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It wasn’t Woodstock, but the Comox Valley Renaissance Faires in the 1970s came close / George Le Masurier photo
This week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “Aquarian Exposition” informally known as the Woodstock festival. Over three days, more than 400,00 people came together for peace and created a definitive moment in popular music and an apex of the counterculture and anti-Vietnam War movement.
But did you know the iconic image of the biggest rock festival of all time features a Comox Valley resident?
Jessie Kerr, of Comox, says she is the young woman in rose-colored glasses and a flowered dress that she had made herself and wrapped up in a blanket with a man on the morning after rain turned the festival site into a mudslide.
The photo, by Burk Uzzle, appears on the cover of the album Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More and has illustrated numerous article and documentaries of the event.
CBC radio interviewed Kerr Thursday morning — Aug. 15, 1969 was the first day of the festival — because a New York couple, Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, have claimed for years that they are the people in the photograph, not Kerr. The New York Times, Time magazine and other media outlets have written about the Ercolines, who have basked in their mini-celebrity status.
Kerr said she never wanted the fame that might have come from being recognized as the person in the famous photograph, but she wants the record set straight. It’s just a little annoying, she said, that another person is claiming to be her.
— The Cumberland Wild music festival might not attract as many people, but the spirit of music-infused community will live on in the village starting today and running through to midnight on Sunday.
— The BC Supreme Court has called out 3L Developments for their unfounded allegations and their several attempts to bend a community-supported document (the Regional Growth Strategy) through lawsuits. The court said none of 3L’s allegations were proven, including the claim of a racist comment they said was made by Area C Director Edwin Grieve.
This should put an end to 3L’s attempts to build a 1,000 house subdivision in the triangle between the Puntledge and Browns rivers. But it probably won’t be the last we hear from the development company or its principal, David Dutcyvich.
Dutcyvich may still try to develop the property in large, multi-acre lots that could be allowed under current zoning. But that might not be profitable, and 3L could try to sell the land or just hold it as an investment and try again down the road.
But he will undoubtedly continue to deny access to Stotan Falls, the popular summer swimming site, through his property, which he has every right to do. But doing so won’t win him any support from the court of public opinion.
Dutcyvich’s company created a contentious and litigious relationship with the Comox Valley Regional District, and made itself an easy target in the process.
— BC Ferries hasn’t made many Comox Valley friends either, despite their good intentions.
The diesel-pwered ferry from Buckley Bay to Denman Island has run afoul.The plastic sheathing on the underwater cables is breaking off and polluting Baynes Sound. Some of the plastic is washing up on nearby beaches, but a lot more is probably staying in the water where it will break down into micro beads and poison marine life.
— Climate Change Quiz: Who said this?
“Failure to adequately transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy — by either political or business leaders — will further erode public trust in the institutions that underpin our society.”
A) The Sierra Club
B) David Suzuki
C) Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada
If you guessed “C,” you’re probably an accountant because who else would figure this staid group to join the climate emergency movement?
But our nation’s CPAs have submitted recommendations to the House of Commons this week for overhauling the federal tax system to address the business issues of climate change. They say the current system “isn’t up to the job.”
“If Canada’s economy is to become cleaner and low-carbon, digital and data-driven, and more globally integrated and competitive, Canada’s tax system is not up to the job,” CPA Canada said this week.
— According to a national survey conducted by Abacus Data in July, the Canadian public supports bold actions to combat climate change that go far beyond what all levels of government are willing to undertake.
“My main takeaway from this national opinion survey … is that the public is ahead of our politics. A large share of Canadians is already deeply worried about the climate crisis, and they are increasingly ready for bold and ambitious actions,” said Seth Klein, a former director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — BC Office, who commissioned the survey.
The survey results show that 75 percent of Canadians are worried about climate change, and 42 percent think it’s an emergency. Almost half were ready for an immediate shift to 100 percent clean energy sources and another 37 percent agreed with the shift but didn’t think getting to 100 percent clean energy was possible in the short term.
Most importantly, the survey showed that up to 84 percent of Canadians would support bolder legislative or other government actions to reduce carbon emissions.
