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The Naked Truth

Don Pitcairn

A dressed-up lie when exposed and stripped to bare facts will reveal the naked truth.

Ann Landers

DISCLAIMER;

The content and expressions written and published in The Naked Truth Are solely those of DON PITCAIRN

 

September 13, 2021

Purple People Beater


Here we are with a week to go before we find out the results of the 2021 Canadian federal election.  The highlight of the campaign so far had to be the televised leader's debates last week that was held over two nights in both French and English.  It appears the election will likely go down to the wire with polls showing the Conservatives and Liberals in an apparent dead heat followed by the NDP, BQ, PPC and the Greens in that order.  As part of the democratic process, it is important to hear from the leaders of all of the prominent parties that are running candidates across Canada.  With this in mind, I am questioning the rationale behind the Leaders' Debates Commission excluding People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier?


Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Green Party leader Annamie Paul all appeared in both leaders debate with the People's Party of Canada leader left outside in the cold, metaphorically speaking.  Now, I must admit I am not a fan of much of the PPC platform but to be honest i don't shoehorn well into any of the established party platforms either, choosing to vote strategically for what I believe will be the best outcome for Canada.  Love him or loathe him, Maxime Bernier, who came within a whisker of winning the Conservative leadership four years ago is a political animal to be reckoned with.  

Now I realize that the Bloc Quebecois are a political force in this country, holding 32 seats in the House of Commons before Parliament was dissolved for this election.  They are currently the third largest political party in Canada having regained official party status.  That being said, the BQ are a regional party, operating only in Quebec where the majority of Canadians cannot vote for them.  Even if they were to win all 78 seats in Quebec, they would never achieve majority status of 170 seats in Ottawa.  In the last federal election held in 2019 the BQ ended up with only 7.6% of the Canada wide vote but their leader still gets invited to both the French and English debates.  The Greens received only 6.6% of the vote and their leader gets invited to both debates, while the upstart PPC gets shut out and doesn't get to get to play ball with the more established parties, including the regional BQ.

In this election the People's Party of Canada has fielded candidates in 311 of the 338 ridings across Canada, while the Greens after much political infighting involving their new leader only managed to field candidates in 252 ridings.  The PPC have Gary Jensen as their candidate in South Surrey-White Rock, while the Greens do not have a name on the ballot this time around.  Current vote projections at 338Canada.com have the Bloc at 6.7%, the PPC at 6.2% and the Greens way back at a measly 3.2% and yet Maxime Bernier gets excluded from both leader's debates?  The Leaders' Debate Commission decided to limit participation to the leaders of parties with at least one sitting MP, or 4% of the vote in the last election, or 4% support in polls 5 days before the writ was dropped.  In this case, it seems the lines were drawn purposely to keep the ultra-conservative People's Party out of the media spotlight.

Regardless of your political beliefs or affiliation, the exclusion of Maxime Bernier and his Purple Peeps Party from the leader's debate should be viewed as a travesty of the democratic process.  Whether you agree with their leader or any of their platform, they are a recognized political party that is quickly making inroads on the older established political organizations.  Excluding them on the whim of a faceless commission does not serve our democracy or the voters of Canada.  This decision apparently has backfired since support for the PPC has risen sharply since just before the leader's debates were held.  With only a week to go before the election and public discontent on the rise, it is possible for the PPC to receive more of the popular vote than the Bloc.  If the PPC is not invited to the next leader's debate, it will confirm their suspicions that the fix is indeed in.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 07, 2021

Like Father, Like Son

 


This federal election that nobody other than our Prime Minister and the Liberal Party brass wanted, has got me deeply concerned for the economic future of our country.  Unfortunately, it seems that there is no party to vote for that has a realistic plan for reigning in Canada's massive debt problem, which has ballooned to record levels due to lavish COVID-19 spending.  The Liberals under Justin Trudeau are completely ignoring the rising debt levels and are expected to put us further into the red by an estimated $381 billion this year.  The O'Toole Conservatives are talking about balancing the budget in 10 years but this means holding the reins of power for a decade to accomplish this feat.  The NDP platform is big on ways to spend your money but I have still not seen a costing of all of their promises.

No matter what the politicians are peddling, data recently released from the Parliamentary Budget Officer predicts that the federal government will not balance its budget until the year 2070.  This information was part of the most recent Fiscal Sustainability Report, which is a misnomer as this kind of fiscal planning is anything but sustainable.  By that time, I will definitely be dead and it is likely that my kids may have joined me in the after-life or be sitting in a rocking chair at the old folk's home.  I can guarantee by that then the days of record low interest rates will be long over and the servicing costs for the nations trillions of dollars of debt will be siphoning off much of our tax base that should be used for essential services instead of loan payments.  

I decided to look at the Trudeau family record of financial management going back to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau who held office from 1968 to 1979 and then from 1980 to 1984.  In 1967 before PET took power, Canada had $27 billion in debt meaning a federal debt per person of $1,420.  By 1976 that had jumped to $55 billion or $2,600 per Canadian.  Amazingly with Pierre's "Just Society" spending policy, this number had jumped to a then whopping $90 billion in 1979 with the individual debt ramping up to $4,130.  After less than a year of the Conservative's Joe Clark running the country PET took over again ramping up Canada's debt from $98 billion up to $210 billion in this short time frame with the debt hitting a record 58.4% percentage of the GDP.  Personal Canadian debt in those four years rose from $5,000 per person to $9,570 in that time frame before PM Pierre Trudeau took his walk in the snow and retired. 

When son Justin was first elected in Nov of 2015 in a second wave of Trudeaumania, he promised to balance the budget by 2019.  To be quite honest he did a little better than the old man but continued to increase the national debt and ramp up spending in a time of economic prosperity.  In 2016 under the Liberals the debt jumped by $34 billion, increasing everyone's personal federal debt by $750 to $29,760 (as you can tell there had been plenty of deficit financing in a little over 30 years).  Our debt cracked the one trillion-dollar mark in 2018, climbing to $1,084 billion in 2020 thanks in large part to the beginning of COVID spending.  It is predicted to reach $1,453 billion in 2021 a nearly $10,000 increase for every man woman and child in Canada up to $42,000 per person.  The projected 73% debt to GDP ratio is also a new record high, or low depending on your viewpoint.


At some point in time our politicians need to address the elephant in the boardroom.  If i were to manage my household finances the way our political parties manage their budgets it would not be long before the bank would foreclose and I'd be forced to declare bankruptcy.  Heaping debt onto the younger generation that must pay these bills in the future is a form of fiscal child abuse.  Growing the economy and having the budget balance itself sounds so easy but it is not a stable economic platform since there are no spending or loan controls in place.  Canadians need to know that our government deficit has ballooned by the most of any G-20 country during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hopefully this spending spree will stop once the virus has been controlled but I fail to see anyone on the ballot that is promoting fiscal prudence anytime in the future.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 23, 2021

May these Gates Ever Re-open?

 


It has now been two weeks since Canada reopened its land border crossings to American citizens, albeit ones that had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and possessing a recent PCR test showing they were free of the virus.  Strangely, on a shared border with two friendly neighbouring countries, the US government decided to hold off their border reopening with Canada until August 21, 2021.  As of last Friday, that date has now been rolled back by the US Department of Homeland Security to the final day of summer, September 21st, meaning that by that time it will have been six weeks that the land border crossings were open to Americans heading north, but not for Canadians heading south.  

You have to ask yourself how any of this makes sense?  While the border was closed to non-essential travel for 16 months, air travel continued as is the case today with Air Alaska selling return flights from Vancouver to Seattle for $268, requiring only a negative Coronavirus test taken at least 72 hours prior to departure.  You can fly to the land of the free in a packed airplane sitting elbow to elbow in cramped seats but not in the comfort of your own vehicle away from the great unwashed hoard with the windows open for plenty of fresh air.  Even more asinine is that Point Robert residents are now allowed to travel into Tsawwassen or Ladner without being vaccinated or having a negative Covid test and yet double vaccinated Canadians can still not head south to check on their properties there just across the line from Tsawwassen.

All of this is happening during the rise of the fourth wave of COVID-19 across America involving many of the unvaccinated (read Trumplicans if you wish).  To date only 51% of Americans have received their two vaccine shots, compared to 65% in the Great White North.  The Delta B.16 variant is now taking America by storm, accounting for more than 86% of new infections according to the CDC.  This should come as no surprise considering that the Delta variant has shown it is more than twice as contagious as the original COVID-19 strain.  Community transmission is now rated as "High" in all of the continental states except for the north-east states of Maine and Vermont.  Covid transmissions and hospitalizations in Washington state are at an all-time high according to their state’s Department of Health with transmission and hospitalizations at record levels from the Delta variant that is reported to be 98% of their new cases.

So, the Canadian land border is open to Americans experiencing a surge of COVID-19 related infections but their land crossings are closed to Canucks with higher rates of vaccination and much less Covid infections or community transmission.  Am I the only one who thinks that the situation at the US\Can border should be reversed with the Yanks allowing us down to the States but Canada not allowing Merikans to head north?  To be quite honest, I would not consider visiting the USA right now no matter the reason and the Canadian Government travel website continues to warn against non-essential travel to the US at this time.  I should also note that on Sept. 7th Canada will also welcome overseas tourist travellers to enter Canada provided they have been fully vaccinated and have a negative coronavirus test taken at least 72 hours prior to arrival.  

All of this brings us to a special upcoming date that you should circle on your calendars.  Sept 6, 2021 marks the 100th year anniversary of the dedication of the Peace Arch Monument at the Douglas land crossing.  Though a century old, this 67-foot-tall monument that was one of the first earthquake proof structures in North America, is in beautiful shape after being clean, primed, painted and fully restored last year.  Inscriptions on the Peace Arch read "Children of a common mother" and 

"Bretheren dwelling together in unity" but obviously this close-knit family has now become dysfunctional during the world-wide pandemic with one brother closing the door on the other.  Most ironic has to be the wrought iron gates with an inscription that reads "May these gates never be closed", which is what will have happened for 18.5 months if the opening date for the US border is not rolled back even further into the Fall of 2021 as I expect.

Unfortunately, just as many other activities and celebrations have been cancelled due to COVID-19 over the past year and a half, the Sept. 6th 100th year anniversary of the Peace Arch will not be honoured.  The Canadian side of Peace Arch Park is still closed and while the American portion is accessible to Canadians from Zero Avenue by jumping a ditch, it was decided to delay the festivities until September of 2022.  Information about this iconic monument can be found on the International Peace Arch Association website at peacearchpark.org, including plans to put two new 100-year time capsules into it that will be opened in 2121, barring any future global pandemic of course.   I'm thinking a surgical mask, bottle of hand sanitizer, roll of toilet paper and a MAGA cap would be rather fitting considering the historic times we continue to find ourselves in.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - August 16, 2021


And They're Off!


I knew that the rumors about the Liberals calling a fall election were true when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shaved off his grey beard, cut his famous flowing locks, got a new hair dye job and started rolling up the sleeves of his light blue shirt again.  Two years after being reduced to minority government status and with nationwide polling showing that a renewed majority might be within their grasp, the Liberals threw caution to the wind and rolled the dice, calling for the shortest allowable election campaign of 36 days.  You can review the entire Elections Canada calendar at the following link, with local Elections Canada offices opening here on Tuesday (day 34):  https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=bkg&document=ec90795&lang=e

Call me jaded but there are some things I really hate about the federal electoral process.  The one that really burns me is the federal government spending taxpayer money hand-over-fist on program advertising pre-writ that should be viewed somewhere between election campaign material and plain old propaganda.  Case in point is all of the Liberal gun control advertising that has flooded both TV and radio over the past few weeks.  I can't even blame the Liberals because the Conservatives do this type of thing too when they are in power.  The fact that a Prime Minister can ask the Governor General to dissolve parliament at any time they chose during their four-year mandate only serves their political purposes, not the good of the country.  Do we really need a federal election during the 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and at an estimated cost of a record $610 million (It was $540 million in 2017)?  Put these questions on a ballot and I will check NO and NO.

So now it's time to pull out the crystal ball and look at who might be the next MP for South Surrey-White Rock.  In the right corner wearing blue trunks it is the incumbent Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay who has been our MP for the past two years.  In the left corner sporting red trunks it's Liberal Gordie Hogg, our previous MP who lost his title to Kerry-Lynne in the last election.  In this grudge match of King Kong vs Godzilla proportions, it should be one of these two who is still standing when the ballots are counted for the fourth federal election here in the past six years.  The NDP who improved their third place standing last time still has to name a candidate and the Green Party EDA is debating on whether or not to even run a Green candidate given their discord with the governing council in Ottawa.



Here is a historical perspective on election results for the Semi-Pen going back for a decade.  In 2011 Russ Hiebert won the riding yet again with a commanding 53% of the votes, with the NDP and Liberals in a virtual dead heat at 19%, Greens at 6% and others at 3%.  Four years later in 2015 and with former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts taking over for Heibert, the Conservatives won with 44% of the vote (-9% from the previous election), the Liberals with Judy Higginbotham close behind at 41.5% (+22.5%), the NDP falling to 10.5% (-9%) and the Greens at 3.5%.  With Dianne Watts resigning two years after the Liberal majority win, a by-election was held in 2017 where with star candidate Gordie Hogg and help from Trudeaumania, the Liberals finally broke the Conservative decades of dominance taking 47.5% of the vote with Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay not far behind at 42%, the NDP way back at only 5% and the Greens at 4%.  In the 2019 Canadian federal election, Kerry-Lynne Findlay won back this riding for the Conservatives getting 42% of the vote (same level as in 2017), Liberal Gordie Hogg slipped to 37.5% (-10%), the NDP at 11.5% (+ 6.5%) and the Greens at 7.5% (+3.5%).  I should note here that the 2017 by-election saw only 30,250 ballots cast or 38% of eligible voters, while the 2019 election saw 58,000 ballots cast equating to 69.5% of eligible voters.


The 338Canada.com polling\research website that has proven itself to be relatively accurate in the past currently has the Liberals with a projection average of 19 seats for BC versus 11 in the last election (2019).  The NDP are continuing strong at a projected 12 seats versus 11 they won here in 2019.  The Conservatives with new leader Erin O'Toole appear to be the big losers dropping from 17 seats to a projected 9 seats, with the Greens scraping up 1 or 2 seats.  The Federal vote projection in BC from 338Canada is 34.2% for the Liberals, 28.1% for the NDP, 27.2% for the Conservatives, 7.9% for the Greens and 2.8% for others.  By far the most interesting projection on their website for residents of the Semi-Pen has to be for the riding of South Surrey-White Rock as leaning Liberal Party of Canada.  Country wide on the first full day of the election campaign 338Canada projects 166 (+/- 38.1) seats for the Liberals, 108 (+/- 29.3) seats for the Conservatives, 35 (+/- 15.3) seats for the NDP, 26.7 (+/- 9.8) seats for the Bloc Quebecois and 1.8 (+/- 1) seats for the Greens.  It takes 170 seats to form a majority in parliament and with the large margin of error, these early results need to be taken with a big lump of rock salt.


One thing is for sure, this is likely to be a nail-biter of a finish here and with lots of mail-in ballots expected, counting them by hand will be a daunting job that will take time.  The official results may not be known on election night and Canada-wide it may take days for a final tally to be announced and a winner crowned.  In South Surrey-White Rock the Green Party EDA may actually play spoiler if they chose not to run a candidate and their voters show up to cast ballots for other parties.  The Greens got 4,458 votes in the last election or 7.7% of the total.  While I realize that some of these Green votes would likely flip to NDP orange, it is likely a large portion would also consider voting Liberal, who finished only 2,618 behind the Conservatives in 2019.  Based on historical election results, current voting trends, COVID-19 influences, party leaders and our local candidates, I believe a return back to the Liberals for South Surrey-White Rock is probable, just as 338Canada is predicting.  The funny thing is if this happens, Gordie Hogg would never qualify for the gold-plated MP pension; at 75 years-young he would be too old!


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn 

 

 

August 10, 2021


One-Way Border Disorder



apologize for being a day late with this TNT but with my wedding anniversary falling on a Sunday when I normally pen this tome, well let's just say that some things take priority over this column.  It actually worked out perfectly since the topic was going to be the one-way opening of the Canada/USA border that closed to non-essential travel on March 20, 2020, for exactly 505 days.  With a 24-hour delay in this column, we got to see how things were actually going to work with American visitors and tourists once again welcome to cross into Canada as of 9 p.m. Sunday.  Unfortunately US President Biden has failed to reciprocate with an opening of the US border to neighbouring Canadians who are substantially healthier than those down south. 

Early Monday morning I ended up on 176 St, also known as Hwy. 15 heading north from Cloverdale.  It was truly remarkable seeing all of the US plates on vehicles, including one with a Washington vanity plate that read PMBRTON.  Now I'm going to go out on a limb on this one and say that I believe this gentleman was likely on his way north of Whistler to a property in Pemberton, aka Pemby to those who have spent time there.  The radio was also reporting that there were many full sailings crossing towards Vancouver Island and on a Monday my money says that plenty of Americans who crossed the border early in the morning headed directly to the ferry terminals with summer holiday plans.

Fortunately, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) employees had agreed to a new contract on Friday that was hammered out in a 36-hour negotiation marathon, which ended an 8-hour work-to-rule campaign that snarled commercial truck traffic at border crossings across Canada.  This certainly helped on the first day of crossings after COVID-19 travel bans were lifted, even if things are still far from normal.  US citizens and legal residents have to provide proof of full vaccination plus have documents for a negative PCR COVID test performed within 72 hours of crossing.  Adding to the border burden, all visitors to Canada must also fill out the information required in the ArriveCAN app available online. The three lanes open at the Peace Arch Crossing were busy most of the day on Monday with wait times fluctuating between 30 minutes and several hours.  

For once, it seems that Point Roberts finally got a break from all of the COVID-19 controls that have crippled this enclave that relies heavily on Canadian visitors.  Since the start of the pandemic Point Roberts did not have a single case of COVID-19 in its residents, who have also received vaccinations in record numbers.  It was only recently that the first cases of this disease were detected, likely find its way to this bastion via boats entering the marina.  Even with COVID-19 now in Point Roberts, US residents and permanent residents, regardless of their vaccination status, can now enter Canada as long as they stay within the communities of Tsawwwassen and Ladner "to carry out everyday functions and access goods and services."  This information was released in an August 5th announcement by the CBSA with no explanation on how local shopping rules would be enforced.

It is expected that on August 21, Canadians will likely be allowed to enter into the USA for nonessential travel but with similar restrictions as Americans heading north.  A tentative date of September 7th has been announced allowing foreign nationals to enter Canada for discretionary travel.  It is going to be interesting to see what low vaccination rates across parts of the US plus the spread of the more contagious delta variant are going to do to these dates and plans.  Our American neighbours are barely above the 50 percent threshold for full vaccination with cases of COVID-19 now topping over 100,000 a day and hospitalizations along with deaths increasing steadily.  France and the UK are experiencing even greater new outbreaks of COVID-19 than America, making it likely that flights from these countries may be halted sometime in the near future.  My best travel advice is stay close to home and don't throw that face mask away just as it appears COVID-19 won't be over for some time.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn. 

 

 

August 2, 2021

Jeepers, Peepers, Where'd You Get Those Creepers?


On the BC Day long weekend we usually travel or go camping but with much of the Province ablaze and heavy smoke choking many towns we decided to hunker down and simply vacation in our own backyard.   This decision was reinforced when lightning started many fires along Harrison Lake, one of our favourite get-away locations.  So instead we packed up our beach gear, leashed up the dogs and headed down to Crescent Rock beach for some fun in the sun and well-deserved relaxation.  Saturday was a washout with clouds and even some blessed rain, keeping us away from the shoreline and focused on other pursuits.  On Sunday the sun came out tempered by the pall of forest fire smoke that fortunately took the edge off the sun's rays.  The holiday Monday was much clearer with blue skies and light winds but it did not take long for things to really heat up at the nude beach.

We were quietly relaxing near friends and new acquaintances when the peace and serenity was suddenly broken by the sounds of the woman lying near us angrily questioning a man walking by whether he was filming her with his cell phone.  Several other people in the vicinity who were watching this person believed this was indeed the case and many including myself started yelling at him that he was a pervert.  He mumbled that it was not illegal but quickly exited the area when told that what he was doing was considered voyeurism under Canadian law.  Having not seen the initial altercation I talked with the people involved and then followed this man further down the beach, alerting other people along the way as to his alleged antics.  After hearing complaints from several other people about this man's lewd behaviour, I decided it was time to call the Surrey RCMP.

After making my initial report to E-com, it was only about 15-20 minutes before an officer arrived on the scene looking for the person I had described to them.  Searching up and down the beach plus onto the nearby BNSF Railway tracks, she managed to find the skinny late 20's Indo-Canadian man dressed head to toe in black clothing.  He was stopped and questioned, agreeing to give the officer access to his cell phone and photo gallery, which by this time did not contain any images taken down at the beach.  Without any evidence to back up the many accusations made against him, the officer had to release this man without charges but promised that if he continued with these antics in the future that a charge of public mischief was likely.  I was told that my instincts about this man's deviant behaviour were spot on and that the police had interacted with him previously.

You have to understand that this clothing-optional beach gets plenty of looky-loos and people who are unaware its long history of nude use.  The folks who use Crescent Rock beach really do not care about so-called "textiles" since everybody arrives and leaves the nude beach with clothing on.   Where this gets creepy is when you have perverts using hidden cameras, cell phones or drones to film people simply relaxing on the beach in their natural state.   Voyeurs suffer from a mental disorder where they derive sexual gratification from the covert observation of others in a private or intimate setting.  The beach photographer's behaviour falls into the same realm as men who use their cell phones on packed buses or mass transit to take pictures up women's skirts or down their tops.   Done to minors it is considered pedophilia and passing along these images online constitutes child pornography.  

Here is the Canadian Criminal Code statute (162) defining voyeurism:

162 (1) Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes — including by mechanical or electronic means — or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, if

    • (a) the person is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude, to expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity;

    • (b) the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such an activity; or

    • (c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

  • Definition of visual recording

    (2) In this section, visual recording includes a photographic, film or video recording made by any means.

  • Marginal note: Exemption

    (3) Paragraphs (1)(a) and (b) do not apply to a peace officer who, under the authority of a warrant issued under section 487.01, is carrying out any activity referred to in those paragraphs.

  • Marginal note: Printing, publication, etc., of voyeuristic recordings

    (4) Every one commits an offence who, knowing that a recording was obtained by the commission of an offence under subsection (1), prints, copies, publishes, distributes, circulates, sells, advertises or makes available the recording, or has the recording in his or her possession for the purpose of printing, copying, publishing, distributing, circulating, selling or advertising it or making it available

The naturists and nudists who utilize Crescent Rock Beach have had enough of being targeted by those who feel they can get away with this type of sex crime.  You can expect to see a NO PHOTOS/NO PERVS sign at the start of the clothing optional beach plus another indicating its nude use.  Voyeurs caught filming people without their knowledge or consent can expect a visit from the cops and shouldn't be surprised if their phones end up in the ocean as often happens at Wreck Beach.  The voyeurs may get their titillating thrills from filming people at the beach but it will be interesting to see their reaction when they find out they are now the ones being watched.


Please visit the Canadian Department of Justice website for a detailed consultation paper that further explains and explores voyeurism as a sexual offence:  


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 26, 2021

Green Grass, Brown Grass, No Grass


Whew, am I ever glad that is over!  We had a garden party wedding at our house this weekend and it was a wonderful time and a great success.  Unfortunately, this meant working to keep all of our plants and lawns lush and green, requiring constant watering.  Of course, mother nature has not been helping with the last precipitation we have seen falling way back on June 15th, a week before the official start of summer.  We are now at Stage 3 drought conditions, the fire danger rating signs are posted at extreme, and there is no rain in sight.  We stuck to Metro Vancouver sprinkling regulations but since we have a water meter and pay for what we use, we are looking forward to turning down the taps.

If you look around the Semi-pen neighbourhoods you will see that brown is the new green, with most lawns now fried to a light straw colour.  This is actually part of the grass lifecycle and you know that when the rains begin here in late August they will magically green up again.  The issue these days with drought stressed lawns is that it weakens the rooting system and provides an opening for invasive European Chafer beetles to lay their eggs.  These hatch into larvae that munch away on the remaining grass roots, becoming big, fat, and a tempting morsel for crows and every nocturnal animal we have.  A hungry family of racoons can easily rototill a lawn in one evening as they tear back the sod looking for these tasty grubs.  

So, If you have better things to do during the summer months than water your grass and have to mow it but still want a lawn, what is a homeowner to do?  The magic bullet these days is to introduce micro clover into your lawn.  Now this may seem counterproductive; why would somebody put weeds into their lawn?   What you need to realize is that before the 1950s when herbicides were invented to kill clover, it was considered an essential part of a healthy lawn.  Clover has a dark green leaf that retains its colour long after grass has turned brown.  Its thick web of roots also helps to hold a lawn together during drought.  Clover also has nodules in its roots that fix nitrogen out of the atmosphere, providing free fertilizer that won't wash into streams.   

Overseeding with hardy tall fescue grass in the fall will provide a much thicker lawn with deeper roots, making beetle or racoon damage much less likely.  I have had boulevard lawns in Richmond get absolutely torn apart by crows, opossums, skunks and racoons right own to dirt.  Adding a fresh layer of organic soil to help retain moisture, we reseeded with tall fescue and two varieties of clover seed.  The grass and clover mix filled in quickly and stayed green without any watering until very recently.  It still remains to be seen if it will be ripped apart again but considering the thickness of the new grass and the tangled web of clover it is highly doubtful this will happen.  Hopefully the hungry wildlife they will find greener pastures (with brown dead grass) somewhere down the street.


There are other low maintenance and drought tolerant ground covers that can be used in the place of lawns, something that is becoming more appealing after dealing with deadly heat domes and record temperatures.  Pink chintz creeping thyme likes full sun, needs little water and attracts bees to its salmon pink flowers in the spring.  Turkish speedwell is a similar groundcover with low water needs that provides an evergreen backdrop along with a carpet of blue flowers in the late spring.   If you want to really make a splash of colour, try goldilocks creeping jenny that has a bright yellow leaf.  In shaded areas a mix of various mosses works well where grass never properly grows.   Since these options are not as tolerant to foot traffic as grass, consider stepping stones or using them between flagstones in high traffic areas.


Even though we live in a temperate rainforest, we have dry summers here that thanks to climate change are forecast to get hotter with more drought and heat waves.  You can expect Metro Vancouver sprinkling restrictions to become much tighter in the future as water becomes a scarcer resource.  The water hungry landscapes we have today may need to be modified, replacing thirsty plant with those that can survive more arid conditions and warmer temperatures.  With low reservoirs and dwindling aquifers in California, it might be time to considering ripping up some of that prized lawn and planting vegetable gardens as produce prices rise and food scarcity becomes a global issue.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

July 19, 2021

Humm Dinger of a Bird

 

"Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time carrying our hopes for love joy and celebration.  The Hummingbirds delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation." - 

Anonymous

I don't consider myself a "birder" but I spent a lot of time outdoors and do get to see plenty of our feathered friends up close and personal.  Besides raptors of any kind, my favourite bird has to be the hummingbird simply because they are so unique.  In these parts Anna's hummingbirds will stay overwinter providing they have an adequate supply of nectar, especially when it is cold and freezing.  The Rufous hummers migrate here from Mexico usually appearing in mid-march and staying until late August when they begin their journey south.  We have two hummingbird feeding stations at our house along with a collection of handblown glass hummingbirds adorning the chain for our kitchen table stained-glass light.  

It is a very rare event to find a hummingbird nest simply because they are so small, they are easily overlooked.  They can also be found anywhere from a small bush all the way up to the top of a large tree.  The very first hummingbird nest I ever saw was when I was climbing a Douglas fir in Sunshine HIlls, North Delta at around ten years old.  Carefully perched on the top of a branch not far from the trunk was this miniature nest made up of wispy moss and lichen.  The inside of the nest was not much bigger than a toonie and lined with soft silky strands that I now understand consist mainly of spider webbing.  There was nothing in the nest but I left it where it sat, keeping its location secret so it would not be grabbed by one of my goofy friends.

Over the years I have found an old hummingbird nest here and there, usually in somebody's garden.  By far the most fascinating was the one I found was a couple of years ago only four feet off the ground in a photinia bush in Steveston, Richmond.  What made this nest so fascinating was not its design or construction, but the two small white eggs it contained that were not much bigger than Tic-Tac mints.  It was only mid-March when I first noticed the tiny nest and over several weeks I checked it but never saw an adult hummer sitting on the eggs.  I don't know what happened to the mother bird but the eggs never hatched and eventually they disappeared, likely being eaten by another bird (cue the music to Disney's "The circle of life").

So just when I thought I knew everything about hummingbird nests, my wife and I end up going for a walk in Crescent Beach and finding ourselves at the front door of local artist Helen Downing-Hunter who was holding an at home art show.  I commented to her on the beauty of her acrylic ink paintings including some very colourful hummingbird prints.  It was then that she pointed over to a hanging lamp in her porch by the front door, showing me where she got her inspiration.  Sitting on top of the metal cage meant to protect the lightbulb was a hummingbird nest, with two baby Anna's hummingbirds perched inside of it.  I did not have my cell phone to take a picture and when I went back the very next day the babies had already taken wing.  Helen was nice enough to provide me pictures of the chicks that a friend had taken that you see with this TNT.

We purchased a booklet from Helen that she had produced featuring prints of many of her hummingbird paintings plus a fascinating and informative story that went with it.  Rather than me regurgitate hummingbird facts gleaned from the internet, here is the storyline from Helen's book:

Over 300 species of hummingbirds make their homes exclusively in the Western hemisphere from Alaska to southern Chile.  In the wild hummingbirds live 3-12 years. The female can lay 1-3 jellybean sized eggs several times a year.  A day after hatching they will have enough feathers to regulate their body temperature.  At three weeks they will take their first flight!

It is remarkable that hummingbirds have the largest brain per body size of any bird!  They also have the largest heart size of any animal.  These amazing little birds have eyes that can see ultraviolet light and a third eyelid for protection when flying at speed.  Hummingbirds feed on the nectar from pollen, tree sap flowers and insects with tongues like elastic micropumps they can drink 10 drops of nectar in 15 milliseconds.

Amazing Facts:

Fastest bird in the world for its body size!

Can fly 385 times their body length in one second, 30 mph, 90 feet/sec

Can fly left to right, upside down, backwards, on their side and hover!

They are not so well-equipped for walking or hopping however as they have very weak feet, but they can shuffle sidewalks while perched.

Their throat colour is not the pigment of feathers but rather an incandescent arrangement of feathers.  

Hummingbirds have amazing memories!  They can remember the location of every flower in their neighbourhood and how long it takes to refill its nectar.  They will return to the same feeder every year.  Like our fine feathered friends on Agar Street in Crescent Beach, some will return to the same nest!  This beautiful little nest has been home to the same hummingbird "Honey" for three years.  Seven chicks (and counting) have been hatched here!  Helen Downing-Hunter.

You can reach Helen on Instagram or simply follow here at @helendowninghunterart where you can enjoy her paintings and limited edition prints that feature a lot more than hummingbirds.  The baby hummers may have flown the coop but the nest will remain above the front door waiting for Honey's return next year to add to her growing family that now stands at nine chicks and counting.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 12, 2021

Quad Cops


Crescent Beach is always a busy place with many modes of transportation passing by the shoreline on a constant basis.  There are the BNSF trains consisting of mixed freight, coal cars and crude oil tankers that are rolling by in ever-increasing numbers.  Since the US/Canada border was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions the Amtrak passenger train that formerly ran four times a day has unfortunately become a distant memory.  The airspace above Mud bay is very busy with small planes from Boundary Bay Airport, Canada's second busiest airport but commercial jets are still a relatively rare phenomenon.  Of course, the water is always full with a flotilla of various boats and watercraft, including the occasional visit from the Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft responding to medical distress calls.   

Just when you think you have seen it all, you look up and realize there is a new kid on the block, this one flashing red and blue lights.  The RCMP does patrol the BNSF Railway, accompanying the railway's police officer in their white high-railer truck.  They are on the lookout for people trespassing on the rail corridor ($115 fine) plus those having beach fires ($1,150 fine) during a time when outdoor burning is banned throughout the Province of BC due to the threat of wildfires.  It turns out that Surrey RCMP officers have a new tactic for controlling fires and alcohol fuelled parties down at Crescent Beach.  The Surrey detachment has been utilizing Polaris 4X4 quads throughout the city core to fight crime and maintain the peace but now these all-terrain vehicles have made their way to south Surrey.  

I've been informed these quads have been seen around the Semiahmoo mall recently helping to combat auto crime.   Now imagine my surprise when quietly relaxing at Crescent Rock beach this weekend when I heard the unmistakable sound of ATVs on the shoreline.  I quickly got up out of my lawn chair to see what was happening and spotted two uniformed officers nearby turning their quads around on the beach in front of the Crescent Rock boulder that serves as a gatepost for the start of the clothing-optional beach.  They paid no heed to the elderly couple nude sunbathing near them and began driving back towards Crescent Beach.  At the spot where the Jack Stroud memorial is for the teen struck and killed by the Amtrak three years ago, they stopped to talk to several people and I managed to catch up to them.

