Like any year, 2012 in the Tri-Cities was filled with both moving stories and shocking heartbreak - from the inspiring anniversary of Rick Hansen's climb up Thermal Hill in Port Moody to the tragic story of Amanda Todd and her suicide after years of being tormented by bullies.
Join us as we look back at the first half of 2012, Tri-Cities style.
- Operation Red Nose fundraising totals break records for the second year in a row: $17,162 is raised, 556 rides are given and 14,987 kilometres are logged. The previous records, all set in 2011, saw $10,181 raised, 382 rides provided and more than 9,700 kilometres travelled. On top of those numbers, 139 volunteers stepped up this year, eclipsing last year's tally of 98. All of the money raised is donated to the Tri-Cities chapter of KidSport.
- Metro Vancouver enacts a no-smoking policy in all of its 33 regional parks and greenways, including the regional body's three parks in the Tri-Cities: Belcarra, Colony Farm and Minnekhada. Smokers are still able to light up in designated smoking areas, but those caught lighting up elsewhere are subject to a $75 fine.
- The Hope For Freedom Society reveals plans week to operate a temporary overnight shelter in Port Coquitlam for the next two winters called the Bridge Shelter Project. Modelled after the now defunct cold wet weather mat program, the facility gets up and running at the Grace Church on Kingsway Avenue in October. The shelter is intended to bridge the service gap until 2014, when the permanent shelter on Gordon Avenue is expected to open.
- Josh Eisner's anti-bullying visual art project, which consisted of handmade wooden shirts, is vandalized outside of his Porter Street Elementary school. A month later, community members and reps from the Coquitlam RCMP convene to rebuild the display. In November, Eisner is recognized by the provincial government with a Ministry of Justice Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award for his role in anti-bullying initiatives in the community.
- An unfortunate confluence of factors forces the cancellation of a trio of well-known Tri-Cities events. Port Moody's Wearable Art Awards, Coquitlam's Blue Mountain Music Festival and the Water's Edge Festival are all shelved due to reasons ranging from a lack of sponsorship money to a drop in submissions.
- A child poverty report card released by the advocacy coalition First Call shows a 19-per-cent jump in the number of children and youth who were in care, or whose families were on income assistance, between 2007 and 2009. Further numbers from 2010 shows are a 43-per-cent increase in neighbourhood vulnerability rates since 2004 among kindergarten-aged children. Likewise, in a 2010 study of Tri-Cities Grade 4 students, 27 per cent reported low health and well-being. School District 43 officials are shocked by the stats, and ultimately write a letter to the provincial government about the situation and about what they call inequitable funding.
- Coquitlam's oldest outdoor pool is shut down for the foreseeable future in a move that upsets scores of Maillardville residents. Originally built in 1968, Rochester Pool is closed for the summer of 2012 due to issues around fractures, leakage, erosion and potential replacement. An outdoor play area replaces the pool during the summer, while city staff begins a review of all aquatics infrastructure across the Tri-Cities.
- Coquitlam resident Ryan Dickinson becomes the first person sentenced in relation to the 2011 Stanley Cup riots. The 20-year-old is sentenced to 17 months in prison, less three and a half months for time served. That will be followed by two years of probation and several conditions, including that he not possess or consume illicit drugs or alcohol. The sentence breaks down as 16 months for his participation in the riot and one month for breach of recognizance. Crown prosecution had requested up to 18 months in jail for Dickinson, while his lawyer had recommended one year.
- Three generations of Maillardville pioneers are feted at Coquitlam's Woody's Pub for their contributions to the community. Approximately 70 people attend, spanning three generations of Coquitlam residents dating back to the 1930s. Historical photos and artifacts adorn the pub - which has been in the same location since 1934 - and a series of black and white prints provide evidence of famous landmarks from yesteryear: Sam's Theatre, Tremblay Hall, Grevelyn's Shoe Repair Shop, Cap's Bicycles and the Laval Grocery.
- The solution to a 25-year old mystery surfaces in Sasamat Lake, as the B.C. Coroners Service identifies a missing man whose foot bones washed ashore in Port Moody in late 2011. DNA analysis confirms the bones belonged to Stefan Zahorujko of Vancouver, who disappeared during a fishing trip on Jan. 5, 1987. Zahorujko, aged 65 at the time, had gone fishing alone on the lake and was never seen again.
- NOW photographer Paul vanPeenen rides off into the sunset, retiring from the newspaper business after 20 years of service. VanPeeneen's last photo is taken at the SHARE food bank in Port Moody, where the entire crew of volunteers and staff are dressed in pink to raise awareness about bullying. "It wasn't my favourite, nor was it the best photograph I've ever taken," he said at the time. "And it certainly won't be my last but I think it was a fitting last shot to mark my time at The NOW. To me, it captures the spirit, the strength and the beauty of this community in one of those ordinary moments." At the time of his retirement, VanPeenen planned to traverse the globe via bicycle alongside his wife, Jan.
