This moment on June 20 at Eileen Madson Primary's Fun Day in Invermere was just one of countless photographs taken by Valley Echo throughout 2012 depicting life in the Columbia Valley.

This moment on June 20 at Eileen Madson Primary's Fun Day in Invermere was just one of countless photographs taken by Valley Echo throughout 2012 depicting life in the Columbia Valley.

2012 Year in Review

It was a year of protests, natural disasters and tragedy in the valley but also a time of charity, creativity and hope for a better future.


Whiteway plan in the works

With funding and planning underway for an expanded Whiteway on Lake Windermere during the winter months, news of Invermere’s plan to challenge Ottawa and Winnipeg for their Guinness World Records drew national attention as organizers fielded calls from across the country.

“Our goal was basically to draw attention to the valley,” said DOI councillor Justin Atterbury, also on the board of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the challenge.

DOI mayor Gerry Taft had sent letters to Winnipeg (which has the world’s longest maintained outdoor ice rink) and Ottawa (whose Rideau Canal boasts the largest outdoor ice rink) alerting them to Invermere’s plan.

“We sent letters to both Ottawa and Winnipeg, both their councils and the organizations that actually organize their ice rinks… sort of challenging them in good sport, saying we’re after them and after the record,” Taft said.

And the winners are…

The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce Invermere Business Committee wrapped up its inaugural Window Display Decorating Contest. The contest had 30 entries and brought much festive cheer to Invermere’s downtown core. River Gems gallery came out in first place with its quartz garden display; Mercer & Company nabbed second; while Black Star Studio picked up third place.

No ice is safe ice

A biker plunged through the ice of Lake Windermere in the early afternoon of  January 7 about 125 feet from shore and local emergency services issued a thin ice warning for the lake, while cautioning the public to practice extreme caution when out on the ice. “We want people to be aware of these unseasonable, dangerous conditions, as many people have no idea the ice is so thin in places,” said Windermere Fire Department deputy fire chief Drew Sinclair. “We cannot stress enough how dangerous it can be out there.”

District seeks public’s help

The District of Invermere began collecting names of property owners willing to have traps placed on their property to assist with the district’s upcoming deer cull that was scheduled to take place in February. Invermere’s deer cull was the third one to receive a permit from the B.C. government that winter — Cranbrook and Kimberley being the other two. “As best as possible we will try to match the problem areas with people who give permission to place the traps on their private property,” said DOI mayor Gerry Taft. “If people want to offer the use of their property, they can add their name to a list at the DOI (office).”

Slight decline in property values

More than 5,300 property owners in the Columbia Valley had their 2012 assessment notices hit their mailboxes and most valley communities saw a decline. Radium Hot Springs saw the most marked decline of the three incorporated communities, with overall residential values falling by 6.95 per cent and businesses/other values down by 8.62 per cent. In Invermere, the decline was 5.48 for residential properties and 1.71 per cent for businesses. In Canal Flats, residential values fell by 4.78 per cent, while business values crept up by 2.34 per cent.

“In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t say it’s an extreme decrease at all. When things are in that plus or minus five per cent range we generally refer to them as being pretty stable,” said Bradley Lane, an assessor for the Kootenay region. But not all property owners saw a reduction. Communities in Area F, for the most part, saw a small jump in property values.

Driving death in Radium

A 45-year-old Calgary woman died following a collision with an oncoming bus on January 15, just outside Radium Resort at the top of Mile Hill. According to Columbia Valley RCMP Staff Sergeant Marko Shehovac, the woman lost control of her vehicle and fishtailed into oncoming traffic and into the path of the oncoming bus. The woman was taken to hospital in Invermere, where she was pronounced dead. The driver of the otherwise empty bus was not injured. Roads were extremely slick at the time of the crash, following the heavy snowfall the night before. The accident scene closed the highway for several hours, with cars lined up for nearly a kilometre coming from Invermere.

Bonspiel a blast

Another year, another hugely successful Bonspiel on the Lake. Sixty four teams of 256 curlers from both Canada and the U.S. took part in the 29th annual event on Lake Windermere from January 20 to 22.

“The bonspiel was excellent,” Vic Briar of the Invermere Curling Centre said. “Everybody loved it and everyone had a great time.”


Deer controversy

Opposition to the District of Invermere (DOI)’s plan to cull 100 urban deer was steadily growing when clover traps and bolt guns provided by the B.C. provincial government were expected to arrive in Invermere after Kimberley’s own 100-deer cull wrapped up. Facebook groups such as ‘Stop the Slaughter of Invermere’s Urban Deer’ were attracting hundreds of members and over 30 people packed a DOI council meeting.

“Culling the town deer puts a bad taste in my mouth. Those who cannot coexist with wildlife should consider moving to a bigger city,” Marie Pike told council.

Josh Page, meanwhile, told council he had come forward to defend the cull after his own experiences with aggressive deer, including multiple attacks on his two large dogs and incidents where he and his girlfriend had to chase deer off with golf clubs and a lawn mower.

Discovered by Discovery Channel

Skiers, skaters and other Lake Windermere users were asked to hit the lake for a Discovery Channel TV shoot. Embedded with Mark Miller, which runs on Discovery Channel’s weekly science news show Daily Planet, was in Invermere to film the Lake Windermere Whiteway for a special “Gigantic Things” segment.

Embedded features Miller heading out into the field to learn about different jobs, from ghost hunting to tugboat driving. Miller, who said his producer on the West Coast had heard about the Whiteway through the media, spent his day on Lake Windermere with Whiteway maintenance crew Brad Kitching and Jason Bentley learning how to keep outdoor ice level, driving a snowplow and even laying cross country track, among other things.