Klein said the survey counters the typical reasons given by elected officials for not moving more quickly from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. Politicians typically justify non-actions because it would be “political suicide,” a notion the survey results appear to debunk.
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Comox Mayor Russ Arnott adamantly opposes Area B representation on the sewage commission / George Le Masurier file photo
Comox Mayor Russ Arnott feigned little knowledge this week of how the Comox Councillors that he appointed to the Comox Valley Regional District Board are voting, and why.
The only item on the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission Tuesday, Aug. 13, was a reconsideration of its “no decision” last month, a tie vote that technically defeated a motion to allow Area B representation on the commission.
This week, the commission, with CFB representative Major Guerard in attendance, delayed taking any action on the matter until after CVRD staff present their recommendations from a year-old study on how best to restructure the regional district’s water and sewer commissions.
But the issue launched Arnott off on an opening diatribe about why the board had sent the issue back to the commission.
“Why did they send it back?” Arnott asked. “We made a decision. What’s to say whatever decision we make today won’t come back. When does this end?
“I find it disrespectful, and it leads me to wonder where the integrity of the Town of Comox votes lay when we’re a paying member and (deference is shown) to a special interest group,” he said, referring to the Curtis Road Residents Association.
That caused Courtenay Director Wendy Morin to ask for a voting record of the CVRD Committee of the Whole, which comprises the full board.
“If I recall Comox directors voted to send it back,” she said.
Comox Director Ken Grant jumped in to say he could settle the question.
“Yes, Comox did vote to send it back. It was clear we (Comox directors) were going to lose the vote, so we voted in favour to deal with it here (at the sewage commission),” he said. “We were outmuscled.”
FURTHER READING: Our archive of stories about the sewage commission
Comox is the outlier on this issue. There is support for Area B representation on the sewage commission from Courtenay and some of the electoral areas.
Comox has two directors on the CVRD board, while Courtenay has four and Cumberland and the three electoral areas each have 1. Weighting the votes based on population gives Courtenay 18 votes to 10 for Comox.
Pushing a decision on the issue didn’t sit well with the Curtis Road Residents Association, who have been battling with the regional district over noxious odours emanating from the Brent Road wastewater treatment plant since 1985.
Jenny Steel, the spokesperson for the residents, said the CVRD Board had ordered the commission to further consider the appointment of the Area B director as a non-voting member for a temporary period of time.
“The Commission today failed to follow that direction, there was no substantive discussion at all,” she told Decafnation. “ Instead, they decided to wait for Comox and Courtenay bureaucrats to come up with their “governance study” recommendations — without any input at all from Area B.”
Steel said “the writing is on the wall … Comox councillors will continue their vendetta against any voice for Area B at the table.”
The Curtis Road residents had requested that the Area B director be permitted to participate in the discussion at the Aug. 13 commission meeting, but Steel says the CVRD did not even acknowledge that request.
Steel said the CRRA would now seek out other avenues within the government to resolve their concerns.
“We will formally lodge complaints with the provincial Ombudsperson and the Inspector of Municipalities, as well as expand our outreach to the public and press,” she said. “We do not believe Comox commissioners have acted responsibly on this issue.”
Steel went on to say that Comox Mayor Arnott’s statement that there’s a good relationship with the Curtis Road Residents was “completely out to lunch.”
“Since our first delegation in April there has been no commitment whatsoever to fix the odour problems or to improve governance moving forward,” she said. “In an earlier meeting, Comox reps had proposed that one of the existing commissioners be our voice at the table – clearly an admission that Area B does need a voice.
“However, they are dead set against that voice being Director Arzeena Hamir, our democratically elected representative. Go figure.”
Hamir told Decafnation that she’s extremely frustrated by the situation and that she feels for the Curtis Road residents.
“They have put so much time and energy into resolving their problem. They read the reports more intensely than some of the elected directors,” she said. “To have the issue punted back and forth (between the CVRD board and the sewage commission) is frustrating.”
Steel echoed that comment.
“It is indeed frustrating to go round in circles on what would seem such a straight-forward and reasonable request,” she said. “Until we get this resolved we have no choice but to continue with our delegations.”
