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Chilliwack Progress looks back at the first half of 2015

The long awaited regional bus service between Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley is finally launched in April. By year’s end the FVX 66 is carrying more than 300 passengers a day.  - Jenna Hauck/ Progress File
The long awaited regional bus service between Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley is finally launched in April. By year’s end the FVX 66 is carrying more than 300 passengers a day.
— image credit: Jenna Hauck/ Progress File

January

January begins with a winter storm that knocks out power and takes down trees in Chilliwack.

While snow created havoc on the roads, it was the ice that became the real headache.

The City of Chilliwack estimated more than 200 city trees were damaged. Some could be pruned, but many boulevard trees had to be replaced by the city.

 

Gunfire erupts and a quiet cul-de-sac on Hazel Street is behind police tape in Chilliwack’s first homicide of the year. The 39-year-old victim was identified as Chilliwack resident Stuart David Ellis. No one has been charged in the killing, which police said at the time was not random.

 

U.S. retailer Target announced it was abandoning its short-lived foray into Canada. The Chilliwack location in Cottonwood Mall was among 19 Target stores closed in B.C., 133 nation-wide, after opening only a year earlier.

 

Postal workers in Chilliwack are told all door-to-door mail delivery will end Nov. 16, 2015, affecting 12,200 households. Chilliwack was among the first communities to see home delivery axed in 2015 in a cost-saving measure. The plan was to replace door-to-door delivery with community mail boxes, sparking widespread anger and concerns over mail security.

 

February

The Fraser Valley Express is officially announced, with a scheduled start date of April 6. The bus, #66 FVX, will link downtown Chilliwack to Abbotsford, and Langley.  Commuters here are told it should take 79 minutes to take the bus from Chilliwack to Langley, and 222 minutes to get to Tsawwassen ferries with transfers.

 

Gwen Point is installed as the University of the Fraser Valley’s chancellor, becoming the second person to hold the position.

 

Concerted efforts to bring people off the streets in Chilliwack shows progress after the 2014 Homelessness Survey report was presented to the Fraser Valley Regional District. According the survey, Chilliwack saw a decrease of 34 per cent in the city’s homeless population. There were 111 homeless enumerated in Chilliwack during the 2011 count, but that number dropped to 73 in 2014, the report said.

 

March

The City of Chilliwack proposes a tax rate increase of just 1.49 per cent, making it the lowest rate in the entire Lower Mainland. Despite the modest increase – which Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said continued “on a path of restraint” – there were plans to hire additional police officers and firefighters.

 

The Chilliwack Chiefs finished off their first round in their playoff series with 4-2 Game 5 win that sent the Coquitlam Express packing and the Chiefs to the second round.

 

The Chilliwack and Hope hockey communities mourn the loss of three young men, killed in a single vehicle crash on Highway 1. The three cousins, Brad Webb, Devan King-Peters, Philip Morgan Peters, were killed when their vehicle went into the ditch and struck the Hunter Creek weigh station building.

 

Residents along Young Road step up their fight against plans to raise the Young Road dike by more than a metre. About 30 homeowners have chipped in to print the signs and engage legal counsel to file a lawsuit against City of Chilliwack. They say the increase in elevation will make property access difficult and actually heighten the flood risk.  The cost of the Young Road Dike Project is $2.1 million, with provincial and federal reps sharing it three ways with the city’s share at about $700,000.

The alternative for council was cancelling the project, which would have meant forfeiting Emergency Management BC funding, and the $150,000 for emergency upgrading materials, said staff in the report to council in February.

 

A seven month investigation into an alleged drug trafficking ring with Chilliwack connections ends with several arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars in drugs. An earlier raid at a Brett Avenue apartment led to the arrest of two suspects and seizure of 10 kilograms of cocaine. A few months later police raided several more locations. In all five people were arrested drugs worth more than $5 million confiscated. Police believe this Chilliwack-based criminal cell operated most of their alleged drug trafficking activities in cities and towns from Williams Lake to as far north as Fort St John and Dawson Creek, while also supplying the local market.

 

Hundreds of firefighters and first responders from across the province descend on Chilliwack to honour Columbia Valley firefighter Brian Smyth, who died in the line of duty in March. Smyth’s flag-draped casket was carried atop a Columbia Valley fire truck along Young Road, followed by a procession of his comrades.

 

April

With much fanfare and a parade of dignitaries, the Fraser Valley Express rolled out from Chilliwack to points west for the first time. The new FVX bus route linking the communities of Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley saw an inaugural VIP ride that morning with local MLAs, city council and BC Transit reps climbing aboard to test it out.

 

Chilliwack’s street population looking for a bed for the night at Ruth and Naomi’s mission saw big changes. A brand-new addition for a 30-day homeless shelter program was officially opened in April, with the help of funding partners Rotary Fraser Club of Chilliwack and City of Chilliwack.

 

The issues swirling around the Young Road dike project are complicated as local First Nations members join Young Road residents to oppose the project  — for entirely different reasons. About 30 people converged on the city hall property waving signs to passersby on Young Road, and asking to be heard by council. Despite the fact that the Young Road Dike project was approved by council, and road work contract signed and underway, the opposition to the project by a small group persisted.