“What else did I learn? I learned Mother Nature is probably the best ice maker,” said Miller.

Protest march

About 30 people with signs bearing slogans such as “Stop Invermere Deer Cull — Kill” rallied at Kinsmen Beach on the afternoon of February 2.

“We’re running out of time,” Vince Zurbriggen told The Echo a few hours before the protest was set to begin. The group of deer supporters came together after the public debate on the cull at the aforementioned district council meeting.

Pond hockey a hit

Twenty-seven teams participated in the first annual B.C. Eastern Regional Pond Hockey Championships. The three-day bonanza featured well over a hundred participants from across the region, prompting organizer John Reed of Adventure Architects to call it a “fantastic” event.

“Everyone is happy, and I’ve heard back from some teams that are committed for next year,” he said.

First female

For the first time in the club’s 93-year history, the Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club elected a woman as its president. Barbara König, a valley resident for the last 12 years, originally joined the club because many of the local hunters passed through her business — König Meat and Sausage Company,

“Proud of course, and a little overwhelmed right now,” she said about getting elected. “I have a great team behind me.”

Deer cull halted

Members of the Invermere Deer Protection Organization (IDPO) obtained a temporary injunction from the Supreme Court of British Columbia to halt the proposed cull of 100 Invermere urban deer until February 24, 2012. The injunction came as part of a civil suit against the district, in which the plaintiffs sought unspecified financial compensation for “nuisance and emotional pain,” according to District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft. The cull was originally set to begin in early February.

A shrinking valley

The Columbia Valley’s villages and towns were about the same size they were five years ago, according to 2011 census figures released by Statistics Canada. The District of Invermere’s population declined by 47 people, bringing it from 3,002 in 2006 to 2,955 in 2011. Radium Hot Springs grew by almost the same amount, going from 735 to 777, while the village of Canal Flats added just over a dozen to its numbers, growing to 715 from 700 in 2006. Fairmont Hot Springs also declined slightly with its population at 476, down from 501. The Windermere area (including homes between the Invermere crossroads and the Windermere Valley Golf Course) lost more than 200 people between census counts, falling from 1,259 to 1,019. Electoral Areas G and F lost more than 400 people between them. In Area G, which includes communities such as Wilmer, Edgewater and Brisco, the population shrank from 1,563 to 1,412. In Area F, it dropped down to 2,635 from 2,939 in 2006. The population of the Akisqnuk First Nation dropped slightly to 131 from 153 while the Shuswap First Nation posted the highest growth numbers seen in the valley, adding 124 people to its tally for a count of 293.

France beckons Bennett

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett headed to France to speak with potential investors about the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.

“The purpose of the trip is generally to get B.C. on the radar in France, to convince them that they should look at B.C. in the same favourable light as eastern Canada,” Bennett said via email from France. “Specifically, our intention is to encourage them to consider investing in new high mountain, glacier-based ski resorts in B.C.”

New brew

Arrowhead Brewery began drafting the recipe for its first offering with the help of a Calgary-based brewmaster, even though its new brewery located across from Kicking Horse Coffee on Arrow Road was still under construction.

“The checklist of what has to be done is getting smaller and smaller,” said Leanne Tegart, one of Arrowhead’s four business partners.

Cowboy status for Thomsen

World Cup downhill skier and Invermere native Ben Thomsen set a new career best by placing second in a World Cup event in Sochi, Russia. His achievement gave the 24-year-old his first career World Cup podium and entry into the exclusive Canadian Cowboys — a title given to Canadian skiers who place in the top three in either World Cup, world championship or Olympic races.7

French interest in Jumbo

Following a trip to France by an East Kootenay delegation that included Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, Radium mayor Dee Conklin, Glacier Resorts Ltd. vice president Grant Costello and Panorama Mountain Village CEO Rick Jensen, a reciprocal visit to B.C. was already in the works. The delegation toured French ski resorts with glacier skiing, and met with France Neige International, an association representing dozens of ski resorts in the French Alps, as well as Compagnie des Alpes, the ski industry operating company that invited the delegation out of interest in the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.

Deer cull protests continue

A second deer cull protest took place in downtown Invermere, this time attracting roughly 20 protesters who waved signs and handed out pamphlets to passers-by.

“It’s a bit of an information session,” said Invermere Deer Protection Society president Devin Kazakoff. “We want to show that we’re… advocating for a humane and proper solution (to the deer issue).”

DTSS teams podium at Pano

The 2012 East Kootenay High School Ski and Snowboard Championships hit Panorama’s slopes and out of the 38 participants, David Thompson Secondary School students came away with outstanding results. DTSS claimed second place in both girls’ and boys’ ski, while the boys’ snowboard team finished first. All three qualified for the ensuing B.C. provincial championships in Whistler.

“It’s amazing — I wasn’t expecting to do this well,” said coach Becca Wright.

In Whistler, the girls’ ski team finished third overall while the boys’ ski and snowboard teams finished 15th and 12th respectively. The combined results from the two ski teams meant that DTSS placed third overall in skiing.

“It never ceases to amaze me how awesome these kids are,” said coach Becca Wright.

Flash mob

For the last Columbia Valley Rockies home game of the season, a fan-organized flash mob stormed Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena in Invermere, creating an electrifying atmosphere that helped the Rockies play what was arguably one of their best games all season, despite losing 4-2 to the Fernie Ghostriders.

Deer cull moves ahead

The Supreme Court of British Columbia denied a request by the Invermere Deer Protection Organization (IDPO) to extend the injunction that halted the proposed cull of 100 deer within the District of Invermere.