They have several outstanding issues, including the location of a new holding pond, agreement on an odour standard and covering the bio-reactors, which cause most of the odour issues.
“A Good Neighbour Agreement between Area B and Comox/Courtenay is something we’ve been working on and will bring forward to the Commission soon for consideration,” she said.
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The BC Supreme Court has decided in favor of the Comox Valley Regional District in a lawsuit brought by 3L Developments over amending the Regional Growth Strategy.
Here’s the press release issued by the CVRD this morning.
“The Comox Valley Regional District’s consideration of an application by 3L Developments Inc. to amend the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was conducted in a fair and balanced way – in good faith and without malice – according to a decision by the BC Supreme Court released August 12, 2019.
“The ruling dismissed 13 claims made against the CVRD by 3L Developments Inc. regarding the management of their application for their proposed ‘Riverwood’ development in Electoral Area C. Costs were awarded to the CVRD.
FURTHER READING: CVRD denies 3L
“We were clear from the beginning of this process that the proposal by 3L Developments would be considered in a fair, open and transparent process and this validates that commitment,” said Russell Dyson, Chief Administrative Officer, CVRD. “The CVRD respects the time, dedication and thought that was placed by the courts throughout the process.”
“The court’s decision is especially important to the CVRD because it protects the Board’s process for considering an application, obtaining public feedback and decision-making.
“We heard clearly through this process strong community interest in protecting the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), and we remain committed to our responsibility to it in order to ensure the long-term health of our community,” said Dyson. The RGS is a strategic plan that aims to establish a sustainable pattern of population growth and development in the region over a 20-year period.
“For background/history about the amendment process, and to view the Reasons for Judgment, visit www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/3l
The decision will also be posted here in coming days: https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/recent_Judgments.aspx
“The Comox Valley Regional Distridct is a federation of three electoral areas and three municipalities providing sustainable services for residents and visitors to the area. The members of the regional district work collaboratively on services for the benefit of the diverse urban and rural areas of the Comox Valley.”
“I can’t believe what these newspapers are publishing!” / George Le Masurier photo
One of Decafnation’s regular contributors, Pat Carl, struck a nerve with her report this week on a visit to TimberWest’s logging operations around the Cruickshank River. Her article reported on the devastation she observed in the Comox Valley’s source of drinking water.
And that set off long strings of comments on Decafnation and on various Facebook pages. Some defenders of logging in the Comox Lake Watershed wrote wearily long diatribes that included attacks on Carl and this website, and those spoke for themselves.
The fact remains that logging above Comox Lake is a major reason why taxpayers are funding a $120-plus million water treatment plant.
But it’s not the only factor.
In fact, the Comox Lake Watershed Plan highlights camping, swimming and hiking as activities just as hazardous to the watershed as timber harvesting.
And that raises the question of whether Comox Lake should be a no-go conservation area that prohibits ATVs, dogs and fossil-fuel spilling motorboats.
— Short update to Comox Mayor Russ Arnott’s chilling attempt to stifle free speech by ordering the Nautical Days parade marshall to rescind her approval of a Mack Laing Heritage Society float. Arnott justified his dictate by referring to many complaints of “alarming and inappropriate behaviour” by Mack Laing supporters in the Courtenay Canada Day parade.
But checking with the Courtenay parade marshall, Scott Mossing, reveals a different story.
Mossing says, “I can confirm that I have not received nor have any complaints regarding Mack Laing Heritage Society’s involvement in the July 1st Parade.”
It makes you wonder where Arnott got his information.
— The Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission will reconsider on Tuesday a request from the Curtis Road Residents Association to add the Area B representation to their deliberations.
Odours from the sewage treatment plant have plagued Curtis Road homeowners for more than 30 years and, despite some improvements from new technology, still isn’t acceptable to them. Besides the loss of enjoyment of their homes at certain times, the strong odours have also significantly devalued their properties.
At its last meeting, the Comox Valley Regional District board pushed the CRRA’s request back to the sewage commission for reconsideration.