The police officers were very engaging and obviously quite happy to be patrolling the beach where most people welcomed them and their machines.   These ATVs are equipped with emergency lights plus an onboard computer system allowing the cops to check ID's for outstanding warrants and criminal history.  The officers were nice enough to allow a lady to sit on one of their machines and have her picture taken with them.  I chatted the boys in blue up about their quads and they told me they would be doing beach patrols with them during the summer months looking for a variety of violations such as open liquor, public drunkenness and of course fires.  I asked whether they were patrolling White Rock and they informed me that while both cities have the RCMP, the two detachments do not share resources.  

Knowing they had turned around directly in front of a couple that were nude sunbathing not far down the beach, I asked the senior officer if he had asked the folks there to get dressed or move further along the shoreline.  He informed me that the Surrey RCMP was well aware of the clothing-optional beach and that it was perfectly legal under Canadian law.  This office also told me that a tourist had recently seen a naked man at Crescent Rock beach and reported it to E-Com 911 where it was mistakenly forwarded to the Surrey RCMP for investigation.  He questioned why the City of Surrey was so reluctant to put up signage indicating where the boundary for the nude beach was and alerting residents and visitors alike to its clothing-optional status.  He also indicating that the RCMP had contacted the City about this issue without the problem being addressed.

You only need to look at Vancouver to see how they sign the world-famous Wreck Beach.  Metro Vancouver has posted large green and yellow signs stating "Clothing Is Optional at Beach ahead" at the many trails leading down the bluff, plus "Clothing is required beyond this point" at the top of the trails for people leaving the beach.  Other signs read "Welcome to Wreck Beach, a clothing-optional beach in Pacific Spirit Park" along with several etiquette rules, "Please respect people's privacy, photos or video only with consent, don't stare and/or gawk."  These signs also implore people to "Please carry out all garbage" and to "Keep the beach safe and clean."  In Surrey there are two dilapidated signs near the Christopherson Steps and 1001 Steps reading "Please keep your park clean, carry out what you carry in" but both of these were cut down years ago and are now simply laying in the bush.

I think that the addition of having police officers on ATV's patrolling the waterfront will greatly reduce the problems at Crescent Beach, especially after dark when alcohol-fuelled bonfire parties often happen.  It is a waste of police resources to have officers respond to reports of nude people at the clothing-optional Crescent Rock beach.  Proper signage for the buff beach in both Surrey and White Rock would greatly reduce nuisance calls about folks getting an all-over tan.  I simply do not understand why the City of Surey refuses to deal with this issue as with more people utilizing Crescent Rock as Surrey's version of Wreck Beach, those not aware there is a nude beach in south Surrey will continue to be in for an eyeful when they discover it.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 05, 2021


Let's Murder These Hornets


Sometimes you report the news, other times you are the news.  The later was the case last week when one of my crew sighted an Asian giant hornet in Steveston on the banks of the Fraser River.  Here is the story below by Richmond News reporter Alan Campbell who formerly worked at the Peace Arch News in South Surrey - White Rock.

 

A RICHMOND LANDSCAPER IS WARNING RESIDENTS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ASIAN GIANT HORNET AFTER AN UNCONFIRMED SIGHTING IN STEVESTON

 

Don Pitcairn, who runs Green Team Gardening, said one of his employees is convinced one of the hornets – the largest of its kind in the world and an invasive species – flew by him at a strata complex near the Britannia Heritage Shipyards earlier this week.  Pitcairn said he and his staff know their insects very well, having been stung numerous times even recently by all kinds of wasps and hornets.  And he said his employee, who was “freaked out” by the size of the hornet, watched as the two-inch long insect grabbed a honey bee from a flowering bush and took off.  "We’ve been looking out for this thing because I’ve heard reports of them being spotted a long way from the (U.S.) border, where they were first seen last fall,” Pitcairn told the Richmond News.  “My worker said the Asian giant hornet grabbed a bee and headed south towards Shady Island.  It was orange and black and about two inches long. It had huge jaws on it. I queried him on what he saw and he was adamant it was an Asian giant hornet.”

Two weeks ago, Pitcairn and his team ran into a nest of bald-faced hornets, getting stung multiple times, so “we know what they look like; and this wasn’t it.”

Pitcairn said they’ve alerted the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC), but were told that they need a visual or actual confirmation, either as a photo or alive or dead in a jar, before they can look into it.  “I’m going to make some traps out of pop bottles and hang them in that courtyard in Steveston to see if I can catch one,” added Pitcairn.  “I do not want them here. We’ve warned all the stratas we service in Steveston to be on the look-out for these insects.”  The News has reached out to ISCBC for more information.  

The Asian giant hornets are found throughout South and East Asia and were likely brought to North America accidentally on container ships, according to ISCBC.  They were first seen in B.C. in 2019 in Nanaimo and, following this discovery, the B.C. government and local beekeepers destroyed the nest.  Multiple individual dead hornets have been found in the southern Fraser Valley region in 2020, but no nests have been found on mainland B.C. as of November 2020.  In October 2020, officials destroyed a nest directly over the US-Canada border in Blaine, Washington.  Asian giant hornets typically nest in underground cavities, or above ground in tree stumps of forested areas.  They feed on insects and are particularly dangerous to honeybee hives.  If they establish in B.C., they may pose a serious threat to the local beekeeping and commercial pollination industries, which in turn will have serious consequences for B.C. agriculture.

 

HOW TO IDENTIFY:

The head is bright orange with large jaws and entirely black eyes. The thorax (where the legs and wings attach) is dark brown or black, and the wings are tinted a dark brown. The abdomen has regular black and orange horizontal stripes.  Depending on the bee caste (drone, worker or queen) the size varies between 2.5 cm to 5 cm.

To report a sighting, take a photo of the hornet and log onto https://bcinvasives.ca/take-action/report/

So, there you have it folks, my worst nightmare is coming true and it looks like we will add yet another flying insect to the list of those that love to sink their stingers into me.  I have made a half dozen Asian giant hornet traps (not "murder" hornets, a sensational name created by a New York Times reporter) that will be filled with orange juice and rice wine bait and hung this week in various locations in Steveston around where this huge black and orange hornet was seen.  I've been contacted by the ISCBC and provided them with the details of this sighting on Tuesday, June 29th so that it can be further investigated.  My suspicion is that these invasive insects have a nest either in the Britannia Heritage Shipyard or on nearby Shady Island at the mouth of the Fraser River.  

Please spend the time to become familiar with the appearance of the Asian giant hornet that has been seen in White Rock before and as far north as Strawberry Heights in Langley.  Keep an eye out for them, especially if you are near flowering shrubs or plants frequented by honeybees that these hornets are fond of feeding on.  They are a very menacing looking bug with a bright orange head, big black eyes and large jaws.  The usual reaction for most people seeing one for the first time is to scream, jump back and yell "WTF?"  I know it sounds funny but my sister and buddy had the exact same reaction to spotting an Asian giant hornet.  They both described their chance encounter exactly the same also, "It scared the hell out of me!"  When you spot one you'll know it, and if you do, please report it to the ISCBC and the news media immediately.  A photo, a dead hornet, or possibly a live one (scary) is needed for positive identification.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn


June 28, 2021

Putting the Breaks on Tax Hikes

BLUE FROG owners Juanita Moffat / Kelly Breaks

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses to varying degrees since health orders began closing doors early last year.  While some businesses thrived, especially those in the online delivery business, others such as airlines, cruise ships, tourism plus arts and entertainment suffered huge losses of revenue.  The Blue Frog Studios in White Rock that records music and holds concerts was basically shuttered for the past 15 months.  Just as they prepared to open up at 50 percent capacity, they received their property tax notice from the City of White Rock that had jumped nearly 50 percent, from $18,000 to $26,800, an increase of $8,800. 

 

The reasons for this massive tax hike are numerous but they all added up to a bitter pill that Kelly Breaks, the President of Blue Frog Studios, could not stand to swallow.  Most of the property tax hike came from the elimination of a school tax subsidy that was implemented in 2020 when COVID-19 shut down much of the economy.  The loss of this tax break for 2021 resulted in an increase in the school tax from $2,685 to $9,590, a whopping 357 percent increase.  Metro Vancouver, who can never seem to hold tax increases to the rate of inflation, increased its municipal tax 12 percent, sewer and water taxes an further 12 percent, while taxes for Translink and regional libraries increased 18 percent.  The studio's property value only increased by 4 percent but BC Assessment had changed the studio's classification from residential-business to business, further increasing the taxes owing.

Dan Hill on stage @ Blue Frog


Mr. Breaks had reached his breaking point with this huge increase in the studio's property tax bill and he decided to fight back.  He sent out a news release to various media outlets about the plight of not only Blue Frog but other businesses receiving increases in property tax that they could not afford due to the effects of the pandemic.  Well. it turns out that the squeaky wheel does get the grease because on Friday after receiving inquiries from multiple media outlets, the City of White Rock quickly let Mr. Breaks know that suddenly his tax bill was being reduced by $5,220, leaving him with a new tax bill of $21,580 that represents an increase of close to 20 percent over what Blue Frog paid in 2020.  Kelly is much happier with this new property tax bill and the speed at which it was reduced but believes the tax increases for his studio are only the tip of the iceberg for businesses across BC.

 

This fear is shared by the Surrey Board of Trade that has been swamped with calls from businesses in surrey complaining about large increases in property tax bills.  The SBT did a survey of their members property taxes and found that a majority of manufacturing business were reporting 20 percent increases, most construction companies' taxes were going up 30% and the bulk of real estate businesses tax bills increased by 35 percent.  SBT spokesperson Anita Huberman is on record as stating that "Businesses should pay their share of taxes but facing such significant increases in one year is simply unfair" and equating it to "Gut-punch taxation."  They are planning a grassroots letter writing campaign next moth that will target local, regional and provincial governments about how their tax increases are negatively affecting many businesses bottom lines. 


It may be that a tax revolt is what is needed to let all levels of government know that they cannot be constantly jacking up commercial property taxes with impunity.  The distribution of taxes between residential and commercial properties needs to reflect the consumption of services and not just the whim of politicians hungry for more funds.  It remains to be seen if this will mean the return of giving business owners a vote in BC municipal elections, something that happened until 1993 when this practice was scrapped by the NDP government.  Politicians are always wary of large increases to homeowner's property tax bills and they might be more concerned about businesses if they had the power to influence elections.  The battle cry for this change should be the slogan used before the American Revolution; "Taxation without representation is tyranny."


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

June 21, 2021

Lookout for Steps, Stairs and Staircases


Last year on April 8, 2020, the City of Surrey closed the three staircases, Christopherson Steps at 24 Ave., 1001 Steps at 15A Ave., and 13 Ave. Lookout (Olympic Trail) at 13 Ave. and 131 St. that access the nude-friendly shores of Crescent Rock Beach.  This measure was reportedly taken at that time to minimize the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission on the narrow bluff staircases.  With the Coldicutt Trail in White Rock being damaged by landslides in Jan. 2020 and now closed permanently due to unstable terrain, this meant that the only access to the 6.5 km. of clothing-optional beach was by walking along the shoreline from either White Rock or Crescent Beach, or coming in by watercraft for the past 14 months


I have been in frequnt contact and dialogue with the City of Surrey Parks Dept. about their reopening plans.  Last week I received the good news from Neil Aven, Manager of Parks, that all three of these locked staircases would be open to the public again starting on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.  Sure enough, on Tuesday morning Surrey crews went through the neighbourhoods of Ocean Park and Crescent Park taking down the ridiculously large "Stairs Closed, No Access, Local Traffic Only" signs that included the one directly across from my driveway, which was a constant reminder of this issue.  Shortly after this was done the locks finally were taken down and the staircases were once again open to the public.  The word quickly got our and spread like wildfire and I received texts and emails from many people heading to the beach while I was stuck working.  

I have only been down the Christopherson Steps so far but it was obvious that Surrey had taken some time during the pandemic to make repairs to the staircase with many worn out treads and handrails recently being replaced.  The metal elevated walkway above the BNSF Railway corridor has really been taken over by the colourful clematis vine growing there that stretches 50 feet above the tracks.  It now looks to have been a victim of its own success with a large portion of it having recently fallen to the thick concrete platform at the bottom of the staircase.  I should note here that the repair and reconstruction of the concrete base of this staircase was done last year when the stairs were closed and featured in a TNT on June 23, 2020 titled "Steps to a Solid Foundation."

If you read last week's TNT "A Fox in the Dog House" then you are aware of the dangerous foxtail barley growing in and around the Blackie Spit Off-Leash Area.  I want to let people know this is not the only place where dogs can pick up spear grass heads.  It is growing along the west end of 24 Ave. at Christopherson Road, on the north side of the street adjacent to a new home under construction.  This includes the six metre no parking zone plus all around the stop sign at the end of 24 Ave.  Surrey crews mowed and trimmed the long grass at the entrance to the Christopherson Park leading to the stairs but unfortunately the foxtail barley was also in this area with the sharp dried seed heads laying all around this high traffic area.  If you are taking your dogs to the beach south of the staircase as is legally allowed, please avoid these two areas with this nasty noxious plant.

I thought I should mention here that the City of Surrey website is not up to speed with the recent changes to the locked staircases.   The Christopherson Steps and 1001 Steps staircases both still carry the following notice on a red banner, "The (staircase) is closed to all public use to minimize the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.  The closure is in effect until further notice."  Where this gets rather interesting is the web listing for the "13 Ave. Lookout", a name I only heard of recently from Surrey City Hall.  I know it as the "Olympic Trail", with 131 Street formerly known as Olympic Street having a view of the Olympic peninsula across Boundary Bay in Washington State.  Other more colloquial names are "Pot Point" and "Stoner's Point" for the viewing and toking platform, but the 13th Ave. Lookout name was not listed on the Surrey.ca website with nothing being found on a Google search either.  Personally, I find the new label this staircase has apparently been given to be bland and boring.

This isn't the only thing you will not find listed on the City of Surrey website.  There is nothing I could locate letting people know that there is a legal clothing-optional beach in the Semiahmoo peninsula.  I find this rather bizarre since hundreds of people are currently using it on a daily basis and I have met people from as far away as Brazil and West Germany relaxing there.  Also, there is nothing on the web pages for the three staircases that access Crescent Rock Beach to alert people that they might encounter folks nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping on this secluded shoreline.  Don't be too surprised by this since the City of Vancouver's website is basically the same with no listings for clothing-optional use at Wreck Beach, listed by CNN as the 4th best nude beach in the world.  Both Surrey and Vancouver may spout the buzzwords about diversity, inclusion, acceptance and culture but when it comes to naturists and nudists, they can still sit at the back of the bus.  Thankfully you can no longer discriminate on the colour of a person's skin, but when it comes to the amount showing, feel free to ignore and disregard with impunity.

One more important thing I should mention here if you are going to use any of these three Surrey staircases, especially if you want to take in a sunset this summer.  There are signs at the top of the stairs warning "Don't Get Locked In, park gates are locked at the following times:  Feb 12 to Apr 15 - 8:00 pm, Apr 16 to Aug 26 - 10:00 pm, Aug 27 to Oct 15 - 8:00 pm and Oct 16 to Feb 11 - 6:00 pm."  Unfortunately, the Surrey.ca website lists the opening times for all the stairs accessing Crescent Rock Beach as "Dawn to Dusk."  Here we at solstice with dusk and 10:00 p.m. being relatively close but by August 26th, two months past the longest day of the year, it will be dark well before 9 o'clock.  This is a discrepancy that Surrey needs to address along with posting the name and number of the security company that can open the gates if you happen to get locked in.  That would be Securiguard in Guildford at 604-689-7588.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 14, 2021

A Fox in the Dog House


Several years ago, the Richmond News broke a story about how foxtail barley (hordeum jubatum), aka foxtail grass or spear grass, was injuring pets after they encountered this plant at the Dyke Trail Dog Park.  Foxtail has seed awns with sharp barbed needles that help it to burrow into the ground along with the seeds and this innovative adaptation helps it to prosper and multiply.  Unfortunately, these awns can just as easily penetrate into a dog's skin, usually in the nose, ears, belly and paws where they can cause serious health issues.  This invasive weed was causing such a problem with people's pets that the Island Veterinary Hospital issued a warning to Richmond residents to keep an eye out for this grass that is conspicuous by its light feathery seed awns in early summer.  For a detailed look at the medical problems this can cause your dog, Google search "foxtail barley pet danger" or visit this Dogheirs link:  https://www.dogheirs.com/foxtail-grass-can-kill-your-dogs/

Earlier this month I noticed that foxtail grass had infested an area along Westwater Drive in Steveston, Richmond next to a walking path that everyone and his dog literally walks down.  I reported this to former PAN reporter Alan Campbell who now works at the Richmond News plus sent an email to the Richmond Parks Department about my findings.  You can read Alan's recent article on this plant versus pet problem at https://www.richmond-news.com/in-the-community/landscaper-warns-of-dangerous-spiky-grass-in-steveston-3852462   Richmond Parks Dept. quickly came to mow the offending weeds down but missed half of the grass that was waving in the breeze and also failed to collect any of the sharp seed heads.  On our next visit a week later, I cut down the remaining foxtail and carefully raked up all of the debris, filling two 6x8' tarps in the process.   Unfortunately, it will survive and grow new seed heads again next spring. 



Of course, after all of this I now have foxtail grass on my radar and am keeping an eye out for it in my travels.  I went to Blackie Spit this weekend sleuthing out another story (more on that in another TNT) and to check out a wildlife area that I must admit I am not really familiar since I'd much rather be relaxing at the beach.  Walking from the north-east tip of the park to the south-east corner I got some interesting photographs of Canada geese swimming through the pilings from an old dock along with reading signage from the City of Surrey pointing out that native cow parsnip is not giant hogweed.  Going back to my car I got to a place where several trails intersect by a very large mound in Blackie Spit park.  It was there that I noticed several clumps of foxtail grass with their dangerous seed heads waving in the wind.  A couple with a border collie was at the top of the hill and I went up to introduce myself and warn them about the spiky threat to their dog below.


From my vantage point I could see the Blackie Spit Off-Leash Area and knowing about the problems with the foxtail grass at the Dyke Trail Dog Park in Richmond, I decided to go check it out.  I really could not believe my eyes when I found foxtail grass growing all along the front fence separating the pathway from the dog park.  Heading to the entrance, I noticed the garbage can, which most people use for disposing of their poop bags, was circled with foxtail grass that was growing thick and long from the many dogs who had used it as a urinal.  Going into the double gated dog park entranceway I photographed foxtail grass on all four sides of this pinch point enclosure.  As if this was not bad enough, there were clumps of foxtail grass within the off-leash area that had obviously been trampled by running dogs.  Heading back to the parking lot in fading light, I noticed several other areas of Blackie Spit that had foxtail grass growing wild.

Obviously, I will be contacting the City of Surrey Parks Department first thing on Monday morning to report my findings and alert them to the contents of this TNT column.  With the risk to pets, I believe the Blackie Spit Off-Leash Area should be closed immediately until this barley plant and its needle-sharp seed awns can be safely removed.  Since foxtail barley is currently in seed, I think the best way to do this this would be to hoe or dig the grass out and collect all of the plant material from in and around the dog park for disposal.  For other areas of Blackie Spit the seed heads could be carefully cut off and the plants either dug out or fenced off and treated with herbicide.  Surrey still uses herbicides to control invasive or noxious plants such as Japanese knotweed and knapweed, marking these areas with signs.   Once the foxtail barley has been eradicated these spots could later be seeded with pasture grass or wildflower mix. 


City of Surrey crews need to be educated about this problem and be on the lookout for foxtail grass, especially when it is easy to spot with its light green feathery seed heads visible this time of year.  There are 14 off-leash dog parks in Surrey and all of these need to be checked to see if they are infested with foxtail grass like at Blackie Spit.  Parks Department grass cutting crews need to be educated not to mow this invasive plant down which helps to disperse its seeds to other parks.  I would suspect that the Serpentine Fen, with its long trails beside grassy meadows is another dog-friendly area that should be inspected for the aptly named spear grass.  The same can likely be said for the popular Mud Bay Trail that runs from Surrey into Delta along the shores of Mud Bay.  

If you are a dog owner who frequents Surrey parks with your four-legged friend, please familiarize yourself with foxtail barley's characteristics and report it with an exact location to any of the following contacts:  

Office phone, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm:  604-501-5050


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 7, 2021


Let's Talk Turkey


As someone who spends much of their time outdoors, I tend to find all sorts of interesting natural phenomenon simply by keeping my eyes open.  Case in point, last week I was visiting a friend of mine in south Surrey when I noticed a bizarre looking ring nestled in tall grass under some trees.  A closure inspection revealed what I instantly identified as turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor), likely growing on top of an old tree stump or a rotting root.  These were rather striking with the small cluster of overlapping fans featuring light cream edges with alternating rings of tan, brown and vivid shades of green that actually are algae.  My buddy was surprised to see such an interesting fungus growing in his yard and was even more impressed that I actually knew what it was.  I took a few photographs including the one posted with this TNT that I submitted for the coveted WR Sun front page photo.


I have often come across turkey tail mushrooms quite often as this common variety can be found consuming rotting wood in countries around the world.  Where I usually find it is growing on dead standing or fallen hardwoods but it can appear on the forest floor attached to any kind of decaying wood.  After taking my colourful photo of this fungi I went home to learn more about this mushroom, referencing my copy of The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.  In case you are not familiar with these books, they are a great field guide to everything from spiders to insects, birds to mammals and trees to weather with 20 topics about the natural world in print.   While I may bring home chicken mushrooms, morels or chanterelles when in season, it was not surprising to learn that while not poisonous these tough as nail turkey tails are not a choice edible mushroom.


What is rather interesting about this beautiful polypore fungus is that it has been used in eastern medicine in many Asian countries including China and Japan.  It is consumed as a tea for cleansing and detoxifying effects, to boost the immune system and to promote general health and longevity.  Researchers have identified more than 40 different naturally occurring antioxidants in turkey tail fungus including baicalein found in thyme and used in hematological cancer treatments, flavonoids like in kale and strawberries believed to be heart healthy, phenols that promote anti-inflammatory response and quercetin found in green tea and red wine consumed widely as a supplement.  Taking note of the use of turkey tail in fighting disease across Asia, the Food and Drug Administration in the USA has funded research into its use for lessening the effects of cancer treatment like chemotherapy and to help control prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.


There is a wide array of health claims posted on the internet about the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms, which I believe must be taken with a grain of salt.  That being said, there are thousands of turkey tail products available for sale including a wide variety of teas, powders, extracts, capsules, tinctures, gummies and even grow-your-own terrarium kits.  I'm hoping there is some truth to the health benefits associated with this very common fungus but for me, I simply enjoy finding them in the natural environment and checking out their concentric rings and vivid colours.  I have seen much larger colonies of turkey tails in the past but the one at my buddy's place in south Surrey only a block from North Bluff Rd./16 Ave. and Johnson Rd./152 St. was the first one I've ever taken a picture of.  I guess I could have collected it and chopped it up to make tea but it still remains growing slowly on the Semi-pen stump where I found it.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 31, 2021

One Way Ahead

 


Many jurisdictions across the Lower Mainland have taken steps to help restaurants expand their outside patio space to increase the number of tables available for diners with social distancing measures in effect.  Tents have been sprouting like mushrooms in parking lots, public walkways have been set aside for tables and parking areas have become patios in order to expand seating while indoor dining is restricted.  White Rock is about to take a page out of the Star Trek handbook and "boldly go where no man has gone before" by closing down one lane of their waterfront main drag, making it a one lane, one way street, so that local restaurants can dramatically increase their patio space.

Under this plan posted on the whiterockcity.ca website, the formerly two-way traffic on Marine Drive will be one way from Vidal Street on the west side of White Rock to Maple Street on the east side.  There will be one lane of traffic heading eastbound from Vidal St. to the Little India Restaurant near the pier.  Across the Hump hillside traffic will be two lanes including north side parking but only in the eastbound direction.   Heading into East Beach, Marine Dr. will once again merge into one lane at Balsam St. near Moby Dicks Fish & Chips and stay one lane eastbound until past each beach at the start of the Semiahmoo First Nation land with traffic returning to two-way at Maple Street.  You can see proposed traffic change maps on the whiterockcity.ca website at this link:  https://www.whiterockcity.ca/DocumentCenter/View/6266/On-Table-Item-62a---Marine-Drive-West-Bound-Lane-Closure

So, you're probably wondering how does traffic get from the east end of Marine Drive back to the west end for those cruising the strip or looking for a prime parking spot?  Simply go north on Maple Street then turn left onto either Victoria Ave. or Columbia Ave. heading westbound.  At Johnston Rd. Columbia veers south and joins up with Victoria at Foster St. and a block from there you turn left on to Vidal, rejoining traffic heading east on Marine Drive including that funneling down Oxford Hill or from Marine Drive heading east.  It is estimated that both Victoria and Columbia will see increased traffic volume of more than 250 cars per hour during peak times (read sunny weekends).  For anyone who has witnessed the Marine Drive traffic jam when it is two lanes, just try to imagine what it will be like when it becomes one way and single lane.

It was the White Rock BIA that brought forth this plan to assist the restaurants along Marine Drive with extra patio seating utilizing the westbound lane of Marine Drive until Covid-19 restrictions ease.   City Council made the decision at a May 10 Council meeting voting 6-1 to “direct staff to close the north lane of Marine Drive until September 2021."   The rental of the orange plastic water-filled barricades needed for this plan will cost an initial $50,000 to install and a further $40,000 a month for the three months they are needed.  Traffic control personnel will be needed for this temporary change, estimated to cost $1,000 a day or more while the one-way Marine Drive diversion is in effect.  Of course, much of the existing road signage will need to be changed or modified plus new signage created and posted with no word on these costs.

This plan carries some additional problems that have yet to be addressed.  First off, it has not been announced what they will do about Translink bus service across the waterfront and how public transit will operate with the proposed one-way zone.  How will city staff empty garbage cans, water hanging baskets and perform other work with nowhere to park and only one lane of traffic allowed?   While this concept is being driven by the need to help the restaurants along Marine Drive, they receive deliveries in the morning with large 5-tonne trucks blocking the westbound lane, which of course will now be occupied by patio space.  Most concerning is how this change will affect the response time for emergency services during what is likely to be gridlock during summer weekends, a public safety question that has yet to be answered.

I know from talking to various White Rock employees that many of them believe the one-way Marine Drive concept will be a fiasco, with words like "SNAFU" and "trucked-up" (or something like that) being commonly used.  Social media comments and online polls point to an overwhelming disapproval of this plan, especially from residents in White Rock.  I understand that members of Council are being inundated with emails and calls from people concerned about the direction that City Hall is taking on this issue.  I should note here that Councillor Dave Chesney who is also the editor of the WR Sun was the one lone dissenting vote when this motion was passed.  This matter will come before Council soon to pass a budget for this project and if costs balloon, maybe it will give those who originally voted for this scheme time for some serious reflection as to whether it's a good idea or not.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 May 24, 2021

The Dirty Dozen Revisited


A few years back I had a plethora of story ideas I had accumulated from around the Semiahmoo peninsula, twelve to be exact.  Since none of them really jumped off the page at me I decided to hit the reset button and dump them all at once, penning the original "The Dirty Dozen" that was twelve short paragraphs on the various topics I had compiled.  With a cover picture featuring a dozen white and brown speckled quail's eggs, it made for one of the more unique The Naked Truths I have written over the past decade writing for the White Rock Sun.  This TNT does not feature twelve different topics, only one, but there are exactly one dozen similar items that will be the focus of this TNT.

Along the length of Crescent Road from King George Blvd. to Crescent Beach are a dozen old fashioned park benches featuring heavy concrete bases with green painted 2x4s bolted onto them.  You can find them at most of the bus stops with the majority of these benches positioned on the south side of the street and only a few on the north side.  They all sport a plaque with the old Surrey municipal logo featuring 5 stars for the town centres, a beaver and the peach arch plus the saying "Designated Heritage Site, City of Surrey."  I'm quite familiar with them as there is one in front of a friend's property not far from Crescent Beach that I see every time I stop in for a visit.  To be quite honest, other than reading the plaque and wondering how a street bench became a heritage site, I had never given them a second thought.

That changed last week when I headed off to work down Crescent Road as I often do.  There were several people standing next to the bench by Crescent Park and 128 Street and I realized that I had never seen anyone ever sitting at any of these benches.  Driving by I noticed that one of the concrete supports was leaning at a crazy angle and I wondered if the reason this one was never used was because it was unsafe.  As I headed towards King George, I quickly scanned the rest of the south side benches to check out their condition.  Even while driving it was plainly obvious that these benches had fallen into a serious state of disrepair.  Coming home that evening after a hard day's work I looked at the ones at the north side and was equally appalled by what I saw.

It wasn't until the weekend when I took the time to visit all of these street benches, check out their condition and take pictures that I realized these "Designated Heritage Sites" had been long forgotten by the City of Surrey.  Some of the concrete bases were not sitting level with one looking like it has been damaged some years ago.  The heritage plaques were either faded (on the north side) or covered in algae (on the south side) plus the bolts that held them in place were rusted.  Many of the 2x4 board (there are 7 on each bench) were rotten or broken on the lower portion that you actually sit on.  The once bright green paint was peeling from most of the boards or they were covered in thick green algae that you could see visible slug and snail trails on.  Besides having ivy and blackberries growing through them, the bench in front of the Elgin Heritage Park had thick grass growing up through the seat that was as tall as the back of the bench!

The 4.5 kilometre length of Crescent Road was constructed back in 1882 linking the original Peach Arch Highway and Semiahmoo Trail wagon road to the emerging community at Crescent Beach, more than two decades before the Great Northern Railway line was opened.  Crescent Road's heritage value was formally recognized in 1983 on the City of Surrey Heritage Register #7716 and placed on the Canada's Historic Places registry in 2005.  It is likely that the heritage benches were installed in the mid 1980's, which would explain their current dilapidated state after more than 35 years of being outside.  The original Heritage Marker sign for Crescent Road that was a yellowish orange was replaced several years back with the new white and black version.  For more information on Crescent Road and its heritage value visit this link on the historicplaces.ca website: https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=2591


Currently these dozen benches are un-usable and possibly dangerous.  If you were to sit on any of them, you would get covered in green algae slime and flakes of paint and primer.  Worse yet, you might break one of the remaining rotten boards or possibly get a big splinter in your butt.  The only bench that is in reasonable condition is the one closest to Crescent Beach by Tulloch Road that has signs of a previous repair but it is greener than my lawn (and that's green).   The City of Surrey needs to address this issue immediately and I will ensure the proper department receives the 12 damning photos I took.  It is possible these could be rebuilt using green composite 2x4s (see lumberrock.com) that are extremely durable and easy to clean.  Another option is to simply replace them with new bus stop ad benches.  Of course, the vegetation around them still needs to be trimmed down on a regular basis since nobody wants to sit down on a blackberry.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

May 17, 2021

An Illuminating Perspective

 

 

So many nights I'd sit by my window
Waiting for someone to sing me his song
So many dreams I kept deep inside me
Alone in the dark, but now you've come along

And you light up my life

Lyrics to "You Light Up My Life", written by Kasey Cisyk for the song track album to the 1977 film of the same title.

Made famous as a cover song by Debby Boone, daughter of Pat Boone, becoming a No. 1 song for ten weeks, also in 1977.


I'm not sure where the trend first started but it seems that more and more new homes are being built with a stunning array of outdoor lighting.  This usually includes recessed soffit lighting often installed around the entire outside of the building, plenty of driveway lights, lights built into stairways and landscaping lighting.  There are now large homes throughout Surrey that are lit up at night like it was the middle of the day.  Making this obnoxious trend even more disturbing is the fact that these nocturnal light shows are usually tied to a light sensor so they remain on all night long.  When the McMansion was built next to our house, we lost all of our privacy in the back yard but fortunately they didn't ring their house with soffit lighting so our place fortunately still remains dark at night.

 

Light pollution from neighbours can become a serious problem, especially when one neighbour's lights illuminate their next-door property.  Case in point, a friend of mine had a hot tub in their back yard that they used without swimsuits under the cover of darkness.   This was not a problem for anyone until the neighbours placed a motion activated light on the side of their house to light up their walkway, equipped with a 100-watt halogen bulb.  The light shone over the fence and left the naked folks in the hot tub as exposed as a deer in the headlights.   Needless to say, they were not pleased with their loss of privacy and talking to the neighbours about this problem went nowhere.  My buddy eventually resorted to unscrewing the light bulb, which would be screwed back in again by the next night.  This led to the bulb mysteriously disappearing several times, culminating with the light sensor being broken by forces unknown.  