“We’re happy that a further injunction has not been granted,” said DOI mayor Gerry Taft. “ We’re hoping to start (the cull) as soon as possible… there will be traps set tonight.”

Para-Alpine intro

Students in Invermere schools received an introduction to the world of disabled skiing when most of the Canadian Para-Alpine ski team visited JA Laird Elementary and David Thompson Secondary schools just weeks before the International Paralympic Committee’s World Cup alpine skiing finals at Panorama.

“Any opportunity to come into the schools and talk to them a little about some of the challenges we face and how we’ve overcome them,” said Kimberley’s Josh Dueck, a sit skier who broke his back when he overshot a jump while coaching freestyle skiing.


Tampering charges

As Invermere’s deer cull plowed forward, there were a number of cases of traps being tampered with or individuals letting deer out of the traps, with charges being laid in a few cases. The district had until March 15 to kill 100 deer according to its permit but because of delays, DOI chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said it was unlikely the number would be met. Traps had been placed almost exclusively on private property yet there were complaints from the community that the traps were still too visible or that owners of neighbouring properties were not being duly notified.

Valley teachers join strike

Members of the Windermere Valley Teachers’ Association joined a three-day provincial strike beginning March 25 and on their last day of classes before the strike, 40 DTSS staged their own walkout in support of their teachers.

“I look up to my teachers, they’ve taught me everything I know, and they do not deserve to be bullied like this. We want to show the government that it’s not just the teachers who care, we want to show this affects everyone,” said DTSS student and student walkout organizer Alisha Trozzo.

B.C. teachers had been without a contract since June 2011 and on a work-to-rule mandate since September 2011.

Windermere water upgrade eyed

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) decided to take another stab at bringing potable drinking water to Windermere after its last plan was voted down by area voters.

“The ultimate goal is to get proper, compliant drinking water to the community of Windermere,” said Area F director Wendy Booth. “It’s a blank page and we need to decide as a community what we’re going to write on it.”

Hockey championships

Both the Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association boys’ bantam team and the Windermere Valley Rockies female midget team made it to their respective provincial championships. The boys bantam team placed first in their division.

“For the size of Invermere, we do really well for ourselves,” said bantam boys head coach Brian Hoobanoff.

The female midget team also placed first, despite playing the entire season with only 12 skaters. “It’s pretty cool and the girls are pretty pumped,” said manager Louise Helmer.

The boys proceeded to place  second overall while the girls tied for fourth.

Deer cull falls short

The District of Invermere killed only roughly one quarter of the deer it originally aimed to cull and DOI mayor Gerry Taft said the district would not apply for a five-day extension for its provincial permit.

“We’re pretty tired. It’s been a really difficult process. It’s been a hard couple of months,” Taft said. The district’s permit allowed for 100 deer to be killed and only 19 were put down, compared to 25 in Cranbrook and 100 in Kimberley. By that point, over $25,000 had been spent by the district on legal fees associated to the Invermere Deer Protection Organization’s lawsuit against the DOI.

A prettier Pothole

Almost $800,000 was allocated to revamp the portion of 7th Avenue near Pothole Park by the May long weekend with better pedestrian crossings, a roadway expansion allowing for a future bike lane, and more plants and street lighting.

First place for Grasic

Invermere native Martin Grasic was crowned the Canadian J1 Giant Slalom Champion in Whistler at the FIS J1 National Championships with a final time of nearly a second and a half ahead of his nearest competitor. Grasic then followed up with another first place finish in an FIS race in Sunday River, New England.

Fairmont resort goes green

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort achieved carbon neutral status for 2011, purchasing sufficient offsets to balance out all the resort’s operational emissions after joining the EcoStay program, a carbon neutral program for Canadian hotels.

“Becoming certified as officially carbon neutral during our first year in the national EcoStay program is a great accomplishment,” said COO Dean Prentice.

Province approves Jumbo

The Province of British Columbia announced its approval of a Master Development Agreement for the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort project. Minister of Forests, Lands and National Resource Operations Steve Thomson and Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett made the announcement in Victoria, which drew criticism from Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald who has opposed the project. “It’s incredibly disrespectful to go pretty much as far from Invermere as you can to make this announcement,” said Macdonald.

But Bennett said making the announcement in “neutral” territory was part of the government’s plan.

Had the announcement been made in Invermere, “it would have perpetuated the sort of dynamic that has existed in our communities and we’ve had enough of that,” he said.

Several local groups pledged to continue to fight the resort, including the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society, Wildsight and the Ktunaxa Nation, while the Shuswap Band said it was pleased with the decision.

Cash for Canal Flats arena

The Village of Canal Flats received an $800,000 Community Recreation Program grant from the B.C. government for much-needed upgrades to its arena.


Airport runway off limits

In an ongoing land dispute, siblings Louise and Mildred Stevens sent notices to the Invermere Airport, the RCMP and the Shuswap Indian Band that the northern part of the airport’s runway was no longer available for use by aircraft. This came after talks with the Shuswap Indian Band broke down. The Stevens own a Certificate of Possession for the land and were never compensated for its use. According to the Stevens, the airport runway would remain unobstructed but anyone using its northern end would be prosecuted for trespassing.

Cougar warning

Cougars were spotted twice along Highway 93/95, prompting Parks Canada officials to issue a cougar warning for three Radium-area trails. In both cases, a cougar was spotted attacking sheep in the Sinclair Canyon area of Kootenay National Park.

