The pipeline, the Paramount, the point and the politicians.
This past year, we had a remarkable NDP win, an unpredictable party switch and the resignation of a long-time MLA.
And the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning, the Fraser River freshet at Carey Point, and the Paramount Theatre also garnered a lot of my attention in 2012.
One story involves critical oil sands infrastructure flowing underneath Chilliwack homes, schools, waterways and near our aquifer.
One involves a downtrodden, if iconic, piece of heritage and the fight to save it in the face of downtown development.
And one involves the ever-present natural phenomenon that is the Fraser River and our human urge to try to control or fend off its flow.
All three of those stories will continue in 2013 as Kinder Morgan moves forward, the Paramount goes down and the freshet, once again, returns. And, of course, we've got the May 2013 provincial election to keep us busy.
The story of the Paramount Theatre had to be the most compelling of 2012. No subject has received such diverse and unusual attention as this 63-year-old movie house.
The theatre was shut down in 2010 and donated to the city. Two responses to a 2011 request-for-proposal (RFP) process were rejected by city hall this year. This apparent end to the process spurred a community tidal wave of support, mostly based on nostalgia.
A March decision to demolish was put aside and a group was given a "hail Mary" chance to come up with a plan of their own. That plan, too, was rejected and some who fought to save the Paramount felt the cards were stacked against them.
That didn't stop interest in the iconic building. The theatre was named to Heritage Canada Foundation's top 10 endangered places list. Scale model builder Tom Carson created a design of the Paramount. Realtor Ian Meissner memorialized the theatre in a series of photographs. Art student Kevin Polanco entered a T-shirt contest with an image of the Paramount. A UFV student even started a way-too-late move to save the theatre.
I had a quirky exchange of emails with an Ohio daily newspaper editor where we mulled over the parallels between his town's Paramount's imminent demolition and ours.
For some, the Paramount story is about heritage and history and memories. The real story is about the future of downtown Chilliwack. The Empress was purchased by the city and demolished. The city has initiated an intent to expropriate the Irwin Block at Five Corners and the CEPCO-owned Ewert Building came down in December. The Paramount won't be the first building to fall in the name of improving downtown and it won't be the last.
When we first wrote about Kinder Morgan's plan to more than double the capacity of its 59-year-old, 1,150kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline the very pipeline's existence came as a surprise to many people.
The fact that oil sands diluted bitumen flows through that pipeline shocked and upset many residents. And word of the plans to twin it came as a surprise even to city hall. Through Chilliwack, the pipeline runs under farmland, a golf course, Watson elementary's property, the backyards of a number of homes and the Vedder River.
An anti-pipeline group based in Chilliwack-PIPE-UP-was formed. We heard from Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson and other company representatives at a number of meetings. But the Chilliwack angle to this story is just one tiny piece in a broader narrative about resource extraction and federal energy policy. With continued attention on Northern Gateway, and increased attention on Trans Mountan, over the coming months we will see much more information and rhetoric.
The Fraser River freshet always garners attention but at the end of the day, the City of Chilliwack is pretty solidly protected.
Those who live outside the dike system, such as the folks at Carey Point? Not so much.
In 2011, a makeshift berm built in 1997 to protect the homes and farmland at Carey Point collapsed. There was some flooding but with an even larger predicted freshet this year, residents worried 2012 would be disastrous.
And while politicians have offered help to those at Carey Point, underlying that help is the tacit understanding that the area has always been outside the dikes and those who bought there knew that.
So with a city-funded $110,000 check dam on Orchard Slough, and $25,000 each from the city and the province along with about $70,000 of their own money to build a berm, they hoped they were protected.
They weren't. At approximately 5: 30 p.m. on June 22, the berm failed and homes and land were flooded.
This past year featured neither a general federal, provincial nor municipal election yet we saw three very interesting political stories.
First, Gwen O'Mahony won the vacant Chilliwack-Hope seat in the provincial legislature putting an NDP MLA in place in the area, something unimaginable to many observers. The excuse from BC Liberals such as Chilliwack MLA John Les and candidate Laurie Throness? Right-wing vote splitting by the BC Conservatives and their candidate criminologist John Martin.
The second big one: Les announced in late August that he would not seek re-election in the spring 2013 provincial election, putting an end to more than 30 years in politics. After one term as a city councillor, four as mayor and three as BC Liberal MLA, Les is stepping aside.
Third: Martin, a long-time BC Liberal basher of the first order, joined the party in September. He is later acclaimed as the candidate for Chilliwack and will run for Christy Clark's group in 2013.
This led to the quote of 2013 from the barbecue enthusiast and competition pitmaster: "If anyone can make the crow I'm going to be eating taste good," Martin said, "I'm probably the guy to do it."
The coming year looks to be a very interesting one: Throness and O'Mahony square off again in Chilliwack-Hope and Martin is back with new stripes in a different riding; the BC Conservatives, thought to be all but dead, will announce local candidates in January; the Sardis Library should open; the Health Contact Centre might; federal boundary changes could divide Chilliwack; Family Day arrives; and time will tell if the Idle No More protests continue or fade away.
© Copyright 2013