Darkness is a natural part of our ecosystem and light pollution can cause many problems far beyond never getting to see the Milky Way galaxy if living anywhere near an urban centre.  Light pollution poses a threat to nocturnal wildlife, confuses the migratory flights of birds and alters predator-prey relationships.   Humans also suffer adverse health effects with nighttime light affecting the circadian rhythm during sleep that reduces melatonin production, leading to sleep disorders, stress, fatigue and anxiety.  It has been estimated that lighting is responsible for at least one-quarter of the electricity used world-wide, wasting money and adding to our carbon footprint.  It is easy to reduce light pollution by shielding bulbs, only using lights when needed, using energy efficient bulbs and ensuring the colour of light and lumen output is not excessive for the job that is required.

 


The City of Surrey has been working to upgrade their street lights from yellow coloured high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs to the newer light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.   Because of the longevity and durability of the LED lights there is expected to be big savings in maintenance and the replacing of dangerous sodium bulbs.  Once the conversion is complete it is expected the switch to LEDs will save the city $1 million in annual costs and reduce energy consumption for road lighting by approximately 30 percent.  The focus on this program is to first upgrade areas with traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks in order to reduce accidents.   To date almost half of the 38,800 city owned lights have been changed over to LED, including 16 percent of the lights in south Surrey.  You can check out their progress and compare the Semi-pen to other centres in Surrey (City Centre at 91%) at this rather enlightening website:  https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/1a32d6db6d724dc19b60ba1b49982914

 


So here is where the street light changing program hits close to home for me.  While I live in yellow glow HPS neighbourhood that has not yet been converted to LED, my next-door neighbour's light was recently changed over after it burned out.  You cannot help but notice it for the dazzling bright light illuminates the roadway and front yards for 75 metres, showing colours that are not visible with HPS.  The problem I have with this new street light is that it is extremely bright and glaring, to the point that you cannot look directly at it.  (NOTE:  I had to take an overnight break from writing this TNT as the power went out while I was writing about street lights!)  Walking down the street I found myself squinting and wishing I had worn my ballcap with its trusty brim, either that or having brought along my sunglasses.  Sorry to say but I think the city could have saved more money on both the LED fixtures and power consumption by using lights that were a little less glaring.  The overall effect looks to be that they have turned night into day on the mean streets of Surrey.


In a TNT first, I leave you with a second set of musical lyrics that I think are rather fitting, this time courtesy of Canadian rocker Corey Hart with his song "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" from the 1983 album First Offense.


And I wear my sunglasses at night

So I can, so I can

See the light that's right before my eyes

Oh no
I say
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 10, 2021

Passing Over the Overpass Protesters


" I asked my doctor today how long he thinks this COVID-19 thing will last.  He responded with "How the hell should I know?  I'm a doctor, not a politician."

I was heading to Art Knapps Gaden Centre on Sunday not thinking about it being Mother's Day and that everyone would be at this gardening superstore with huge lineups all day long.  Fortunately, the drive was not a rcomplete waste of time for as I went across the King George Blvd. overpass above Hwy. 99, there were protestors holding signs, waving Canadian flags and with large banners attached to the overpass railings.  This was happening directly across the street from the formerly empty Park & Ride lot that has been turned into a COVID-19 testing and immunization centre.  I must admit that I love a good protest and have done several over the years on highway overpasses and even at the same Park & Ride lot where I protested against the HST with a 50 foot-tall "NO" that was used on Global TV for almost a year.

The three people who were on the overpass sidewalk identified themselves as "freedom fighters" who were standing up to the government's COVID-19 policies enacted during the global pandemic.  While not affiliated with a particular group, they told me to visit the Action4 Canada.com website whose homepage says it is "A grassroots movement reaching out to millions of Canadians and UNITING our voices in opposition to the destructive policies tearing at the fabric of this nation. Through Call To ACTION campaigns, we equip citizens to take action. We are committed to protecting…FAITH, FAMILY and FREEDOM."  I was also told they were followers of No New Normal (nonewnormalbc.com) website and facebook page.  This is where you can find the following passage: " Fear is the virus, Covid news is a lie, the pandemic is a scam.  We won't consent to the globalist agenda who is influencing the government and our medical officers.  Say no to mask, testing, contract tracing and vaccination. Turn off your TV and boycott mainstream media.  Be a critical thinker and do independent research."

Here is an assortment of the various signs and banners that were being displayed on the KGB overpass on Sunday.

"Leave our kids alone!, Covid fraud, Reject modernity, Depopulation 2030,  Try and see through the lies, Stop masking Trudeau Corruption, No experimental injection, and Covid is the Trojan horse."  I think you can likely understand where they stand on the Covid plandemic..., I mean pandemic, with no plans of joining the millions who have already taken their first vaccination of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca shots.  Their signs were sending the same message as the placards we have seen at the Vancouver Art Gallery over the last year including "Hugs over masks, Facts over fear, We are all essential, Do you know anyone with Covid? and Hands off our guns", which I don't believe has anything to do with actually spreading the Coronavirus unless through surface contamination. 

What was really interesting about this protest was the reaction of the those passing by both on King George and below on Hwy. 99.  There was a literal symphony of car horns with about a 50/50 split of whether you would get a thumbs up or a Trudeau salute from drivers and passengers.  Some people would shout out their support and others would curse those standing on the sidewalk.  One woman stopped to admonish those on the raised sidewalk to the danger they were in until I pointed out that she was the one stopped in the roadway only feet away from passing cars.  While chatting to those involved, a pickup truck did an abrupt lane change, swerving towards the protestors and then tossing a liquid from their side window as they passed by, likely oblivious that their childish prank actually counts as assault.  Fortunately, it was just water and not battery acid, or as one of the men joked, "a bottle of urine."

Regardless of how you feel about these protestor's message, either completely misguided or righteously informed, you have to give them credit for standing up for what they believe and voicing their freedom of speech.  Standing on the edge of the road between two busy highways takes a lot of nerve and conviction, not to mention the cost to produce all of the banners and signs on display.  Don't expect this protest to go away anytime soon as the so-called "Surrey folks defending freedoms" are committed to being out every weekend at the 160 St. overpass above the #1 Trans-Canada Hwy. in north Surrey on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the King George Blvd. overpass above Hwy. 99 in south Surrey every Sunday from noon till 2 a.m.  Something tells me the longer this "COVID-BS" drags on the more people we are going to see waving flags and placards opposing government efforts to stamp out both the infection and opposition to all of the imposed restrictions.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

May 03, 2021

Things That Bug Me (Part 3)-

Mason Bees

 


To be perfectly honest, mason bees don't bug me but sometimes when they're in my face I still wish they would buzz off.  My first encounter with this native North American bee that is a prolific pollinator was years ago at the front door of my house in Brookswood, Langley.  I had red brick at the front entrance and the mason who installed them decided that it would be interesting to top the doorway with bricks that had their drying holes facing outwards.  In the spring after I moved in, I noticed these large black flies all hovering around the entrance going in and out of the holes in the bricks.  I quickly realized that they were not flies at all but a small black bee that was busy filling up the holes with muddy plugs.  A little research introduced me to the interesting world of the mason bee that continued to colonize my front door bricks for years.

 


If you are not familiar with mason bees (Osmia Megachilidae), the first thing you need to know is that they do not make honey.  There are over 150 types of mason bees in North America and most of these are native species.  They are avid pollinators and less than 300 adult females can pollenate an entire acre of plants, bushes and trees more efficiently than honey bees.  Mason bees are solitary insects with females making their own nest and not producing workers as in a honey bee hive.  Eggs are laid on pollen rich masses in small cracks or dark voids that are separated with mud into chambers until they are full with female eggs laid at the back and male eggs at the front.  In the spring mason bees emerge from cocoons from their winter hibernation with males waiting at the nesting site for females to emerge.  After mating the males all die and the females begin building nests for the next generation, living 4-6 weeks.  



I went to visit David Hutchinson, a well-known medical marijuana advocate from south Surrey, who was looking for advice with his landscaping.  Near the front door of his house in Ocean Park was a box that I knew was a commercially produced mason bee nesting box.  To say it was a beehive of activity would be an understatement and a lively pun at the same time.  There were smarms of black female mason bees coming and going, working on filling up the many tubes in the box.  I should note that the males do not have a stinger and the females rarely sting and if they do it's like a mosquito bite.  Forgetting that I was there to talk about gardening, our conversation revolved around his bees and the necessary steps you need to take to have them every year.  Much to my surprise David gave me an older mason bee box that he was no longer using plus some of the larvae that he had overwintered in paper coin tubes placed in his fridge.  Eventually we got to talking about his garden but not before I had suddenly become an amateur apiarist yet again.

 


Arriving at home my first task was to inform my honey that I was now raising bees that did not produce any honey.  I found a sunny spot on our deck to place the nesting box and put the sleeves of mason bee cocoons in the fridge as I had been instructed.  David told me to wait a week or two for warmer weather then to put the packages of adults outside where they would hatch.  Well, the bees had different ideas and within a few days we noticed a black bee inside our kitchen and found another one crawling inside of our fridge!  Needless to say, all of the bees went outside immediately and by the very next day we already had bees going into the nesting tubes.  Once you get used to them buzzing right by your face, these busy little mason bees are quite entertaining and we already have over 10 nesting tubes filled with eggs.  As a bonus, our fruit trees plus raspberry and blueberry bushes should be very well pollenated this year, hopefully producing a bumper crop for us.

 


You can purchase mason bee boxes, also called bee hotels, at the local Art Knapps nursery or at Wild Birds Unlimited.  These stores also stock and sell mason bee cocoons in the early spring that you can buy to ensure you hotel gets occupied.  It is also easy to make a DIY mason bee box simply by drilling holes into a thick non-pressure treated piece of wood and ensuring that it is covered and out of the rain.  You will find plenty of ideas on the web plus lots of information about how to care for the many types of mason bees that live in Canada.  What I like about the box I got from Mr. Hutchinson is that the block of tubes can be easily taken apart for access the cocoons and for yearly cleaning and light sanding.  The easiest mason bee house has to be small sections of bamboo stalks 5 inches long closed at the back end, dried out and tied together with rubber bands.  Unfortunately, these bamboo tubes cannot be reused but if you have a bamboo grove with thin stalks, then you have an inexhaustible supply of nesting tubes. 


For more information about mason bees and their care, check out this article from the David Suzuki Foundation:

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - April 25, 2021

 

Things That Bug Me (Part 2) - Asian Giant Hornet



Spring is in the air and it is time for the overwintering Asian Giant Hornet queens to emerge from their winter slumber and take up new nesting sites for this year.  In case you know them only as so-called "Murder Hornets" you need to realize that this name was first coined by New York Times reporter Mike Baker back in November of 2020 in a rather sensationalized article from the east coast written about these introduced pests here in the Pacific Northwest.   I wrote a TNT on May 11 last year titled "Stop The Asian Invasion" where if you scroll down you can read details about their background facts including a memo released by the BC Ministry of Agriculture how sightings can be reported to the invasive Species Council of BC at 1-888-933-3722, via the council's "Report Invasives" mobile phone app, or online: https://bcinvasives.ca/report

 

At the end of last year, I was visiting with Pixie Hobby, an environmentalist lawyer from whose name you might recognize from previously running here in the Semi-pen for both the BC Green Party and federal NDP.   I popped in to her place in Crescent Beach to return some election signs and noticing her ripped up front lawn gave her a crash course about Chafer beetles, how to fix the damage and the steps needed to keep it from happening in the future (the same info as last week's TNT, Things That Bug Me (Part1) - Chafer Beetle).  What I found interesting was the two honey bee hives that Pixie was overwintering on the front patio of her house.   She informed me that the honeybee boxes are usually found at the Dunsmuir Community Garden in Crescent Beach to help with pollination and are kept at her house for safe-keeping and supervision during the winter months.  

 



I had a girlfriend years ago who was an avid entomologist that also kept honey bees so the subject was not new to me.  I had helped her keep her bees at the Richmond Nature Park, assisted with honey extraction and helped move and care for them during the winter months by feeding the hive with sugar water.  In all of the times when we had been working the bees, neither of us wore protective gear and I had never been stung.  The two times I have been surrounded by swarms of wild honey bees again I was never stung.  While I have been mauled many times by yellow-jacket wasps and bald-faced hornets after getting involved with their nests, the three times I'd been stung by bees was while accidentally crushing them into flowers as I walked by.  You can always tell it was a honey bee and not a wasp as their stinger rips out of their bodies and continues to inject venom after the bee flies off to die. 

What was of great interest to me at Pixie's place was the homemade "Giant Asian Hornet Trap" she had hanging from a tree only metres from the bee hives.  She informed me that the trap was usually at Dunsmuir Gardens and that community garden members were actively looking for these invasive hornets that can kill up to 30,000 honey bee workers in only an hour before entering the hive to steal the larvae.  Her trap consisted of a 2-litre pop bottle with 2 cm. openings cut into a sideways H pattern on three sides of the bottle near the top.  The bottom of the 2 cm. H is folded out with the top pushed in, allowing hornets to enter but not easily leave.  The trap is baited with 4 ounces of no-pulp orange juice (a lunch box size serving) plus a further 4 oz of rice wine (10-25% alcohol by volume).  An easier recipe is a cup of brown sugar mixed with a cup of warm water.   You can see an instructional video by the Washington State Department of Agriculture on Facebook about how to make and properly use one of these traps at https://www.facebook.com/WAStateDeptAg/videos/1172098296470382/



Officials in B.C. and Washington state are teaming up this year to battle this common enemy with plenty of traps, both installed and monitored by government employees and those built and installed by individuals looking to do their part in eliminating this threat.  The queens are likely to already have emerged from winter hibernation and begun looking for nesting sites for this year.  Catching queens in traps will ensure they do not get to make new colonies, while catching workers will let government officials know where Asian Giant Hornets are active so that their nests can be located and destroyed as happened several years ago in Nanaimo and in Blaine.  If this pest cannot be eradicated it poses a threat to our agriculture businesses by possibly killing bee hives that work to pollenate our fruits and vegetables, leading to reduced crops and decreased yields. Keep in mind that my sister squashed on of these queens in her Langley yard last March near 56 Ave. and 248 St. in Strawberry Heights showing that they can be found many miles north of the US/Canada border.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

The Naked Truth - April 19, 2021

 


Things That Bug Me Part 1- Chafer beetle



Spring is in the air and by that, I mean the sound of lawn mowers being brought out of hibernation and grass being given its first cut of the year.  Unfortunately for some folks living in the Semi-pen, the winter has been cruel and they now don't have lawns to mow.  The main culprit is the European chafer beetle (Rhizotrogus majalis) that is an introduced species first discovered in the Lower Mainland back in 2001 in New Westminster.  Since that time they have spread and now can be found throughout the Lower Mainland including South Surrey and White Rock.  The larvae of these brown beetles are white grubs 1-2 cm. in length with brown heads that damage lawns by eating away at the roots of the turf, leaving brown or dead patches in lawns.  



The chafer grubs may damage grass but at least they don't rototill it down to bare earth.  These larvae are an irresistible high-protein snack that many of our native animals find irresistible.All of our nocturnal animals feed on chafer beetle grubs but it is the racoon with its size, strength and sharp claws that can tear apart and quickly roll back the turf while having a feast.   Opossums and skunks also have the keen sense of smell needed to locate chafer beetle larvae and they too can quickly dig multiple holes in a lawn in their search for these tasty morsels.  During the day crows descend on these damaged lawns and continue to rip them into smaller pieces by pulling on old synthetic turf netting that remains buried just under the ground.  



If your lawn has been torn to shreds, there are a variety of ways to combat this problem in the future.  The easiest method is to simply rake up the destroyed turf and reseed with a mixture of tall fescue and micro clover that are grub resistant and help hold the lawn together.  Usually, nutrient poor well-drained soil is part of the problem allowing chafer beetle grubs to overwhelm a lawn, so laying down a thick layer of organic topsoil before seeding is a definite improvement.  Should you really want to stop all creatures great and small from feasting on your lawn, landscapers can cut out the old grass, excavate the sub-soil, install new topsoil and re-turf.  If you are going through with this expense, an underground irrigation system is also a good idea.  Lastly, having artificial lawns installed or getting rid of lawns all together is always an option.

 


The easiest way to avoid chafer beetle damage is to keep your lawn healthy in the first place.  This means applying dolomite lime in the fall and overseeding bare spots in the spring once it is warm enough for the seed to germinate.  Aerating to relieve compaction, help control moss and provide air to lawn roots can be beneficial.  A comprehensive fertilizer program designed to help keep grass thick and lush will keep adult chafer beetles out and grow roots faster than the grubs can eat them.  Mowing at 6-8 cm. or 2.5 to 3 inches in height will make for a healthier lawn as will mulching your lawn and allowing the cuttings to build up the organic matter in the lawn instead of filling up your green bin.  Most importantly, in the summer when it is hot, do not mow your lawn, especially when it is sunny as this will put it into drought stress.  Water your lawn deeply when allowed to under Met-Van sprinkling regulations to keep grass green and healthy.



There are no pesticide sprays that can be used under municipal bylaws to help kill chafer beetles and do you really want to poison your lawn?  There are a few more natural ways to help control chafer grubs that are not toxic to pets, animals or the environment.  Beneficial nematodes, small parasitic worms that enter beetle larvae, can be purchased from local garden stores in the late spring and put onto the lawn in July once chafer beetle eggs have hatched.  These have to be watered in and kept moist and you can apply at City Hall for an exemption to sprinkling restrictions during this time.  Another natural alternative is Scots Grub-B-Gone MAX with the pet safe and naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) that infects the gut of underground larvae.   It can be used in spring to control over-wintering grubs, in July or August to control newly hatched grub larvae or in the fall to control new grubs hatched from eggs laid in the summer.  



Having a nice lawn is not rocket appliance, or something like that.  You simply have to follow the suggestions listed above, especially if you have had chafer beetle damage or racoon rototilling.   A healthy lawn does not take a lot of time for upkeep and with mulching instead of bagging, there is much less work involved.  The big trick is finding the right medium of watering and fertilizing where the lawn is thick and green without growing so fast that cutting it becomes a real chore.  These days with Covid-19 stay at home health orders and concerns about food quality and availability, many people are getting rid of their lawns and putting in vegetable gardens instead.  Not only do you get a bountiful harvest that you grew yourself, you don't have to worry about those damn chafer beetles.



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

Monday April 12, 20231

Surrey Real Estate Board



I really could hardly believe my eyes when a friend sent me a picture last week of a new board game that a buddy of his had found at a Surrey Wal-Mart.  There in the toy section among the hundreds of different board games was one that stood out above the rest.  We are all familiar with Monopoly, a game first created in 1933 by Charles Darrow based on Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Well folks living in Surrey, B.C.'s second largest city, can now play their own version of Monopoly titled Surreyopoly created under license by Onset Media Games in Victoria (https://www.outsetmedia.com/).



This new board game released April 5th is totally Surrey.  The name even features a beaver in the middle (Surrey's old mascot) along with the slogan "A fun game celebrating BC's City of Parks!" and the Canadian maple leaf flag.  The GO corner space where you collect $200 for passing reads "Go Surrey!" along with a smiling arrow.  While the regular monopoly game's cheapest properties are the initial Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue in brown, in Surreyopoly they feature the 1001 Steps (in Ocean Park) and Crescent Beach, costing $70 and $80 respectively.  If only properties in this real neighbourhoods close to the waterfront in south Surrey were so cheap.  Further along the light blue Oriental, Vermont and Connecticut Avenues have been replaced by the Guildford Golf & Country Club, Morgan Creek Golf Course and the Northview Gold & Country Club.  At the corner where the Monopoly's jail is situated, the Surrey version has a Traffic Jam with a Detour taking the place of the Just Visiting.  



Three Skytrain stations, Gateway, Surrey Central and King George take the place of the purple St. Charles Place, States and Virginia Avenues.  Three of Surrey's parks, Surrey Bend, Darts Hill Garden and Bear Creek take the place of the orange St. James Place, Tennessee and New York Avenues.  The Free Parking corner that is used to acquire penalty money paid to the centre of the board instead features an "I Love Surrey!" with a big read heart.  Rounding the corner halfway through the board, the red Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois Avenue squares instead feature the Surrey's International Children's Festival, Surrey Vaisakhi Parade and the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair.  The regular yellow squares for Atlantic and Ventnor Avenues plus Marvin Gardens have been replaced by the Historic Stewart Farm, Barnston Island Ferry and the Museum of Surrey.  



The corner square heading into the final stretch features "Exit to Traffic Jam" instead of the "Go to Jail", which I think would have been much funnier if it was the Surrey Pre-trial jail.  The hoity-toity green squares of the high rent Pacific, North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenues are instead the Centre Stage at Surrey City Hall, the Bell Performing Arts Centre and the Surrey Art Gallery.  Last but not least the royal blue of Park Place and Boardwalk (my favourites) are the South Surrey Arena and Downtown Surrey in the Surreyopoly game.  The four railroads that occupy the centre position on each side of the board are now highways featuring 176 Street, South Fraser Perimeter Road, Fraser Highway and King George Boulevard.  Lastly the utility companies Water Works and Electric Company are instead the Peace Arch Border Crossing and Surrey Memorial Hospital.  


Where this new game gets really interesting is the Contingency and Big Fun cards that have replaced Community Chest and Chance.  Contingency features "Placing first at the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair" with a prize of $100, "Walking your dog in Bear Creek Park" and "Performing at the Bell Centre."  The "You've been elected Mayor, pay $20 to each person who voted for you" card was funny while my favourite was "You ate too much lobster pot pie from Seahorse Grill! - Lose 1 turn to recover" about the local seafood restaurant in Crescent Beach.  The Big Fun cards contain a CRA Audit, Play The Lottery plus a Surrey Vaisakhi Parade card along with "You are crowned MISS SURREY, collect $100."  For the record I was elected Mayor while my wife was crowned Miss Surrey, costing me 20 bucks with my queen bee pocketed a hunny.

It is not only the City of Surrey that now has its own Monopoly styled board game created by Late For the Sky in Ohio that prints custom Monopoly versions.   Marketed by Onset Media and sold in Canadian Wal-Marts, versions for Burnaby, Chilliwack, Langley, Maple Ridge, Penticton, Port Coquitlam, Prince George and Richmond were released last week with 720 copies in each of these municipalities.  There is also Vancouveropoly, Saskatoonopoly, Whitehorseopoly, Trailopoly, Victoriaopoly, Edmontonopoly, Calgaryopoly, Oakvilleopoly and Canadaopoly with more towns across Canada on the drawing board.  If you cannot make it to your nearest Wal-Mart of want to buy one as a gift for distant friends or relatives, these games can be purchased online on the Walmart.ca website.  



Visit the following link to learn some interesting facts about Monopoly that has sold over 250 million games and been played by over a billion people world-wide.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - April 6, 2021

 

Douglas Fir McCallum



A week ago Sunday, I was busy in my front yard doing my best impersonation of Paul Bunyan, chopping up logs into firewood and stacking it into a large pile of cordwood that we burn in our firebox to heat our home in the winter months.   The weather that day had already been all over the map with sun, rain, hail and wind, similar to a usual day in Calgary.  All of a sudden there was a distant roar and I realized the noise was wind coming towards our Crescent Heights home off Mud Bay.   It didn't take long for the big evergreens to start waving down by the beach and as the first blast of wind reached our property, I took shelter inside and watched the neighbour's Douglas fir frees shed branches and pinecones all over the roadway and our yard. 

 

This same freak windstorm was also to blame for a tree falling over several blocks away from a home sandwiched between Crescent Road and 28 Ave. not far from the Chevron gas station.  An evergreen just inside the white picket fence bent over and fell into the side of the road that is City of Surrey property.  Not exactly an emergency situation considering that the street isn't an arterial road and that it was not blocked to vehicular traffic either.  Normally in this situation it is up to the homeowner to deal with the fallen tree since it originated from inside their property.  At most the city might clear the road of tree debris and possibly put up a couple of traffic cones to alert people to the obstruction.  Where things get a little weird is when the home in question is owned by the City of Surrey's playboy mayor Doug McCallum and his estranged wife.

 

Neighbours across from McCallum's former family home told me that the tree in question was blown over during the same wind storm that chased me indoors from my hatchet job on Sunday afternoon.   At 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night arborist crews arrived on site and began chain sawing the tree that had fallen down, cutting off the branches and sawing the trunk into firewood sized chunks that are still visible in a pile in the Mayor's yard.  With all of the racket and unnecessary noise the neighbour's phoned 911 to reach the Surrey RCMP and were told to phone the incident in to the non-emergency reporting desk (604-599-0502, a number you should have on your cell phone).  The arborist work completed at 1:30 a.m. and later that morning a chipper trunk showed up to deal with the branches and clean up the mess.  I should note here that the neighbour did not identify whether the arborists were city crews or hired contractors.



Normally city crews or their hired contractors do not deal with trees that fall from private property.  The White Rock arborist told me that city crews will only clear trees and branches from city property, usually cutting them back to either the side of the roadway or edge of the sidewalk to not impede traffic or pedestrians.  Trees fell across our roadway on 124 St. a year ago and crews only cut them back to the centre lane, putting traffic cones around them where they stayed for almost a week before being removed.  Sunday's storm also felled a cedar tree onto Crescent Road near the Elgin Hall and it still sits there today a week later marked off with traffic cones.  A big leaf maple tree recently fell across 140th St just south from Crescent Road and while the road was cleared, the tree was left on either side, which is where I got the wood that I was chopping last Sunday.  It took almost two weeks for city crews or contractors to clean up what was left of this debris on what is an arterial road.

 


So, this leaves us with some rather interesting questions about why the evergreen falling out of Mayor McCallum's property necessitated a Sunday night response from arborists who were likely charging double or triple time for their nocturnal services.  I'm going to go out on a limb and ask why was this tree not left until the following morning since it was not blocking traffic and fell into a boulevard on a quiet residential street, not a trunk road?  It needles me as to who was responsible for ordering arborists crews to attend to this tree in the middle of the night, likely at a high cost to Surrey taxpayers?  On a similar branch of thought, why were arborists cutting down a non-hazardous tree after midnight in a residential neighbourhood when people were trying to sleep?  Most importantly, even though he reportedly no longer lives at this property, did Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum get preferential treatment and receive arborist services that would normally be the responsibility of the homeowner?  Well, an FOI request is going to be filed with these questions because I'm stumped and would really like to get to the root of this problem.  Hopefully I'm not barking up the wrong tree.



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

March 29, 2021

 

Open & Shut Case for Opening Shut Staircases



It wasn't long after the stair closures that the City of Surrey placed gigantic signs all through the western end of the Semi-pen announcing "Important Notice, Stairs Closed, No Access, and in bold print (for no apparent reason) LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY.  What was really galling about this was that for years Surrey has refused to place signage pointing the way to any of these staircases or to Crescent Rock Beach.  You can find the 1001Steps and Christopherson Steps passageways listed online on the Surrey.ca website but the only roadway sign is an antiquated and faded "1001 Steps" marker near these stairs that is small and almost invisible.  The Olympic Trail also known as Stoner's Point and Pot Point because of the large wooden viewing platform that is a popular smoking spot is also missing from the city's website.  The same goes for the Sandy Trail that runs from the Crescent Heights neighbourhood off Crescent Drive down the bluff to Bayview Ave. where McBride Street crosses the BNSF Railway tracks.   As luck would have it, I have one of these huge signs directly across from my driveway that serves as a constant reminder of the year-long closure of all these staircases.

 


Now when COVID-19 was first rearing its ugly head there were many restrictions put in place on the side of caution without much thought to whether they were actually needed or helped stop the spread.  As science on the pandemic virus has improved and we know more about how it operates and is transmitted, there have been changes to health orders that have been implemented as a hap-hazard patchwork across much of Canada.  Something that is banned in one community can be completely ignored in the jurisdiction right next door.  Case in point is the difference in staircases between Surrey and the City of White Rock.  I should note here that this comparison was brought to light when I realized that Sandy Trail leading to Crescent Beach has a wooden staircase that is the same width (less than 2 metres) as the 1001 Steps, Olympic Trail and Christopherson Steps staircases and yet it has amazingly been left open to pedestrians heading to and from Crescent Beach for the past year.

 


The City of White Rock has numerous staircases across the hillside that rises from Marine Drive towards uptown.  Many of these are the same size and construction as the wooden staircases in Surrey leading to Crescent Rock Beach.  There are five road-end staircases west of Oxford south of the Centennial Arena plus many more wooden stairs within the confines of Ruth Johnson Park that are all open to the public without restrictions.  Closer to the famed White Rock pier there are seven more city staircases open to the walking public plus twenty more above east beach allowing access to Marine Drive from as far up the hill as Royal Ave.  It would have been quite easy to block access to any or all of these stairs using temporary metal fencing as was done last year to close the pier and promenade to pedestrians.  I know several people living in White Rock who use these road-end staircases to exercise, something that the Surrey Parks Board used as justification to close the staircases leading to the rugged and remote Crescent Rock beach shoreline.

 

The new BC Public Health Orders list "going for a walk or hike" as their prime example of activities allowed under the order that is not considered a social gathering.  For outdoor gathering where up to 10 people can now get together outdoors, their example is "up to 10 people can gather at a park or beach."  Well in my neighbourhood it is hard to go for a walk or a hike when the gates to the ocean staircases are locked shut with now rusty chains making it impossible to gather with 10 of my closest friends at the beach.  Yet amazingly in White Rock, using staircases to go up and down the hill to and from the beach have been open for the past year.  Instead of closing down the staircases on the Ocean Park bluff, Surrey should instead have simply mandated the use of masks on the staircases since they are less than 2 metres wide and banned stairclimbing for exercising.  Of course, they could have followed White Rock's lead and with these stairs being outdoors having very low potential for COVID-19 transmission, simply kept them open.

 


Over the past year Canadians have been told to stay home and self-isolate to help "stop the spread" and help "flatten the curve."  With nowhere to go and public access to areas such as Crescent Rock beach being blockaded, people's butts have been spreading and they have been fattening their curves.  This of course leads to many other medical health issues not related to COVID-19, one of which recently put a friend's wife into Peace Arch Hospital.  The mental health aspect of having an entire society cooped up and isolated is being ignored too, something that could be greatly improved by allowing people the simply act of going for a walk at the beach and giving them some time in the natural environment to relax and take a break from all the COVID-19 hysteria.  It has been a year since the staircases were locked and it's time for Surrey to take a look across 16th Ave. into White Rock and see that having open staircases leading to the waterfront has not killed anybody or caused a COVID-19 outbreak among a population known to be a little long-in-the-tooth.

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 23, 2021

 

Semiahmoo Yes, Surrey No

 

 

The Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club has been a focal point for Semi-pen conservationists, environmentalists and nature lovers since it was formed back in 1957 on the banks of the Little Campbell River at 1284 184 St in the Hazelmere Valley.  It consists of 29 acres of land with accessible trails, a fish hatchery, club house plus both archery and gun ranges.  You can read all about the history of the SFGC, the Little Campbell hatchery, efforts to protect the Little Campbell river, its archery and range programs plus hall rentals at https://www.sfgc.ca/   I should note here that I have been a club member for a few years now and am also the director in charge of landscaping around the hall.  Because of this I have refrained from writing about the following topic for some time due to ethical and legal reasons.



With aging buildings and infrastructure, concerns started to be raised about upcoming maintenance bills that would likely have a major financial impact on the club and its long-term viability.  Further exacerbating financial concerns was the decrease in the number of weddings booked at the hall on a year-to-year basis, events that previously brought in plenty of revenue.  Even with a sizeable contingency fund, the club's executives began to worry about the long-term viability of the club that would threaten the hatchery and the hundreds of thousands of fish they raise every year.  This was well before the COVID-19 pandemic and with Dr. Bonnie Henry's health orders in place for a year, many of the activities and bookings that would normally have taken place were cancelled with 2021 memberships also being put on hold.

 


Since Sept. of 2019 the SFGC's executive has been in discussions with the City of Surrey about donating the property to the city and have them take over repairs, maintenance and operations.  An agreement was hammered out over lengthy negotiations and legal oversite, with new societies being planned to continue to operate the hatchery, a separate archery club and gun club.  Unfortunately, some members of the club felt that the proposal was short-sighted and did not consider other options, with little consultation or communication about the ongoing negotiations with the city on how the agreement would function and the time frame and rules for the various societies that would be using the facilities when they were transferred to the city.

Under the Societies Act, a special resolution vote was needed in order to facilitate the SFGC land transfer to the city of Surrey plus activate the agreement that would be in place.  Unlike budget votes where a simple 50% majority would pass, a two third majority of 66.7% was needed in order to allow Surrey to take control of the property and its operation.  With COVID-19 protocols making a regular meeting impossible, a Zoom meeting was held on Sunday, March 21st where 129 people voted on the proposal to give up control of the 64-year-old club.   Of the 129 SFGC members who voted, 76 voted yes with 53 voting no, resulting in 58.9% in favour, far short of the two third majority needed to approve the land transfer.

 


It will now be back o the drawing board for the SFGC and it would not surprise me to see a number of the executive move on after their plan for the cub was defeated.  It did not surprise me that the motion to give the $4.5 million SGFC property at no cost to Surrey failed.   In February, PM Trudeau announced plans to introduce legislation allowing cities across Canada to ban hand guns.  In the 2018 civic election Doug McCallum said  “I fully realize (a ban) doesn’t do anything to prevent the gang violence that we’re seeing in Surrey because they operate with illegal guns no matter what you do."   Now in 2021, Major McCallum had this to say on the subject, "That is why I wholeheartedly support a handgun ban for the City of Surrey and I am directing staff to immediately begin work on a bylaw for Council approval as quickly as possible."