“This is really common and normal behaviour for a cougar,” said conservation officer Brianna Burley. “This one just becomes unusual in the sense that people have seen the cougar activity because it’s so close to the parking lot and trails.”

Avalanche surprises skiers

An avalanche near Panorama left one woman with non-life threatening injuries and an entire community shaken up. According to the RCMP, two adult skiers were skiing in an out-of-bounds zone called Jessie’s Monster near Taynton Bowl when the female skier triggered the avalanche when she followed the male skier down the slope. The male skier was able to ski out of the slide’s path while the female skier was caught in the avalanche. Roughly 60 people and four search dogs combed the area for four hours without any sign of additional skiers and no one was reported missing.

Jumbo Wild greets French visitors

French ski industry experts were greeted by more than 80 Jumbo Wild supporters when they toured the site of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.

“There were signs and banners and there was some chanting and it was all very peaceful and respectful,” said Robyn Duncan of Wildsight. “They accepted the information and asked questions and were somewhat surprised to hear the level of opposition.”

Jarock death shocks community

Thirty-year-old Cory Jarock was discovered dead in the driveway of a private residence in Invermere. Although the cause of death was not yet determined, RCMP revealed they were treating the death as suspicious and one potential suspect had been interviewed. Jarock had been evicted from a party the previous evening and his body was discovered by the residents of the neighbouring property the following morning.

Jumbo Wild marches in protest

Almost 200 anti-Jumbo protesters took to the streets of Invermere  with signs and banners to oppose the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort. A long line of speakers took part in the rally including Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, Jumbo Creek Conservation Society member Bob Campsall and Akisqnuk First Nation councillor Samantha Sam on behalf of the Ktunaxa Nation.

CBC personality visits valley

Best selling author and CBC radio personality Grant Lawrence visited Invermere to present a reading and slideshow of his best-selling book Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound. The event was part of a regional tour from Penticton to Kamloops.

Care for Kinsmen Beach

A much-needed restoration project for Kinsmen Beach was announced by the DOI and the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. The shoreline had been gradually eroding due to a combination of human traffic and natural causes.

“We want this to be a model project for the community because it is such a well-visited beach,” said LWA program co-ordinator Kirsten Harma.


Radium sawmill set to reopen

Forestry giant Canfor confirmed that a total of $38.5 million was to be invested in the Radium sawmill beginning May 2012 and that the sawmill would reopen later in the year. A further $1.5 million was allocated to the Canfor mill in Canal Flats.

“These investments are critical to support the restart of our Radium division,” said Canfor president Don Kayne in a release. “The fibre in the Kootenay region is among the best in the world.”

Theatre troupe revived at long last

Local theatre troupe The Lake Windermere Players put on their first performance in nearly 12 years with the production of The Good Doctor that took place at the Invermere Community Hall.

“I just thought that there had been such a dearth of any kind of live entertainment for so long that it would be nice to do something,” said producer Bruce Robinson.

Radium hot pools to go private

Parks Canada announced it would be privatizing all business operations at all three Canadian Rockies  Hot Springs, including the Radium Hot Springs pool in Kootenay National Park, which is the largest out of the three with 20 employees affected.

“These employees are obviously devastated,” said Kevin King, the regional vice president for the union representing Parks Canada workers. Parks Canada said it would be business as usual until the transfer, targeted for May 2013.

Valley transit gets green light

Despite recent news that the Golden transit service would be ending, the Columbia Valley directors voted to continue the Columbia Valley Transit service for another year and work with transit users and stakeholders on ways to improve it.

“The biggest challenge with CVT is that we want it to do everything for everyone with one bus for the whole valley,” said DOI mayor Gerry Taft who voted in favour along with councillors Spring Hawes and Paul Denchuk. “This is about governance.”

“We have to ensure the optimum outcome for businesses and residents of Invermere,” said Councillor Greg Anderson, who voted against with Councillor Justin Atterbury.

A new look for Crossroads

The  Rotary Club of Invermere completed its crossroads beautification project, transforming the turnoff to Invermere from an unsightly area of dirt patches and painted lines into a manicured roadside plant bed complete with curbs and sidewalks. The project was a collaboration between different local groups and businesses as well as the Ministry of Transporation.

Gas bar denied

DOI council was unanimous in its decision to veto the rezoning required for a proposed gas bar and commercial space development in a rural area on 13th Avenue.

“Ultimately it’s an arterial road and it’s going to get busier (but) the proposal is ahead of its time,” said Councillor Greg Anderson.

Support for seniors

A groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the start of construction on 34 new residential care beds at Columbia Garden Village in Invermere. The new beds are expected to be ready by spring 2013 and the addition is part of a broader plan by Interior Health to introduce 500 new beds across the southern interior and provide improved health services to seniors.

Waiting for  Westjet

At a Regional District of East Kootenay board meeting, Cranbrook was voted as the preferred location for Westjet’s new regional airline service over Fairmont Hot Springs Airport. The East Kootenay was just one of over 30 communities to express interest in receiving the new service, which is set to begin in late 2013. The first group of selected locations is expected to be announced in early 2013.

Pumped up

The Village of Radium Hot Springs officially opened its newest attraction over the May long weekend — the Radium Pump ‘n’ Jump Bike Park located below Rotary Park that came about as a result of a partnership between the Columbia Valley Cycling Society, Radium and the Rotary Club of Radium. The bike park’s pump track, on which bikers gain momentum for jumps and corners by pumping the terrain rather than pedalling, required over 60 dumptruck loads of dirt and the help of a two-man professional trail building crew.

