- The Westshore
- Remembering the best of 2023 in The Westshore
Remembering the best of 2023 in The Westshore
Plus Esquimalt police update, spreading kindness, and tree recycling
Happy New Year! Today we are taking a look back at 2023 by highlighting some of our most popular stories from the last year. As we welcome 2024, we would like to thank all of you—our readers—for your dedication and love of the newsletter, building a stronger community together.
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The best of 2023 in The Westshore
The year has ended, and it's a great time to look back and reminisce. With plenty of Westshore coverage of events, occurrences, and activities, here are five of our top stories from 2023.
Back in January 2023, we brought you a story about the difficulties the Island has had with Canadian geese; the birds, which used to migrate away from the Island in the winter (and most subspecies still do), have made a year-round home in the balmy Pacific region. Hoping to create change, local groups partnering together are making a difference in the migration patterns of geese, and are paving the path to create a healthier ecosystem as a whole.
In June, a reader told us that Bear Mountain was charging fees to access the trails on the property. We looked into the issue, and saw how locals were frustrated due to the lack of notice and the cost of the fees; Bear Mountain has continued to tell trail users to purchase a day pass.
Over the past year, we have been following the journey of the Island Rail Corridor and the continuous changes in direction that it has adopted. For more than a decade the Island Corridor Foundation, a non-profit organization that owns the corridor of land formerly used for a railroad between Courtenay and Victoria, has worked to get financial and political support to restore the tracks and buy new trains. But with multiple contending ideas, costs, and plans, the future of the Island Corridor has and will remain up in the air for the time being.
Our most popular photo series of the year was of Jake James, a blacksmith who has worked on his skills for 25 years. With no formal place to train and learn in Canada, James makes intricate pieces of art and works hard to pass on his legacy of blacksmithing skills and knowledge, as he continues his journey in his Metchosin workshop.
In March, we brought you this story about how to protect urban trees as development increases across the Westshore. Reporter Zoë Ducklow talked to local arborist Dave Saunders and learned that a general rule of thumb repeated by arborists and reflected in several local tree bylaws, suggests that if you want to build around a tree and have it survive, you need to leave an undisturbed radius around the trunk that’s at least half as wide as its canopy stretches. With plenty of new buildings going up in the area, local municipalities need to understand the importance of protecting urban trees.
What was your favorite story we put out this past year?
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VicPD to remain in Esquimalt for at least another year
Esquimalt council voted unanimously in Aug. 2022 to end its shared policing deal with Victoria, arguing the Township was paying for more than it needed. But now it has pivoted to renewing for a year (with options for two more year-long extensions). Mayor Barb Desjardins told CHEK that its contractor's report on Esquimalt’s alternatives is not yet ready.
Desjardins told Capital Daily last fall that she expected the report before 2024, but not the actual transition. Consulting firm Perivale and Taylor was picked in fall 2022, and paid $140K to deliver a report expected by June 2023. The province has final say over letting Esquimalt out, and requires that this work be done first (though it refused to cover the cost, which the Township had requested).
Esquimalt feels it pays core’s costs
Victoria and Esquimalt are BC’s only cities sharing non-RCMP police, and Esquimalt officials have argued this makes them chip in for regional costs that their other CRD peers evade.
Esquimalt spends over a fifth of its budget on a police deal that, per a 2020 provincial report, gives it less service than it pays for. Its council voted not to fund its $184K portion of VicPD's $1.3M 2022 budget increase, but was later forced to by the province.
The province put Esquimalt under VicPD in 2002, and in 2011 would not let it switch to the RCMP (which most of BC uses and which a 2009 report said would be cheaper).
Result could be region-wide PD rather than split
Last April, BC's report on reforming its Police Act recommended a move toward regional forces rather than “fragmentation.” The West Shore RCMP itself covers the communities of Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Metchosin, Highlands, Songhees First Nation and Esquimalt First Nation.
Around the 'Shore
🏫 Sooke Elementary School vandalized: Sooke Elementary staff found graffiti on the wall last week, with the phrase “death incarnate” spray-painted next to the door of one of the school’s classrooms; there was also some sort of symbol. The Sooke School District is aware and hopes to clean up the graffiti soon—SD62 encourages anyone with information on the incident to contact the Sooke RCMP. [CHEK]
❤️ 13-year-old Esquimalt boy honouring his late sister by spreading kindness across the world: Felix Townsin’s sister Lexi suffered from the ultra-rare Bleu Syndrome and recently passed away due to the condition. Despite her loss, the young boy posted a video in celebration of his sister’s warmth, and asked people to spread acts of love and kindness and share the photo or video on his website. [CTV]
🐕 Famous fundraising dog found after missing for decades: Muggins, a dog famous in the ’40s and ’50s for collecting bags of donations, was recently found in a View Royal shed. The dog, who was taxidermied after years of service, went missing and has been lost for decades; now, Muggins is back home and everyone is happy the iconic dog has been found. [Times Colonist]
🎭 12 Angry Men Auditions: Don’t forget to sign up for the 12 Angry Men auditions, which are beginning this Jan. 4 from 7-9pm at the Sooke Community Theatre. With two additional dates on Jan. 6 and 7, make sure to send an email with which date you would like to audition to book your spot. Arrive with a short monologue to read (with script is fine) and also be ready to read some sides.
🌲 Easter Seals Christmas Tree Recycling: Looking for a way to get rid of your Christmas tree? The Easter Seals are hosting their annual Christmas Tree Recycling event this Jan. 6-7 from 10am-4pm at the Westshore Town Centre. For a donation to Easter Seals, they will dispose of your Christmas tree in an environmentally-friendly manner.
🧶 Knitters at the Library: Enjoy an afternoon of knitting and crocheting with fellow craft enthusiasts at the Sooke Library starting this Jan. 6. Meeting every Saturday from 2-4pm in the Sooke Library lounge by the fireplace, this is a great way to craft and meet new people.
No ships today!
Sunset over the ocean beside Esquimalt Lagoon. —Gary Woodburn, Colwood
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