 

There are a lot of shooting sports enthusiasts who are members of the SFGC and considering Mayor McCallum's flip-flop on gun control, it is unlikely they would want to give the city of Surrey their gun range, knowing it would likely be shut down soon after the city took control of the facility.  It seems difficult for politicians to do anything about illegal guns and criminal gangs but law-abiding citizens with legally owned and registered firearms are always easy to put in the cross-hairs.   With a new lease on life and the COVID-19 pandemic near an end, there is hope that the SFGC can begin the process of rebuilding and finding new sources of revenue.  I would think that renting range time to members of the new Surrey Police Service for pistol practice is something to aim for.



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 15, 2021

Time For Change


I awoke from my slumber on Sunday mornig like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day to face the prospect of yet another time change day, springing forward to Daylight Savings Time (DST), losing an hour of sleep, and spending time adjusting clocks.  I had hoped we would have put our twice annual time change into the dust bin of history but unfortunately COVID-19 reared its ugly sphere last year and suddenly governments around the world had more important things on their agenda.  This is now the fourth TNT column I've touched on this subject over the years, the last time being March 11, 2019 titled "Ditch The Switch" that you can scroll down for more insight on this timely topic.  It is getting to the point on this subject that I am now hoping I live long enough to see the day when we can "set it and forget it" as the saying goes.



There has been some movement on this issue with BC introducing legislation in 2019 to get rid of the season time change but only if the western states of Washington, Oregon and California all do the same.  These three states have passed bills to stay on Daylight Savings Time but these need to be ratified by the US Congress where bills have stalled due to COVID-19 and the 2020 US election.  Ontario passed legislation last year to stay on DST but following BC's shining example of leadership, only if Quebec and New York State joined them in doing the same.  Alberta Premier Jason Kenning announced last week that they are considering holding a referendum on the issue of time change after 91 percent of Albertans expressed a desire in a government poll to stay on summer time.   What a waste of time, just do it (apologies to Nike).

 

While other jurisdictions take their sweet time deciding what to do on this issue, our neighbours to the north decided to make their own move last year, COVID-19 be damned.  Following a motion brought forth in 2017 the Yukon government surveyed their residents and found that 93 percent wanted this archaic time change practice to stop, with 70 percent expressing their desire to stay on DST.  As of March 8, 2020, the Yukon ditched the switch, showing leadership on this issue and listening to the will of the people instead of dithering like many other jurisdictions.  It is interesting to note that the Province of Saskatchewan has not bothered with the bi-annual tie change since way back in 1959, keeping their clocks on Central Standard Time (CST) all year long.  



On the subject of time and change, I read an article on a well-known business news website this week about many companies now considering going to a four-day work week.  This started from COVID pressures and the huge increase in working from home.  Some businesses started giving their employees Friday afternoon off to deal with the stress from the pandemic and noticed an increase in overall weekly productivity.  Four-day weeks mean less commuting, less energy consumption, less transportation infrastructure, plus more time at home with loved ones.  The five days a week, 8 hours a day grind makes about as much sense as the antiquated twice-yearly time change when you start to look at how we can do business differently.  



My sister-in-law works at a manufacturing plant that has their unionized employees work an extra half an hour every work day but they get off every second Friday at noon, days that are also arranged to coincide with long weekends for an early getaway.  My son-in-law runs his landscaping company utilizing four ten-hour days per week, with one crew working Mon-Thurs and the other Tues-Fri.  This keeps his employees happy with a three-day weekend every week plus still operating during a 5-day work week to get all of his jobs done.  Other companies are now having employees take a mid-week break from Tues-Thurs as a way to reduce mental stress and fatigue, allowing them to work more effectively with limited time. 



For over 35 years now I have worked 4-10 hour days per week so this concept is not new.  This means an hour early to start and later to finish but it also means not getting caught in the worst of rush hour traffic.  Of course, the bonus is that every weekend is a long weekend, with Mondays being my extra day off.  Where this gets really interesting is on a real long weekend where the three-day holiday weekend suddenly becomes a four-day weekend, meaning no long lines of traffic coming home on Monday not to mention having campsites all to yourself on the Tuesday.  Often, we will work a standard two-day weekend before the long weekend (it really sucks), shifting our work schedule, taking off the Friday and enjoying a five-day long weekend.  The following week is then only a 3-day work period followed by the usual 3-day weekend.   Needless to say, employee retention at my business is not a problem with everyone loving the extra time off, while still getting in their 40 hours and a full paycheck.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn 

 

 

 

March 08, 2021

Dikes or Dykes, Groins or Groynes?

The Mud Bay Village Art Knapps after dyke failure and flooding in Dec. 1982.

When I'm cruising around our little part of the world, I'm always looking for something different, something odd, something I've never noticed or something new that catches my eye.  Once something has piqued my attention then I usually try to find somebody who can explain the event, anomaly, circumstance or structure that I've discovered.  Case in point was the recent installation of a long length of orange snow fence placed around one of the farms south of Hwy. 99 along the Serpentine River between Mud Bay Park and the bridge over the river.  From the tractors and equipment that are often in this field, I knew that this land was worked by long-time farmer Stan Van Keulen who owns the dairy farm in Mud Bay with the bright orange buildings.   Stan is also the president of the Mud Bay Diking District so it was no surprise to learn that the fencing was not installed to stop snow drifts as is normal in the rest of Canada but to mark the safety zone for Surrey's Colebrook Dyke upgrades - 200 Series project

Ocean levels around the world are expected to rise by a metre in height by 2100.  The Lower Mainland with its thousands of acres of land close to sea level will be under severe risk of flooding in the future, with Vancouver raking 11th in the list of cities around the world most at risk from ocean flooding.   The City of Surrey is not oblivious to this future threat and with federal funding from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) and the Province of BC, they are taking steps to reduce the risks of coastal flooding.  The 7.2 km length of the Colebrook dyke has been separated into three different zones known as the 100 Series, 200 Series and 300 Series.  The 100 Series is from along the Mud Bay Trail adjacent to 125 A St. and Station Rd. not far from Hwy. 91., east to the BNSF Railway corridor.  The 200 Series runs from the train tracks eastward to Hwy. 99, while the 300 Series goes from Hwy. 99 to King George Blvd at the Serpentine River sea dam next to the Serpentine fen.  

Over the next four years the plan is to raise this entire dyke system to 3.9 metres elevation from its current height of 3.0 metres to conform with Provincial standards for a 200-year event that would include sea level rise, king tides and winter storm surge.  Work on this project is to begin this spring with Delta Aggregates being awarded the dyke raising contract for more than $4 million just for the middle 200 Series.  The eastern 300 Series is then planned for the Spring of 2022 and the remaining western 100 Series should begin construction in the Fall of 2022.  Due to the weight of the material being trucked in and deposited, the dyke raising will be done over a four-year period and staged over time to allow for compaction of the underlying soils.  Future contracts have yet to be tendered on the additional work but with the distances of dykes involved it is likely that this entire project will cost an estimated $12-15 million. 

This may seem like a lot of money but when you become aware of the damage that can be done when dykes are crested or collapsed you begin to realize the devastation that can result.  In Dec. of 1982 a king tide coinciding with a strong westerly wind pushed large amounts of water up out of Mud Bay into the Nicomekl River.  Not far from 140 St. and Crescent Road a dyke was breached and brackish water flowed into the Nico Wynd Golf Course where I had previously worked as a groundkeeper while attending UBC.  This water flooded the course with 4 feet of salty water, inundating the pro shop, club house and maintenance building.  It took a full crew of employees that included myself two weeks during the Christmas holidays just to clean up the mess on the golf course, with the buildings and turf equipment all needing major repairs.  I personally helped to build the new dyke that Nico Wynd installed alongside the road leading to the golf course parking lot, losing a set of keys in the process that are still entombed in that dyke along with many sheets of plywood and heavy vapour barrier plastic.

The damage from the storm that flooded Nico Wynd also hammered Crescent Beach and other exposed areas of south Surrey.  In response, the Provincial government along with the District of Surrey made repairs and upgrades to this region that are still visible today.  This included 0.5 km of rip-rap boulder beach protection placed along Crescent Beach between Wickson Road and Sullivan Street.  Timber groins were also added to help reduce beach erosion and retain sand, structures that were subsequently replaced with rot-proof composite materials in 2014.  At that time 1.2 km of dyke at Crescent Beach between Wickson Rd. and Maple St. were raised along with 2.4 km of dyke on the north bank of the Serpentine River west of King George to the Surrey/Delta boundary on Mud Bay, the same area that is again being raised.  I figure it won't be long till the Crescent Beach dyke gets raised again after a spring storm several years ago pushed water and debris onto the Shoreline Walk, leaving angled puddles on its gravelled surface that are still visible today.

For additional insight on this topic, please read the 2013 Province article by Glenda Luymes titled "Sea Change" that features Mud Bay, Crescent Beach, plus the cities of Delta and Surrey with the concept of "managed retreat" instead of continuously raising dykes to combat increasing sea levels.

https://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-province/20130825/281479274071710

A great historical perspective on dyking in Surrey including pictures of the 1982 storm that flooded the Art Knapps store on King George can be found on the surreyhistory.ca website.

https://www.surreyhistory.ca/dyking.html

Naturally yours

Don Pitcairn 

 

 

March 01, 2021


Night and Day - Day at Night

 

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery
Breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that
Can't you read the sign?

Lyrics to "Signs", The Five Man Electrical Band, 1971 and included on the
1990 compilation album "Made In Canada - Volume Three 1965 - 1974"



It took only a few trips to Mexico to realize just how horrible our road signage and safety systems really are here in the Lower Mainland.  With three members of my Mom's family perishing in automobile accidents and driving plenty of miles myself, I take road safety very seriously, especially after being at several gruesome crash scenes over the years.  I regularly send emails to various engineering departments, Mainroad Group and the BC Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry about glaring deficiencies I notice or safety recommendations that could save lives.  Case in point was myself campaigning for median cable safety barriers along Highway 99 through Delta and Surrey a decade past, which since installation have stopped cross lane accidents and the injuries and deaths that resulted.

 


A few years ago, I became aware that many of our highway signs around King George Blvd. and Hwy. 99 were in terrible shape.  These vinyl reflective vinyl signs have a 15-20 year lifespan in the elements and it was likely that many of these had been in place for 40 years or more.  Some of these had plywood backings that were rotting and falling apart, green backgrounds that were no longer reflective and white lettering that was now a mottled grey.  At night these signs were totally invisible, not helping any driver to find their way once the sun went down.  Where this gets dangerous is at places like on the KGB heading north crossing over Hwy. 99 and the right lane turns onto the cloverleaf heading towards the tunnel.  Often, I have seen cars suddenly swerve into the left lane, narrowly avoiding hitting other vehicles at the choke point.  This is not bad driving; it is non-existent maintenance of our road systems that is to blame for endangering everyone's safety.  

Needless to say, I took pictures of plenty of the offending signs, some of which were so rotten and faded it was a miracle they were still standing.  These signage pictures along with detailed photo explanations and signage locations were sent to Mainroad Group, the Ministry and local MLA offices since this is an area of Provincial concern outside of Surrey's jurisdiction.  Slowly but surely, I started to see some action on this issue starting with some of the more tattered blue information signs that were flapping in the wind being taken down from the side of Hwy. 99.  Still the big green and white direction signs had not been touched and rather than resend my previous emails, I decided that if these signs were not replaced by spring, I was going to run a "Sign Shame" program, attaching my own very visible signs with this slogan to the highway's relics to help draw people's attention and media scrutiny to this issue.


I am pleased to report that this will likely not be necessary now since last Monday I saw a number of Mainroad Group trucks on King George Blvd. near Hwy. 99 replacing some of the highway signs I had previously warned about.  In total six of the big green and white direction signs have now been replaced, with several of the rottenest signs finally knocked down and hauled away. If you look at the photos with this TNT, you will notice the night and day difference of these highway signs and that is during daytime hours.  At nighttime there are now direction signs that you can actually see and follow, whereas before you were basically driving while blind.  It is a shame this work could not have been done before the long nights of winter instead of at the end of this dark period but I'm just glad to finally see changes and upgrades being made.

Some of the wording on these signs has even changed.  At King George and the 99, the left sign had a small directional triangle pointing ahead to Hwy. 99A leading to New Westminster.  The Hwy. 99A name was decommissioned in 2006 and it is likely this sign was posted long before the Alex Fraser Bridge opened and that was in 1985 before EXPO 86.  The new replacement signage has a large straight-ahead arrow that points the way to "Surrey City Centre" that you might know formerly as Whalley.  Other sign changes are more subtle, like the one exiting from Hwy. 99 southbound onto the KGB that used to direct traffic to White Rock and Crescent Beach (with a previously blanked out Cloverdale) now being replaced with White Rock (ahead) and Crescent Road (right).   It will be interesting to note if any of this new signage is changed again when the new four-lane bridge over the Nicomekyl River is built.



Even though this problem has now been fixed in our neighbourhood there are still many highway sign relics that have lost their shine and are slowly fading away.  I have seen glaring examples that no longer glare at night in Delta, Richmond, Vancouver and Burnaby.  My favourite is the Hastings Street exit off Hwy. 1 heading northbound where the massive signage overhead is almost as bad as the ones just replaced at King George Blvd.  Keep an eye open as you move about the Lower Mainland and if you notice one of these relics, please take the time to report it to the proper authorities.  Close to home, the "White Rock - Next 5 Exits" sign southbound on Hwy. 99 before the Serpentine River corner fades from green to black at night since the background is no longer reflective.   It is hard to believe that this kind of thing is so common here, yet you never see it in Mexico where their highway signage is up to date, modern and easy to follow.



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - February 22, 2021


Border Disorder


One of the craziest things about the COVID-19 pandemic has been the considerable conspiracy theories superspreading like a plague on anti-social media.  This "plandemic" has been blamed on 5G cell phones, Bill Gates' Dr. Evil-like plan to control the world, COVID-19's creation as a biological weapon, part of a scheme involving big pharma, the deep state and GMO multinationals, or my favourite that COVID-19 is not real apparently because you can't see it.  I used to laugh off many of these bizarre assertions that have no claim in science or fact, until I saw the TV footage of large green army trucks and tents taking up position at the Douglas border crossing eleven months after the world's longest unprotected border was first closed.

 

With an interest in oversized military trucks and army tents going way back to my cadet days and time spent on Department of National Defence property, I decided to venture down highway 99 to the once bustling land crossing between BC and Washington State.   I must admit, it was a pretty weird scene with no cars on the highway as I drove by Beach Road and the Duty-Free store with its signage now missing a few letters.  Pulling into the Canadian Border Services parking lot, there were 3 sets of modular olive drab army tents straight out of a military bivouac along with a very large six wheeled support vehicle and plenty of other trucks with Canadian military plates.  Throughout this area where plenty of men and women wearing green relish fatigues or black clothing sporting badges from their respective military units.

For a minute it looked as if Hollywood North was filming yet another sci-fi pandemic movie, which considering the times we find ourselves living in would not be a big stretch of the imagination.  It resembled scenes you might have seen in Contagion, Pandemic, Outbreak, The Andromeda Strain, I Am Legend, every zombie movie ever made, mixed in with Rambo First Blood.  The difference was that there were no cameras, no crews, no movie trailers, food trucks or overhead lights you would regularly find on a movie set.  Also missing were men marching with guns, soldiers with German Shepherds barking wildly and helicopters flying low overhead while orders blared from loud speakers.  Donning my black coat, black hat and black face mask in order to blend in and armed with a clipboard and pen to try and look important, I made my way into the enemy encampment.

 

The first two soldiers I met were quite personable, identifying themselves as reserve members from HMCS Discovery in Vancouver who were at the Douglas Crossing to support the installation of the army tents and associated materials.  Walking down the 50 metres long row of tents I made my way to the Canadian Border Service Agency offices where I was intercepted by two female officers who were also Canadian nice and chatted with me for a while as it appeared they were lonely and bored to tears.  Circling through the parking lot taking pictures I was met by a smiling man who introduced himself as a member of the Canadian Red Cross who was working with the Canadian Armed Forces and he put me in touch their Senior Communications Manager who helped fill in the pieces to this military mystery. 



The Public Health Agency of Canada has enlisted the Canadian Armed Forces to help establish a COVID-19 testing site at the Douglas border crossing and four other high-volume land ports of entry as of February 22, 2021 and eleven additional ports of entry as of March 4, 2021.  This is in response to new COVID-19 variant detections increasing and concerns over entry through land ports spreading the mutated virus.  Besides having to present proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours before entry to Canada, those who are not exempted must also now take a test using a self-swab kit.  The Canadian Red Cross personnel will be on scene to help provide information and guidance about these tests, manage traffic flow and deal with sample collection, storage and transfers.  A second self-swab kit will be provided so people can collect a second required test on day 10 of their 14-day quarantine.

 

There is one very big problem with the way the government is trying to tighten up testing for variants at our land border crossings.  Only a short walk away at the US side of Peace Arch Park, people are still meeting and mingling freely with over 60 tents pitched on the lawn at this park this weekend.  I saw four RCMP officers, two Canadian Border Services agents and several US Customs Service & Border Protection agents on scene, checking ID's of the hundreds of people entering and leaving this bizarre little enclave.  Multiple family gatherings are reportedly happening routinely at this park including birthday parties, romantic hookups and even weddings.  The western side of the park was closed to visitors back on June 18, 2020 so why is the eastern section still open eight months later and allowing cross-border intermingling of people during a global pandemic?


Dr. Bonnie Henry, Premier John Horgan, Governor Jay Inslee, Prime Minister Trudeau plus US Presidents Trump & Biden have all failed to properly address this issue.  If people are seen mingling with others in Peace Arch Park, spending time indoors in tents and hosting large gatherings without masks, when they cross back over the ditch into Canada, they should be taken on the short two-block walk up the street to the Douglas land crossing, tested for COVID-19 and forced into a 14-day quarantine like the rest of the people crossing the border.  It would take only a few hours to erect temporary fencing to secure the border at Peace Arch park and close this loophole that makes variant testing for people at the Douglas crossing a complete waste of time and money.   The federal Minister of Health Hon Patty Hadju who is responsible for the Public Health Agency of Canada and its $700 million budget needs to be held accountable by all Canadians for allowing this flagrant disregard of Public Health Orders to continue.

 


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 16, 2021



Boardwalk To Nowhere


If you live in the Semi-Pen, I would suggest that you join the Facebook group "If you live in South Surrey / White Rock."  It is a great way to meet your neighbours, get answers to questions concerning this little corner of the world, learn what is going on in your neighbourhood and a place to add your two bits worth.  It is also where you can become aware of such things as a local dog poisoning with a cocaine and marijuana cookie, coyotes running wild in Dunsmuir Gardens and an unusual number of vertigo cases.  It was this posting by John Bogar with a rather interesting picture taken at Blackie Spit in Crescent Beach that really caught my attention.  "Can someone please explain to me why a boardwalk to nowhere was built on the previous section of beachfront at Crescent Beach??  This narrow obstruction cuts off the beach and the entire structure makes no sense??!  We all paid for this sadly with our taxes, but who thought it up and approved it???"  This post attracted 111 responses; this TNT now makes it 112.

 


There were plenty of explanations posted on this topic, many that actually made sense:  
- Perhaps to avoid nesting areas on the grass?
- I believe it is for those with wheelchairs and walkers.
- It's to keep people from walking behind the cars in the parking lot.
- Trying to protect the foreshore?
- It's for high tides. / King tides.
There were also plenty of negative comments about this structure and its placement:
- Kinda narrow for social distancing.
- Not very attractive, that's for sure!!!!
- Not needed, obstructs canoes and kayaks.
- It doesn't look wide enough for 2 wheel chairs to pass.

- What a waste. / Paint it green. / Make work project.

My favourite comment of all was compliments of Alex Kingston:

- Someone could place a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and someone on Facebook would complain about it.

 

A quick search of the City of Surrey's surrey.ca website for Blackie Spit Park provided the following explanation for this project:  Construction is underway on a 107-metre boardwalk at Blackie Spit, which will provide an accessible route and a designated pedestrian corridor through the sensitive environmental area.  Armed with this information and a tape measure in hand, I made my way down to Blackie Spit during the weekend snowstorm to take a look at our tax dollars at work.  The boardwalk is past the Swim and Sail Clubs between the gravel parking lot and the entrance to the dog off-leash swimming beach before the entrance to the Spit and its environmentally sensitive foreshore areas.  Until recently this new wooden walkway was closed to the public but the gates at either end are now down and there are small arrow signs on the structure indicating one way travel west to east due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Not bothering to bring my measuring wheel with me, I will accept that the boardwalk is 107 metres long and mainly straight with four angled corners along the way.  My tape measure showed it is 51 inches wide with wooden planks and 4"x4" borders on each side.  The boardwalk is elevated with open space beneath allowing for water egress during storms or king tides and it sits 20 to 32 inches above the uneven ground below it.  There is galvanized mesh on one side of the boardwalk surface closest to the parking lot for traction during frost, snow, or when wet from rain or waves, plus 25 inches of bare wood towards the water providing a smooth walking surface.   The west end of this structure is approximately 25 metres from the end of the pavement heading towards McBride Avenue and 100 metres from the eastern end of the Crescent Beach Shoreline Walk.  The eastern end terminates adjacent to the entrance gate for the dog off-leash swimming beach not far from the entrance to the Blackie Spit environmental area.


So here we go, time for me to drop my drawers, bend over and take a big crap in that rainbow pot of gold.   While this boardwalk does provide an accessible route and designated pedestrian corridor from end to end, it blocks access to the shoreline from the nearby parking lot.  It also covers a large portion of the supposedly sensitive environmental area while cutting a swath directly through the middle of this already narrow grassy area.  People walking their dogs towards the off-leash area can still stroll along the grassed area as they head back and forth from the Crescent Beach Shoreline Walk.  Boaters hoping to go kayaking or canoeing will now have to walk around this structure or likely drag their watercraft over it to access the waterfront.   There is no fencing along the parking lot or on either end to stop people from walking on what was previously a flat lawn mowed down by the feet of thousands of people and their pets.


Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, access is only permitted from west to east on the new boardwalk but I have to ask what happens after that?  At 51 inches wide there is not a lot of room to maneuver on this platform for two people walking beside each other.  I measure 25 inches across shoulder to shoulder so imagine another gentleman walking towards me on this boardwalk; it does not leave any elbow room.  This will make people walk along the edge where there is an average of a two to a two and a half foot drop-off.   According to BC Building Code all decks/balconies that are higher than 600mm (24”) above grade must have guards to mitigate fall hazards.  In order to minimize the risk of children and pets bypassing guardrail assemblies, all openings must be designed to prevent the passage of a 100mm (4”) diameter object or must demonstrate that the opening in question is not hazardous.  You would think that city owned structures in public parks would have to adhere to the BC Building Code for safety.


I am bewildered that in an age where we are ensure access for those with mobility issues that this boardwalk is only wide enough for one wheelchair.  Most wheelchairs are 28-30 inches wide with the minimum width for one wheelchair ramp set at 32 inches and 75 inches to allow the safe passage of two wheelchairs.   Even the surface of this boardwalk does not make sense because it currently means that anyone in a wheelchair will have one set of wheels on bare wood and the other riding over wire mesh.  The same goes for anyone using a walker and if they take a spill, it could be a very hard landing two feet down on hard ground.  At the west end of the boardwalk it is 25 metres of gravelled parking lot to get to the asphalt pavement where a large speed bump awaits.  If a mobility challenged person wants to get to the Crescent Beach Shoreline walk from the new boardwalk, it is 100 metres on uneven gravel that slopes noticeably towards the shoreline


A much better option instead of this bizarre boardwalk would have been to extended the flat gravelled surface of the Crescent Beach Shoreline Walk the entire 200 metre distance alongside the parking lots behind the pollards and boulders that already protect people from cars.  This would have been cheap and easy to do, matched the existing walkway and connected the entire waterfront from one end of Crescent Beach to the other.   If Surrey wanted to protect the small grassy area near the off-leash dog-swimming beach, which is actually designated as a "park natural area" for some strange reason, it would have made much more sense to fence it off from people and pets.  As it is now configured there is nothing natural about this dangerous and skinny boardwalk that does nothing to protect the small grassy area between a busy parking lot and a popular shoreline.  

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn


 

 

The Naked Truth - February 8, 2021

DPD, SPS, TNT, WTF?


"Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord and his wife Lorraine"

I grew up in North Delta and let me tell you from experience that with the private police force in Delta and officers that lived and worked in the community, they were quick to know where problem areas were and to identify troublemakers plus known criminal elements.  No, not me, my social provocateur activities started much later in life, hitting stride when I started penning this column.  I've talked to members of the Delta Police Department (DPD) who believe that they offer a superior policing model to the RCMP, mainly because they are proactive with targeting criminals and gang members, either arresting them, forcing them to quit their lifestyles, or simply getting them to move to another jurisdiction (hello Surrey).

 


The problem with a municipal police force is that they often get a little too cozy with their positions in the community, believing they own the town and are untouchable.  Residents become known to police officers and can be relentlessly targeted for a variety of reasons with illegal vehicle stops and unwarranted searches becoming commonplace.  Corruption can slowly work its way into the ranks with money from organized crime finding its way into the hands of low-paid officers simply to look the other way on a variety of offences.  When police departments were investigating their own officers for misdeeds as happened in the past, it was not surprising that it appeared the cops never did any wrong.  Thank God we now have the Office of the Police Complaints Commission and the Independent Investigations Office to look into the misdeeds and criminal acts of those sworn to protect us.

All of this cop talk takes us back to June 6, 2020 when a Surrey woman, Kiran Sidhu, was walking along Centennial beach in south Delta during on incoming tide.  Coming across large rip-rap boulders placed along the beach for erosion control, she climbed onto the jagged rocks to escape the water, using the fence of the nearby house for support.  This led to an alleged confrontation with the homeowner who angrily warned her not to touch the fence.  After Mrs. Sidhu almost tripped on the rocks this woman reportedly said, "Ha, that would be so funny if you fell, but then again we have enough beached whales around here.”  To make matters worse Mrs. Sidhu alleged that this incident then escalated with the lady in the yard grabbing a hose and spraying Mrs. Sidhu in the face with water, after being warned that doing so would be assault.  The lady of the house was identified as Lorraine Dubord, the wife of Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord.

 


True to her word, Mrs. Sidhu, a Richmond teacher, filed a report with the Delta Police Department about the alleged statements and actions of Mrs. Dubord that summer day.   The case was apparently investigated and eventually Kiran was told that the case had been closed.  Undaunted and upset that the Delta cops had been tasked with investing their Chief's wife, she filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaints Commission (OPCC) and the file was then forwarded to the Surrey RCMP for review.  Investigators recommended that Mrs. Dubord be charged with uttering threats and assault but in September the BC Prosecution Service announced the matter would be resolved through "alternative measures" allowing Dubord to accept responsibility for the incident and make amends without a trial.  The OPCC has also asked the Vancouver Police Dept. to conduct an eternal review into whether any Delta police officer committed misconduct in this case, with results still pending.

As if this incident didn't stink enough already, it was recently revealed last week by Global TV that the Delta Police Force had hired a high-priced communications consulting firm to deal with this issue that also included accusations of racism.  The Freedom of Information request failed to reveal the name of the PR firm or the amount that had been paid, with Delta brass claiming the release of this information would be against the Protection of Privacy Act.  After several days of intense media, constituent and councillor pressure, the Delta Police reluctantly admitted that the total cost had been $42,000.  DPD Deputy Chief Harj Sidhu also revealed that the bill for this service had been covered by the 2020 operational budget.  You need to realize that the Delta Police Dept. already has a Public Affairs Manager whose job it would normally be to handle questions from the media and public.  Apparently since this incident involved the Police Chief's wife, someone decided to hire professional flim-flam artists to help massage the narrative. 



Now you may be wondering why this Delta story is so fascinating to myself and hopefully the residents of the Semi-pen and readers of the WR Sun.  Well, back in 2020 the unnamed high-powered PR firm related to this case was hired by the Delta Deputy Chief.  This was not Harj Sidhu (no close relation to Kiran Sidhu) but their former Deputy Chief Norm Lipinski.  If this name sounds familiar get used to it, he is the officer who Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum the Surrey Police Board hand-picked to hire as the Chief Police Constable for the new Surrey Police Service.  No word yet whether blowing $42,000 of Delta taxpayer money was Lipinski's decision alone of if he was acting on orders from his superior Delta Chief Police Neil Dubord, hubby of hose-happy Lorraine Dubord.  One thing is for sure, this issue will be front and Center in Delta City Hall chambers on Monday night.  With the fight over keeping the RCMP in Surrey, I would expect the same at Surrey City Hall with the new Police Chief apparently coming to town with some rather smelly baggage.

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

TNT Extra:  The following piece on the above subject appeared on Global TV's Monday evening news broadcast.


Delta Police justifying hiring PR firm by tying it to a high-profile police killing in the United States.

On Monday, members of the Delta Police Force received a memorandum about the $42,000 of taxpayer money being spent on crisis management.  Officers were told in part "the department engaged external consultants to assist with a communications strategy during a period when there was widespread distrust with the police as a result of the George Floyd situation, mounting allegations of systemic bias within policing, and public demand for defunding police.

 


Members of the rank and file are not happy with the memorandum or the fact that it references George Floyd because the $42,000 was spent during Chief Dubord's wife Lorraine being investigated, allegedly for hosing down Surrey resident Kiran Sidhu.  Delta officers say that until now they have never been told why a PR firm was hired and they have not received any special training as a result.



Norm Lipinski, the former Deputy Chief of Delta and new Chief of Surrey also made the following statement:

While serving as the Deputy Chief of the Delta Police Department, I secured an external communications firm to assist in the matter surrounding Chief Dubour.  This was done to ensure the public was aware that all necessary steps were being taken to address this matter in an appropriate and transparent manner.  This course of action was taken with the full knowledge, support and consent of the Delta Police Board.

 


This sudden flurry of communications and the bizarre notion that the PR firms hiring was somehow done in response to the George Floyd killing makes me wonder if the professional spin-doctors are still in charge of this bizarre file.  None of this investigation was done in "an appropriate and transparent manner" as the new Surrey Chief Lipinski has stated.  Trying to equate the hosing of a Surrey woman by a police chief's wife at Centennial Beach to George Floyd being choked to death by a uniformed police officer on a street in Minneapolis is absurd, abhorrent and disgusting.  It looks like it is indeed time to defund the Delta Police since the $42,000 and the budget surplus they had for 2020 totalled almost a $1 million.  In the wake of this continuing scandal that is still being investigated, I would not be surprised to see Chief Dubord resign and for the Delta Police Board to be disbanded for incompetence.  Maybe it's time to bring the RCMP to Delta?

 

 

Fenruary 01, 2021

Taking the "Car" Out of Carnage

 

It's been a couple years of waiting but finally this week a big step is being taken in fixing one of the most dangerous intersections in this region.  On February 3rd, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will announce the contracting company that has been selected to upgrade the intersection of Highway 15 and 40 Avenue.  The planned changes and safety improvements should start in the spring of 2021 and hopefully end its history of violent and deadly crashes.  I previously explored safety concerns at multiple intersections along 40 Ave. in south Surrey in a TNT on September 09, 2019 titled "40th Avenue Fiasco" that is posted below in the archives if you wish to scroll down for some history on this subject. 



The quiet country intersection of 176 Street and 40 Avenue was not that dangerous until this roadway was widened, divided, and renamed Highway 15.  Coupled with ever increasing traffic and people from Cloverdale and Langley using it as a cut-thru to avoid traffic on 32 Ave. and #10 Hwy., this corner saw more and more accidents.  The road widening meant that the intersection with four thru lanes and two left-hand turn lanes became stretched to a 47 metres wide chasm.  The speed limit was also raised from 70 to 80 kmh, with many drivers flying by at freeway speeds of 100 kmh or even higher.  Add this together with the 3,000 commercial trucks that use the Hwy. 15 corridor on a daily basis and this corner became a proverbial meat grinder.

According to statistics from ICBC, from 2013-2017 there were 63 crashes at 40 Avenue and Highway 15.  About half of these resulted in death or injury; a rather sobering statistic.  The last fatal crash on Sept. 5, 2019 was an early morning accident in poor visibility that took the life of a young Surrey male named "Belly" and injured the other driver.   Not three months prior to this vicious collision, there was a roll over crash on June 25th at the same spot that injured both of the drivers involved.  Just three months after the "Belly" fatality, on Dec. 10th there was yet another bad crash at this intersection involving three people who were all hurt, with the roof of one car needing to be cut off to rescue the occupants.  Adding insult to injury, one of the vehicles ended up off the asphalt directly next to the roadside memorial left behind from the previous September crash.