The commission previously couldn’t decide, with a vote to allow Area B representation ending in a tie because the CFB Comox delegate missed the meeting. Courtenay directors were in favour of allowing representation in some form, but Comox directors were not.
The CFB delegate may not show up again. The Department of Defense doesn’t like getting tangled in local politics, so it’s possible the military delegate will avoid this meeting, too.
But even with a deciding vote present, directors might choose to wait for the much-anticipated staff report and recommendations emanating from last year’s omnibus report on governance of the regional district’s water and sewage commissions.
The governance study was commissioned after CVRD engineers scrapped a plan about two years ago to patch the current sewerage system that included building a new pump station in the neighbourhood of Croteau Beach. There were serious technical problems with that plan and considerable public push-back.
—The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report this week that blames agriculture for rising temperatures and the release of greenhouse gases. More specifically, the report says how we produce our food is a large part of the climate change problem.
And if we don’t change the way we eat, the report predicts the instability of our global food supply.
Short summary: eating less meat equals less heat. Agriculture generates 44 percent of all methane gas emissions and up to 37 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases. Agriculture leads to deforestation.
The report recommends encouraging diets based on plants and grains, which take less land to produce than meat. And they have specific recommendations to improve food production’s negative effects on the environment.
Mt. Septimus in Strathcona Park, Duane Bressler’s destination before he disappeared / stock photo
Update: Former Comox Valley Search and Rescue leader Mike Fournier has informed Decafnation that a tip from hikers led to the discovery of Duane Bressler’s body more than a year after he disappeared.
Hiking the trails of Strathcona Park can be one of the summer’s greatest pleasures. But it can also turn into a tragic nightmare. All it takes is a few steps in the wrong direction.
Last month, a Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue team spent several days looking for Murray Naswell of Cumberland who got lost in Strathcona Park. In June, a Parksville area farmer died in the area of Mt. Donner. This week another hiker was rescued in the park.
But back in 1977, a hiker by the name of Duane Bressler, a 20-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, wasn’t so lucky — or was he? He was reported lost in the Flower Ridge area and, despite an all-out, two-month effort by the Comox Valley Search and Rescue team, he was never found, dead or alive.
Some think it was a case shrouded in mystery.
Here’s what I wrote about it in 1977.
The gentle slopes of the Forbidden Plateau are no threat even to the most inexperienced hikers if you stay on the trail. But elsewhere in Strathcona Park, Flower Ridge, for example, even well-marked trails can become treacherous let alone the dense brush that cowers in from all sides.
No one knows the perils of the forest better than the 30 members of the Comox Valley Search and Rescue team. A dedicated group of volunteers versed in survival, rope climbing and first aid, they are currently working on their 18th major search in two years.
Right now, the team is embroiled in a mystery case, they think might be resolved tomorrow.
A hiker from Wichita, Kansas, Duane Bressler, 20, was ambling along Flower Ridge with a group of companions. They began at the usual starting place at the south end of Buttle Lake and were apparently not rushing down the trail that leads to Mt. Septimus.
The ridge trail starts off easily enough but later becomes a dangerous edge falling off several hundred feet on either side. At one point. Hikes must shuffle along a rock ledge to traverse corners, holding on by crevices in the sheer walls. That’s no place for the foolhardy, even without a 50-pound backpack.
The group reached the 5,000 foot level of the ridge when they saw what they thought was Green Lake, their primary destination at the foot of Mt. Septimus. By trails, weaving around a few of these tricky rock ledges and circling around steep drops, the lake is about a half day’s hike.
Bressler, however, determined that by cutting across country, through the thick underbrush and down the steep side of the ridge, it would only take an hour and a half. He left the group on July 26 to save a few hours time.
He hasn’t been seen since.
His party waited two days for him at Green Lake before hurrying out to report his absence. That’s when the Valley search team was called in to find Bressler, who was last seen carrying a 100-pound pack with a fishing rod, canteens and other items tied on the outside.
Headed by Mike Fournier, the team airlifted into the area by a CFB Comox helicopter, and for the first week Sgt. C. H. ‘Chuck” Clements — the rescue hero injured in a 75-foot plunge last week — directed ground search operations.
