What a year it's been. From the fire-hall saga in Port Moody to the criminal trial against former Coquitlam mayor Jon Kingsbury, there have been some lows. There have also been plenty of highs, including the 20-year anniversary of Coquitlam's own Relay for Life and a 50-per-cent drop in the local homeless population. Join us as we look back at the first half of 2011, Tri-Cities style.
. The local chapter of Operation Red Nose breaks records in every way possible, raising $10,181 for KidSport Tri-Cities. The number of volunteers increases to 98 from 88, while 382 rides are given compared to the previous high of 237.
. Port Moody-based automotive shop owner Steve Tetu sounds off on the province's plans for Evergreen Line routing - which would go right through his shop on Moray Street. Tetu is offered $58,000 to relocate his shop, though he estimates costs will come in at more than $175,000.
. Longtime Terry Fox Secondary teacher and coach Carey Lapa dies of a heart attack at 51. A physed teacher, Lapa had been at Terry Fox for 16 years, after a handful of years teaching at Centennial. "He was definitely someone who dedicated his life to teaching," Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore says.
. Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth publicly declares his intentions to run for the NDP leadership. He makes the announcement at the Gathering Place in Port Coquitlam. The four-term MLA's talking points include raising the minimum wage, establishing a provincial commission on education and a rural economic development program, addressing child poverty concerns and using the carbon tax to fund public transit programs. Adrian Dix goes on to win the NDP leadership campaign in mid April.
. Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Diane Thorne and her husband Neil Edmondson endure a vacation to forget while travelling in Mexico. The couple's ordeal includes a car accident that appears to be some sort of shakedown and includes an eight-hour stay in prison for Edmondson, 78. All told, the couple has to spend more than US$1,500 to secure Edmondson's release.
. Port Moody's Fire Hall No. 1 saga begins, as the city announces it will hold a referendum on whether to borrow up to $16 million to rebuild the aging facility, which dates back to 1974. When the referendum is finally held on April 16, 58 per cent of voters opt to rebuild the facility, though only 9.2 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Ten days later, however, council votes 4-2 against borrowing the funds, citing low voter turnout. Port Moody firefighters are outraged by council's decision and a committee is struck to revisit the location, size, shape and form of the fire hall. Ultimately, the city decides to borrow $6 million in the spring of 2012, followed by up to $3 million more in the fall of that year to replace the hall.
A lake in the Coquitlam watershed is named after a Second World War veteran from Coquitlam. Winter Lake takes its name from Benny Winter, who served in Sri Lanka as part of air and sea patrols during the early 1940s. Winter was last seen on Aug. 24, 1943, when his aircraft was reported missing 113 kilometres off the Sri Lankan coast. He was 22. Winter is survived locally by 84-year-old sister Elsie Van Leeuwen and her son Barry.
. A 65-year-old man dies after a fire at the Wildwood Mobile Home Park in Coquitlam. Coquitlam Fire and Rescue Chief Tony Delmonico says crews noted a "glow in the sky" from the towering flames, which take one ladder company and three engines to contain. Foul play is ruled out.
. The Fraser Institute's annual ranking of B.C. elementary schools sees Tri-Cities facilities rank anywhere from top of the list to near the bottom, much to the chagrin of the Coquitlam Teachers' Association (CTA). Queen of All Saints scores perfect marks in a first-place tie, while Alderson ends up in 797th spot. The Fraser Institute calls the rankings an "objective performance indicator" to help parents decide where to have their kids schooled, while CTA president Teresa Grandinetti suggests, "When you start ranking, then you start getting kids ready to write a test rather than looking at what the curriculum is doing."
. The criminal trial against Jon Kingsbury begins, with the former mayor facing charges of theft over $5,000, personation with intent to gain advantage, causing a person to use a forged document and fraud over $5,000. The case is based on allegations that Kingsbury stole an RV owned by business associate Jean Aussant. Kingsbury enters a plea of not guilty. He is found guilty of three counts, but acquitted of the theft charge. He receives a suspended sentence, and is ordered to do 150 hours of community service, pay a $300 victim surcharge and have no contact with the victim.
