obviously that end of town needs some revitalization—a lot of people live down that way, so to have a bit more retail variety at that end of town is an obvious choice,” said District of Clearwater (DOC) mayor, Merlin Blackwell, adding market surveys had been done indicating Clearwater was under-served by about 40 per cent for retail.


Clearwater held its awards evening at the Clearwater Legion, where Citizen of the Year was awarded to Chance Breckenridge, who was nominated for the outstanding representation he gives to the District of Clearwater, his enthusiasm promoting Wells Gray Park as well as his firefighter volunteer work.

“He supports a multitude of community clubs, and you are sure to find him at many of their events,” read his nomination.

“I cannot think of anyone else single-handedly doing as much for tourism as he is.”

Winner of the Youth award was Ashley Foster, who was praised for her hard work at Buy-Low Foods and her volunteer work with the Blackpool Fire Department.

Emphasis was also placed on her work as a talented musician.

“I feel she is a youth for other youth to aspire too, from her dedication and talent with music to her volunteer work with the seniors,” her nomination said.

The Clearwater Sikh community made a charitable gesture that grabbed national headlines from its degree of sheer generosity.

After having to close the doors on its Guru Tegh Sikh Temple due to declining membership, the group put up a For Sale sign, then spread the resulting funds across various charities in the area.

“We felt it was important to give back to the community we have lived in because we’ve been here for so long. The decision to give back the proceeds from the property sale was easy; we have divided out $164,000 for the organizations of choice in the North Thompson and $20,000 for two Sikh temples in Kamloops,” said Narinder Heer, president of the Guru Tegh Sikh Temple.

The District of Clearwater (DOC) had been preparing for any flare-ups that may happen in the drier months ahead.

One of the highlights for last year’s wildfire preparation included success with a grant funding request, netting $35,000 toward the district’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

“We applied for the grant through the Community Resiliency Investment Fund. We wanted to apply for grants to work on some fuel mitigation around the community because we did extensive work in 2009 to 2011 when we mitigated more than 327 hectares of land,” said Leslie Groulx, chief administrative officer for the DOC.

“We’d like to get out there to maintain some of it, but the ministry asked if we’d update our Wildfire Protection Plan first because it’s from 2012 and we have seven years that saw some changes.”


Former manager of Blackwell Park Operations Ltd., Merlin Blackwell, sold the park maintenance company after almost four decades of taking care of the various wilderness areas around Clearwater.

The business was sold to Brian Williams from Kamloops, who also has no shortage of experience looking after parks in British Columbia.

According to Blackwell, Williams now takes care of seven areas similar to Wells Gray Park, which was under Blackwell Park Operations’ jurisdiction, and runs other parks in areas from Lytton to Quesnel.

“He started out just like me, a mom and pop company, 25 or 30 years ago and he decided to expand,” said Blackwell.

“It’s just the missing piece, now he runs all the parks in the Thompson region and all the parks in the Cariboo region—when the opportunity came up he figured he should take that before somebody else does.”

The Central North Thompson Rod and Gun Club (CNTRGC) held its Archery 3D Shoot, which brought out a record number of archers of all ages to the range to enjoy some target practice.

“We had almost double the number of people from what we had last year with 29 registered shooters this year, which is pretty good,” said Cliff Olson, director for the archery section of CNTRGC.

“Last year I think we might have had 18—everyone comes out and enjoys it, it’s a good family sport.”

The family-friendly element was in full display at the 3D Shoot as a good number of youths were taking aim at the various targets on the property, and hitting them with just as much skill and excitement as many of the adults who were on hand.

Residents were able to voice concerns and receive answers to questions they had regarding two draft caribou recovery agreements when government officials stopped in Clearwater for an engagement session.

The session covered the Draft Section 11 Agreement, between the federal and provincial governments, and the Draft Partnership Agreement, between the federal and provincial governments as well as the West Moberly and Saulteay First Nations, both of which were developed under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA).

