2020 Year In Review: January

Aynsley and Antoine Van Oostdam are the proud parents to Pippa. Photo submittedAynsley and Antoine Van Oostdam are the proud parents to Pippa. Photo submitted
Local bands will be performing a fundraiser at the Avalance Jan. 19 to support efforts to stop the wildfires in Australia. Photo, State Government of Victoria via APLocal bands will be performing a fundraiser at the Avalance Jan. 19 to support efforts to stop the wildfires in Australia. Photo, State Government of Victoria via AP
Avalanche Bar & Grill owner Devon Moldenhauer plays a didgeridoo during Sunday’s Funder for Down Under fundraiser. The event raised in excess of $7,000 for Australian wildfire relief efforts. Photo by Terry FarrellAvalanche Bar & Grill owner Devon Moldenhauer plays a didgeridoo during Sunday’s Funder for Down Under fundraiser. The event raised in excess of $7,000 for Australian wildfire relief efforts. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Fire Rescue personnel work quickly to extinguish a vehicle fire before the flames have a chance to destroy two homes. Photo submitted by Comox Fire Rescue.Comox Fire Rescue personnel work quickly to extinguish a vehicle fire before the flames have a chance to destroy two homes. Photo submitted by Comox Fire Rescue.
Kwakwaka’wakw artist Sandy Johnson with his ‘Cry for Change Mask’ that will shortly be headed to the Burke Museum in Seattle. Photo submittedKwakwaka’wakw artist Sandy Johnson with his ‘Cry for Change Mask’ that will shortly be headed to the Burke Museum in Seattle. Photo submitted

January 2020 started similar to any other year.

Oh, were we ever in for a surprise.

While reports were rolling out of a bad respiratory disease in China, life was status quo in the Comox Valley.

New year’s baby arrives

The first Comox Valley baby of 2020 arrived New Year’s Day.

Pippa Van Oostdam was born at the North Island Hospital Comox Valley campus on Jan. 1 at 9:30 a.m.

Pippa is Aynsley and Antoine Van Oostdam’s first child.

Plane crash victim remembered

The year started on a solemn note, with local pilot Hal Schulz identified as the victim in a crash north of Tofino just before Christmas 2019.

Schulz was a veteran pilot from Comox who took out his plane regularly from the Courtenay Airpark.

“He was probably our single most-active pilot. He flew almost every day,” said friend and fellow pilot Darwin Dzuba.

Schulz had been working on contract in an aircraft modified with oxygen for high altitudes, to collect air samples for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used for weather modeling.

“They use private pilots from all over North America to get air samples,” Dzuba said.

In recent years, Schulz also submitted aerial photos to the Comox Valley Record of events such as the annual herring run in the region.

“He was always very accommodating when it came to sharing photos with the paper,” said Record editor Terry Farrell. “First day of the herring run, he’d be in the office by noon with photos.

“The first time I met Hal was in 2014, during the huge flood we had in December of that year. He came by the office with his camera memory card full of photos showing aerial views of the flooded areas of Courtenay.”

Warming centre approved

The City of Courtenay entered into an agreement with the Comox Valley Transition Society to operate a seasonal warming centre at 685 Cliffe Ave. The Connect Warming Centre was originally slated to remain open until the end of March, and was eventually given a one-year lease expansion (in October) guaranteeing the community’s vulnerable had a warm place to congregate during the daytime.

Petition to close herring fishery

Conservancy Hornby Island initiated a petition to suspend the Pacific herring roe fishery, garnering more than 150,000 signatures.

The petition pointed out that the herring population has dwindled from about 129,500 metric tonnes in 2016 to 85,700 tonnes in 2019, and also claimed the herring fishery is worth little money and produces few jobs.

“There’s no real good story to be told on the herring fishery,” said Ian McAllister, executive director at Pacific Wild. “That’s what makes it almost incomprehensible that DFO is continuing to manage these stocks the same way they’ve managed all the other stocks on the B.C. coast that have resulted in collapse and total shutdown of the commercial fisheries.”

DFO met with Conservancy Hornby Island to hear their concerns about the harvest, but then announced at the end of the month that the fishery would open as planned, with a harvest rate set at 20 per cent. (The 2019-2020 harvest level in the Strait of Georgia was 10,895 tonnes.)

Lockdown at Vanier

‘Hold and secure’ protocol was implemented at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, after reports of a weapons-related incident on school grounds on Jan. 10.

According to the SD 71 website, hold and secure is implemented “in response to security threats or criminal activity outside the school. During a Hold and Secure, all entrance doors to the school are locked, with no one permitted in or out of the building. No one, other than law enforcement, is permitted access to the building until the Hold and Secure has been cleared.”

RCMP said all people involved in the incident were identified, met with police and were “co-operative with the investigation.”

No charges were laid.

Record-breaking snowfall

Comox Valley and Courtenay both beat records for single-day snowfall accumulations on Jan. 15, with a snowfall accumulation of 34.8 centimetres – more than 10 centimetres greater than on the same day in 1951 when it snowed 23.4 centimetres.

COVID arrives in B.C.

On Jan. 30, the first presumptive case of coronavirus was identified in B.C. It was Canada’s third case at the time.

BUSINESS

• Comox Valley resident Paige Whitehead invented an eco-friendly glow stick powered with bio-luminescence. Dubbed the Nyoka Light Wand, she launched her invention in January.

• Courtenay’s first privately-owned retail cannabis outlet opened in January. La Pachi Premium Cannabis opened its doors at 2270 Cliffe Ave., with a celebration that included an official ribbon-cutting, with Mayor Bob Wells on hand.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Australian wildfires struck a chord with the Comox Valley’s arts community, and the result was a fundraising benefit concert, organized by John Mundy, and hosted by the Avalanche Bar & Grill, where Mundy’s band, The Mulligans, were a mainstay.

“It was just devastating looking at what was going on,” Mundy said of the Australia wildfires. The “Funder for Down Under” raised more than $8,000.

• A local artist’s mask was purchased by an American couple, and donated to a renown American museum. Comox Valley artist Sandy Johnson’s Cry for Change mask was recently purchased by two long-time visitors to the Valley from Savannah, Georgia. John and Peggy Varnedoe purchased the piece from the Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery, and donated it to the Burke Museum in Seattle at the University of Washington.

“They have friends they visit and they have a huge focus on the Island and First Nations group, and they are also huge art enthusiasts,” explained Lydia Fisher of the Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery, where the mask was exhibited prior to its purchase.

• Fiddler and stepdancer April Verch and her record Once A Day were nominated for a Juno Award in January for best traditional roots album of the year. Courtenay’s own Doug Cox produced the album.

Comox Valley