Boost in business

After several years of poor weather and an even poorer economy, Columbia Valley businesses and visitor centre noticed a marked increase in their numbers over the May long weekend. Marketing director for High Properties Vacation rentals Bjorn Billehaug reported some of the company’s highest numbers since 2008, which Billehaug attributed mostly to the great weather.


Lawsuit a go

Members of the Invermere Deer Protection Society (IDPS) – formerly known as the Invermere Deer Protection Organization – won a major court battle against the DOI when a Supreme Court of British Columbia judge ruled in favour of the society after the DOI made an application to have the IDPS lawsuit against the district for permitting a deer cull dismissed and to recover legal costs.

“The judge found that the issues we’re dealing with have much broader implications in B.C. when it comes to animal control,” said IDPS lawyer Rebeka Breder.

Wilks in hot water

After admitting his concerns to constituents in Revelstoke, Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks proved to be the unwitting catalyst to a nationwide “Day of Action” in protest of the federal government’s budget bill. A video of the group discussion was posted online to YouTube and quickly made national headlines, leading Wilks to backtrack and issue a statement via his website the next day lending his full support for the bill.

Suzuki speaks

Award-winning scientist, broadcaster, environmentalist and author Dr. David Suzuki graced the stage of the Invermere Community Hall for a Wildsight-sponsored presentation that gave those who attended a very personal look at the living legend and his passion for the environment and saving the human species.

“I feel that these are truly remarkable times,”Suzuki told the assembled crowd of roughly 500. “We are at a moment when decisions that are made or ignored are going to determine, I believe, the fate of all humanity on earth.”

Future uncertain for Edgewater mill

The future of Edgewater’s Woodex-operated mill became uncertain due to a lack of fibre supply as a result of Canfor’s acquisition of Tembec Industries Ltd. Although the Ministry of Forests was encouraging WoodEx and Canfor to work together on a fibre supply agreement satisfactory to both parties, the mill had already been closed a month with jobs lost.

RDEK keeps status quo for Jumbo Glacier Resort

The RDEK board voted 8-7 to uphold its 2009 decision to leave the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort in the hands of the provincial government by way of a mountain resort municipality in the Jumbo Valley. The debate hinged on the concern that Jumbo land-use decisions would be too much work for the board versus the untested mountain resort municipality designation.

Lot 48 protected

The Nature Conservancy of Canada successfully raised the $7.2 million needed to secure Lot 48, an ecologically and culturally sensitive property on the east side of Columbia Lake, bringing to a close over seven years of uncertainty. The lot is surrounded by a provincial park and a wildlife management area and has long been viewed as the final piece of the puzzle to creating an uninterrupted conservation area in the area.

New employment centre

For unemployed Columbia Valley residents needing help finding work, the new WorkBC Employment Services Centre opened its doors at the same location as the old employment centre, but under the new management of the Family Resource Centre for a more holistic approach. “It connects the Family Resource Centre as a non-profit organization to the business community,” said director Pat Cope.

Flight cage opens

A new flight cage for rehabilitating larger injured birds was opened after hundreds of volunteer hours and donations from local groups including $30,000 from the Panorama Foundation and discounted building materials from Home Hardware helped realize the project. The new 100-foot long facility allows injured birds the freedom of independent, unassisted flight while recuperating from their injuries.

Heavy rainfall

Windermere Creek began running directly through Shadybrook Resort in Windermere after rising 10 inches in just 48 hours and spilling over both natural and man-made barriers due to a buildup of gravel and sediment. Other areas in the valley also suffered from the heavy rainfall including Kinsmen Beach where flooding from Lake Windermere nearly engulfed the entire parking lot; Castlerock Estates on Westside Road where the retaining wall collapsed; and Kootenay National Park where eight trail bridges were damaged or destroyed and forced the closure of a number of trails.


100 years for Edgewater

Edgewater celebrated its 100th anniversary with a wide range of activities including the inaugural Steamboat Mountain Music Festival, historical walks, a pancake breakfast, a parade and more.

“The celebration shows pride in our community, and really it’s a momentous occasion – the town is still standing after a hundred years,” said Elke Bennett, one of the event organizers.

Barn dance booty

The Invermere Family Resource Centre was the surprised recipient of a large sum of money raised by K2 Ranch owners Barb and Bob Shaunessy, who held a barn dance for Barb’s 60th birthday bash featuring the award-winning Canadian country band Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans. By collecting donations at the door, the Shaunessys raised $10,700 that went towards supporting the local women’s shelter.

Mudslide in Fairmont Hot Springs

A large scale mudslide blasted through the Village of Fairmont Hot Springs and across Highway 93/95, washing out the access bridge to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort RV campground and leaving over 600 people temporarily stranded while numerous others were evacuated from their homes. Other damage included a ruptured 1,500 litre propane tank and ruptured main water lines for the resort’s hot pools and golf course. Luckily no injuries were reported.

“All of a sudden … there was this huge mudslide coming down with trees coming with it, boulders,” said a shaken visitor, Ron Patry.

Locals to receive medal

Two members of the Columbia Valley RCMP detachment were selected to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Cpl. Grant Simpson and Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac were among 50,000 Canadians chosen to receive the medal, which was created in honour of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne as Queen of Canada.

Valley Appreciation Day feted

Valley Appreciation Day celebrated its 25th anniversary during the 2012 Summerlude festival. The highlight of the anniversary celebration, which also included a community breakfast, a logging show and soap box cart races, was the return of the Invermere town crier who regaled festival goers with his classical call outs.

Not again

Just days after a mudslide blasted through Fairmont Hot Springs, a second torrent of mud engulfed a Fairmont neighbourhood after a bank collapsed, further devastating its residents.