. Grade 4 student Josh Eisner organizes an anti-bullying campaign at his school in support of Pink Shirt Day. The Porter Street Elementary student contacts local design companies, creates a logo and prints off 360 pink shirts - one for each student at the school. Eisner takes his inspiration from the Stream of Dreams project, in which painted wooden fish are strung in lines across school fences. "I got the idea from the fish idea on all the fences," he says. "I decided that the fish project can be done like a Pink Shirt project."
. Tragedy strikes as two women are killed at the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Pitt River Road. Lorraine Cruz, 26, and Charlene Reaveley, 30, are struck and killed after Cruz and her boyfriend Paulo Calimahin are involved in a separate accident shortly after 12: 30 a.m. on Feb. 18. Reaveley and her husband Dan are helping Cruz and Calimahin when a white Jeep Cherokee runs down both women, killing them instantly. Coquitlam resident Cory Sater, 37, faces 10 charges related to the incident: two counts each of dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing death and causing an accident resulting in death. His trial is set to begin on Feb. 7, 2013.
. The reactions range from skeptical to optimistic among Tri-Cities mayors after Christy Clark wins the Liberal leadership race and is named B.C.'s premier-designate. Port Moody's Joe Trasolini says he's hopeful Clark will lead the Liberals into a new era of governance. PoCo Mayor Greg Moore touts the benefits of having a premier who's familiar with the lay of the land. Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who worked alongside Clark during his four years in Victoria, suggests the premier-designate is "capable of tackling the challenges, but the challenges are enormous." Port Moody-Westwood MLA from 1996 to 2005, Clark secures the province's top job by garnering 52 per cent of votes on the third ballot during the party's leadership vote.
. Tri-Cities MLAs weigh in on the province's new head honcho as well, and at least one of them doesn't mince words when describing Christy Clark. "I think she is definitely, definitely a Gordon Campbell in a skirt. I have always thought that about her," Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA Diane Thorne says.
. Metro Vancouver staff and volunteers conduct a homeless count. More than 45 volunteers take part in the 12hour exercise in parts of Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, while more than 600 volunteers chip in to the once-every-three-years effort across Metro Vancouver. Statistics released in late May point to a 50-percent drop in the local homeless population - from 94 people in 2008 to 47 in 2011. Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group chair Sandy Burpee attributes the drop to two factors: the one-onone outreach work done by Hope For Freedom Society volunteers and the continuation of the rotating cold wet weather mat program at local churches during winter months.
. Coquitlam council unanimously endorses a plan to reduce the number of Canada geese at Como Lake Park. The move comes in response to a massive influx in the amount of geese in the area the previous summer, when a city-hired contractor counted 193 in July 2010. Usually, the number is about 35. Relocating the geese to a provincial wildlife management area comes with a price tag of about $2,600, while three years worth of shrubbery costs in the range of $4,500.
. Port Coquitlam mom Jennifer Ratcliffe Googles her kid's school, and the resulting images leave her stunned. Ratcliffe sounds the alarm over a website that appears - and contains "hard core" pornographic images - linked to the school district. Officials indicate they knew of the website's existence before Ratcliffe reported the issue, but the site's hosting company allowed anyone to make websites and post content. In mid April, a U.K.-based man agrees to take the site offline and asks search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo to erase any trace of the content.
. Signs of unease in the Austin Heights neighbourhood begin to surface at a March 30 public hearing in Coquitlam. A handful of residents show up to council chambers to express their opposition to the city's Austin Heights Neighbourhood Plan, a wide-reaching document that aims to accommodate 5,000 new residents over the next two decades. The most contentious element of the plan, which is adopted in early April, is the inclusion of highrise towers. The first highrise proposal is turned down because of its 24-storey height. A second proposal, for a 19-storey structure at the corner of Austin Avenue and Blue Mountain Street, is approved. Council then votes to place a moratorium on future highrise development requests until the neighbourhood plan is re-examined with respect to building heights.
. Coquitlam residents Mike and Angelique Rasmussen lend a hand to people in poverty-stricken areas of El Salvador by helping with various construction projects and funding the purchase of livestock and supplies. Rasmussen vowed he would help a charitable effort if his son beat cancer, which he eventually did, leading the Tri-Cities realtor to own up to his end of the bargain. Focusing on poor rural villages, Rasmussen buys goats and chickens and launches communal co-op programs for the villagers. He continues his charitable efforts in late October, helping villagers with water supplies after major flooding cripples the region.