It is now five weeks later, and the searchers have spent over five full 10-hour days scrambling over snags and checking under every bush.
Bressler’s fishing rod was found broken near the Green Lake area, so it is believed he made it there. Not knowing how long it might take his companions to comer around the other way, Bressler could have waited at Green Lake for five to six hours. He might have thought they turned around and went back via the ridge trail.
He might have followed Price Creek, which runs from Green Lake to Buttle Lake, hoping to reach the starting point without climbing back up the ridge’s steep walls.
What puzzles the Valley searchers, though, is that besides Bressler’s cap turning up in a net stretched across the creek at Buttle Lake, there has been no other sign of the hiker.
They have searched extensively the whole area. Campbel River RCMP have used dogs up and down the creek. Parks branch personnel have searched. An infrared camera on a helicopter has scanned the area and no sign or smell has been detected.
Searchers discount the possibility of Bressler having been dragged off and devoured by an animal because his metal and plastic gear would have been strewn around everywhere.
Team member Wayne Jardine has even donned a wet suit and swam the creek’s deep holes behind log jams. Members Brian Evans and David Cronmiller have plodded through difficult terrains and scratchy salmon berry bushes. Cronmiller’s hands were reported severely injured from fighting through Devil’s Club — a bush sprouting millions of spines that embed themselves in your flesh. They are the plague of the woods in Strathcona Park.
Tomorrow, the team returns to search the final miles and a half of Prince Creek. They believe they’ll find something.
This last section was not searched before because vertical walls loom high on either side and it’s impossible to reach without ropes. At the bottom, several log jams have created pools that are perhaps 10 feet deep.
It is now suspected that Bressler might have followed the creek out of the woods, reached this section and was forced to inch his way along the walls at some height. He might have fallen. With a 100-pound pack — he was carrying, among other things, an inflatable rubber boat — he would have sunk right to the bottom of a deep pool.
Even if he hadn’t been knocked out, he might have been unable to release himself from his gear in time. His cap would naturally come off easily and float downstream.
The rescue team isn’t looking forward to a pleasant time tomorrow. Although they welcome a challenge to their abilities and skills, they would rather rescue live hikers than decomposed bodies.
It is an opportunity to remind would-be masters of the wilderness that over-confidence can be a killer.
And then, several days later, I wrote this:
Members of that dedicated group (the search and rescue team) were lowered by ropes into the rugged, final 1.5 miles of Price Creek Saturday to attempt locating the body of an American hiker last seen on July 26.
After an all-day effort of diving the deep pools and scanning the near-vertical walls enclosing that section of the creek, the team left without a single clue and even more baffled than before as to his whereabouts.
Officially, the search for 20-year-old Duane Bressler has been cancelled. Chances are his body will never be recovered and no one will ever know what happened to him. He might be found later this fall by an unsuspecting hiker, or perhaps next year. But for now, he’s just been swallowed up by the dark of the forest.
Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, Strathcona park is a rugged mountain wilderness comprising more than 250,000 hectares. Two areas – Buttle Lake and vicinity, and Forbidden Plateau – offer a variety of visitor-oriented developments. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped and appeals primarily to people seeking wilderness surroundings. To see and enjoy much of the scenic splendor requires hiking or backpacking into the alpine regions.
Strathcona Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. In the valleys and lower regions of Strathcona are forest stands that were already old when Captain James Cook of Britain’s Royal Navy landed at Nootka Sound in 1778, on the west coast of Vancouver Island a few kilometres from what is now the western boundary of the park.
Strathcona Park was named for Donald Alexander Smith, First Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, a Canadian pioneer and one of the principals in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. On November 7, 1885 Lord Strathcona drove the last iron spike into the twin ribbons of steel that united Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific at Craigellachie in BC’s Selkirk Mountains.
— BC Parks
The Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre at Paradise Meadows will be open 7 days a week from June 28th onwards for the summer season, with normal operating hours of 9.30-3.30. The Centre will be staffed by students hired under the Canada Summer Jobs program and by our cohort of energetic volunteers.
Summer programs include Nature Walks, Talks and Hikes with expert naturalists and guides on weekends through August and September.