I wasn't the only person who was aware of these dangers as here are a few comments posted online from people giving their thoughts on this wicked corner that is the only intersection on Hwy 15 still without traffic control:

"I drive 176 St. every day.  Often, I see drivers speed down 40th without stopping and if they see the way is clear, they zoom on through. Please, make 40th right turn only!!!"

"There have been quite a few crashes there.  It's a scary intersection they have to do something there before more crashes that are serious."

"I guess the politicians and ICBC will wait till there's a few deaths until they do something about that deadly intersection."

To her credit Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who was left with life-altering injuries she suffered in a serious car crash at the age of 18, responded to the concerns of her constituents and worked with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to finally address this dangerous problem. 

The fix that will soon be coming to this crash prone corner is to use concrete barriers to eliminate thru traffic on 40th Ave. along with left-hand turns onto Hwy. 15 from 40 Ave. heading in both west and east bound directions.  Vehicles heading north and south bound will still be allowed to turn off Hwy. 15 from the left-hand turn lanes that were previously installed.  The new intersection layout will allow motorists travelling in either direction on Highway 15 to turn right onto 40 Avenue as before.  The decision not to install a traffic light was made due to the poor roadway condition along the rural 40 Ave., which would have needed a major upgrade by the City of Surrey.  Not wanting to turn 40 Ave. into a commuter route, something it has been increasingly used for up until now, also factored into the final design decisions.

These changes, while eliminating cross traffic on 40th Ave. should greatly improve the overall safety for motorists at this Hwy. 15 intersection.  Now that this problem is fixed, the western end of 40 Ave. at King George Blvd. needs the same kind of upgrade.  A new four lane bridge is coming over the Nicomekyl River completing the four lanes of the KGB through this area.  The offramp onto the KGB from Hwy. 99 northbound needs to be re-routed along with 40 Ave. where it now ends in a T-intersection with an extremely dangerous left-hand turn to head south into the Semi-pen.  During rush hour it is almost impossible to turn there and an area that drivers are best to avoid.  The big burn mark into the asphalt left from a fiery crash in this spot should serve as a warning to motorists, engineers and local politicians to the danger associated with this other 40 Ave. intersection.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 26, 2021


Knuckle Buster

 

Over the years plenty of people have asked me where I get my ideas for he Naked Truth topics.  I usually respond that all you have to do is to keep your eyes and ears open for anything strange, new, or out of place.  Sometimes though, it is simply a matter of not watching where you are going and tripping over a story.  That was the case with this TNT where a walk down Crescent Beach, made possible only because the Christopherson staircase has been locked closed for 10 months due to COVID, led to my find of a rather unique hunk of rusted steel.


There are plenty of old chunks of rusting iron to be found down at the beach, most which are castoffs from the adjacent BNSF Railway corridor.  Old sign posts, tie spikes, tie plates, rail joints and even chunks of cut rail can be found on the shoreline or sticking out of the rip-rap boulders than line the shoreline between White Rock and Crescent Beach.  These are very common and when I find them, I usually pick them up and dispatch them into the nearest blackberry thicket where they can continue to oxidize and rust away out of sight.  This was not the case in December when on the south end of Crescent Beach where I literally stumbled upon a solid piece of forged iron with two holes through it.

I'm reasonably sure that most people walking on the shoreline would not have given this rusted relic a second glance but I immediately knew what it was from and likely why it was there on the beach.  With having worked at the CN yard in North Vancouver, doing stupid things like climbing on board freight trains as a kid, plus walking beside trains stalled on our tracks due to mudslides from the Ocean Park bluffs, I knew the metal was from part of a train boxcar coupling unit.  A quick phone call to a friend at Fraser Valley Rail confirmed that it was indeed what is known as a "knuckle" and the one I had found had been broken in two.


Today's standard freight car coupler is the Type E - Janney "clasped-hand" device that couples automatically when one or both knuckles on the coupler are open and the cars are pushed together.  Upon impact, the knuckle swings into the closed position and a lock drops in place, securing the coupling, connecting the cars and holding the train together.   If either of the two knuckles on the coupler are to fracture on the swing pin and break, the train will come apart between the two freight cars where the failure has occurred.   The only reasonable explanation as to how a broken knuckle ended up on the shores of Crescent Beach is that it came from a train on the tracks above that would have immediately stopped once the air brake line was disconnected.


BNSF freight trains breaking down and blocking the only two access points to Crescent Beach has been an ongoing problem for years.  In 2019 Doug McCallum was on record saying that there had been 5 train blockages of Crescent Beach in the preceding 5 years.  In the "An Update on Rail Safey" report on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities from 2016, White Rock was featured as a case study (along with the Lac-Megantic train crash disaster in Quebec) for glaring safety deficiencies associated with crossing blockages that had been ongoing here for years.  While the Railway is supposed to clear road blockages within 5 minutes as per the Stopped Train Protocol, BNSF freight trains have been stalled blocking Crescent Beach for hours at a time, with Surrey installing CCTV cameras to monitor the Beecher St. crossing.  



Having talked to railroad maintenance crews, train engineers and local BNSF staff, I understand the problem of stalled and broken-down trains at Crescent Beach is the large curve near the Christopherson Steps at the west end of 24th Ave.  Coupled with a 10-mph speed restriction in place for the 114-year-old swing bridge at the Crescent Beach Marina, this corner puts extra pressure on the Janney knuckles connecting increasingly longer and heavier trains, causing them to crack and the trains to then come to a grinding halt when the cars separate.  The chunk of knuckle I found on the shoreline not far from the pedestrian overpass likely came from a broken-down freight train that in all probability was one of the ones that blocked off Crescent Beach in the last decade.



In the past, the construction of a tunnel under the BNSF tracks allowing unfettered access to Crescent Beach was considered but rejected by Surrey Council due to cost.  The same can unfortunately be said for an emergency road planned for under the BNSF trestle near the Crescent Beach marina that was also shelved.  Since nothing has changed with respect to the position of the tracks, the speed of the trains or the design of the couplings, it is likely that BNSF freight trains breaking down in this location and blocking the only two road access points to Crescent Beach will continue in the future.  This is one of the reasons why I do not live in Crescent Beach, preferring the Crescent Heights neighbourhood on the hill above with no train tracks.

"An Update on Rail Safey" report on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities from 2016 is available online at the following link, with the White Rock and Crescent Beach portion on pages 21-24 under the heading "Rail relocation in urban areas and community impacts: Case 2https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/TRAN/Reports/RP8359147/tranrp06/TRANrp06-e.pdf     It is interesting to note that White Rock received plenty of safety upgrades along their waterfront including 8 new pedestrian crossings that led to whistle cessation almost a year ago on Jan. 29, 2020. 

The risk of a BNSF train breaking down and blocking all access to Crescent Beach in Surrey still remains the same as does the constant barrage of 130 dB train horn noise.

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

January 19, 2021

Our Home On Native Land

I received an email from a local elementary school principal after this TNT got posted and the following caption was included at the bottom of the message:   

I’m honoured to work on the shared, unceded traditional territories of the Katzie, Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and other Coast Salish Peoples.

If Surrey Schools can recognize the traditional lands of First Nation peoples, why can't Mayor McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition councillors do the same?

Don Pitcairn

 

 


Last Monday Surrey Council voted on a motion put forward by Councillor Jack Hundial before the Christmas holidays, for Surrey Council to include an indigenous land acknowledgement before each meeting.  This is to recognize that the City of Surrey is on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish; namely the Katzie, Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem, Qayqagt, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen First Nations.  Such acknowledgements are becoming customary between governments and First Nations as a show of respect and in the spirit of reconciliation, especially since Canada's adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.   The actual narrative of the motion was to acknowledge "the land we are on is the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people."


Pretty tame stuff these days as we now usually acknowledge the people who lived on the lands of what is now British Columbia long before Spanish and English explorers arrived and colonization began.   This topic should have been discussed and quickly adopted, allowing Surrey to join with both the Provincial and Federal governments in acknowledging our historical neighbours and recognizing the role of indigenous people in Canada.  Instead, discussion on this motion quickly deteriorated with Councillor Lauire Guerra not supporting this concept because she has a "problem with legislating speech" and adding "...I don't think we should be forced to."  Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum did not support the idea either, later saying this about indigenous people, "we treat them better in Surrey literally than anywhere.”


When the time came to vote on what had suddenly become a contentious issue, the Surrey Safe Coalition members voted as one, defeating the motion 5-4 with Doug McCallum, Allison Patton, Doug Elford, Mandeep Nagra and Rableen Rana voting against, with Jack Hundial, Brenda Locke, Steven Pettigrew and Linda Annis voting in support.   After the meeting Councillor Hundial expressed his disgust saying he was "shocked and surprised" that the acknowledgement of the traditional territories was shot down, believing it is "just the right thing to do" and noting "six other communities in the Lower Mainland do a progressive acknowledgement of where we are today."  Surrey has a sizeable number of indigenous people living here, believed to be around 13,500 souls; 56 percent who are First Nations, 40 percent who are Metis and 4 percent who are Inuit.  Collectively this is about 2.6% of the Surrey population with half of this indigenous population under the age of 27.


It didn't take long for the SSC voting down of the territorial land acknowledgement motion to bring condemnation from First Nation leaders.  The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) called the decision "disappointing and a further enforcement of systemic racism."  Regional Chief Terry Teegee said in a statement "If the city cannot acknowledge whose lands they work, how can Surrey be trusted to advance reconciliation and First Nations issues?  This is especially concerning considering the large Indigenous population in the City of Surrey, many of whom are young and starting families."  Chief Teegee has called on the Mayor and Council to consider revisiting Jack Hundial's motion and to accept it.  Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell said this about the topic when advised of Surrey Council's decision, "I find that land acknowledgments, they are good.  It is good that people acknowledge the territory they are on."

The City of White Rock, population of around 21,000 people and just over 5 sq. km. in size has been acknowledging their neighbours the Semiahmoo First Nation people at the beginning of every public meeting and all Council meetings for the past two years.  In 2018 at their inaugural Surrey Council meeting chaired by Mayor McCallum, there was an acknowledgement of indigenous territory then, but nothing since except for some outdoor civic events.  I was informed by Jeanne Kilby, the president of CUPE 402 that represents the unionized employees of the City of Surrey, that they acknowledge the territory of the Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo peoples at the start of every union meeting, something they have been doing now for five years.  If the union representing City of Surrey workers can show their respect to local First Nations, how come Surrey's so-called leaders representing the 580,000 people of Surrey cannot? 

Mayor Doug McCallum is on record as saying the City of Surrey is "a leader in dealing with First Nations, they welcome me a lot.”  Considering how the SSC shot down a chance to recognize First Nations, advance indigenous reconciliation and address race relations, I think it's safe to say that the chief politician in Surrey speaks with a forked tongue.  

 

Naturally Yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 11, 2021


Arbutus Abundance



Living in the Semiahmoo Peninsula surrounded on several sides by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, we enjoy a niche ecological zone where we get more sun, less rain and warmer temperatures that most of the communities in the Lower Mainland.  This allows us to get up close and personal with a rather unique tree, which is the only native broadleaf evergreen that grows in Canada; the Arbutus tree (Arbutus Menzeisii) also known as the Pacific Madrone, a close relative of the Spanish Strawberry tree.  


These beautiful and magnificent trees can be found in the dry areas of the southeastern part of Vancouver Island, throughout the Gulf Islands and in pockets of the Lower Mainland.  Covered in older bark that is often a smooth rusty red, it peels away as the tree grows revealing fresh chartreuse green bark underneath.  Their crooked and leaning trunks often divide into several twisting upright branches covered in dark glossy leaves that have a leathery texture.  They flower in the spring with thick clusters of white waxy flowers, which turn into small reddish-orange berries that attract many native songbirds.   These stunning and colourful trees are often the subject of local artists who incorporate them with ocean backdrops, including one painting done by Emily Carr in 1922. 

 


While the south-wst corner of BC is the northern end of the Arbutus tree's range, they are found along the west coast of the USA down to Mexico, giving them one of the longest north-south ranges of any North American tree.  It is often said that the Arbutus tree is usually found within five miles (8 Km) of the Pacific Ocean.  Besides a dry and warm climate, they prefer sunny open forests, well-drained and nutrient poor soils, often on exposed rocky outcroppings or next to a beach.  Because of their dense and strong wood, they are resilient against storm and wind damage, with wet heavy snow known to break branches off in the winter.  The bark of this unusual and visually striking tree can be used for tanning hides and it is prized by woodworkers for creating fine furniture or turning exotic wooden bowls.


Unfortunately, the Arbutus tree is slowly declining in numbers throughout its coastal rage in this province.  Development along the desirable shoreline where it likes to grow results in many of these trees being cut down to make way for large luxury homes and beachfront mansions.   Global warming with climate change is believed to be responsible for warmer dry winters that also lead to longer periods of drought in summer for trees that already prefer well-drained soils.  There are a number of funguses that are affecting their leaves, causing damage and leaf-fall along with branch death.  To make matters worse a root-rot fungus is now spreading throughout the Arbutus' range, weakening these amazing trees and causing their premature death.



The largest Arbutus tree in B.C. is believed to be one with a circumference of over 6 m. and reaching a height of 35.5 metres on Thetis Island scoring 398 AFA Champion Tree Points.   Another giant Arbutus with a circumference of 7.8 metres graces the front of the CFB Dockyards in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island.   Several years ago, I was camping on Texada Island at Shingle Beach and found a very large Arbutus growing next to an old cabin at the far end of this 2.5 km. long beach.  The tree was oval shaped at the bottom of the trunk measuring an astonishing 2 m. wide by 3 m. long.  It gradually tapered inwards and at half a metre off the ground split into two massive trunks that were 1.25 m. in diameter each.  I would guess it stood over 30 m. high and at least 20 m. across, covering much of the clearing where the cabin stood.   I will be measuring it the next time I'm there, hoping its the biggest Arbutus in B.C.

.


A little closer to home you can find two Arbutus trees growing in Crescent Beach, one at the south end of Maple Street just as you walk out onto the dyke walkway, one house away from the very last home.  There is an even larger example that is north of Beecher street at one of the waterfront houses on O'Hara Lane.  It is unknown if these trees were planted or occurred naturally, as Arbutus are notoriously difficult to transplant.  I understand that there are several Arbutus down near the water in West Vancouver in rather high-end neighbourhoods where viewing them is best done by boat.   Breaking the 5 mile rule, there is an Arbutus tree growing on the NW corner of 200 St. and 44 Ave. in Langley, 10 miles away from Crescent Beach.  It appears to be quite healthy and somehow withstandsthe icy out-flow winds that sometimes happen during our winters.

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

JANUARY 04, 2021

 

TNT Year in Review 2020


To help celebrate the end of the horrific 2020, here is the TNT Year in Review that also is a quick reference to stories you may have missed or want to read again.

Jan. 6, Pearl of the Peninsula:  Meet Pearl the peafowl who now resides in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood, likely after being dumped there from the wild flock living in Sullivan, Surrey.

Jan. 13, NO TNT:  Time for our winter vacation pre-COVID as I actually take a week off from penning my TNT, using copious amounts of tequila and beachfront relaxation techniques to avoid writer withdrawal.

Jan. 20, Digging Your Own Snowy Grave:  Everything you need to know about the dangers of shovelling snow after I returned from Mexico to find out a buddy in White Rock had died clearing snow.

Jan. 27, Freezing My Tail Feathers Off:  How to safely feed tiny Anna's hummingbirds throughout the winter even during periods of freezing weather and falling snow.

Feb. 3, What The Tuk-Tuk?:  A chance encounter at a McDonald's parking lot started this TNT about a three-wheeled trike common in Asia but unknown on the streets of the Semi-pen.

Feb. 10, Trudeau's True Doo:  With PM Trudeau's new beard showing plenty of white, I decided to let my hair down and examine how Justin's world-famous locks still did not have a touch of grey.

Feb. 18, Slip Sliding Away:  Yet another TNT focusing on landslides from the Ocean Park bluff including multiple mudslides in the Coldicutt Ravine that still remains closed, possibly permanently.

Feb. 24, Keep Our Beaches Clean - Dump on the BNSF:  This article with plenty of photographic proof shows how the BNSF Railway continues to dump landslide debris from their tracks, burying our beaches.

 

March 3, Barking Up the Wrong Tree:  Surrey's tree bylaw and their policies of tree replacement is examined after they rip me off to the tune of $400 after I planted a tree where the dead one that was removed once grew.

March 9, What the Truck is Going On?:  If I can spot illegal truck parking on agricultural land using Surrey's COSMOS site, how come the City and the Agricultural land Commission can't?

March 16, Panic-demic:  The COVID-19 pandemic is starting to mount as I look at panic buying including the hoarding of toilet paper that is illogical when dealing with a respiratory illness.

March 23, Social Distancing Disgusting:  If you didn't get the memo about washing your hands and social distancing, you just might after reading this piece about COVID-19 protocols needed to stop the spread.

March 30, Canada Against Covid:  In the third TNT in a row focusing on the dangers of COVID-19, I champion Canadians to put up the Maple Leaf and wear red and white in a stand against the virus.

April 6, Crescent Beach Covid Blanket Beach Bingo:  The crowds of people at Crescent Beach including large weddings and people using the staircases for exercising are examined after White Rock closed up shop.

April 14, Easter Very Long Weekend:  The list of closures, bans and event cancellations happening across the Semi-pen is reviewed including the closure of the staircases leading to Crescent Rock beach.

April 20, Gander a Gaggle of Geese:  After a relentless run of TNT's on COVID, finally a refreshing piece on Canadian geese and their young crossing 16 Ave./North Bluff Rd. near 148 St./Oxford Rd.  

April 27, Big Love:  Meet Allison Voth, the lady with the biggest balls in all of White Rock who at a time when we need love the most, brings her Big Love Balls and an important message to the City By The Sea.

May 4, Gunning For Trudeau:  While the federal Liberals should be taking aim at COVID, they find time to ban legal firearms across Canada and I put the cross-hairs on this dictatorial decision.

May 11, Stop The Asian Invasion:  The Giant Asian Hornet is put under a microscope as they start to be found in the Lower Mainland.  Note, they are not "Murder Hornets", a fake name created by the New York Times.

May 20, The Devil in the Details:  If you are 55 or over and considering deferring your property taxes you might want to read this TNT that reveals it might not be the great deal you first imagined.

May 25, Surrey Politics Make Strange Bedfellows:  The relationship between Mayor Doug MacCallum and Councillor Allison Patton and their conduct is examined after mainstream media looked away from this power couple's antics.

June 1, Shooting Off About Surrey:  I give 'em both barrels in this TNT gunning for Abby Lane Amica who were being goofs to their WR neighbours and the $54 million cost to switch from LRT to Crimetrain in Surrey.

Jun 8, 8 Min. 46 Sec. That Shook the World:  The murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis makes me look at our police forces here in Canada regarding the use of body cameras plus the change from RCMP to Surrey Police Service.

June 15, Party on the Patio:  With COVID-19 protocols forcing people to stay far apart, restaurants respond by creating patio space in parking areas, where City Hall is waiting to pick their pockets.

June 23, Steps to a Solid Foundation:  The Christopherson Steps at the west of 24 Ave. may be closed to the public but contractors were there busy rebuilding the concrete base of the storm damaged pedestrian walkway.

June 29, Covid Rock:  With music concerts a thing of the past and other events being cancelled, I look at how virtual shows are stepping up to fill the void in our lives left by the pandemic.

July 6, "Being Open is a Wonderful Thing":  Van City gets a TNT treatment for their branch closures in south Surrey and White Rock while advertising that they are open for business as usual.

July 13, Showing a Litle Tact:  Tactile paving and brail blocks are explored by this insightful article about changes to our urban environment designed to help the visually impaired.

July 21, Nude Beach a Distant Memory:  The gift of a Sunshine Acres Nudist Camp key chain prompts me to look at how to access the clothing-optional shoreline of Crescent Rock beach with the stairs still being closed.

July 26, Fatten the Curve:  The Semiahmoo First Nation is scolded for keeping their pay parking lot and beach open to crowds of people while other beaches and parks are limiting visitors.

Aug. 3, Bitter About Quitters:  If you are going to run for office in south Surrey and White Rock, better plan on hanging around for your entire mandate, instead of sticking voters with the election costs.

Aug. 10, Garbage Goofs:  When you go camping, make plans to "Pack it In - Pack It Out" after a trip to Harrison lake reveals young people are treating the environment like their own garbage dump.

Aug. 17, Talking About a Heatwave:  How to survive a heat wave and keep your cool with tips from the president of the Surrey's United Naturists (SUN) about Crescent Rock beach.

Aug. 24, Weedy White Rock:  Johnson Rd. in uptown White Rock is overgrown with giant weeds blocking lines of sight and creating a traffic hazard, while a new weed store "A Little Bud" opens across from the Whaling Wall.  

Sept. 1, The Princess and Empress of White Rock:  When the Princess tree was chopped down in Memorial Park there was an uproar.  Imagine the mood when I reveal White Rock turned down my offer of a free replacement.

Sept. 7, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:   Keep an eye open and you might notice some of this long list of bizarre and rare creatures I've managed to locate over the years. 

Sept. 14, Holy Smoke!:  No..., not the best coffee company in town.  This TNT looks at air quality readings from US forest fire smoke that will literally take your breath away.

Sept. 21, It's a Boat Time:  A chance trip to the Nicomekyl River leads me on a trip down memory lane to the Livingston dingy I found and salvaged from the waters of Mud Bay near Crescent Beach.   

Sept. 28, Crabby Pappy:  Illegal Dungeness crab fishing has been an ongoing problem in Boundary Bay for decades but this year cross-border fishing by Canadians in US waters is finally halted.

Oct. 6, Behold the Behemoth:  Meet Reid Gibbons and his M1079 Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, the largest truck in south Surrey that by chance I happened to meet up with twice this summer while camping.

Oct. 13, From Hump Hillside to Stump Hillslide:  With $1 million plus slope stabilization work now underway, everything you wanted to know about the Hump HIllside but were deathly afraid to ask.

Oct. 19, Wailing Over White Rock:  Just because you hear an emergency siren and broadcast verbal warnings in White Rock, don't jump to the conclusion they are coming from the Semiahmoo First Nation.

Oct 26, Semiahmoo Ship Graveyard:  Not one..., not two..., but three ships are washed ashore in Mud Bay and I meet the Captain of this rag-tag flotilla and his plans to refloat them.

Nov. 2, Free Point Roberts!:  There has not been a single case of COVID-19 reported in Point Roberts in all of 2020 but yet it still remains an isolated outpost closed off from Canada.

Nov. 9, Semi-Pen Cesspool:  Before COVID-19 numbers in Fraser Health reached epidemic proportions, this TNT revealed that south Surrey and White Rock were awash in the novel coronavirus.  

Nov. 16, Doing God's Work:  If you love the environment and pray to God, then the A-Rocha Christian conservation group with their habitat restoration projects is certainly an organization you want to join.

Nov. 24, Christmas Lights Not So Bright:  Just in time for putting up Christmas lights, this TNT warns of some of the dangers of climbing up ladders, going on roofs or hanging from trees.

Nov. 30, Racial Divide in Surrey:  Surrey Councillor Jack Hundial gets smeared in a racist US-styled attack ad posted on Mayor McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition FB page plus the Keep The RCMP In Surrey BC FB page.

Dec. 7, Reflecting on Winter Sunbathing:  Want to beat the winter blues?  Read about how reflective tarps can create tropical heat on sunny winter days, giving you a winter tan and vital vitamin D.

Dec. 14, Life in the Slow Lane:  Cities are looking at implementing 30 Km/h speed zones, some municipalities have already done so, and I reveal a cheap and easy plan to improve traffic safety on residential side streets.

Dec. 21, The Permanent Temporary Bridge:  Breaking news on how after years of delays the old bailey bridge crossing the Nicomekl river plus the adjacent two-lane bridge on the KGB will be replaced with a new four lane structure.

Dec. 28, Christmas Gift List 2020:  After a year with not a lot to laugh about, the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa left under the tree for the year's Semi-pen new makers.

There you have it folks; the dates, titles and topics for another 52 week's worth of The Naked Truth columns in the White Rock Sun.  I hope you enjoyed reading these TNTs as much as I liked writing them.  See you all next year with 2021 promising an eventual return to normal life as we once knew it.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 28, 2020

Christmas Gift List 2020



If there's one thing I love about Christmas it's the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun this holiday TNT is always special.

Here's the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa left under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, listed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.



Harley Chappell:  The Chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation got his Christmas present a little early getting voted in again as leader of the band on Dec. 22nd.  He will get another gift in the New year as soon as his house is plumbed into the new Met-Van water that is finally being piped onto the reserve after years of boil water advisories.

Joanne Charles:  Just like Chief Chappell, this veteran SFN Councillor got her present early on Dec 22, being re-elected yet again.  As a stuffing stocker, a telephone message machine for the band office letting people know there are two emergency siren and warning systems in use at Semiahmoo Bay; one on the reserve, the other in Blaine, USA that can be heard in White Rock, Canada.

Dave Chesney, WR Councillor & WR Sun editor:   Once again he gets his annual jar of Holy Smoke Coffee Co. Holiday Blend from me for having to put up with my bombastic writing, attempted use of profanity, profound ranting and raving, plus trying to post photos a little too risqué (that's French for sexy ) for this publication.  

Mark Donnelly, Vancouver Canucks anthem singer:  Two front row tickets to the Canucks first home game this season so he can stand and lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of O' Canada, before the anthem officially gets sung.   As a stocking stuffer, a DVD copy of Jim Carrey's movie "The Mask" after White Rock's most famous voice got fired for free speech against COVID-19 protocols.

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor:   In case you hadn't heard, this veteran WR Councillor fell ill with non-COVID-19 related health issues in 2020 and spent 18 weeks in hospital before being recently released.  For the grand dame of WR who is recovering nicely we'll send her bouquets of flowers, a get-well soon card and a case of chicken noodle soup.

Trevor Halford, South Surrey White Rock MLA:  For yet another patronizing politico who was not from here but got green-lit over possible local choices (hello Megan Knight) and jettisoned into this riding before subsequently getting elected, a tattered parachute and a heavy lump of coal in his stocking.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC Health Officer:  For BC's top Doc who has guided us through the COVID-19 pandemic and told us to avoid gathering with friends and family for the holidays, some green face paint, green hair spray, yellow contact lenses and a copy of both Dr. Seuss's book and Jim Carrey's movie "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"

Pixie Hobby, Green Party Candidate:  For this well-known environmental socialist (read Green Party and NDP supporter) who lives in Crescent Beach, an apron from Ethical Addictions in Ocean Park featuring an angelic pixie in a lush tropical garden with the slogan "Greens Aren't Weird, You're Weird."  The most perfect real gift to ever grace this Christmas TNT.

Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service Chief:  For the former Deputy Chief Constable from Delta who has been hired as Surrey's future Chief of Police, a Darth Vader costume after crossing over to the dark side and coming to Surrey.  As a stocking stuffer our top cop gets a framed picture of actor Kevin Bacon, his long-lost twin brother (no pig/bacon reference is intended or inferred).

Doug McCallum, City of Surrey Mayor:  No matter what it costs, a copy of every corny 70's TV cop show from "Car 54, Where Are You?" to "Adam-12" for the man fixated on replacing the RCMP.  As a stocking stuffer, an Uber gift card to help keep Surrey streets safe from his crash prone driving along with some Double Dutch CHiPs that are great for double dipping.

Allison Patton, Surrey Councillor:  For the Safe Surrey Councillor who was first fined and suspended for campaigning as a "community physician" then apparently went into a naturopathy business with Mayor Doug McCallum, a copy of the book "Ethics in Professional Life" by Sarah Banks.  As a stocking stuffer she can use during the COVID-19 pandemic, a full-face shield known for its transparency.

Darryl Walker, Mayor of White Rock:  For White Rock's Mayor, an ugly Christmas sweater to replace the moth-eaten Mr. Rodger's cardigan he invariably shows up wearing for White Rock's Council Zoom meetings.  For a stocking stuffer, a copy of this TNT as he obviously did not receive the same gift I sent him last year or get the subtle message about his fashion faux-pas. 

White Rock & South Surrey residents:  For every single person who lives in the Semiahmoo peninsula, a virtual hug and kiss for washing your hands, keeping your distance, masking up, staying home and doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  Hopefully with vaccines now starting to be administered to the public we can put an end to our quasi-hermit living and get back to real life that includes social interactions and quality family time.


Merry Christmas everyone and have a safe and quiet New Year realizing that 2021 should eventually get back to normal, with hindsight being 2020.


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 21, 2020

The Permanent Temporary Bridge

 


It is embarrassing how dilapidated and dangerous portions of our highways south of the Fraser have become.  While new infrastructure has been built over the past few decades, relics of our past have been allowed to decay and rot without maintenance or attention, regardless of the danger they pose.  The King George Boulevard overpass crossing Hwy. 99 northbound is an easy example with the direction signage alerting motorists to which lane to be in now totally worn out and faded so that they are completely invisible at night.  Also missing are any right hand turn only warning signs, or painted arrows on the pavement that have been scraped away by snowplows during winters long ago.  This is not only a problem in south Surrey; I have witnessed the same issues on our highways throughout the Lower Mainland.  It likely is also an issue on our out-of-town highways but I don't get out as much as I used to thanks  to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Covid-19.

 

The burr under my saddle which has gone from an irritable itch to a bloody red sore that I can't stop picking at is the state of the Nicomekl River Bailey bridge.  This temporary bridge that was developed by the British for use in World War 2 was installed on what was then King Geoge Highway in the early 1970s according to City of Surrey records.   Back on Sept 25, 2017, I featured problems I saw first-hand with the Nicomekl bailey bridge after it had been suddenly closed for emergency repairs.  This piece titled "Bailey Bridge Blockade" detailed a Jenga-like set of boards and timbers holding up the south end of the bridge, signs of corrosion and metal fatigue plus creosoted posts so rotten I could put my foot inside of one.  Since public safety and transportation systems have become somewhat of a hobby for me, I forwarded a copy of my column along with a series of photos of what I had seen under the bridge off to the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) plus Mainroad Highway Asset Management.

 

It would appear my email that also was Cc'd to many politicos and the City of Surrey had the desired effect.  It took less than a week for signs to appear on bridge and a public announcement made about the closure that saw load limits of 10,000 Kg placed on the span banning large trucks and public transit buses.  On October 5th, 2016, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure released the following announcement regarding this antiquated crossing:

Bailey Bridge in South Surrey will undergo full replacement 

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is planning to replace the Bailey bridge which crosses the Nicomekl River on King George Boulevard.  Crews will replace the temporary Bailey Bridge with a steel superstructure, which includes a new deck, along with the required approach and abutment works.  The new bridge will provide improved reliability for travellers and a longer lifespan, and it will allow the ministry to remove the current 10,000 kg-weight restriction for vehicles using the crossing.  Drivers are advised that the one-lane crossing will close for approximately six weeks, tentatively starting on Oct. 16.   This length of closure is necessary for crews to complete the replacement.  Single-lane traffic in each direction will be maintained on the adjacent two-lane structure. 


Well folks, here we are over four years later and much to my surprise the old Nicomekl bailey bridge is still standing.  I saw crews working and welding on the structure again back in November, around the same time that the lighted moveable highway signs warning of the bridge load limits suddenly disappeared from both Crescent Road and King George Blvd.  Make no mistake, the bridge is still rated at only 10,000 Kg., ensuring that buses headed to the nearby Park & Ride station have to change lanes both before and after the bridge to avoid going over this weakened structure.  There are smaller Ministry of Highways signs posting the weight limit but they are hard to see, difficult to read, and I doubt if anyone other than myself and hopefully some truck drivers would actually notice them.


It's not as if the government has forgotten about the Nicomekl bailey bridge.  In November of 2017 the new BC NDP government announced that the project had unfortunately been delayed.  Apparently, this was due to the Ministry of Transportation not receiving environmental approval for the project from the Province.  In October of 2018 this project once again stalled with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure revealing that "The replacement of South Surrey’s long-standing Bailey bridge over King George Boulevard is delayed due to ongoing discussions with the City of Surrey."  In Sept of 2019 Surrey released a Request for Expressions of Interest and Statements of Qualification for two Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Fund (DMAF) Projects, these being for replacing the Nicomekl and Serpentine river sea dams and replacement of the Nicomekl Bridge.

 


Several weeks ago on December 7, 2020, Surrey Council received and approved Corporate Report R181 that detailed an intent to begin engineering design services towards replacing not only the dilapidated bailey bridge but the other adjacent two-lane bridge built back in 1939 with a new four lane structure.   The improvements to the Nicomekl Bridge crossing consist of the following:
•Two travel lanes northbound and two lanes southbound from the Highway 99 and King George Boulevard interchange to Crescent Road
•Improved neighbourhood access and circulation to Nicomekl Road from King George Boulevard
•Improved pedestrian connectivity to the Nicomekl Riverfront Park through the inclusion of a pedestrian connection across King George Boulevard
•Inclusion of cycling and pedestrian facilities
•Improved seismic and coastal flooding resiliency
The expected cost for this project is $18-20 million, with the MoTI and City of Surrey sharing the costs 50/50.  As luck would have it, design work is to commence today, Dec. 21, 2020, with public engagement in March of 2021, design completion in August of 2021, with construction beginning in the Fall of 2021 and scheduled for completion a year later in the Fall of 2022.