. Port Coquitlam residents Jennifer Rees and Robert Ruff speak out against idling and noise pollution from the nearby Canadian Pacific Railway yard. Rees is worried the diesel emissions will worsen her son's heart aneurysm. Ruff, on the other hand, claims the idling trains have caused a "San Andreas fault" running through his kitchen. A CPR spokesperson says the company's policy is to allow trains to idle for up to 15 minutes outside of rail yards, and more than 80 per cent of the company's locomotives are equipped with anti-idling devices.
. The made-in-Coquitlam Relay For Life marks two decades. Since its inception, the annual cancer fundraiser has generated more than $8 million for the Canadian Cancer Society in Coquitlam alone, with 75 per cent of teams coming back year after year. Initially called Relay For a Friend, the inaugural fundraiser drew 13 teams. Fast forward to 2011, and 1,023 participants take part, raising $647,000.
. A Port Coquitlam teen is banned from a Conservative Party rally in Burnaby attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Diamond Isinger, a 17-year-old Young Liberal volunteer, claims she was denied access to the event because of her standing as a volunteer for the Grits. Not so, according to the Conservatives, as party spokesman Michael White suggests the teen was welcomed to the event provided she and her friend - another Young Liberal volunteer - did not disrupt proceedings.
. Belcarra's Bedwell Bay is home to new discoveries, as divers uncover two shipwrecks. Members of the Shipwreck Exploration Team, in the area to document four previously discovered wrecks on the ocean floor, come across two other mystery ships. Divers descend more than 30 metres to chronicle one of the ships, described as being about a century old, 100 feet long and six to eight feet wide. A local historian himself, Belcarra mayor Ralph Drew notes that other ships - particularly those used in wartime eras - have been discovered in the area as well.
. Coquitlam tops all other B.C. municipalities when it comes to settlement for government-assisted refugees from January to March. According to the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., 123 government-assisted refugees arrived in B.C. between Jan. 1 and March 31. The Tri-Cities becomes the settlement destination for 27 of these newcomers (22 per cent).
. A Port Coquitlam senior goes missing on April 26 and her body is found four days later. Donna Rasmussen, 75, is reported missing after going for a walk near her Suffolk Avenue home. She does not return home that afternoon, and by 4 p.m., her family calls police. At about 12: 15 p.m. on April 30, a passerby discovers a woman's body off the PoCo trail, northeast of Shaughnessy Street and Lougheed Highway. Coquitlam RCMP later confirm the body is that of Rasmussen.
. Politicians and residents alike react with shock and anger to the news that child killer Allan Schoenborn is granted restricted escorted trips into the Tri-Cities. Convicted for the 2008 killings of his three young children, Schoenborn is staying at Port Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital after being found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The B.C. Review Board grants his request to take "trips to Starbucks for a coffee or to go swimming" with other patients from the facility. Shoenborn's ex-wife lives in the Tri-Cities - a rally is held in Coquitlam in her support, while the City of Port Coquitlam calls on the province to overturn the review board's decision. Schoenborn ultimately withdraws his request.
The Conservatives win their first majority since coming to power in 2006, while the Orange Crush emerges as a major force after Canada's 41st general election. Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam MP James Moore claims his fifth straight election win, while Fin Donnelly retains his seat in New Westminster-Coquitlam.
. The province announces a new program to help smokers kick the nic. Set for a September start date, the program will fund up to 12 weeks of nicotine gum or patches for the province's estimated 550,000 tobacco users. It's slated to cost between $15 million and $25 million, depending on the number of people who use it. Statistics suggest more than 6,000 B.C. residents die annually from tobacco use.
. Port Moody resident Linda Balzer pitches a "love locks" concept to city council, and the initial feedback seems rosy. The plan is for friends, lovers, acquaintances and even pet owners to place locks on the pier at Rocky Point Park. Once the love is pledged and the names are inscribed on the lock, the key will be tossed away. Council unanimously supports sending the proposal to staff for further examination, but the idea is kaiboshed in late June over concerns ranging from pollution to problems with the location.
. More than 30 women from across the Tri-Cities shed more than just their inhibitions for a calendar. The Birds of McAllister, a group of 33 women ranging in age from 27 to 84, pose nude for the calendar to help benefit a Port Coquitlam transition house and other special-needs girls' groups in the city. All of the women are clients of the Curves outlet in PoCo. The Birds release their calendar in mid-November. One month later, all of the 550-plus copies are sold out.