The major road work has to begin soon or Chilliwack will lose the two-thirds funding for the $2.3 million project from their senior government funding partners, the acting mayor underlined.

 

Chilliwack RCMP arrest two men who they believe carried out a string of armed robberies in Popkum and Chilliwack from January to April.

 

The roar of Super Dave Mathieson’s aerobatic aircraft was silenced over noise complaints in April. The full-time air show pilot, who made Chilliwack his home base a few years ago, was told by Transport Canada that he could no longer perform the aerobatics under 2,000 feet at Chilliwack Airport, citing proximity to “noise sensitive or livestock” areas.

The decision sparked anger among his many supporters, even drawing a protest at the Chilliwack Airport and an online petition supporting the pilot with more than 2,200 signatures.

A group of airport tenants, meanwhile, argued they are being unfairly vilified in the wake of the complaints.

 

Chilliwack residents who was in Nepal when it was hit by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake join with other hikers in the region to fundraise for the beleaguered survivors. Shaun Monty, Robertson Mackenzie and Ashleigh Brooks were uninjured in the quake, but the saw firsthand the extent of the devastation.

 

May

In a surprising move, Aevitas Inc. pulls the plug on a controversial plan to build a hazardous waste recycling plant near the Fraser River. Aevitas president Byron Day said in a letter it was “with great disappointment,” that he had to make the decision about the Chilliwack project. The “multiple hurdles” thrown in the way of the project amounted to “a never-ending uphill battle,” he said.

City hall, which had fought an won an early court battle with plant opponents over the rezoning process,  was surprised by the decision. “The company did not call to provide us with any additional information and simply cited ‘multiple hurdles’ as their reason for discontinuing the project,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

 

Years of frustration and fear may finally end for Rotary Street residents after RCMP raid a problem property. Police escorted scores of people outside the home, located just a stone’s throw from Chilliwack secondary school. A handful were loaded into squad cars and taken into custody. Others were allowed to leave, but not without giving the middle finger to police and assembled media first.

RCMP said they collected a small quantity of drugs believed to be methamphetamine and MDMA as well as needles, pipes packaging, weigh scales, and weapons.

 

Chilliwack is rocked as news begins to unfold about the death of four people in two different locations. In Popkum, police surround a home after Randy Janzen confessed on Facebook to killing his wife, daughter and sister. He said he shot his daughter, Emily Janzen, as a way to release her from migraine pain, and that he shot his wife, Laurel “because a mother should never have hear the news her baby has died.” In another post he confessed to also killing his sister, Aldergrove resident Shelly Janzen, to save her from the “shame” of what he’d done. The death of Emily Janzen was keenly felt in the Chilliwack art community. The 19-year-old was well known in Chilliwack theatrical and musical circles, having become an accomplished soprano singer who was attending the UBC school of music.

 

The Browne Creek Wetlands becomes the latest addition to the trail network along the Vedder River. More than three years in the making, the area includes off-channel wetlands, native plant species and improved water flow. The trail system includes the Kingfisher Trail, the Vedder River South Trail and Beaver Loop Trail.

 

Rona announces it will take over the space left vacant by the departure of Target in Cottonwood Mall. The home improvement store says it will relocate its Yale Road store the mall in the new year.

 

An $800,000 offer by Kinder Morgan to offset the inconvenience of pipeline construction in Chilliwack is turned down by city council. However, a spokesperson for the energy giant says the company remains hopeful a deal can be reached. All five members of council in attendance voted to defer signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Kinder Morgan. The money would have helped pay for a $1 million pedestrian bridge project under the Community Benefit Program. Council said it will wait until after National Energy Board makes its decision about twinning the 60-year-old pipeline.

June

Work on the Community Forest Park Project begins which will one day transform the Eastern Hillsides into a vast network of trails. The trails will be for hiking, running, mountain biking, dog walking and horseback riding, to dovetail with future development eyed for the hillsides.

The Community Forest Park project is estimated to cost $102,000 with about half the funding coming from City of Chilliwack.The basic idea is to build the trail system, connecting Bridal Falls Provincial Park, to the Community Forest, eventually connecting to the Elk-Thurston saddle and Ryder Lake.

 

Fire forces a frantic early morning evacuation of about 40 tenants from a downtown apartment.

The fire broke out at around 4 a.m. in the third-floor apartment of a three-storey building, located in the 9200 block of Mary Street near Spadina. When fire fighters arrived, flames were already shooting through the roof. The building is still undergoing repairs.

 

At least two dozen bags of asbestos are found dumped on a forestry road in the Chilliwack River Valley. The material, which can be deadly if improperly handled, was found near the entrance to Chipmunk Creek. It followed a discovery earlier this year of a dumped cabin cruiser-style boat on a side road in the same valley. Since then, residents have increased vigilance and are actively watching for, recording and reporting all suspicious vehicles and activities in the area.

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