- Seven-year-old Coquitlam native Taiyo Boily swings for the fences for three straight hours in a bid to aid relief efforts in earthquake-stricken Japan. Taiyo, who took to baseball when he was five, selects Surrey's Bolivar Park as the home base for his charitable efforts and raises more than $1,000 before the first pitch is even thrown.
- Local organizers of a group called Reimagine CBC plan to drop off a petition opposing cuts to the CBC at the riding office of Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam MP James Moore, who is also the minister of heritage. The trouble is, the office is closed down just minutes before delivering the petition. Group organizer Jeannine Mitchell says she phoned the MP's office beforehand to inform his staff of the group's plans, and is left fuming over the closure. The NOW attempts to contact Moore's office, but calls are not returned.
- A byelection is called in Port Moody-Coquitlam on March 22, pitting three contenders against one another: Liberal candidate Dennis Marsden, Christine Clarke of the B.C. Conservatives, and former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini, who ran for the NDP. Trasolini goes on to win handily in the April 19 byelection, with 6,247 votes, or 54 per cent of the vote.
- The Coquitlam Search and Rescue service celebrates its 40th birthday, and members reflect on how the volunteer service they provide has evolved over the course of four decades. Statistics kept by the local SAR team show how busy local crews have been over the course of their history: the volunteer-based team conducted more than 650 tasks, found 821 lost people, rescued 68 injured people and recovered 61 bodies.
- The removal of about 150 trees from Coquitlam's Glen Park angers people across the city, with nearby residents accusing council of everything from appeasing developers to wasting taxpayer dollars. The removal of those trees, however, had long been indicated in the Glen Park master plan, a document approved unanimously by council in 2011 that was shaped largely by input from residents who live directly in the area. As well, arborists and city staff suggested many of the 150 trees were either unhealthy or compromised due to the 2006 windstorms.
- Port Moody's economic development committee considers a pilot project that would bring the popular food carts from Vancouver out to the suburbs of Port Moody on Sundays throughout the summer. Four vendors are ultimately selected, including: Old Country Pierogi, Gourmet Hotties, This Little Piggy and Hotties Panzerotti. City staff will review the program's inaugural run at some point in 2013.
- After a more than two-year wait, Coquitlam council opts to ban the sale of unsterilized rabbits in the city. The bylaw is drafted for three reasons: to address council's concern about rabbits being abandoned in public areas, to prevent a jump in rabbit populations throughout the city, and to prevent any abandoned rabbits from reproducing. The move does not represent an outright ban, however, and only covers the sale of unsterilized rabbits. The fine for anyone found to be selling unsterilized rabbits can be as high as $10,000.
- Port Moody city council enacts the first steps to implement a ban on the trade and sale of shark fins, a move that will eventually become a first in B.C. The move is spearheaded by a delegation made up of residents and wildlife groups asking politicians to consider such a bylaw.
Those opposed to the practice cite several reasons for the ban, including the inhumane treatment of the sharks during the process of collecting the fins, the effects the slaughter of the sharks has on the ecosystem and the criminality behind the trade. The practice of collecting shark fins has been criticized because, often, the fins are cut off the shark, then the animal is thrown back into the water to drown. The move is approved in late May, and anyone in contravention of the bylaw faces a $500 fine.
- Mayors across the Tri-Cities stop short of lending their support to a growing movement calling for a re-think on marijuana laws. Stop the Violence BC, a coalition of academics, members of law enforcement and the general public, calls for the regulation and taxation of cannabis as a way to reduce crime and undercut the gang activity as a result of the illegal marijuana trade.
Port Moody Mike Clay suggests decriminalizing pot will only empower the criminal underworld, while legalizing and regulating the drug will glorify it in the eyes of young people.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says he understands the medical use of marijuana for treating people with chronic pain and cancer, but maintains the issue is one for the federal government to decide. Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore says he's undecided on the issue.
- Members of the Port Coquitlam Fire Department unveil the city's new live fire training building, a three-storey makeshift building that will assist firefighters in a multitude of training scenarios. Located at Fire Hall No. 1 on Broadway Street, the structure is built entirely out of shipping containers ranging in size between 20 and 40 feet. A series of "burn rooms" are built in varying sizes to resemble the dimensions of a typical bedroom, dining room or kitchen. Those burn rooms are placed within the building so that firefighters can't directly access the fire, forcing them to work on their skills and manoeuvrability in heavy smoke conditions or while carrying a hose.