. Premier Christy Clark visits Coquitlam to help break ground on a 30-unit affordable housing complex for single mothers at 528 Como Lake Rd. Slated for completion in spring 2012, the project represents a partnership between the City of Coquitlam, the province and the YWCA.
. The City of Port Coquitlam unanimously passes the first three readings of a cosmetic pesticide ban, with councillors and the mayor saying the province and the feds are taking too long to act on the issue. Education is touted as the first line of enforcement, though the city also promises tickets in the range of $100 to $300 if education and written warnings don't work. Though local governments do not have the authority to ban the sale of cosmetic pesticides, the city plans to get businesses on board by sending letters to shopkeepers asking them to voluntarily remove banned pesticides from their shelves.
. Rogers Communications Inc. withdraws its application to build a cellphone tower in Port Coquitlam's Greenmount Park just minutes before the issue is to be debated by council. Company officials point to widespread community opposition as the reason for backing out of the proposal.
. Coquitlam council sends a letter to Great Canadian Gaming Corp. expressing its support for mixed martial arts events at the Red Robinson Theatre. The fights can only go ahead if sanctioned by the Mixed Martial Arts Association of B.C. (MMABC). The move represents a significant shift in policy for Coquitlam, as council had previously sent a letter to the casino asking that it to no longer stage amateur MMA events.
. The Canucks may not have sipped from the chalice, but that doesn't stop their fans from having a sip - or 10. Pubs and bars across the Tri-Cities report anywhere from a 15-to 100-per-cent jump in sales as the Canucks battle the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup final. The Canucks go on to lose Game 7 on home ice by a count of 4-0.
. Coquitlam's Ian MacKenzie finds out information about a long lost uncle despite seemingly having all the odds, not to mention mud, stacked against him. Ian's uncle Harry MacKenzie was a Second World War pilot who was shot down over a French village in 1944, and the remnants of his plane became buried in metres of mud in a village called Sacy le Grand. In 2009, villagers excavating a yard find remnants of the plane and Royal Canadian Air Force experts in Scotland begin tracing the engine's serial number. Dozens of e-mails and phone calls are spread across North America, and Ian eventually learns of his uncle's fate through correspondence with French villagers. Ian and his wife travel to the small French village in late June, when a memorial is made out of the recovered engine and a street is named in Harry's honour.
. A group of men are fined after a bear is shot with a bow and arrow in Minnekhada Regional Park. Coquitlam RCMP are called on a report that four men are hunting in the park with bows and arrows. RCMP deploy a helicopter to investigate, and it's revealed that the bear was shot and wounded before retreating deeper into the park. Conservation officers take over the investigation and tickets are issued to the guilty parties.
. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows - Vancouver Canucks fans and people across B.C. go through an emotional meatgrinder on June 15. The Canucks lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins and tens of thousands of fans go on a rampage in downtown Vancouver - cars are set on fire, businesses are broken into and looted and fights break out throughout the downtown core. Port Moody Police Const. Bill Kim says 14 of his officers were deployed into the madness, and he expresses shock and resentment over the event. Port Coquitlam resident Dave Teixeira helps the investigation by starting up a website called www.canucksriot2011. com, which documents photographs and other images of rioters that are later turned over to police. Premier Christy Clark vows to televise court proceedings for as many rioters as possible, a promise she sticks to in an exclusive interview with The NOW in December. Coquitlam's Ryan Dickinson, 20, becomes the first Tri-Cities resident to be charged in the aftermath in December. Dickinson is charged with participating in a riot and two counts of mischief over $5,000 and is ordered to be held in custody pending a Jan. 6, 2012, arraignment date.
. Long-time Port Moody city manager Gaetan Royer announces he will be leaving the city after 11 years to take a job with Metro Vancouver. He takes over a new role as Metro Vancouver's manager of metropolitan planning, environment and parks.
. She was described as a mother to an entire nation. Betty Fox, 73, dies on June 17, though no cause of death is released by the family. Tributes pour in from across the nation. Hundreds of mourners convene at Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam for her funeral, which is webcast live across the world. Betty is survived by her husband Rolly, two sons, Fred and Darrell, a daughter Judith and several grandchildren.
. Want to read more? Check Friday's paper for Part 2 of our look back at 2011.