“We basically had a river running down the side of our house and across the street,” said Bill Brown, whose parents’ yard had disappeared under three feet of mud. “The devastation was just incredible.”

Hockey hero in the making

Hockey player and Invermere local Robert-Tye Rice left to begin filming a brand new television series called Hit the Ice after he was discovered at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Saskatoon where he had played for Team BC earlier in the year in April. The two-week series is to air on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in January 2013 and will feature 20 aboriginal hockey players from across Canada between the ages of 16 and 18.


Ktunaxa announce challenge

The Ktunaxa Nation announced its formal decision to challenge the B.C. government’s approval of the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort in the heart of one of its principal sacred sites with an application for judicial review. Called Qat’muk, the area is known in Ktunaxa culture as the home of the grizzly bear spirit and has tremendous cultural, spiritual and religious significance to the Ktunaxa Nation.

“This is one process available to us to continue to raise our concerns,” said Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese. “What we’re trying to do is influence anybody we can so that the project doesn’t go ahead.”

Arrest made

Following over three months of investigation, Columbia Valley RCMP assisted by the South East District Major Crimes Unit made an arrest in relation to the death of Invermere resident Cory Jarock, who was found unresponsive on the driveway of a private residence in Invermere in April. Twenty three-year-old former Radium Hot Springs resident Brian Panebianco was arrested on unrelated drug charges then was subsequently charged with several offences relating to the death of Jarock, including assault, robbery, and breach of recognizance.

NHL to the rescue

Former NHL goalie and Invermere native Wade Dubielewicz agreed to become the new goaltending coach for the Columbia Valley Rockies. Dubielewicz entered the NHL as an undrafted free agent with the New York Islanders in 2003 and went on to play for three NHL teams over his career, recording a .914 save percentage in over 2,000 minutes of NHL action.

“I recently retired and I took a little time away from hockey, so I’m starting to get the itch to get involved again,” Dubielewicz said.

Premier Clark in the Columbia Valley

An impassioned Premier Christy Clark spoke to a gathering of about 50 local women on a range of topics at a Women’s Town Hall meeting organized by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Committee. Clark introduced herself to as many women as possible before taking to the podium where she delivered a passionate presentation that covered everything from families to liquefied natural gas.

“Clark is a fantastic public speaker, she’s very good, she’s to the point, she knew all her stuff, and I could quite frankly see people changing their vote if they met her in person for the next election,” said Invermere resident Kim Harris.

In the running

College of the Rockies Invermere campus manager Doug Clovechok was nominated as the official BC Liberal candidate for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding in the upcoming May 2013 provincial election. Premier Christy Clark called Clovechok “the best possible candidate to win this riding for the BC Liberals.”

“This has historically been a Social Credit riding and was a BC Liberal riding and we should never have lost it,” Clovechok said.

Backcountry talks derail

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations pulled its staff out of grassroots talks around beginning a recreational access management plan for the Columbia Valley because the process – neither commenced or endorsed by the Ministry — didn’t appear to have the consent of all the community’s stakeholders, a Ministry spokesperson told The Echo. The two other East Kootenay recreation access management plans in Golden and Revelstoke had occurred five to eight years ago in a more favourable fiscal climate, the spokesperson said.

Smart meters arrive

BC Hydro’s new smart meters finally arrived in the Columbia Valley with the first one being installed at Casa Vino Wine Bar, the business owned by Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor Dee Conklin.

“(The meters) give customers a whole lot more information about what’s going on in their home and actually puts them in a position to make some small changes that can save a lot of electricity and of course money on their bill,” said Cindy Verschoor, the communications manager for the smart meter program.

No water upgrade for Dry Gulch

An upgrade to Dry Gulch’s water system proved too costly for property owners in the tiny community, forcing the almost $1.8 million in provincial government funding intended for the project to be reallocated. The system does not meet Interior Health standards and has remained on a boil water advisory.

“It just boils down to the fact that it’s too small a service area to be affordable,” said RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie.

Charges stepped up

The RCMP announced that further charges had been laid against Brian Panebianco in relation to the death of Cody Jarock of Invermere. In addition to the previous charges of robbery, assault and breach of recognizance, Panebianco was charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. Panebianco was well known to police before his arrest and wanted on other outstanding warrants.

Local women honoured

Two more Columbia Valley residents were recognized with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for their contributions to their communities – Phyllis Jackson of Radium and Anne Picton of Windermere. Both women have been involved in their respective communities for over 40 years and were well known for their volunteer efforts.

New golf tournament a success

The inaugural Kelly Hrudey and Friends Charity Golf Classic took place at Copper Point Golf Club where numerous celebrities took to the greens to help raise $80,000 for charities.

“I have to tell you, I was blown away by the event itself,” former NHL goaltender and CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Kelly Hrudey told The Echo. “I’ve talked to everyone here and they’ve given us nothing but positive feedback.”

Bittersweet victory

Two Invermere teams — the B.C. Arrows and the Invermere A’s, both from the Shuswap Band — won their respective divisions in the 2012 Canadian Native Fastball Championships in Cranbrook. It was a bittersweet achievement as the teams played in memory of Shuswap member and avid ball player Randy Martin who passed away unexpectedly in Las Vegas earlier in the year.

“It was a great achievement but very hollow not having Randy there,” said the teams’ manager Dean Martin, also Randy’s father.