Now I hate to be a naysayer but after four years of delays to date I'm not going to hold my breath to see this project actually get completed on time.  The "temporary" bailey bridge that I now refuse to cross at all costs will be nearly 50 years old by the time it gets replaced, a full six years after replacement work was to have begun.  Hopefully it will still be standing by that time, since a Google search of "bailey bridge collapse" reveals plenty of reasons and some rather spectacular videos of why these bridges were only designed to be temporary structures for use in times of war.   You can read all of the details about this bridge project on the surrey.ca website at the following link.

https://www.surrey.ca/sites/default/files/corporate-reports/CR_2020

Naturally Yours

Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 14, 2020

Life in the Slow Lane

 


The City of Surrey is looking at reducing residential speed limits in order to stop rat-racing through residential neighbourhoods and to reduce or eliminate injuries and deaths on Surrey Streets.   This is a safety initiative that is part of the Vision Zero Safe Surrey Mobility Plan 2019-2023 that was launched in February of last year.  This comprehensive plan whose goal is "safe streets for everyone" is available on the Surrey.ca website at: https://www.surrey.ca/sites/default/files/media/documents/VisionZeroPlan.pdf



In a Corporate Report approved by Surrey Council last Monday, the Engineering Department selected the following streets for speed reduction zones during a one-year pilot project.  Please note that only one of these areas, zone 3, is in the south Surrey area.  

Zone 1: Between 96 Avenue and 100 Avenue from 124 Street and 128 Street
Zone 2: Between 75 Avenue and 80 Avenue from 120A Street and 124 Street
Zone 3: Between Rosemary Heights Crescent and 40 Avenue from 153 Street and 156B Street
Zone 4: Between 56 Avenue and 60 Avenue from 180 Street and 184 Street
Zone 5: Between 60 Avenue and 64 Avenue from 132 Street and 136 Street
Zone 6: Between 88 Avenue and 92 Avenue from King George Boulevard and 140 Street
Zone 7: Between 104 Avenue and 108 Avenue from 128 Street and 132 Street
Zone 8: Between 100 Avenue and 104 Avenue from 140 Street and 144 Street

Of these eight zones, three will have the speed limit reduced to 30 km/h, three zones will have the speed limit reduced to 40 km/h, and two zones will be control sites that will remain at 50 km/h.  In looking at literature and approaches taken by other municipalities across Canada to improve road safety, a “Slow Zone” approach was selected as the most appropriate for Surrey’s pilot project. Changes to default speed limits are currently not possible for municipalities in British Columbia (currently set at 50 km/h for unmarked roads), and the corridor speed limit approach is best suited for major roads rather than residential areas with few long stretches of roadway.  You can read all of the details of Surrey's Residential Area Speed Limit Reduction Pilot at: https://www.docdroid.net/xnN8R6Q/cr-2020-r182-pdf



It is not like lowering speed limits for certain roads is a new thing.  It is widely acknowledged that a pedestrian struck at 30 km/h has a 90 percent chance of survival , while a pedestrian struck at 50 km/h has just a 15 percent chance of survival.   As we are well aware, the 4 km. long stretch of Marine Drive in White Rock along the waterfront is all posted as 30 km/h due to the large number of pedestrians who regularly cross this roadway.  Crescent Road at Elgin Road is a 30 km/h zone because of the dangers posed by the old ESSO station on the corner and the new pedestrian crossing in the S bend.  Crescent Beach is now posted as a 30 km/h zone with a large flashing sign before you cross the tracks into the seaside village.  In nearby Delta, both Beach Grove in Tsawwassen and Sunshine Hills in North Delta have blanket 30 km/h speed limits with signs posted on roads throughout these neighbourhoods. 



In Beach Grove last month, a group of citizens who were concerned about people speeding through the hamlet banded together to help slow traffic to the posted 30 Kmh speed limit.  Their idea was to produce and post "It's Always 30 in Beach Grove" lawn signs with the slogan "We like life in the slow lane."  They produced 100 small signs that cost $16, selling each of them for $20 to help pay for four 4'x4' larger signs at the entrances to the neighbourhood that have now been erected on private property.  Using social media including Nextdoor where they post at "always30inbeachgrove" to help spread the word, they were able to quickly sell out of the small lawn signs that are now posted on one out of every four homes in Beach Grove.   Delta's Mayor, Council, Police and Fire Departments plus the Engineer Department all endorsed their initiative that has helped foster a closer sense of community for its residents while noticeably reducing speeding there. 



The DriveSmartBC website posting titled "Imposing a 30 km/h Speed LImit in Residential Areas" details how a recent survey by Research Co. found that 58% of British Columbians would definitely or probably like to see residential speed limits of 30 km/h.   Last year the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted to ask the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to allow municipalities to set their own default speed limits to 30 km/h for residential streets, an idea the NDP government rejected.  My common sense suggestion is that within city limits across B.C., residential roads that do not have centre lines painted on them should automatically be 30 km/h speed zones.  It would be cheaper and easier to post higher speed rates on arterial roadways and highways, especially since most already have this signage, than to post 30 km/h signs on every side street.  

Narrow residential roads with cars parked on them, kids running around or riding bikes and folks out for a walk would benefit by having motorists slow down to 30 km/h for the safety of everyone.  We already have 30 km/h zones for schools and playgrounds, why not 30 km/h speed limits for quiet residential streets where people live?  With increasing urban density, more and more vehicles on our roads plus increasing numbers of electric cars making little noise, this simple idea is one that needs to be adopted sooner than later.

 


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

December 07, 2020

Reflecting on Winter Sunbathing

"The Missus"

So here we are at the beginning of December with the solstice only a couple of weeks away and a long hard winter awaiting us.  Because of the COVID pandemic many snowbirds have been grounded, deciding to stay home to avoid the plague or not being able to afford travel insurance at this time.  With winter getaways to tropical paradises only a pipe dream this year, what are sun-worshippers to do?   Well folks, my wife and I just spent last Saturday relaxing in the sun on a beach in 26 C weather, enjoying ourselves while getting a nice bronze tan and a jolt of natural vitamin D.   No, we did not jump on a plane, sneak across the border or pirate a sailboat to the South Pacific.  The answer to this little mystery can be found much closer to home.


Living in a temperate rain forest, we get plenty of clouds and precipitation this time of year, even here in the sun blessed Semiahmoo peninsula.  The trick is to keep an eye on the long-range forecast and to watch out for those rare blue-sky sunny days.  Even though the sun is low in the sky and the high temperature usually only a single digit, the sun still has some strength with a UV rating that is often at 1 or low.  If you can get out of the wind and be next to a reflective surface like a white wall, you can feel the heat of the sun along with the warmth from the backdrop.  The trick is to take the sunshine that is available and double or triple its strength in order to create summer-like conditions even in chilly weather.

Down at Wreck Beach in Vancouver there are many naturists who use reflective tarps to prolong sunbathing into the so-called shoulder seasons.  A cheap and easy method is to use reflective emergency blankets available at London Drugs, Canadian Tire, or online for around $20.  These 5'x7' blankets have red rip-stop nylon on one side, a shiny reflective surface on the other and grommet holes on each corner.  A couple of these placed behind you will greatly increase the warmth, reflect UV rays so you heat from both sides, plus cut the wind.  For the serious beach pro, Deakins Equipment in Vancouver on Powell Street (deakins.com) sells Silvacool forestry tarps with heavyweight white vinyl on one side and a mirror-like reflective surface on the other, available in 6'x9' for $35, or even larger if you really want to get cooking.


On Saturday we set up a few of these reflectors on our sun deck, exploiting the 3-hour window of sunshine we have that exists between our neighbour's tall trees.  The temperature on the far side of the deck was 12 C, 22 C in the shade near the tarp and 26 C in the sunshine.   As an extra heat source near chilly toes, we used a propane fire bowl in the middle of the deck but on this day it was really not needed.  With sunglasses on and housecoats nearby in case of clouds blocking the sunshine, we soaked up the heat that was as warm as the Palm Springs desert this time of year.  The sun was strong enough that we had to apply sunblock to our noses, cheekbones and foreheads plus chests that would have definitely turned red by the end of the day without solar protection.


At two o'clock with the sun getting ready to duck behind a big cedar tree, we decided it was nice enough to go for a trip to Crescent Rock Beach.  Since the stairways have all been locked shut since March due to COVID-19 restrictions we headed down to Crescent beach and walked south away from the crowds of parka clad people that were out enjoying the sunny weather.  Arriving at the nude beach, we were not surprised to see over a dozen naturists there with many utilizing reflective tarps tied to the bushes and blackberries that line the BNSF train tracks.  The tide was high and the seas calm, reflecting the rays of sun off the water effectively doubling the power of the sun even without a reflective tarp.  A couple of ladies even took the opportunity to cool off by going for a swim, much to everyone's surprise.

We finally packed up our gear and left the beach as the sun was getting low in the sky around 4 o'clock, with a colourful sunset happening as we got back to Crescent Beach.  Without our reflective tarp, the latest we had ever been at the beach for sunbathing was Oct. 6th a couple of years ago.  We have now gone to Crescent Rock Beach twice in Nov. with Dec. 5th setting a new late season record and those are just the weekend days when the weather was sunny and we had nothing on our busy schedules.   As the winter progresses, we will look for those blue-bird days when Cresent Rock beckons and a small campfire can also be used to help take the nip out of frosty temperatures.  See you down at the beach!


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn


Editor's Note:  Read in Science Daily about how vitamin D levels appear to play a role in decreasing COVID-19 mortality rates with the sunshine vitamin strengthening innate immunity and preventing overactive immune responses.   

 

 

 

November 30, 3030

Racial Divide in Surrey



I was shocked and dismayed to learn last week that a Surrey Councillor, Jack Hundial, had received a death threat last Monday from somebody over so-called social media.  The message, that also made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, threatened to put a bullet in him.  With Mr. Hundial's 25 years as a police officer and the plague of shootings in Surrey, he immediately contacted the Surrey RCMP to report the incident.  A police cruiser was parked outside his home while the threat was investigated and three days later a 42-year-old man from Surrey was taken into custody, later to be released with non-contact provisions, with charges pending of uttering threats.  



Mr. Hundial has been on a political roller-coaster ride in Surrey since first getting elected on Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition in the last previous civic election in 2018.  He quit the Safe Surrey coalition in July of 2019 citing the lack of community input over the proposed replacement of the RCMP by a new Surrey Police Department and the dissolution of the public safety committee as the final straw.  In January of 2020 Jack Hundial joined forces with previous Safe Surrey Coalition member Brenda Locke to form the upstart Surrey Connect (surreyconnect.org).  Needless to say, with his change of opinion on the Surrey police force transition, public rebuke of Mayor McCallum's actions and direction, plus quitting the Surrey Safe Coalition, Jack has garnered him a fair number of detractors since he was elected.

 


It would appear that a recent Facebook post may have initiated the threat of violence against Councillor Hundial.  On the Safe Surrey FB page, a Nov 20 post stated "An elected official should never put their political ambitions ahead of the commitments they made to get elected.  But this is exactly what Councillor Jack Hundial has done with his flip flop on Surrey's transition to our own Surrey Police Service.  Surrey's electorate deserves better."  This post was accompanied with a poster titled "The Two Faces of Councillor Jack Hundial" with a picture of his face in the middle.  On the left side it states:  Jack "I'm joining the Safe Surrey Coalition to get elected" Hundial and on the right side it states:  Jack "Now that I'm elected I'm ignoring my promises" Hundial.

 


Using the same two-faced analogy in the text of this poster, the left side states:  "Moving forth with our own Surrey police force, and I say this as a retired RCMP member for 25 years...., it's the time..., it's the right time", city Council Candidate Jack Hundial, Oct. 11, 2018.  On the right side his change of heart is noted with the following text:  "This will make Surrey less safe.  This is the opposite of what people want." Councillor jack Hundial, July 18, 2019.  At the bottom of the poster it states:  The only thing that has changed is Councillor Hundial's political ambitions.  WHICH JACK SHOULD SURREY RESIDENTS TRUST?

 


As greasy and unsavoury as this US-styled attack ad appears, it is the photo of Jack Hundials's face in the middle of it that is cringeworthy.  On the left-handed positive side, Mr. Hundial is printed in full colour, highlighting his rich brown facial colour as an indo-Canadian man.  On the negative right-handed side Mr. Hundial's face is shown in subdued black and white, making him appear to be Caucasian.  At its best this picture reeks of covert racism, but in reality, it is full in-your-face racism that was done on purpose and for effect.  This poster highlights the racial divide in Surrey and takes direct aim at Jack Hundial that portrays him as a Canadian version of an Uncle Tom.



Late last week after the suspect in the death threats had been arrested, I sent an email to Jack Hundial thanking him for his years of public service as an RCMP officer and Surrey Councillor, commending him for his dedication and sacrifice for our community.  I ended my note saying "For all that you do, I just wanted to say thank you."  I should note this was long before I found out about the unsettling racist attack ad posted on the Safe Surrey Coalition FB page and days prior to considering doing an article on this story.  I did receive a note back from Mr. Hundial thanking me for my concern and support of Canadian values.



Regardless of political leanings or whether you agree with their decisions, I believe that everyone who runs for office and is elected deserves our respect for joining the political process and representing their constituents in our democracy.  I don't think that negative attack ads with racist rhetoric have any place in social media posts from political parties, especially at the civic level in Surrey.   It is interesting to note that the following comment was posted on the Safe Surrey FB page about the two-faced Jack Hundial poster days before he received the death threat stating:  "Way to incite violence against this man Safe Surry Coalition!  Not impressed."



So dear readers, I have a couple favours to ask of you today.  Please take the time to email Councillor Hundial at jack.hundial@surrey.ca and send a note giving him and his family our support in this trying times.  Most importantly, please report the anti-Jack Hundial poster from Nov 20 that is still posted on the Safe Surrey Coalition FB page to Facebook as both overtly racist and inciting violence.  If Surrey Mayor McCallum won't take this offensive post down, maybe Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg finally will.

 


Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn 

 

 

November 24, 2020

Christmas Lights Not So Bright


One of the "Deck The Halls" movie set homes in Ocean Park, 2005




Well, it's that time of year again.  Remembrance Day is over and Christmas is rapidly approaching, with the pressure on to rake up all the damn leaves and put up the Christmas lights.  I remember many years ago working at a condo in south Surrey watching three elderly gentlemen, all 70 and 80 year-olds working together to put up Christmas lights.  One man was up a step ladder with staple gun in hand attaching the wire to the facia board with another gent holding the ladder steady while the third held the strand off the ground to avoid breaking the bulbs.  As I walked by I casually asked them "So how come we put up Christmas lights anyways?"  The man on top of the ladder who obviously was the wise one of the bunch looked down and responded "Well..., everybody else does." 



My mother worked as a nurse in Emergency Departments at Richmond, Delta and Surrey hospitals during her career.  At Halloween the ER would first be swamped by people with lacerations to their fingers and hands when they slipped with knives while carving pumpkins into festive jack-o'-lanterns.  The second wave of injuries involved people with burns from firecrackers and fireworks, including fingers blown off and eyes permanently blinded by pyrotechnics.   Then came the Christmas season with people showing up in ambulances who had fallen off of ladders, slipped off roofs, fell from trees or electrocuted themselves by touching power lines.   I decided to talk to her about this subject this weekend and the stories she told me about this subject were gruesome and made my skin crawl.  



Falls are increasing as a common source of traumatic injury, accounting for 40% of trauma cases and injury related deaths in Canada.  A study by the National Library of Medicine found that of those seriously injured while installing Christmas lights, 95% were male averaging 55 years old.  Injuries included neurologic (68%), thoracic (68%), spinal (43%), extremity (40%), and multiple other sites. Fall mechanisms were ladder (65%), roof (30%), ground (3%) and railing (3%). Interventions included intubation and critical care (20%), as well as orthopaedic and neurosurgical operative repairs (30%). The median length of hospital stay was 15.5 days. The fall-related morbidity (28%) and mortality (5%) were significant with a total of 12.5% of patients requiring transfer to a long-term care or rehabilitation facility. 


I was rather fortunate growing up in that my father illuminated our house for Christmas by using coloured floodlamps with a few light strings on bushes.  This meant that there was no need to climb onto the roof or to use ladders for holiday lighting displays.  Knowing about the risks associated with installing Christmas lights, I've always tried to achieve maximum effect with minimal work and time required.  My old standard was that I should be able to complete my Christmas light installation during halftime of the Grey Cup game.  Pushing this to the extreme, I now use two rotating LED party lights that consume a combined 6 watts of power that cover the entire front of our house with a kaleidoscope of blue green and red coloured dots.  No climbing ladders, walking on frosty or moss-covered roofs or climbing trees is required and it only takes five minutes to set up.  

 

If you have ever seen the movie Deck the Halls starring Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth, you probably know how crazy some people can get about Christmas light displays.  Much of this Christmas movie was shot in Ocean Park in 2005 with an elaborate set constructed in a park on 128 Street.   It featured a couple of houses in the fictional town of Cloverdale that supposedly were visible from space.  It was released on November 22, 2006, 14 years ago to the day that this TNT was written.  I believe that people need to consider the time and money needed to install an over-the top Christmas light display plus the energy costs associated with running them.   Think about your personal safety too as you don't want to spend holiday time in hospital or have your family attending your funeral, especially with the second wave of Covid-19 in full swing.


Naturally yours,

Don PItcairn

 

 

November 16, 2020

Doing God's Work

 

This fall I was leaving the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club in the Hazelmere Valley at 1284 184 St. and much to my surprise I saw a group of young people happily digging away at the banks of the Little Campbell River that runs through the property.  I quickly figured out they were doing environmental restoration work on the waterway just south of the Little Campbell Fish Hatchery because of the various native species of plants and trees they were planting.  I stopped and introduced myself, thanking them for the work they were doing and found out they were members of the Christian conservation group A Rocha that runs an 18-acre farm not far away at 1620 192 St. in south Surrey.


It turns out that A Rocha conducts habitat restoration projects throughout the Little Campbell watershed, primarily on private land with the blessing of the owners.  They are also playing a lead role in investigating the spread of the invasive green crab in the waters of Boundary Bay (more on that in an upcoming TNT).  Their targeted restoration projects attempt to reverse habitat destruction and promote ecosystem recovery along with improving biodiversity.  Throughout the Little Campbell watershed member of A Rocha work steadily to perform the following:
  • Removing invasive species like Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinaceae), golden archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), English ivy (Hedera helix) and policeman’s helmet (Impatiens glandulifera) in the watershed.
  • Fencing out cattle and horses from sensitive riparian habitats.
  • Putting natural meanders and structures back into the river where previously removed.
  • Implementing sediment control structures at high-risk junctions.
  • Aiding other organizations that are working to restore habitat in the watershed.
  • Planting native species like salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), vine maple (Acer circinatum), sitka willow (Salix sitchensis), garry oak (Quercus garryana) and western red cedar (Thuja plicata).
  • Creating new wetlands for fish and wildlife habitat.

I found it rather interesting that A Rocha would turn a love for God into a love for all of God's creations.  It turns out that this secular environmental group is rather unique as they are the only Christian organization in the Internation Union for the Conservation of Nature (iucn.org) that is composed of over 1,000 conservation groups.  While so-called "creation-care" organizations usually focus their attention on political advocacy and lifestyle change, A Rocha is known for their scientific research, conservation projects, sustainable organic agriculture and education programs.  

Their theology is based on a four pillars approach based on love, obedience, justice and hope but their "5C's of A Rocha" best explain their beliefs and their passion:

Christian – Underlying all we do is our biblical faith in the living God, who made the world, loves it and entrusts it to the care of human society.

Conservation – We carry out research for the conservation and restoration of the natural world and run environmental education programs for people of all ages.

Community – Through our commitment to God, each other and the wider creation, we aim to develop good relationships both within the A Rocha family and in our local communities.

Cross-cultural – We draw on the insights and skills of people from diverse cultures, both locally and around the world.

Cooperation – We work in partnership with a wide variety of organisations and individuals who share our concerns for a sustainable world

Besides doing environmental conservation work in our community, A Rocha also runs a farm at their Brooksdale property.  Instead of operating a roadside stand or store, they operate a Community Shared Agriculture program.  Members who join the CSA get to enjoy local seasonal eating with a changing variety of fruits and vegetables allowing people to "eat in season."  Their 20-week CSA program runs from early June till late October with a separate 4-week winter season in November and December.  Participants commit to the farm paying for an entire season and then receive a weekly harvest box of in-season produce.  They also have some of the best eggs you have ever tasted laid by free-run chickens that are pasture fed in their grassland fields.

To find out more about A Rocha and the Christian based environmental stewardship work they do in Canada please visit them at arocha.ca.  You can go for a tour of the Brooksdale facility, volunteer your time and expertise or make a donation to their cause either in person or online.  They also offer a three-month live-in internship with instruction and practical training in conservation science, environmental education, sustainable agriculture plus food and hospitality.  For information about A Rocha International based in London, England and their extensive global projects, please visit them at the arocha.org website.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 09, 2020

 

Semi - Pen Cesspool

n case you have been living und a rock or possibly in a bubble, our provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued new health orders this weekend to clamp down on the surging COVID-19 cases in both Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal regions.  This follows a record high 589 new cases on Friday and 567 on Saturday with 71% of these occurring in Fraser Health and 20% in Vancouver Coastal.  The new rules of conduct will be in force from Saturday at 10 pm until Nov. 23 at 12 pm with the possibility of an extension if the infection rates do not decline.

 

What this means to people in the Semi-Pen is as follows:

No "safe six" groups of friends, residents have been advised not to invite friends or family to visit.
Funerals and weddings are allowed but only with immediate household members.
Outdoor gatherings with people outside your immediate household are banned.
Indoor group fitness activities including spin classes, yoga, dance classes are suspended.
Indoor sports such as hockey, basketball, volleyball, boxing and martial arts are cancelled as is sports travel.
Businesses must daily screen onsite workers and ensure physical distancing plus mask wearing if needed.
Restaurants can remain open following Covid protocols including having no more than 6 people at a table.
Travel should be for essential reasons and not into or out of the Lower Mainland or Fraser Valley.
Party buses and group limousines have been kicked to the curb and banned immediately.
There are no new restrictions on churches or places of worship, keeping to the 50-person limit.

Schools are not affected by the new orders, with physical activities still allowed to take place.

 


Many people living here in south Surrey and White Rock might think that the Semiahmoo Peninsula is relatively Covid free and that much of the high positive tests originate from other neighbourhoods.  I know of a lady who runs a fitness business here who has twice had to close shop and self-quarantine due to Covid exposures.  The contact tracer from the Ministry of Health that she dealt with told her that South Surrey and White Rock is a Covid hotspot with some of the highest infection rates per capita in the region.  I have chosen not to name the woman or her business as she has already suffered enough financially and never contracted the damn disease. 

You can already see the changes in our community as to how Covid controls are being implemented.  More and more stores are now enforcing a facemask wearing policy, including the US based Home Depot that has now mandated them.  At Morgan Crossing on Sunday RCMP members were seen passing through stores checking to see that people were staying two metres apart and that staff were limiting customers allowed in the premises.  The east side of Peace Arch Park that was not closed and remains accessible from 0 Ave. at 170 St. is still attracting "conjugal campers" with their bivouac of tents for cross-border liaisons but police are now there checking passports when people leave.

 


I'm afraid with colder weather and more indoor activities that Covid will continue to run rampant and more severe measures might become necessary.  With Remembrance Day ceremonies this week, the five days of Diwali beginning on Nov. 14, plus all of the Christmas festivities and New Year's are people really going to want to socially isolate?  I finally got to see my aging parents this weekend, visiting them for lunch while staying on opposite ends of the kitchen.  I like to go down to the beach but the staircases on the Ocean Park bluff have remain locked now for seven months limiting access.  The Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club where I'm a member has closed yet again after already being shuttered for most of the summer.  Am I the only one that feels like the walls are closing in?

At least with this TNT I can get my voice out in the community while still sitting safely at home in front of my computer.  The lack of social interaction, demise of sporting activity,  absence of concerts and constantly being on Covid alert is starting to wear on me.  I'm getting tired of hunkering down and staying home, having already watched everything worth viewing on Netflicks this year.  Even hearing Dr. Bonnie Henry's soothing voice telling me to "Be calm, be kind, be safe" is starting to grate on my nerves.  I'm afraid it's going to be a long cold Covid winter with no vaccine in site and dreams of a tropical vacation kiboshed a long time ago.

  


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

November 02, 2020

Free Point Roberts!

 

In an announcement on Friday evening, the time that many governments use to dump their garbage so as to reduce public scrutiny and scorn, our federal government quietly lifted the 14-day COVID-19 quarantine requirement for people entering Canada from two isolated border communities.  Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that residents of Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska along with Campobello island, N.B. and the Northwest Angle of Minnesota be able to cross the border to "access the necessities of life" from the nearest Canadian or American community.  Campobello has no road access to Canada, while Hyder at the end of the Alaskan panhandle has no road access to the United States.  Strangely missing from this announcement was any mention of a coronavirus exemption for our neighbours across Boundary Bay in Point Roberts.   


Over a decade ago I was invited to Lily Point in Point Roberts when this area was turned into a Whatcom County marine park after being purchased with assistance by The Nature Conservancy and Whatcom Land Trust.  At the ceremony an elder from the Lummi Nation explained that originally the US/Canada border running along the 49th parallel was to have turned south in Boundary Bay towards Victoria excluding Point Roberts. This was fiercely opposed by the Central Coast Salish who for generations had run a summer fishing encampment using reef nets capable of harvesting 10,000 fish a day.  A graveyard on top of the bluff contains the remains of many Salish people including Lummi chieftain who had passed away at Chelhtenem, the native name for Point Roberts.   Since the Coast Salish people accessed Point Robers by boat, having it accessible only by land from Canada was not a great concern so the point was left as American territory.

 

That all changed in March of this year when the US/Canada border was closed to all non-essential travel due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  It has been estimated that business in Point Roberts has declined 80% from pre-pandemic levels and that summer visitors and seasonal residents have all but vanished.  Not surprisingly, there has not been a single case of COVID-19 reported in Point Roberts among its 1,300 residents.   Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for his help in getting an exemption for border travel for the residents of Point Roberts so that they may travel from Point Roberts to the Peach Arch crossing leading into Blaine.  You would think this would be easily done considering that US residents travelling to and from Alaska are given permission to pass through BC using the most direct route while avoiding tourism activities.  


It's not as if travel to and from Point Roberts has been completely banned.   In August a temporary free foot passenger ferry was set up to connect Point Roberts to the Washington mainland, first to Blaine and then to Bellingham.   You can still fly from Vancouver to Bellingham, take a taxi to the ferry terminal and as long as you have a reservation for the twice a week boat ride, make it to Point Roberts.  Essential goods are allowed to flow across the Delta/Point Roberts border and I have witnessed trucks from Point Roberts General Contracting with Washington plates heading north into Canada to purchase construction materials.  Most interestingly, children from Point Roberts are once again being bused through Canada to Washington State for school, with several attending the private Southpointe Academy in Tsawwassen.  Why children from Point Roberts are allowed to transit through Canada to Blaine while adults are stuck in this isolated US enclave needs to be questioned.

 

It is time that the people of Point Roberts be given their freedom and allowed to rejoin the rest of the continental United States of America.  Point Roberts is not a Russian gulag, Nazi concentration camp or Chinese detention centre and the people of Point Roberts should not be held prisoner any longer.  There has not been one single case of COVID-19 detected in any of their residents since the pandemic first started and the border was closed.  At the very least residents of Point Roberts should be able to travel by land through Delta and Surrey along Hwy 17 and Hwy 99 to access Washington State.  The other option is to allow Point Roberts people to come and go into BC but require a 14-day quarantine period if they visit Washington State and then return to the Point.  Seven months of isolation for a population free from COVID-19 is more than enough.  It is time Point Roberts is given the same travel status now enjoyed by Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, BC residents.  



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn







 

October 26, 2020

Semiahmoo Ship Graveyard




A month ago, I penned a TNT titled "It's A Boat Time" regarding my good fortune at finding a Livingston dingy at Crescent Rock beach years ago.  In that column I explained some of the Canadian Maritime Salvage Law and how it pertains to finding lost or abandoned vessels.  Living on the Semiahmoo peninsula surrounded by water on three sides and with prevailing winds bringing boats into our waters from Vancouver Island and across the line from America, you never know what's going to wash ashore.  That is why I always keep an eye open any time that I'm near the waters of Boundary Bay, quietly waiting for my ship to come in.  



After a particularly vicious wind storm a few weeks back I noticed a sailboat's mast on the shores of Mud Bay that was visible from Hwy. 99 a short distance west from Mud Bay Park.  A few days later I saw yet another boat through the trees that line the Dyke Trail, this time an older power boat laying on its side in the marsh grass closer to Hwy. 91.  Not long after that I heard through the local grapevine that a derelict sailboat had gone aground at the corner of Mud Bay Park.  I figured that it was likely the first boat I had noticed that had simply washed further towards the mouth of the Serpentine River.  Imagine my surprise when I found out it actually was a third boat stuck in the mud in only a kilometer of shoreline. 

 


Having had the pleasure of walking in Mud Bay before, I put on my tall rubber boots and drove down to Mud Bay Park to check out the condition of the vessels and to try and figure out how three boats had got stuck in such a short distance.  I didn't have to go far down the dyke trail to find the first vessel, a sailboat with the faded spray-painted name "Jaws" on the bow siting not far from the high tide mark.   The hull was still in reasonable condition, enough that it would still float with mast and rigging in place plus a bunch of sails.  The cabin contained an assortment of waterlogged personal effects, outdated electronics and piles of junk.  Still attached with a length of rope and chain was a folding fluke anchor that the boat had obviously dragged ashore.

 


Walking along the shoreline on top of the piles of eel grass that had been recently deposited by the same storm, it didn't take long to come across yet another sailboat stuck in the mud.  This vessel looked to be in better condition and at least it was still floating far from shore instead of on its side on the beach.  I took some pictures of her but since it was high tide at the time there was no way I was going to venture out onto the mud flats simply for the sake of a better picture.  A paddleboard or kayak would have made this possible but you don't want to try walking in the gumbo that is the aptly named Mud Bay.  Imagine stepping in wet concrete with it trying to yank your boots off with each step, while pulling at your knee joints; that is what it is like.



After stopping to pick a few apples from a tree loaded with fruit at the water's edge, I finally made my way down to the last of the three wrecks, this one an old power cruiser.  I noticed it had a small row boat tied to the back and as I got closer a man appeared off the bow where some provisions had been neatly stacked.  After asking permission to come aboard (maybe that's aground) I met up with "Peter the Boat Guy" who was living aboard the last ship while waiting for a king tide so he could release the boat from the grip of the mud.  It did not take long before Peter revealed that two of the boats were his and that he knew about the Jaws boat, with all of them recently breaking loose from their mooring lines on the Nicomekyl river, floating downstream and then being blown to their final resting place.

 


All of these boats are part of the flotilla of derelict craft that is anchored and tied together not far from the Elgin Road sea dam.  Abandoned by previous owners these boats are repurposed as floating homes by people who don't mind cramped quarters and living off the grid.  These unregistered boats provide cheap sanctuary in an area with sky-high rents and million-dollar homes, plus have waterfront views and great fishing all around.  Peter told me that he had taken just possession of the Koa, a 40-foot catamaran owned by another gentleman who had recently passed away, and that he was looking to refurbish it.  That is of course, if he somehow manages to free his stuck boats from Mud Bay and get back to the safety of the Nic, something he told me he's done several times over the years.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn 

 

 

October 19, 2020

Wailing Over White Rock


This TNT column is best enjoyed while listening to the beginning of the rock band Sloan's "Money City Maniacs" song.


 



On Thursday morning I was working on the Surrey side of 16 Ave., aka North Bluff Road for those folks living in White Rock.  Now 16 Ave. is a busy truck route road but there was no missing the wailing siren coming from the direction of Semiahmoo Bay that began at 10:15 a.m.  As if the piercing siren was not enough, it was followed a minute and a half later by verbal commands that we could not make out over the din of traffic that included concrete and gravel trucks heading to uptown White Rock to help build yet another tower in the sky.  



I assumed the siren had to be from the Semiahmoo First Nation who had a Tsunami warning system installed there three years ago.  On its inaugural test (also on a Thursday) it caused quite the stir in the community with many people complaining about a lack of notification and that the verbal warning did not indicate that it was only a drill.  Since that time, the SFN system is tested on the first Monday of every month at noon, with a statement that it is only a test.  Knowing that the SFN alarm should not have been activated on the present date or time, I was left wondering if we had missed an earthquake while driving (happened to me during the 2001 Seattle quake) or if one far off shore had possibly triggered a tsunami that was headed our way.  