“We’ve heard through a number of the sessions, a strongly expressed idea that the province and Canada should be working very closely on species-at-risk recovery and wildlife conservation more generally, and I think what you’ll see over the course of the evening is that is indeed what’s happening with this project and this challenge in front of us,” said Blair Hammond, director with the Canadian Wildlife Service, part of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

A live mock carbon monoxide leak emergency exercise would be taking place on May 28, where emergency service agencies from around the Clearwater area would test the community’s ability to respond to a major disaster.

The event, scheduled at Clearwater Secondary School (CSS), would have students and staff volunteer to play victims overcome by a carbon monoxide leak in the school.

“The live mock is where all the agencies get practical hands-on experience and test the community emergency plans, as many things have changed over the years, and we pick a situation that would involve all the agencies,” said Mike Savage, deputy chief and exercise coordinator with the Blackpool Fire Department.

“We selected CSS with a mock carbon monoxide leak and structured it as to how it would come into the fire department as an alarm, how we’ll respond, what we’ll get for information, and then how the crews will respond once they get on scene, do their assessments, start to stabilize it, and then find out they have 40 people who are overcome (by carbon monoxide) and 17 who are unaccounted for.”

Blue River’s Mike Wiegele was among the names on Thompson Rivers University’s (TRU) honorary doctorate list.

Wiegele was receiving the designation of Doctor Of Laws and would be addressing the joint convocation of the Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts and Tourism, and the Faculty of Law on June 7.

“It’s an honour to receive this recognition,” said Wiegele. “It motivates me to do more work for the industry.”

Wiegele is a ski coach, guide and entrepreneur who’s made notable contributions to furthering the backcountry skiing industry in Canada, like when he started the Canadian Ski Guide Association (CSGA) in 1989, which became the industry standard for training ski guides.

Clearwater had a new business starting up.

Clearwater Cricket Farms Inc., which started up in April, had its owners’ raising crickets for human consumption, and the group was trying to bring the ingredient from the fringes of the food industry to an alternative—and appealing—source of protein.

“People have been eating bugs forever, but it’s been a recent trend and it’s crossing into North America as a sustainable replacement to typical livestock farming,” said cricket wrangler, Joey Bedard, who started the company with his business partners Greg Dudley and Bill Parman.

“Instead of raising chicken, beef and pigs, people are entertaining raising crickets because the protein efficiency is way higher and you get a far more nutrient dense product at the end, for a lot fewer resources, a lot less input, and a lot less agricultural land.”

It should be noted that the crickets aren’t eaten whole, but turned into powder and can be used as a baking ingredient like flour, or added to things like protein shakes.


Employees at Canfor’s Vavenby mill received a letter announcing the closure of the facility along with the termination of 172 jobs.

“To all USW 1-417 employees of Vavenby, unfortunately we’ve been facing significant log supply constraints in the Vavenby region for some time now and we’ve ultimately determined that we do not have sufficient fibre supply to support the ongoing operation of this mill,” read the letter.

“The fibre supply shortage issue is further compounded by very high log costs. As a result, we’ve made the very difficult decision to permanently close the mill.”

Madeline De Vooght, who was a planer technician at the mill, said there was an atmosphere of shock when the announcement was delivered.

“Nobody was expecting it,” she said. “We kept thinking we could limp through this; nobody really expected a permanent shutdown. We’ve limped through before and we thought we could limp through again.”

Wells Gray Search and Rescue (WGSAR) held a grand opening and open house to show off its new facility.

“It’s great; it’s been many years in the planning, this building, and to finally have a building of this size and quality is just fantastic,” said Gy Ovenden, member of WGSAR.

“The old building was pretty small and pretty old; if we wanted to train we had to move all the furniture to have enough space, so this is fantastic because we have all the space we need.”

Other benefits to the new building include more storage space, which helps members keep equipment better sorted, as well as separate offices for management staff.

One of Clearwater’s newest charitable groups had success with its first initiative and organizers were confident it’s only going to get better going forward.

The group, 100 People Who Care, holds gatherings four times a year with each member donating $50 per meeting, which goes toward one of three charities or volunteer groups nominated and selected that evening.

“From the floor, there were nominations for three different groups in our community people thought would be worthy of some funding—they were the Wells Gray Seniors Society, Rotary Club, and the Clearwater and District Food Bank,” said Shelley Sim, co-organizer of the group.

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