Forest fire alerts

Crews were fighting two different forest fires in the region after a period of hot, dry summer weather. One in Kootenay National Park on Octopus Mountain attended to by 15 personnel had reached 676 hectares in size, and was growing by 50 hectares a day. The other at Brewer Creek 10 kilometres west of Fairmont Hot Springs resort, believed to have been started by a lightning strike, was being contained at 25 hectares by roughly 40 personnel.

Memorial tree salvaged after vandalism

After vandals severely damaged a memorial tree at Windermere Beach Regional Park, a local landscaper stepped up to help. The tree was planted in June in memory of Jay Carscadden who had passed away in January. Upon inspecting the tree, Rick Ferrier of Ferrier’s Landscaping said the tree had a good chance of surviving with the proper care and sealant.


Tourism down

An end-of-summer look at tourism numbers in the Columbia Valley revealed that in July and August, visitor numbers were lower than in previous years. Undoubtedly due to the mudslide that closed Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, according to local business owners whose businesses suffered. Ron Looye of Beachbound in Fairmont said that in the weeks leading up to the mudslide, his numbers were actually higher than the previous year, yet once the resort closed he lost 50 per cent of his business, and a month after the resort reopened his numbers still hadn’t fully recovered.

Funding for schools

The Rocky Mountain School District 6 (SD6) was slated to receive $396,603 of the new provincial Learning Improvement Fund for the 2012-2013 school year. The fund was part of the Education Improvement Act passed earlier in the year in March and aims to help school districts and teachers across the province to address classroom composition issues.

“A good percentage of the funds will be additional hours for special education assistants,” said SD6 superintendant Paul Carriere, adding that increases to teaching time and part time staff as well as the creation of some part time positions would also occur.

Bear cub found in dumpster

An approximately nine-month old black bear was discovered trapped in a bear-proof dumpster near the condos at Radium Resort by Bear Aware co-ordinator Crystal Leonard who rescued the cub by propping open the dumpster’s lid with a 2×4, which allowed it to scramble out and scamper off.

“The bins are really only as bear resistant as the people using them,” Leonard said.

Water protection

The DOI completed drinking water source assessment protection plans for both its drinking water sources and because the protective measures to the groundwater source located in Athalmer could affect nearby property owners and industrial uses, community members were asked to get educated at an open house.

“In order to effectively protect the water source in Athalmer, we need to ensure that property owners  are aware of the potential impacts of drilling wells and disposing of contaminating materials,” said DOI CAO Chris Prosser. The protection plan for the second source, the Paddy Ryan Reservoir which stores surface water from the Goldie watershed, did not require an open house because of its location.

Roller derby victory

The Invermere women’s Killer Rollbots roller derby team took the title of East Kootenay Roller Derby League champions after winning their final bout against Fernie’s Avalanche City Roller Girls 206-115.

“I’m really glad that all the hard work, all the practice time, all the strategy studying… it all paid off,” said Rollbots captain Jess de Groot.

Transfer station shuts down

After a mother bear and several of her cubs were discovered rummaging through bins overflowing with garbage at the Invermere transfer station, the DOI council voted to close the station immediately until October 31 due to bear activity and misuse.

Rockies win home opener

It took the Columbia Valley Rockies until December of last season to get their second win but after opening the 2012-2013 campaign with a win against Golden, the team proceeded to take a second win again against Golden the following night at their home opener, wowing their fans.

Service areas merge

The Columbia Valley directors voted to merge the Canal Flats Recreation Service Area with that of the Columbia Valley in order to maintain the two skating rinks in the valley using tax dollars from one regional service area instead of two. However, the new service area still doesn’t include residents north of Radium Hot Springs, a point the regional district is looking to change in 2013, said Area G director Gerry Wilkie.


New pub, old name

Business partners Jason Powers, Justin Atterbury and Josh Page re-opened the Station Neighbourhood Pub at the location of what was formerly known as Ray Ray’s near Kinsmen Beach on October 1 after giving it a clean, modern look.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Page.

Coaches resign

The Columbia Valley Rockies head coach and general manager Marc Ward and assistant coach Jan Kascak both suddenly resigned from their positions, stating in a letter that interference on the part of the executive as the main reason why. Director of hockey operations Ross Bidinger took over the roles of head coach and GM and said he was confident he would be able to put out a solid product on the ice with the help of the assistant coaching staff.

Securities breach

The principal in the Invermere Deer Protection Society (IDPS) lawsuit agains the District of Invermere, Shane Suman, and his wife, Monie Suman, were found guilty of insider trading to the tune of $1 million in illegal profits by the Ontario Securities Commission.

“Of course I’m concerned it might discredit this case,” said IDPS president Devin Kazakoff,”(but) to me it’s something completely separate from the deer.”

New partnership

The Valley Echo and the Columbia Valley Pioneer announced they were joining forces to create an innovative new partnership that will allow both of the valley’s newspapers to thrive and continue to serve their communities. Rose-Marie Regitnig took over as publisher for The Valley Echo in addition to her longterm position as publisher for the Pioneer.

“I want loyal Valley Echo readers to feel excited and know that this is a positive step,” Regitnig said.

Temperatures rising

According to a new climate change study by the Columbia Basin  Trust, the average annual temperature in the Columbia Basin is expected to rise about 2.3 degrees Celsius by 2050, which could result  in more frequent landslides, floods, droughts and wildfires, and an increase in diseases, pathogens, invasive species and pests. The study also found that Basin residents could expect higher summer temperatures, warmer winters, a decline in low-elevation snowpack and receding glaciers.

Calgary woman dies

In a devastating motor vehicle incident on Highway 93/95 near Canal Flats, a 37-year-old woman was killed by a rock that entered through the front windshield, striking her in the head. She was on vacation with her husband and two small children, and was sitting in the passenger seat.