I quickly put in a call to SFN Chief Harley Chappell who was very surprised that their siren would be audible and that the tests, as I already was aware, did not happen in the middle of the month or at quarter after ten in the morning.  Chief Chappell directed me to call Councillor Joanne Charles at the SFN office to ascertain what was going on.  When I got a hold of Joanne I politely asked if the Semiahmoo band emergency sirens had been activated, to which she replied "What makes you think it's our siren?"  It turns out that Blaine has its own emergency siren and with light winds out of the south-east coupled with smooth seas, the sound was audible to most people in White Rock and nearby neighbourhoods.  Needless to say, Joanne was not pleased with fielding all of the phone calls from irate people, unlike myself who thought the whole situation was rather comical.



The reason why the Blaine emergency siren was on was that Whatcom County was participating in Washington State's "Great Shake Out" earthquake drill that is part of a global earthquake preparedness effort, including here in the province of BC.   Whatcom County has tsunami sirens in Blaine, Birch Bay, Point Roberts, Lummi Peninsula, Sandy Point and the Port of Bellingham that all were activated including FEMA's emergency Alert System plus radio and television broadcasters.   With some of these sirens stationed so close to the border, you would think that someone from the States might have taken the time to alert the neighbours north of the border but apparently this was not the case.  If we could have heard the verbal commands following the sirens, we would have noticed that part of it was broadcast in Spanish and not French, giving a clue the sirens were from the USA and not here in Canada.

The SFN's emergency system actually has different siren tones and messages including warning residents to vacate the beach or to shelter-in-place.  

It also allows for direct verbal messages and commands to be initiated from the SFN offices, providing residents of details associated with any emergency.  It is unlikely that a tsunami would do any damage to our area because of the protection we are afforded by Vancouver Island.   The BC Provincial Emergency Program has White Rock and Crescent Beach in Tsunami Zone E with a projected wave height of only half a metre, far below the heights of the waterfront dykes even when added to the highest tides.  In fact, the threat from a tsunami wave is so low here that signage and audible warning systems are not required.  Where an emergency broadcast system could be most effective would be in the case of a BNSF freight train derailment involving dangerous goods along the waterfront, but that is a subject for a future TNT.  


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 13, 2020

From Hump Hillside to Stump Hillslide


Last week work began on the slope stabilization project for along Marine Drive at the top of the Hump hillside, or as I now like to call it, the "Stump Hillside."  Greystone Design Management Construction Ltd. is doing this work valued at over $1,065,000 on two sections of the hill, one 50 metres long, the other 70 metres long.  These correspond to sections of Marine Drive where soil monitoring devices were installed several years ago due to visible cracking occurring in the middle of the asphalt roadway.  The fear is that the slope "could potentially fail under seismic loading", potentially threatening portions of Marine Drive, underground city services located there, plus endangering BNSF trains at the base of the slope.  This work involves removal of the sidewalks, curbs and safety railings, installation of steel and concrete pipe piles to hold the road in place, then full roadway and sidewalk reconstruction with final asphalt resurfacing.  It is expected this work will be completed in January of 2021.


The issues reling to the Stump Hillslide go back more than a century to when this steep slope above the White Rock boulder was first clear-cut of the large Douglas firs and cedar trees that used to cover this area.  A historic photograph taken from the end of the pier in 1920 clearly shows five visible landslides on the hill, four vertical failure chutes and a large horizontal slump 150 metres in length just east of the pier.   Until about ten years ago the Hump trees were allowed to grow and flourish, helping to stabilize this steep slope.  Then little by little, trees started to be removed for a variety of excuses, some because they were too close to the roadway, others because they were growing too close to the retaining walls, and others because they posed a hazard to pedestrians and passing trains.  Finally, in 2015 White Rock paid $80,000 to have vegetation removed from the Hump so that the Marine Drive retaining walls could be properly viewed and inspected.  What actually happened was most of the Hump was clear-cut of trees and the rest of its vegetation, shocking both residents and visitors alike.  While this area was to have been replanted years ago, to date nothing has been done with the trees left to regenerate on their own


It is not like soil movement on the Stump Hillslide is a new thing.  There has already been a slope failure that tore out a big chunk of Marine Drive in the past, in the same area where the retaining walls were first installed to shore up the roadway and the underground services.  When I first started writing for the White Rock Sun, I noticed the sidewalk railings all along the Hump were leaning noticeably towards the ocean.  I contacted prominent SFU Geology Professor John Clague who sent a colleague out to examine them and take photographs.  He noted the railings, which were installed in the soil beside the sidewalk, were leaning between 10-20 degrees from vertical and ascertained that soil movement along the top of the hillside was the likely culprit.  It was not long after making waves about this subject in a TNT that White Rock decided to replace the sidewalk and railings along Marine Drive, putting in new ones with the safety railings mounted into the concrete sidewalk surface.  To date they have withstood the effects of slope movement and gravity with portions of that sidewalk now going to be replaced for the second time because of slide fears.

A decade ago, the Stump Hillslide was heavily forested with big leaf maple, red alder, wild cherry and many smaller native species.  It created a forested backdrop to the famed White Rock boulder, a natural vista from the end of the pier, and provided shade to those walking along Marine Drive.  It has since gone from forest to field, with rail car loads of logs carted away by the BNSF to help create unobstructed pier views for residents living across the street.  What has happened to the Hump shows the very worst of small-town politics, where decisions by civic leaders are made as personal favours to friends, acquaintances and possibly even campaign donors, regardless of the needs and wants of the citizenry at large.  In 2008 Transport Canada sent a letter to White Rock warning that tree cutting for views on steep slopes above the railway tracks was one of the top three initiators of slide activity threatening BNSF trains below.   Ignoring this warning and using the guise of removing vegetation to view and access the retaining walls, the Hump was basically clear-cut, leaving the razed slope that we see today.

 


The Stump Hillslide is too important to leave in the hands of unscrupulous local politicians or an American Railway, who allowed the clearing of the hill in the first place and facilitated the log removal from beside their tracks.   At the very least The Hump should be classified as ravine land and made exempt from tree trimming or clear-cutting, unless authorized by an independent arborist, not a city hired arborist or logging crew.  It needs to be replanted with trees we see along the Ocean Park bluff, big leaf maple, red alder, firs and cedars, along with dogwood and vine maple to help stabilize the Hump's steep slopes.  White Rock's own Parks Master Plan that is current until next year envisioned protecting the natural environment, acquiring more parkland for neighbourhood parks and to purchase the BNSF railway corridor if it came available.  I say let the BNSF have their corridor but expropriate the Hump hillside to create a natural seaside park.  If you want to see what it could look like, check out the picture at the top of the City of White Rock Parks Master Plan that shows the Hump from 2007 in all its glory before it was chain-sawed to the ground. 



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 06, 2020

Behold The Behemoth  



Behemoth definition:  Something of monstrous size, power, or appearance

With the COIVD-19 pandemic in full swing this summer and much of life either locked down or put on hold, it was time to refocus our efforts at travel and relaxation with the border closed and air travel something I was not really interested in doing, especially without medical insurance against the latest plague.  As with many people the great beyond beckoned and we decided it was time to dust off the camping gear, raid the outdoor section at Canadian Tire and hit the road with the great unwashed hoard to find a private spot on the side of a secluded lake where we could relax in peace and quiet.

 

We take our roughing it pretty seriously and do not own a land yacht, diesel pusher, motorhome, trailer or camper, preferring to sleep in a tent and doo what bears doo in the woods.  My wife's sister and her fiancé had also taken to the camping scene like a fish to water, purchasing a truck, trailer and boat for weekend getaways to the Interior.  They invited us to join them up at Lily lake near Meritt, promising warm weather and sunny blue skies.  Leaving our one tonne work truck at home, we hit the road in our Caddy SUV packed to the roof with gear ready to do some glamping.   While not an off-road vehicle it fortunately is all-wheel drive which came in rather useful over the rough and rutted forest service roads taking us to Lily lake.  


It was not long after we got settled at the shoreline that we could hear the clatter commotion of a large diesel engine heading our way through the bush.  Emerging out of a dust cloud this gigantic military truck rolled into the campsite, dwarfing any and all of the vehicles in the forest recreation site.  Of course, I had to check it out and say hi to the man driving it, a guy by the name of Reid Gibbons who I found out lives in south Surrey.  I took a picture of the man and his truck, not giving either much thought until a month later we were camping on the east side of Harrison Lake near Silver river.  When I crawled out of the tent on Saturday morning, I looked across the lagoon and there on the other side was the same gigantic tan truck we had seen in Merrit.

 


After ensuring he was not stalking me, I decided our chance meetings at two different lakes meant I needed to find out more about this huge sand coloured monster.  It is a Stewart & Stevenson 1995 M1079 LMTV or Light Medium Tactical Vehicle manufactured by the Oshkosh Corporation for use by the US Military as a radio communications vehicle or mobile repair shop.  This 2.5 ton truck weighs 19,000 pounds with monster 395/85/R20 tires, powered by a 6.6 litre Caterpillar diesel engine and a 7 speed Allison transmission, giving this massive all-time 4x4 bulletproof performance off-road.  These military surplus vehicles arguably make the world's toughest camper truck, originally costing the US government $125,000 when new.

Reid purchased his M1079 off Facebook marketplace in May of this year from Phoenix 1, a local movie prop rental company specializing in military hardware.  What is truly amazing about this machine is that it only had 4,800 original miles when he bought it for $27,000 after it had spent years in storage in Texas.  Sweetening up the deal, he also picked up a matching tan coloured military trailer at the same time, good for transporting boy toys to the bush.   The M1079 may not be the fastest vehicle on the street with a top speed of 90 km/h and climbing the Coquihalla Snowshed hill at only 40 km/h all while getting 7 miles per gallon.  Where Reid's truck is really in its element is off road, going places in BC that an RV or even a truck and camper could never go. 



Watch for this show stopping military truck on the streets of south Surrey where it really can't be missed.  For more pictures of this M1079 in action check out Instagram posts of it at mudbayoverland.   Besides driving the biggest and baddest truck in the Semi-pen, Reid Gibbons has recently formed the Mud Bay Group with a friend that will soon start building aluminum snow mobile trailers, aluminum boats, and possibly aluminum dump box inserts for pickup trucks.  If you are looking for an aluminum welder or fabricator, Reid asks you to give him a call at 604-220-8615, promising anything he builds will be as tough and dependable as his LMTV truck.

 


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 28, 2020

Crabby Pappy



A few years back I was asked by a guy by the name of Robin if I was interested in coming along with him to go Dungeness crab fishing as he needed someone with a strong back and weak mind to help hoist the heavy commercial traps from the depths of Semiahmoo Bay.  I'll never forget the first pot we pulled that was crawling with 23 legal sized male crabs attracted to the absolutely rancid smelling bait container full of putrid meat and entrails.   After muscling the trap to the transom at the rear of the boat Robyn then took over, reaching inside and proceeding to toss crab after crab back into the drink.  Thinking he had lost his marbles I yelled, "Robyn, what the hell are you doing?" at which point he looked over his shoulder at me and said "Don't worry, we're only here for the monsters."   The legal size for Dungeness crabs is 6 inches across the shell and Robyn would only keep those that were the legal US size for Alaskan King crab, measuring 9.5 inches across.  To say that the pirates of Semiahmoo Bay ate like kings those days would be an understatement.  



The waters off White Rock have been teeming with Dungeness crab for decades and with prices sky high (the Lobsterman on Granville Island is selling live crabs for $32.50 each) there is extra incentive for commercial crab fishermen from Canada to try and cash in on this yearly bonanza.  Unfortunately for some unscrupulous Captains, they often do not follow the rules, the most serious one which is not setting their traps across the border in US waters.  For three days on Sept. 11, 12 & 13, a joint Canada/US multi-agency enforcement operation took place targeting illegal fishing between White Rock and Blaine.  This included DFO fishery officers, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Border Services and "Ship Riders" police forces in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  There were 3 Canadian patrol vessels, 11 fisheries offices from Langley and Vancouver with plenty more US officers on boats in American waters.  



The target of this enforcement action was the Area J commercial crab fleet that is moored in the Crescent Beach Marina, which were allegedly dropping their crab traps across the border in American.  Four boats were intercepted by DFO, taken to the marine border and directed by American officials to retrieve their illegal fishing gear from US waters, with a 5th boat still under investigation.  Area J commercial Crab license conditions section 2 (2) states: No gear shall be fished in US waters; this includes all buoys, lines and traps. Canadian fishers are required to fish single traps only with a marker bouy identifying the specific vessel fishing the gear. Fishers are allowed 150 traps per vessel and mandatory electronic monitoring on each vessel is intended to identify fishing activities and locations. A total of 334 commercial crab traps and related gear were seized that are subject to forfeiture and a large number of crabs were released from the illegally set traps.  Investigations continue on both sides of the border with charges or legal action likely in both Canada and the US.

 


Illegal Dungeness crab fishing has been an ongoing problem in Boundary Bay for years.  A quick Google search of "illegal crab fishing semiahmoo boundary bay" reveals the long history to this issue.  In January of 2019, DFO along with the Canadian Coast Guard seized over 200 illegal traps off the municipality of Delta.  Most of these traps were unmarked, zap-strapped closed, lacked rot cord and had no ID tags or floats.

 

In Sept of 2015, 700 illegal crab pots were seized between Point Roberts and Peace Arch Park in a two-day mission involving the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tulalip Police.  The lead investigator in this case believed the illegal traps belonged to Canadian commercial fishermen entering US after their waters had been fished clean.  Back in August of 2000, two Canadian boats were confiscated and nine Canadians arrested by WDFW officers for illegally harvesting Dungeness crab in US waters.  In this case 400-500 crab pots were allegedly set south of the US/Canada border by the Bounty Hunter out of White Rock and the Friendship out of Crescent beach.  


This is an old adage, "Give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day.  Teach a man how to fish and you can watch him deplete the resource."  Hopefully this will not be the case with Boundary Bay and enforcement on both sides of the border can ensure that Dungeness crab fishing is limited so that the numbers do not match the declining returns we are seeing for salmon on the Fraser River.  One of the simple joys of living in the Semiahmoo peninsula is to be able to go out on the water and catch Dungeness crab that you can share with family and friends, preferably with a nicely chilled Chardonnay.  It is bad enough that you can't eat a clam or oyster out of the bay since the 1970's because of E.coli pollution, we cannot let simple greed in the case of commercial crabbers from taking all the Dungeness out of the waterway we share with our American neighbours to the south.

 

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn



 

 

 

It's a Boat Time



Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream

Lyrics to Row, row, row your boat, children's nursery rhyme.



After enduring over ten days of smoky haze, it was a blessed relief to finally see a sunset, which is what happened on Saturday evening as I drove down Crescent Road.  With plenty of low-level clouds, I thought there might be an opportunity to take a picture for the front page of the WR Sun.  Wheeling into Elgin Heritage Park, I got to their dock in time to take some pictures of the sun setting behind the moored boats.  I also got to meet several members of the Nicomekyl Rowing Club (nico-row.com) as they pulled their sleek sculls up to the dock at the end of the day.  This got me thinking about my little row boat that recently came out of hibernation fifteen years after I salvaged it on the shores of Crescent Rock Beach.


It's funny how the world works but when you are looking for something it invariably finds you, something called the universal law of attraction.  I was looking for a small boat, preferably one with a hole in it to use as a planter for a banana grove next to my hot tub and cabana.  It was in October when I took my two kids for a walk to the beach south of the Christopherson Steps and when we rounded the point, there was an 8 ft. long fiberglass Livingston dingy washed against the shore.   At one point in time it was a tender for a boat named Shatzi from Oregon, something that was obvious from the large lettering on the underside.  While in too good of shape to be used for a planter I thought it would be nice to have a small boat for fishing and trips to the lake.

The problem was how to get this dinghy home, since I was the only adult there and there was no way I was going to get it up the 190 steps of the formerly named 101 Steps staircase.  I quickly figured out my best bet was to get it to Crescent Beach and bring a friend and my truck to retrieve it.  Plunking my two girls into the seats of the Livingston, I rolled up my pant legs, took off my shoes and proceeded to walk in the rather chilly fall water back towards Crescent Beach.  While I realized it made for a rather strange site, a grown man towing two young girls along in dinghy, I was rather pleased with my find and decision on the best course of action.  That was until I got near Crescent Beach and saw an RCMP officer walking down the beach with his eyes fixated on me.


It seemed that one of the neighbours along the waterfront had decided the kids were obviously in peril from the lunatic dragging them towards certain death in a watery grave.  The police officer was very polite, first asking how I was doing to which I responded "Not good, my feet are freezing, thank you very much."  Then came the big question, "So, is this your boat?" followed by my quick reply, "It is now."  The cop was rather amused by my answer and after asking what I meant, I told him, "I found this American dinghy washed ashore just down the coast and am claiming it under the Canadian Mariner's Rights in Salvage.  I will be reporting my find to the Receiver of Wrecks at the Canadian Coast Guard who will attempt to contact the former owner so that I may be compensated for my salvage and storage costs."

The confused look on the officer's face was simply priceless.  I actually had to repeat what I had already told him and explain the legal framework of salvage rights on the open seas.  When he said he would have to confiscate the boat, I told him that he needed to understand the dinghy was now in my possession and I would not be relinquishing ownership to the RCMP.  Well he got on the radio with his precinct and after about 15 minutes of explaining the situation and saying "uh-huh" about a hundred times, he finally put down the microphone and said "You're right, how the hell did you know this stuff?"  I told him, "Well officer, when you live down by the beach, you never know when your ship is going to come in."   He bid me a good day and it wasn't long before my two daughters and new dinghy were safe at home.



The Canadian Coast Guard was never able to find the registered owner even with the name and number from the dingy and I became the legal owner.  After the initial rush of finding the Shatzi had worn off, it has spent most of its time leaning up against the north side of our house.   With COVID BS, camping was back in vogue this summer and we decided to take it out on our latest trip to Harrison Lake.  Washing off a decade of algae revealed that the letter "I" in the name had peeled off and we rechristened her the "Shatz", which everyone thought was hilarious (think shatz your pantz).  Having it fit in the back of a pick-up truck means no trailer is needed and while the oars work well, we are looking at both an electric and a small gas motor for next year.   

I never got the small boat to use for a planter but I do have two large banana groves in the yard and a very sturdy dingy that is unsinkable.  My now grown up kids still remember the day they thought their Dad was going to get arrested for finding a boat at Crescent Rock beach.  Forget Jimmy Pattison's Nova Spirit yacht, every time I go the the beach in the Semi-pen I'm keeping an eye out for the Eclipse or the Azzam, mega-yachts that are almost two football fields in length costing $600 million.  Something tells me I might get in trouble for tying one of these floating palaces up to the White Rock pier but chances are I could afford the fine from my salvage fee.  For more info about maritime salvage rights and abandoned vessels in Canadian waters, check out the following two websites




Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 14, 2020

Holy Smoke!

 


This week's TNT headline has nothing to do with the Holy Smoke Coffee Company that used to occupy the tee-pee on the KGB in south Surrey who roast some of the finest coffee I've ever tasted.  No, it has everything to do with the appalling pall of smoke from US wildfires in Washington, Oregon and California that has recently crossed our COVID-19 closed border.  On Friday morning I stepped outside and could actually smell smoke in the air even though the sun was still shining bright.  This weekend though things took a more ominous turn with the great outdoors looking much like a foggy day in November and the sun blotted out from the sky. 



For two out of the past three summers we have had smoky days here in the Lower Mainland because of fires burning in BC that westerly winds pushed out from the Interior into our corner of the world.  The fires now burning up and down the west coast of America are unprecedented in size and destruction with unseasonably dry weather combined with strong winds creating perfect conditions for firestorms.  Until fall rains arrive it is unlikely that many of the fires now burning out of control in Washington, Oregon and California will not be controlled or put out.  As long as the prevailing winds are heading north, we can expect the smoke to linger.  If you think its bad here, my buddy in Corona, California had this to say on Sunday about their air quality, "It's terrible here, my lungs hurt."

 


Since Sept. 8th Metro Vancouver has been under an Air Quality Advisory due to the smoke levels and find particulate matter known as PM2.5 that can easily enter homes due to their small size.   Environment Canada issued the following health warnings in response to the very high levels of smoke that are currently sitting at 200 micro grams per cubic metre.   "Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions or acute infections such as COVID-19 should postpone or reduce outdoor physical activity until the advisory is lifted, especially if breathing feels uncomfortable. Exposure to PM2.5 is particularly a concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and/or diabetes, individuals with respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women and infants, children, and older adults."

 


Our Provincial government has a BC Air Quality website that shows the current air quality readings in real time.  This includes Air Quality Health Index readings (AQHI), several readings for both PM2.5 and PM10 plus ozone, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, plus total reduced sulphur compounds (TRS).   The AQHI is based on a scale of 1-10+ and reports on the health risks associated by a mixture of particulate matter, ground level ozone and nitrogen dioxide.   As you might have guessed with all the coughing and wheezing, we have been at the 10+ level for several days across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley since the smoke arrived.  You can check out the data this very interesting website contains which is refreshed every hour at:  http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map.html

 


A little closer to home the City of White Rock has installed an air quality sensor at the remodeled Memorial Park next to the famous pier.  Powered by a laser beam, a fan draws air through this beam with any suspended particles reflecting the light onto a detection plate where these pulses of light determine the size and number of particles.  As I wrote this TNT the sensor was hovering just under 200 with the one day rate at 178.  You can check out this real time data at https://www.whiterockcity.ca/802/Air-Quality-Sensor .   The smoke and associated particulate levels are supposed to decrease on Monday and hopefully drop to near seasonal levels on Tuesday with an approaching front forecast to bring showers to this region followed by sunny weather.



This air quality sensor in White Rock links to the Purple Air website (purpleair.com) which records readings from sensors across North America and the world.  If you think the air quality is bad here, imagine living near Portland, Oregon where the PM2.5 Air Quality Index is around 500.  In Northern California one sensor is currently showing readings of 774, four times higher than our daily average.  One look at the very high readings from southern California to northern Washington State shows just how massive this wild fire and air quality problem really is:  https://www.purpleair.com/map?opt=1/mAQI/a10/cC0#3.74/41.71/-112.97

Dare I say, it really takes your breath away.


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 07, 2020

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Last week I settled down in the evening to relax and watch a movie, choosing "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", a 2016 fantasy film that is a prequel to the Harry Pottery film series based on books by J. K. Rowling.   I'm not generally a wizard movie kind of guy but found it entertaining and the computer-generated beasts rather bizarre and interesting.  It got me thinking about the rare and exotic species that I have stumbled upon in our region and I have decided to share them here.   These are all animals, amphibians and insects I have only ever encountered once in my lifetime that is rapidly closing in on six decades.



My wife Sheryl and I were recently walking down a trail in a Langley Park one evening when we stopped to admire the sunset that coincided with a rising full moon.  As if that wasn't magical enough, a very small brown weasel ran out of the bush only a meter away.  It stood up on its hind quarters revealing its dappled white belly while looking straight at us.   As soon as we moved it raced away only to reappear soon after in the same spot, once again standing up on its back legs.  By strange coincidence I told a gardening friend of mine who lives in Mission about this critter and her cat had recently killed an identical one in the basement of their house.  She identified it as a Least Weasel, the smallest carnivore in the world at only 20 cm in length that feeds on mice, volves, insects and frogs in the nighttime, likely explaining while sightings are rare.  https://sierraclub.bc.ca/least-weasel/

 


Two weeks ago I was working and spotted a hard-to-miss insect buzzing around my feet in Tsawwassen.  It was a brilliant metallic blue hornet, the likes of which I had never seen.   Freaked out from years of getting stung by yellow jackets, bald faced hornets and European hornets, I quickly dispatched it with a stomp of my boot.  Examining it closely after giving it the kick of death, I realized that I'd never seen one of these insects before.  Thinking it might be an invasive species I decided to try and identify it once I got home, thinking there probably were not that many metallic blue waspy bugs on the planet.  Sure enough, a quick Goggle search revealed pictures of the Blue Mud Wasp or Blue Mud Dauber.  Native to the US and parts of Canada, these wasps are well- known for preying on black widow spiders.  While the blue mud dauber feeds on flowers for energy, they sting and immobilize spiders, placing them in common mud dauber nests along with an egg that they lay on the dead arachnid.  https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/blue-mud-wasp.shtml

 


On a nature hike in July along the Little Campbell River in south Surrey at the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club I spotted an old bucket along the edge of the waterway that had likely washed downstream onto the property.  Braving a soaker, I walked out into the soggy bank to attempt to retrieve this floating litter.  The bucket was half full of water and some silt and I used the handle to pull it out of the mud and carry it to the trail.  I proceeded to dump the silty water out onto the grass along the trails edge when this huge aquatic bug came out with the water and started flipping around.  To me it looked like a Giant Water Bug, which I learned is exactly what its called.   Found in ponds, marshes and the banks of streams, this bug commonly kn​own as the "toe biter" has front fore limbs that look like giant pinchers.  It feeds on insects, crayfish, tadpoles and small fish, injecting them with digestive toxins before sucking their prey's juices like a big mosquito.  If that isn't scary enough, these 5-6 cm. long bugs fly around at night looking for prime feeding grounds.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethocerus_americanus

 


Several years ago on a rifle range in Chilliwack I stopped my truck to check out a holding pond that collected run-off water from a nearby hill.   While the small waterfall was attractive, it was the only thing I found interesting until I looked into the deep crystal-clear water.  At the very bottom of the pound was what I first thought was just an odd-looking stick until I realized there were two of these strange objects in close proximity.  It was only because of previously reading about them that I realized these were the elusive Pacific Giant Salamander.  Growing to a length of over 30 cm., Canada's largest salamanders eat beetles, slugs, snails and other amphibians.  When disturbed, these salamanders can make barking noises to help avoid predation.   Definitely a rare find, these salamanders only exist in BC in the Chilliwack Valley along slow-moving streams.  At the time, I reported my discovery to the Stream and Riparian Research Laboratory at UBC who are studying this red-listed species. https://sierraclub.bc.ca/pacific-giant-salamander/    https://richardson.forestry.ubc.ca/research-projects/pacific-giant-salamanders/



Though I did not find it, I have to give my sister Lee-Anne credit here for locating and dispatching an Asian Giant Hornet in March of this year.  She was outside in her formal English garden pruning a dwarf boxwood hedge when this 2.5 inch long orange coloured hornet crawled out of the plant she was working on.  Describing it a "WTF moment" she responded to her sighting like I do and promptly stopped this nasty looking insect into the ground.  She did not keep the dead bug but later that night spent time on her computer trying to identify exactly what type of wasp or hornet queen it was.  It was not until she read a TNT about these invasive bugs and saw a picture that she realized the world's biggest hornet had been hiding in her yard.  What makes this noteworthy is that she does not live down by the border where Canadian Agricultural inspectors have been looking for them coming north from Whatcom County.  Instead her home is in Langley's Strawberry Heights near 248 St. and 56 Ave. not far from the Krause Berry Farm & Estate Winery.   Let's hope she killed the only queen in the Lower Mainland as we don't need these foreign pests attacking the honey bees that do much of our crop pollenization.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_giant_hornet



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 01, 2020

The Princess and Empress of White Rock

Don Pitcairn

For the longest time a very large and broad princess tree (also called an empress tree) graced the west side of the stairway from Marine Drive to the promenade directly across from the iconic White Rock pier. When Memorial Park was being redeveloped in early 2018, the plans were that this stately shade tree with its large leaves and beautiful light purple spring flowers would be saved. Unfortunately, these trees are known to have shallow spreading roots and it was discovered that due to the extended root zone and damage from excavators this tree would have to be cut down. The City said the decision to remove the tree was not an easy one, and that “we do acknowledge how difficult and emotional this news may be for some in the community.” A promise was made at that time that this tree would be replaced; it was with an oak tree that has since died.

What many people failed to realize was that a smaller princess tree was also growing on the east side of the stairs near the pier washroom. This tree was also under threat of having to be removed in the fall of 2018 due to work around the bathroom structure and fears the tree could topple onto the BNSF Railway tracks. Due to the public uproar about the loss of the first princess tree, an independent arborist was hired to examine this second tree, examine its health and to stabilize it. Even with root pruning to remove decay and other remedial actions the arborist noted that "the tree may continue to decline and die within the next few years." The last princess tree does not appear to be thriving with much smaller leaves than are usual and several dead branches hanging from it. 

The Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) makes a great shade tree for a number of reasons. First are the huge heart shaped leaves 15-40 cm across that easily block out the sun to create a blanket of shade. This tree also grows 10-25 m tall and 5-20m wide, reaching this size in a very short number of years. Acknowledged as the world's fastest growing hardwood tree it absorbs twelve times more CO2 than any other tree and on commercial plots soaks up over 100 tonnes of CO2 per acre. Princess trees originate from China and require full sun for proper growth but are tolerant of pollution and can grow in many soil types. In the spring this tree has very fragrant flowers that emerge before the leaves do, leaving it festooned with 10-30cm long panicles covered with lavender coloured flowers that resemble foxglove.

When these trees first sprout from seed they resemble sunflower plants and it is not uncommon for even experienced gardeners to tell the difference until the fall when the tell-tale sunflower inflorescence fails to appear. Once these trees have a footing in the ground they grow in the second year at an amazing rate, often reaching 5 m tall by the end of two seasons. I found one of these plants growing against a wall in White Rock several years ago and thought that one of the owners had planted it in its warm and sunny location. Even at 6 feet tall it was a battle to dig it out of the ground up against the perimeter of the building. Princess trees are known to emerge out of cracks in concrete and the Charlie Don't Surf restaurant on Marine Drive now has one growing at the front of their building.

I currently have a princess tree growing out of a landscaped bed in a courtyard four stories off the ground in Richmond. It is now above the balcony of the fifth story unit and the time has come to chop it down or remove it. I thought that this young tree could possibly be planted at Memorial Park where an oak tree that was selected to replace the original princess tree has since died. This request was forwarded through the proper channels at White Rock and I was informed that the City only buys certified nursery stock from recognized nurseries and that they do not accept plant or tree donations. While I can understand their point, I thought the price tag of $Free would appeal to them. Heck, I would have delivered and even planted it for them, fresh topsoil and tree stakes included. 

Since the surviving princess tree is not thriving and with the replacement oak tree at Memorial Park now dead, maybe the time is right for White Rock to plant a new princess tree to replace the one they cut down that everyone loved. After all, the artist renderings posted of what Memorial Park was going to look like when finished clearly shows two princess trees near the staircase leading to the pier. Of course, maybe City Hall is are more concerned about views of the ocean from across the street than the comfort of the residents and visitors alike who appreciated the shade the old princess tree used to supply on hot sunny days. My offer of a free five metre tall princess tree for Memorial Park still stands and the upcoming fall season is the perfect time for transplanting.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 24, 2020


Weedy White Rock

It wastwo o and a half years ago when White Rock hired arborists under the cover of darkness to move onto Johnston Road and cut down many mature street trees to facilitate upgrades related to tower construction in the uptown area.  After the sawdust had settled the roadway from Thrift to North Bluff saw a major facelift with new trees, curbs, sidewalks and landscaped beds.  While this area is quickly becoming a bit of a concrete canyon with condo towers sprouting everywhere, the new trees are growing well and the hanging baskets look amazing .  Unfortunately, the landscaped beds in this prime portion of White Rock look terrible, are overgrown, infested with weeds and pose a serious traffic hazard.


The main problem with these new landscaped beds is that the landscape architect decided that Canada goldenrod (solidago canadensis) was a good choice to be planted in these areas that see high levels of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  Goldenrod is a herbaceous perennial plant from the family Asteraceae that is native to northeastern and north central North America.  It grows in moist or dry fields, along the edges of forests and clearings. beside ponds streams and swamps plus as a weed in cultivated fields.  You can find it along the waterfront in the Semiahmoo peninsula where its golden yellow feathery flowers are prominently displayed during the summer months.  In other parts of the continent it is considered an invasive plant, including in both Asia and Europe.


Along Johnston Road these beds were obviously filled with good quality organic topsoil and the goldenrod has flourished in this location.  It spreads by underground rhizomes and is taking over vast swaths of these landscaped areas.  Probably due to an abundance of nitrogen in the soil plus irrigation, the goldenrod has yet to flower and has grown very dense and tall.  These thickets now block the vision of drivers trying to turn out of parking lots and streets onto Johnston Road.  In a one-hour window I had employees of 3 Dogs Brewery, the Wooden Spoon restaurant and a notary corporation complain about these plants and how they were blocking sight lines of traffic creating a hazard.  Even worse, they all claimed to have reported their concerns to White Rock City Hall many times yet nothing had been done about this safety issue.

 

Even though the goldenrod is soon going to flower it should be cut down immediately to a manageable height allowing drivers to see oncoming traffic on Johnston Road.  Sometime this fall this vigorous and tall growing plant should all be dug out of the beds all along Johnston Road and replaced with something that is lower growing, less invasive and more manageable.   The three-foot-tall weeds growing in these beds also need to be removed, something that seems to have not been put on anyone's work schedule at the Parks Department.  The Johnston Road beautification project has been mainly positive but these new landscape beds are in need of a major redo before next spring.  If nothing is done these plants will spread out even further exacerbating an already dangerous situation. 