The building also contains a series of balcony-like extensions to help firefighters simulate ladder rescues. The design of the building is intended to resemble a three-to four-storey lowrise, of which there are about 300 in PoCo alone.
- Maple Ridge high school students Michael Moore and Emily-Ann Chick are hailed as lifesavers after rescuing a drowning man in Sasamat Lake.
After noticing the individual struggling for air about 30 feet from shore, Moore jumps into the water and drags the man back to shore.
Police confirm the man, 26, has a history of mental illness that played a part in the incident. He was eventually airlifted to hospital where he was treated for his injuries and later released.
- Rick Hansen's 25th Anniversary Relay stops over in the Tri-Cities for a pair of high-profile events, which start with a presentation at PoCo's Terry Fox Secondary school.
As part of the relay, 7,000 medal bearers help re-create Hansen's journey. Each of those medal bearers is selected based on the personal traits that both Hansen and Fox embody: courage, values, determination and the desire to make a difference.
A day after his presentation at Fox, Hansen recreates his epic climb up Thermal Drive hill in Coquitlam, a quarter century after completing the task for the first time on his Man in Motion Tour in 1987.
- Two patients from Port Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital go missing from the facility within a week.
It's a scenario that plays out several times over the course of the rest of the year, prompting Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart to ask the facility for answers.
Hospital staff perform two reviews of the facility's unescorted day pass program, and temporarily suspend the program until an internal review is complete. All of the escaped patients are returned to the facility with the exception of one - David Fomradas, 34, remains at large after having gone missing in May.
- The first of three targeted, gang-related murders within four months shocks Port Moody. On May 30, noted gangster Gurbinder Singh Toor is gunned down in the parking lot of the Port Moody Recreation Complex just after sundown.
Then on June 25, Randynesh Raman Naicker, a founder of the Independent Soldiers, is shot dead during rush hour near the corner of St. Johns and Queens streets. In early September, Joseph Markel, who was believed to be an associate of the Dhak-Duhre gang, is gunned down at his family's home on Wallace Wynd.
The proliferation of violence prompts a town hall meeting with elected officials and police in September. "
"We have absolutely no evidence that they chose Port Moody specifically to conduct these executions," Vancouver Police Department Insp. Brad Desmarais told the forum, adding the targets didn't live or hang out in the city.
- The volume and duration of the ringing of church bells at Port Coquitlam's Our Lady of the Assumption Church touches off a battle between parishioners and neighbourhood residents that lasts the better part of a year. City council tries to steer clear of the issue, and asks the two sides to work out a resolution. A new schedule for the bell ringing is established in the summer, and sound-deafening materials are used to bring the decibel levels down.
None of it works. Staff attempts to intervene in December by introducing a bylaw that would cap the bells' decibel levels between 45 and 55 dB, but council rejects the proposal. As a result, the church bells remain exempt from the city's noise bylaws.
- The second annual Trevor Wingrove Memorial Tournament takes place in Coquitlam, honouring the former box lacrosse star and City of Coquitlam staffer. More than 20 teams from around the province participate and pay their respects to Wingrove, who died of cancer in 2010. "Coquitlam has a long history of playing and supporting lacrosse. We are very proud to host this tournament in our community, particularly in light of Trevor's many positive contributions to lacrosse and to the City of Coquitlam," Coquitlam's deputy city manager John DuMont says at the time.
- Anmore Coun. Tim Laidler resigns from his seat on Anmore council less than a year after being elected over concerns around how the village hired its new CAO, Tim Harris.
Three people step up to seek the position, including Arthur Crossman, Sagheer Jan and Ann-Marie Thiele. The lone resident of Anmore amongst the three nominees, Thiele wins the September byelection by a landslide, collecting 290 votes out of the 317 ballots cast.
- Coquitlam RCMP's rural unit, along with the help of a few businesses with expertise in the area of scrap removal, remove more than a dozen abandoned vehicles out of Pitt Lake. The mass removal project comes after cabin owners in the area lodge a series of complaints around the illegal dumping. Most of the vehicles removed are trucks and SUVs from the 1980s and early 90s, though none turn out to be stolen.
- The Coquitlam Natural Path Society, the area's first cannabis compassion club, opens its doors in a non-descript strip mall in Maillardville.
The society's founder and president, Christopher MacLeod, says he's opened up shop in the Tri-Cities to cut down the travel time for locals who use the dispensaries in Vancouver. His stay does not last long.
Coquitlam RCMP issues a statement two weeks after the dispensary opens, noting owners or employees of these dispensaries may be charged with trafficking in a controlled substance, should evidence exist to support a charge.
By August, and after Coquitlam council voted unanimously to ban unlicensed marijuana dispensaries in the city, the shop is closed.