Greenhouse fame

The Invermere Groundswell Community Greenhouse was named a finalist in the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia’s 2012 Land Awards for the first time. While it wasn’t declared a winner at the awards gala that took place in Vancouver, according to Groundswell board member Bill Swan, the greenhouse was a winner the moment it was nominated.

“We’re such a small place doing kind of global level things; it’s something to be proud of,” he said.

Poaching plagues Invermere

A series of illegal hunting incidents in and around the District of Invermere had local conservation officers asking for the public’s assistance. Within eight days, four incidents involving seriously injured or killed deer  were called in.

“It’s total disregard of the hunting regulations,” said Invermere conservation officer Greg Kruger.

Ktunaxa treaty inches ahead

A public information session on the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Treaty Council treaty negotiations took place in Invermere to present the most up-to-date information with respect to the land parcels invovled. The Ktunaxa Nation is one of nine First Nations in B.C. in the advanced stages of treaty negotiations with the governments of Canada and British Columbia.

“Canada and B.C. made an offer to us and we’ve conditionally accepted it, which means now they’re invovled in a consultation process with their constituents,” said Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese.

Underpass for KNP

Parks Canada confirmed it had secured funding to install a wildlife crossing and fencing within Kootenay National Park, and that the project would likely begin sometime in 2013.

“It will not address the problem in its entirety but it will help,” said project manager Trevor Kinley.

New healing centre in valley

The Three Voices of Healing Society, one of the most successful drug and alcohol treament facilities in the province, relocated to the Columbia Valley from Creston after purchasing a 53-bed facility on Capilo Way just off Highway 93/95. The waitlist for the program generally stretches from four to six months, and while First Nations clients are the priority, the society will accept non-First Nations people provided there is enough space.

Gross National Happiness

The Secretary of Information and Communications for the Himalayan country of Bhutan, Dasho Kinley Dorji, made a presentation at the Invermere Community Hall on his government’s concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) that has received international acclaim. Dorji next headed to Banff after the Wildsight-sponsored presentation where he headlined with David Suzuki at the Banff Mountain Film Festival to talk about how GNH can be applied to the world at large.

Maconald nominated

Current MLA and Golden resident Norm Macdonald was once again formally nominated as the NDP candidate for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding for the upcoming provincial election in May 2013. Macdonald was first elected MLA in 2005 and serves as the Opposition Critic for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Caucus Chair.


Sawmill reopens

The Radium sawmill officially reopened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne said the company’s Kootenay operations are “huge” to its overall success.

“We’re absolutely so keen to be back in production down in the valley here,” he said.

A $38.5 million investment in the mill announced earlier in the year saw a range of technical improvements to the mill including the installation off a biomass-fired thermal oil energy system and the construction of a new planer facility. Canfor estimated that 136 people would be employed by the mill by the end of 2012 with that number forecasted to increase to 144 in 2013.

New deer counts

The District of Invermere would hold three deer counts in November, and invited the Invermere Deer Protection Society (IDPS) to join in and witness the methodology used. The IDPS had previously claimed the district’s deer counts were being improperly done. While IDPS president Devin Kazakoff said his group would gladly accept the offer, he still argued the counts should be done every three months in order to get a more accurate representation of the population, not just in November as recommended by the B.C. government.

MRM for Jumbo

The B.C. government issued letters patent for a new mountain resort municipality in the Jumbo Valley by the name of Jumbo Glacier Resort, and appointed Greg Deck as the resort’s first mayor, and Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander as councillors.

“We’re hoping the opponents of the project will respect the law,” said Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development Bill Bennett (newly appointed in September), who made the public announcement. “The proponent (Glacier Resorts Ltd.) now has a right to build the project.”

Meanwhile, the Ktunaxa Nation announced that November 30th would be the filing date for their application for judicial review of the resort’s approval, to coincide with a protest rally in Cranbrook.

“The resort was approved despite the strong evidence of the critical impact it would have upon our spirituality,” said Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese.

More water issues

In the Village of Canal Flats, council struggled to find a solution that would pay for a required upgrade to a local water system that’s been on boil advisory notice since 2003, a situation no longer acceptable with Interior Health (IH), which has put a deadline on the project.

“(The Eagle’s Nest water system) is an illegal water system that needs to comply with the legislation,” asid IH health protection team leader Ron Popoff.

Legacy left behind

Arnold Ellis, a former Canal Flats resident left roughly $2 million to the Columbia Valley Community Foundation to be distributed  through a scholarship fund in his name to help valley residents seeking education or training at any level.


Hot pools protest

A union-based fight-back committee began forming to protest the federal government’s decision to privatize the hot pools in the Canadian Rockies Mountain Parks, including the Radium Hot Springs pools.

According to Mountain National Parks executive director, the government would be issuing a detailed request for proposals in early 2013 to ensure the most qualified bidder for the job.

Library unionizes

The five workers at the Invermere Public Library joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), a move they said stands to benefit their volunteer board as well as themselves.They chose CUPE because it already represents personnel at more than 20 libraries across B.C.

Decade-long leak

The discovery of an undocumented and uncapped T-junction in a water pipe at 12th Avenue and 13th Street led DOI staff to estimate the pipe had been leaking 12 litres per second for possibly decades.

“I wouldn’t want to venture down that path,” said DOI CAO Chris Prosser when asked what financial impact the leak may have had.

School of Nature

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort opened the BC Rockies School of Nature, a program that will allow local schools to utilize the resort during the off season and teach outdoor living skills to students.






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