The goldenrod isn't the only weed on Johnston Road that people in White Rock need to be aware of.   On Saturday, the A Little Bud dispensary at 1484 Johnston Road had their official opening as White Rock’s first and only licenced non-medical cannabis retail store.  A Little Bud was selected by White Rock Council as the sole licensed retailer of non-medical cannabis for the City By The Sea, beating out industry heavyweight Choom and even the government run BC Cannabis stores.  Headquartered in Abbotsford by owners Randy Tingskou and his wife Kaleigh, they have worked hard with their management team Martin & Jeremy to get the doors opened after being given the green light back in February.   The store sign has been slightly delayed but you can find them kitty-corner across the street from 3 Dogs Brewery and WR Beach Beer.  A Little Bud follows strict COVID-19 health protocols for staff and customers safety but should you want to shop online you can do so at their website:  alittlebud.ca



Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 17, 2020

Talking About A Heatwave

 


The heat is on, in the street
Inside your head, on every beat
And the beat's so loud, deep inside
The pressure's high, just to stay alive
'Cause the heat is on

Lyrics to "The Heat is On" by Glenn Fry from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack



There is nothing quite like getting an absolute cooker of a day falling on the weekend.  Sunday morning I was up at dawn and out soon after for a nature hike in a local park, glad that I had brought along plenty of ice water since it was surprisingly warm.  I cut my trek short when I realized I was sweating to death especially when the sun started to climb higher into the sky.  When I arrived home just in time for breakfast I got my first look at the forecast for the day that included not one but the following two special statements from Environment Canada.

Special weather statement in effect for Metro Vancouver:Brief Hot Spell for the Lower Mainland region.
A ridge of high pressure has been building over southern BC this weekend with temperatures peaking today and then gradually declining as the week progresses.  Today will be the hottest day with daily maximum temperatures reaching the mid-30s, particularly in Howe Sound and the eastern Fraser Valley. Overnight temperatures will be in the high teens.
Temperatures on Monday will remain high, however weak inflow from the Pacific Ocean will prevent temperatures from reaching the values expected by late this afternoon.  Please continue to monitor alerts and forecasts issued by Environment Canada. To report severe weather, send an email to BCstorm@canada.ca or tweet reports using #BCStorm.


Special air quality statement in effect for Metro Vancouver:  Hot and humid weather conditions are creating elevated pollution levels.

High levels of air pollution have developed. A special air quality statement is in place due to high levels of air pollution. Hot and sunny conditions have resulted in increasing ground-level ozone concentrations in the above regions. High risk AQHI values are expected to persist for 1 to 2 hours.
An air quality advisory has been issued by Metro Vancouver for eastern sections of Metro Vancouver as well as the Fraser Valley due to high concentrations of ground level ozone. These high concentrations are expected to persist until Monday and potentially longer as the hot weather continues.  Exposure to air pollution is particularly a concern for children, the elderly, and those who have underlying medical conditions such as lung or heart disease.


These alerts coupled with the forecast temperature of 30 degrees for White Rock made for an instant change of plans and we decided it looked like a great time to hit the beach.  Making just a few phone calls we rounded up several family members and a few friends who all wanted to beat the heat.  Since the Ocean Park staircases are still all closed and with one of our group having mobility issues, we drove to Crescent Beach just after noon.  Never in my life had I ever seen so many people and cars in the back roads and alleys.  We were fortunate to locate an empty spot right near the walkway, helping us to limit the distance we had to traverse.  While it appeared that most were social distancing, there were a huge throng of people at Crescent Beach.  

Crescent Rock beach was no different with barely any place left to put down a blanket.  Fortunately, one of our friends had saved us a spot that also featured some shade from a shoreline alder tree.  Due to the high UV rating, we brought along not one but two beach umbrellas, plenty of SPF 50 and a couple of coolers packed with ice and liquid refreshments.  Most of the regular beach goers were there along with plenty of other folks happy to escape the heat and possibly try to put COVID-19 stress behind them for a couple of hours.   When the tide came ripping in the water it brought was bathtub warm from the super-heated sand it had just covered.  As the tide continued to rise up onto the rocks the water did eventually cool down and people flocked into the ocean to get wet and go swimming.

When you live in the Semiahmoo peninsula, in order to get the most out of life and enjoy all of the natural attributes of this area there are several things you have to watch like a hawk.  You need to closely follow a quality weather forecasting service so you know on an hourly basis what kind of conditions you should expect to encounter.  One with doppler weather and futurecast modelling is important so you'll know what to expect, which clothes to wear and when it is time to go home.  Tide charts like the one posted in the WR Sun are also essential so you'll know how far the water will be from shore, at what time the tides are changing and the direction of the current.  This is vitally important if you are planning a trip on a paddleboard or kayak so you are not fighting against the force of the ocean that can turn a leisurely paddle into a major work out.

So enjoy the remaining heat on Monday as our high-pressure ridge will quickly deteriorate leaving us with seasonal temperatures and rain forecast for this Friday.  Not too surprisingly really as the PNE was to have started next Saturday and with the Fair usually comes cooler weather and a good chance of showers.  For all those people who bought new canoes, kayaks and paddleboards this year, better get out on the water and use them while you can because by the end of September beach days here are usually over.  For those sun-worshippers who love a day at the beach, the long range forecast shows this will be the last hot day in August and likely the last heat wave of the summer.  

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 10, 2020

Garbage Goofs

 

I'vealways loved the great outdoors and have respect for the natural world and the environment we live in.  When I go out for a walk in a park or a hike in a wild area, I pick up and dispose of any litter I find along the way.  This can sometimes include stubby beer bottles from back in the 1970's that I occasionally come across.  When I go camping (usually in a wilderness location, not a BC Parks site), I bring along a rake and shovel to ensure that my campsite is cleaner than when I found it and spotless when I leave.  Unfortunately the problem with idiots, morons and goofs leaving garbage in the bush has now reached the stage that my newest camping supplies are litter tongs and industrial garbage bags.

 


Last weekend my wife and I decided to head up mid-week to Harrison Lake where we have camped plenty of times in the past.  We used to head up into the hills on the east side of the lake to visit the Clear Creek hot springs but after finding it trashed multiple times by drunken young people, we found it easier to simply relax in the hot tub at home.   This time we headed to a jetty beach by Silver River that we have visited in the past as it affords some relief from the mosquitos that are often present when the Fraser River is running high.  This was the week after the BC Day long weekend so there were very few people around and lots of peace and quiet.  While the view of the lake was fantastic, the shape of the waterfront camping spot we had selected was far from pristine.

(cleanup complete)


When we drove out onto the parking area at the end of the jetty there were multiple tarps flapping in the breeze from where they had been left from someone's camping enclosure.  Next to these was a large deflated air mattress and a couple of busted lawn chairs.  All around the jetty were multiple campfire spots, most of them containing burned broken beer bottles.  Note to the uninitiated or dimwitted; cans are light weight, do not break and can be crushed to take up less space when leaving the woods.  Why anyone would want to bring glass bottles up camping is simply beyond me.  At one particularly littered camp site there were dozens of blue latex gloves on the ground, showing someone was concerned about catching COVID-19 but not about cleaning up their possibly contaminated mess.

  

There were even worse things left lying on the ground throughout this beautiful camping area.  Several cannisters of used up bug spray, some spray paint and empty propane cannisters had been left in one of the fire pits.  Some of the logs and rocks had been tagged, allowing some low-life to leave his mark so everyone would know what a loser they are.  One of these camp fires had not been properly extinguished and was still smoking with hot coals when we arrived, posing a serious fire threat to the nearby forests in strong winds.   A large pile of safety glass had been left on the beach, likely from where someone had locked their keys in their vehicle and had to smash one of the windows to gain access.  Needless to say that by the end of our time in this beautiful spot, all of the mess and garbage was magically cleaned up.

 


The caretaker of the nearby logging camp that I have known for almost 20 years came down to say hi and marvel at the condition of our rather large campsite.  He told us that he used to clean up after all of the pigs but had finally given up after ten years of playing campground custodian,  He went on to inform us that during the long weekend a large group of young people had been partying on the jetty and had shot a red-headed turkey vulture.  These are a protected species in Canada because they clean up carrion and dead animals from the forest, roadsides and shorelines.  There had been a large flock of ten of these majestic birds of prey that would circle at the end of Silver River every day but now there are only nine due to the selfish idiocy of someone who decided to use one for target practice with a high-powered rifle.

 


When we drove out of the bush chock-a-block full of other people's garbage, we drove past the Cogburn Recreation site.  It is clearly marked for people to take their garbage with them and yet there were literally hundreds of bags left over from the long weekend party that went on there.  Many of these bags had been ripped open and the contents strewn around, likely by black bears attracted to the feeding frenzy.   We got home in time to watch the news with Global TV featuring a report on partygoers using the Harrison River as a garbage dump that included a fully set up beer-pong table.   All of this reminded me of Elgin Park and Earl Marriott grads who trashed park grounds four and six years ago respectively and then got trashed on social media for their disgusting anti-social behaviorhttps://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/south-surrey-harrison-grad-class-campsite-mess-appalling-garbage-1.3600456).

 


Forest Service Roads are always patrolled by Conservation Officers, Fisheries officers, Fire Protection Wardens, the RCMP, park rangers and campsite managers.  Since it takes a vehicle to access these wilderness campsites, I think it is time that these protectors of our forests start taking pictures of all the licence plates of cars and trucks at wilderness campsites.  If partygoers decide to leave a mess in the bush then police should be able to have their vehicles towed or have ICBC cancel their insurance until heavy fines are paid.  At the very least, having those in authority taking pictures of licence plates and camp sites might make these morons think about the consequences of their selfish actions.  I believe that if this problem is not tackled eventually we are going to start seeing many of our back roads closed to the public camping in order to protect the ecosystem along our lakes and streams.


Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 03, 2020

Bitter About Quitters



You know you are possibly crazy when you run for public office with only a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting elected.  I should know, I've done it myself not once but twice.   That being said, there are political ideologies that need to be represented in a democracy and voters that wish to cast their ballots for the parties that they believe in.  If you are well known in the community, are bright and articulate plus well liked, you might even run as an independent and get elected but I wouldn't count on it.  At the end of the day, whether civic, provincial or federal, those running for public office do so to serve their constituents in their riding to the best of their abilities.  It should come as no shock to anyone that this job comes with a mandate of four year's time, less if an election is called early or the governing party fails in a confidence vote.

 


So what gives with the South Surrey White Rock riding and the quitters we elect to represent us?  This started back in 2015 when Dianne Watts decided not to run for re-election as Mayor of Surrey and announced she would instead be seeking the Conservative Party of Canada nomination to replace retiring MP Russ Hiebert.  Watts won this riding in October of 2015, the only Conservative candidate elected in Surrey with the others electing Liberal candidates.  Unfortunately for Dianne, Steven Harper's Conservatives were defeated by the resurgent liberals and their new poster boy Justin Trudeau.  Instead of getting a plum cabinet position, Mrs. Watts found herself as a backbencher in the ranks of the official opposition.  Less than two years into her role as our Member of Parliament, Mrs. Watts resigned in order to run for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, which after five rounds of voting went to Andrew Wilkinson.

 


In May of 2017 the last BC General Election was held and BC Liberal Tracy Redies prevailed to become the MLA for this riding.  As with Dianne Watts, she bet on the wrong horse to win the race with the BC NDP taking over the reins of power.  It was announced last week that Mrs. Redies would be resigning her set in the legislature on August 31st, three years into her first term.  It turns out that the former President and CEO of Coast Capital is quitting her MLA job to take on the job as CEO of Science World in Vancouver.   Now I understand that Mrs. Redies has had some serious health concerns after suffering heart failure from a virus she contracted in Brazil last year.  Her wish to be closer to home and family rings a little hollow when she doesn't resign for health reasons but jumps into another CEO position.  If my health was a concern and I wanted to spend more time with friends and family, I would retire and do just that, not seek a high pressure job managing a high profile building such as Science World whose budget is in shambles from the COVID-19 pandemic.  



Premier John Horgan now has six months to call a by-election for the Surrey - White Rock riding, that is if he doesn't call for an early election to take advantage of the NDP's increased popularity due to their handling of the pandemic in this province.  The big question is who will want to step forward and throw their hat in the ring?  Keep in mind that this riding has voted Liberal for the past seven elections, with Mrs. Redies winning by a large margin in 2017.  There is a chance that Gordie Hogg could consider coming out of retirement yet again to represent us but I would think that would be highly unlikely and his wife Laverne would probably kill him.  The scuttle buttle on the street is that Dianne Watts might consider running as the candidate with the goal of toppling Andrew Wilkinson as a leader who already has knives pointed at his back.  I've also heard rumors that former White Rock Councillor Grant Meyer may be interested in trying to get the Liberal nod, while well-known environmental lawyer Pixie Hobbie has to be considered for either the NDP or Green candidate.

 


The big issue I have with people quitting from their elected position (usually when they find themselves on the opposition side of the floor) is they stick the taxpayers with the tab for the by-election.  Elections Canada has estimated a federal byelection will cost an average of $892,000 per riding in 2020.  I couldn't find a price tag for a provincial by-election but I will be asking Elections BC for a cost estimate.  If politicians quite their jobs and trigger costly by-elections, then I believe they shouldn't come sniffing around trying to get their nose back in the public trough.  Proper morals, ethics and etiquette means that if the job isn't what you had imagined, you serve out your term and don't run again.  The only silver lining in the resignation of Tracy Redies is that it has been announced that Stephanie Cadieux, the Liberal MLA for Surrey South, will handle constituency business and field questions and concerns related to the Surrey - White Rock riding until a new MLA is elected.  Truly a class act and certainly not a quitter, it's great knowing we can count on her about issues affecting residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula.

 

Naturally yours, 

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 26, 2020

Fatten The Curve


So summer is finally here, we are in a heat wave and Environment Canada has posted a Special Weather Statement for Metro Vancouver warning of temperatures into the mid 30's for the next few days.  Normally such forecasts would mean that the local beaches would be packed with sun worshippers and those trying to escape the heat.  Unfortunately during a global pandemic, large crowds of people packed tightly together on public beaches is something that should be avoided at all costs.  If you don't believe me, simply look at Italy, Spain, Florida and California to see what can happen when health warnings are ignored and beaches are packed.  



This weekend Surrey closed off access to Crescent Beach when the Blackie Spit parking lot filled up and crowds of people descended onto the public beach there.  White Rock continues to control beachgoer numbers by restricting parking on Marine Drive, limiting parking time there and keeping the pier and nearby parkade closed to the public.  The Peace Arch Park parking lots remain closed with no access to the waterfront at this corner of the bay.  Can someone please explain to me then why the Semiahmoo First Nation parking lots behind the WAG were packed with vehicles, the gates to the Semiahmoo beach were open and thousands of people were packed onto the shoreline this weekend?  Here is the bulk of the April 8th SFN Press Release about their local state of emergency declaration regarding parking lot and beach closures due to the threat of COVID-19.

PARKING LOT CLOSURES AND BEACH ACCESS CLOSURES FOR THE EASTER LONG WEEKEND

 

The Semiahmoo First Nation is announcing a community wide Fire Ban, as well as the closure of public parking lots and Beach Access located on Semiahmoo Lands.  Semiahmoo First Nation has declared a state of Local emergency in response to COVID 19.  Semiahmoo First Nation is aligning with the Federal and Provincial directives for people to stay home and reduce the risk of the COVID 19 transmission.
The following parking lots will be affected:
• The large parking lot behind Washington Avenue Grill will be closed tonight, Wednesday, April 8th , 2020 at 8:00pm and remain closed until further notice;
• The large parking lot at Peace Arch Park (behind the Peace Arch Duty Free store) will be closed from Thursday, April 9th, at 8:00 AM, and remain closed until further notice as Peace Arch Park is closed to public;
• The parking lot at the Western end of Semiahmoo Reserve on Marine Drive across from the Promenade Hotel will remain closed until further notice;
• Semiahmoo Park Beach access gates will be closed until further notice;

• No beach access from Peace Arch Park until further notice;

 


Several friends of mine saw the crowds on Semiahmoo First Nation's land on Sunday.  One who drove by reported that the gravel lot was completely jammed while the nearby baseball field was three quarters full.  He estimated there were 700-800 cars and said it reminded him of when they used to hold the Show-n-Shine there.  My other buddy who walked along the sand flats from East Beach told me he had not seen crowds of that size in that location since the old Sandcastle days.  He told me the there was nowhere to place a blanket, no social distancing was taking place and that it was "chock-a-block" full with thousands of people.  Some quick math based on the parked car number estimate means the haul from the gate behind the WAG would have been over $5,000 for SFN coffers from only one day.

We are in the middle of our first summer heat wave and people are going to continue to descend on any open beach in droves.  The Semiahmoo First Nation did not announce on their FB page that they had planned to reopen both the parking lots and waterfront to an unrestricted number of visitors.  To do so threatens to help fatten the curve of COVID-19 infections instead of flattening it.   BC Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry is always asking everyone to do their part to help control the spread of this virus.  The Semiahmoo First Nations were doing exactly that but have now apparently done an about face and decided that crowds of people at the beach are suddenly okay.   I'd like to think that the collective health of our society and that of SFN elders is more valuable than the money raised by having parking lots full of cars during a pandemic.

 


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 21, 2020


Nude Beach a Distant Memory

A friend of mine gave me a rather unusual gift last week, something she had kicking around in the junk drawer for around 30 years. It is a brass key tag for locker 28 at the Sunshine Acres Nudist Camp. Now I must admit I'd never heard of the place and an internet search turned up nothing so it was likely long ago before the age of computers. The closest thing around here to it was the Sunny Trails Nudist Club situated in what is now Metro Vancouver's Tynehead Park in north Surrey. With my new antique key tag now being used for my work truck, I thought it would be worthy giving out the grim news about accessing the clothing-optional Crescent Rock Beach here in south Surrey this summer.

When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, the Christopherson Steps in Crescent Heights, 1001 Steps staircase plus the Olympic trail in Ocean Park were still open with people utilizing them as a mini-Grouse Grind. It did not take long for the City of Surrey to close these trails because of a lack of width under the 2 metre safe limit. Unless you know some of the really hidden goat trails or are lucky to have stairs of your own from the top of the bluff, it is now very difficult to get to Crescent Rock Beach. With the Coldicutt Ravine closed due to landslide damage and unstable terrain, Crescent Rock is now accessible from either end. You can reach it from the west end of West Beach in White Rock or by heading south from Crescent Beach past the metal pedestrian overpass. When the tide is not miles out, some enterprising nudists and naturists bring boats, kayaks and paddelboards down instead of taking the long rugged walk. This also means that leaving is a snap during high tide when much of the beach disappears under the water forcing people to scramble on the rip-rap boulders that protect the rail corridor from erosion.

I had been asked by several people as to when Surrey was planning on reopening the stairs to Crescent Rock. Since we are in Phase 3 of the re-opening plan, there was some hope that Surrey would take some of the pressure of Crescent Beach by reopening the staircases to the shoreline between White Rock and Crescent. I contacted the Surrey Parks Department on Monday and was told that due to social distancing measures still in effect (the 2 metre spacing) that the staircases were still considered too narrow for people to safely use. I asked if they had considered having people going downwards stick to the right side, folks climbing up on the opposite side, with those heading up stopping on the level platforms giving way to those heading down the steps. I was informed that different scenarios had been looked at but with some health nuts formerly utilizing the staircases for exercising and others failing to yield to people on the stairs, it was decided it was best to keep the gates locked shut with no opening planned.

Wreck Beach in Vancouver is part of the Metro Vancouver Pacific Spirit Regional Park and they have developed a novel approach to keep access open at this time. What they have done is to mark Trail 6 for only going down to the beach, with nearby Trail 4 and 7 reserved for only going up. This means that one of the world's top 10 nude beaches that normally attracts visitors from over 150 countries and generates an estimated $60 million in tourist revenue annually can still remain open to the public. Of course the 2 metre social distancing rule is still in effect at this time and for the foreseeable future at Wreck Beach. Unfortunately such a scenario would not work at Crescent Rock because of the distance between the staircases and the proximity of the BNSF Railway tracks that attract people to walk on its level surface. With the hidden curves along the waterfront and quiet Amtrak trains, it is a dangerous place to take a hike and is considered trespassing with fines issued by the RCMP costing $115 for a first offense.

For now there are a couple of options if you want to try nude sunbathing, skinny-dipping and to get rid of those pesky tan lines. You can take a shoreline hike from West beach in White Rock approximately 1.5 km to past the closed Coldicutt Trail where you will find the shoreline outcrop known as Hermit's Haven. It really is amazing how far you have to go these days to get some peace, quiet and freedom. The other option is to walk in from Crescent Beach in south Surrey. This means biking, taking a bus, or parking in the village if it is not closed to visitors because of crowding. Parking along Bayview St. is a good idea since it is before the tracks but finding a spot there is sometimes difficult. A unique way of bypassing these problems is to visit the Crescent Heights neighbourhood near Seabrook Drive and take the Sandy Trail that winds down the bluff from the corner of Crescent Drive (Not Crescent Road) and Cedar Drive. This trail empties you onto Bayview St. at McBride Ave. across from the train crossing. From there it is about a 15 minute walk south on the shore until you pass the Crescent Rock boulder and start to meet people relaxing in their natural state.

As a final note, please stay off the BNSF tracks and check the tide tables before you go to Crescent Rock beach. Take plenty of fluids and sunscreen plus a beach umbrella for high UV days and make sure you pack everything out with you.

For more information about Surrey's legal clothing-optional beach visit the Surrey's United Naturists website at this link: crescentrockbeach.ca

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 13, 2020

Showing a Little Tact

Have you ever been walking the streets and wondered what the yellow Lego-like mats placed into the concrete where sidewalks ramp into intersections are all about? I had assumed they were better grip in icy conditions in winter or possibly to provide better traction for the tires of wheelchairs. It turns out that neither of these ideas was correct and after a little sleuthing on the internet, I had the answer to this puzzle. Talking to an elderly man at the White Rocks Farmers Market this weekend who was carrying a white and red cane and suffering from macular degeneration really helped to open my eyes to their purpose.

These sidewalk bumps are known as "tactile paving" or "braille blocks" that is used to alert people with vision impairment of approaching streets, grade changes or hazardous areas. The textured ground surface indicators are also known as tenji blocks, truncated domes, tactile tiles and detectable warning surfaces. These tactile tiles are formed from everything from plastic to concrete and available in a wide variety of colours beyond the usual yellow with maximum visibility compared to the surrounding environment the most important factor. Developed in Japan by inventor Seiichi Miyake in 1965 who created them to help a visually impaired friend navigate around town, they were first installed in Okayama city and spread from there to countries around the world.

There are many patterns associated with tactile paving, each with their own unique message that can be sensed with a cane, felt underfoot or even understood by a seeing eye dog. Blister tactile with rows of small raised domes are utilized for pedestrian crossing to mark where the sidewalk ends and the roadway begins. Offset blister tactile with rows of raised dots spaced offset to each other is used as a platform edge warning surface, indicating drop-offs on rail platforms, light rapid transit platforms and subways. So-called lozenge tactile consisting of rows of long thin bumps is used for marking the platform edge of on street light rapid transit platforms, with this warning device set back at least 50 cm. from the edge. Corduroy hazard warning tactile with a series of parallel bars running across the direction of travel warns vision-impaired people of the presence of steps, level crossings or where a path joins a shared route. Direction tactile with bars running in the direction of pedestrian movement are used to help guide the visually impaired follow a safe route, often through mass transit facilities.

Yellow is the standard colour used in most tactile paving but as long as the colour and materials make for good contrast with the surrounding pavement almost any colour can be utilized. In some jurisdictions nearby companies will install tactile pavers that coordinate with the colour of their building or corporate logo. The only two colours mandated for a specific purpose are red, which is used only with blister tactile to mark a controlled pedestrian crossing, and buff blister tactile that is dedicated for use at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings. If the pavement around these areas is red or tan, then a contrast strip needs to be placed around the blister tactile to make it visible. The newly painted crosswalk at five corners in White Rock may be rainbow coloured but the tactile paving leading the way from sidewalk to roadway is still only yellow.

With only 3% of visually impaired people being totally blind, tactile paving can help those with vision issues improve both their mobility and safety in the urban environment. Besides the various tactile pavers currently available, powered light sources and ones charged by ambient light are also now entering the market, making night time movement safer for pedestrians who still have their full vision. Photoluminescent or glow-in-the-dark tactile paving are also options for use in sub-way stations in the unlikely case of a power outage. Now that you are aware of what the "Lego-like mats" are really for, keep an eye out for them on your travels and imagine how they would improve your walking safety if your eye sight was a long ways from 20/20 or the lights were to suddenly go dark.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 06, 2020

 

" Being Open Is A Wonderful Thing "

 

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused tremendous economic problems and shut down many businesses, some that are still closed and others struggling to make ends meet with health restrictions in place. Financial institutions were allowed to remain open but with reduced demand, people using online banking and distancing measures in effect, it was not surprising to learn that just like other businesses, some banks had decided to lock their doors.

A friend of mine who lives in the Semiahmoo peninsula does his banking at VanCity, where he has been a customer for 35 years. Obviously he must have been happy with their services or he would not have been such a long and loyal customer of this credit union. Well since Covid came to town, he is now no longer of a fan of Van City. The reason for this is that for the past three months both of the branches in the Semi-Pen, the Semiahmoo Community Branch at 1790 152 St and Morgan Creek Community Branch at 15795 Croydon Drive have been closed. This has meant no face-to-face banking for their members from this region. Why both of these branches were shuttered leaving no physical presence in south Surrey remains a mystery.

The issue for my buddy is he does not do online banking with VanCity because of a data breach back in October of 2018 and another incident where his account was pilfered of $800 without his knowledge and consent. So for the past three months he has made the long drive out to Langley to use the Langley Community Branch located at 20055 Willowbrook Dr. He told me about having to stand in long line-ups with pissed-off business people from the Peninsula who have had to resort to driving to Langley to do their banking. Due to an equipment breakdown on Friday, I drove by this branch on the weekend on the way to the repair shop. Just like the picture my friend had earlier sent me, there was a long lineup of people, spaced at six feet apart down the sidewalk, waiting to do their banking.

The problem with this is that even though they were open the hours had been reduced and the branch could not handle the overflow crowds driving out from south Surrey and White Rock. Making matters even worse a sandwich board advertising the branch hours of 9:30 am to 3:00 pm also stated "We regret that we cannot serve members waiting outside after 3:00 pm." The average time that my friend spent in line to do his banking was 40 minutes, not counting the driving time there and back. Really rubbing salt in the wound, Van City recently started a television ad campaign with the slogan "Being OPEN is a Wonderful Thing." I'm rather surprised after spending time after time running out to Langley to cash his cheques that he did not put his foot through his TV. 

Fortunately these long delays will hopefully become a thing of the past as 26 of VanCity's shuttered branches across the Lower Mainland are set to finally reopen this week. The Semiahmoo Mall location will be opening on Tuesday till Saturday with the same 9:30 am to 3pm hours a the Langley Branch. The same cannot be said for the Morgan Heights branch that will continue to have no teller service and safe deposit box access by appointment for only a two hour window, 1-3 pm from Tues to Sat. This comes a little late for my buddy as he has already began to cut his financial ties with VanCity and is in the process of moving his money and insurance services to another financial organization.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 29, 2020

Covid Rock

I remember the first time I ever lined up for tickets to a concert. I went to the Concert Box Office at the corner of Georgia and Richards in Vancouver and sat around on the sidewalk all Friday night waiting for a chance to purchase Foreigner tickets. In the days before computers if you wanted front row seats, this is how you got them. It was a pretty eventful night, met a new girlfriend and picked up eight tickets in the second row. After finding out how much fun it was seeing a concert from up close, I was a regular at the CBO buying tickets for many concerts including some where I had the coveted front row center seats. I'll never forget lining up for a concert sale at Willowbrook Mall only to find out that I was the only person there to buy tickets when the kiosk opened. Hard to beat the Tragically Hip at the Town Pump in Gastown for the heady price of only $13.50 a ticket. An absolutely historic show and if you don't believe me, just ask WR Sun editor Dave Chesney as he was there too, many years before we first met.

Technology has certainly changed the music and recording industry over the years and the COVID-19 pandemic is now causing seismic shifts in the way that music is performed, produced and distributed. Launched two years ago in Vancouver, Sessionwire (sessionwire.com) allows musicians and recording personnel to collaborate live in real time with anyone across the world plus mix and record music integrating various recording software. For a starving artist who is having trouble finding a gig, the world is now their oyster with bands available across the planet. Not only does this mean a huge decrease in travel and associated costs, it also provides unlimited access to clients with a broader range of talents and musical skills than what might be available in the local market. Of course right now in the midst of a global pandemic this software tool means people don't have to meet face to face, eliminating the change of infection. Sessionwire already has over 5,000 clients including Randy Backman (Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive), Chris Baseford (Nickelback, Shinedown, Rob Zombie) and Kevin Killen (Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, 8 time Grammy Award Winner). You can watch Global TV's Squire Barnes interview Colin Wiebe about Sessionwire at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVV3QC4j500

If you watch the above YouTube video you will likely notice it was recorded inside the famed Blue Frog Studios in uptown White Rock. With Covid restrictions this music production studio was closed for some time but as with many businesses has reinvented itself and found a way to once again bring music to the masses. Starting last Month BF has been holding "virtually live concerts" with artists performing without a live audience but having their shows streamed live to those who have purchased tickets to view these shows. Full Covid-19 protocols, social distancing and cleaning are done at the studio to keep artists and crew members safe and healthy. The next gig on July 4 features the legendary blues master Jim Byrnes, followed a week later on July 11 by the Kingpins and on July 18 by Ladies Sing The Blues. You can support live music, enjoy these shows from the safety and comfort of your couch while drinking the beverage of your choice, all for only $14.50 for the early bird price. In case you missed a show or want to watch a performance from their extensive catalogue then Blue Frog TV is your answer, giving you access to their video trove. Record World recently gave Blue Frog kudos as "Canada's first & only produced LIVE-streamed concert series with premium production, incredible acoustics and stunning visuals."

Canada Day this year will be missing many of he large public attractions that we are used to with virtual celebrations being held online instead. Once again it is Blue Frog Studios to the rescue with The Washboard Union headlining performing courtesy of the City of White Rock. You do not need to purchase tickets or sign up for Blue Frog TV for this show as it will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. You can check the following link for details of this show that is available online from 7-9 pm on July 1st: https://www.whiterockcity.ca/364/Canada-Day-by-the-Bay With the regular Canada Day celebrations in Cloverdale being cancelled, the City of Surrey has also joined the virtual Canada Day celebrations with an online celebration hosted by hockey great Haley Wickenheiser that is live from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the kid’s and senior’s segment, and regular programming from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., broadcasted on Facebook and YouTube Live (https://www.surrey.ca/canadaday/). While Said The Whale, Mother Mother and The Beaches have recently pulled out have pulled out of the event as a political protest over efforts to combat systemic racism, this show still headlines 54-40, Bif Naked and Colin James.

I do love live music and always like going to see a concert but I must admit that watching a live show from the comfort of the new couch with built in recliners that is being delivered to our house tomorrow sounds rather appealing. No traffic jams, no crowds, no pushing one's way to the front of the crowd plus being immersed in the clouds of BC bud being smoked. It is likely that online concerts with viewership in the millions might become the wave of the future, allow us to stay home and "help fatten the curves" as I now love to say. As far as the deafening firework shows that always end Canada Day celebrations, I wonder how long it will be before these smokey affairs that scare the bejesus out of our pets get replaced by colourful 3-D animations done by clouds of autonomous drones packed with colour changing LED lights. I you think this sounds like far-fetched science fiction, check out this video of a drone show in China that was part of their 2019 International Big Data Industry Expo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9T3Dj1lRHY Now imagine such a display above the White Rock pier on a starry night with calm seas in the bay and the show matched to music being performed live from Blue Frog.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 23, 2020

Steps To A Solid Foundation

 

When COVID-19 closures began the various staircases and trails down the Ocean Park bluff remained open, providing access to the shoreline for those seeking a more remote beach than the public marine parks of White Rock and Crescent Beach. Unfortunately these staircases attracted a crowd including people intent on using them as their own personal Stairmaster when the gyms were also closed. With widths of less than 2 metres except on the various landings it did not take long for the Christopherson Steps at the west end of 24 Ave. and the 1001 Steps at the west end of 15A Ave. to finally be closed on April 8th. In White Rock the Coldicutt Trail was already closed because of landslide damage and unsafe slopes resulting from a severe rain storm at the end of January. Interestingly, the Olympic Trail on 13 Ave. near 131 St. in Ocean Park was not originally closed, likely because very few people except neighbourhood residents know of its existence, but it is now locked.

Regardless of the global pandemic, the Christopherson Steps were going to be closed to the public this spring. King tides combining with waves from winter storms along with large logs that acted as battering rams had seriously eroding the base of the elevated metal walkway at the beach. The original Steps had been made of steel with a thick concrete base but after the foundation was smashed, temporary repairs were made with thick wooden timbers put in place to help support the staircase and ensure it was safe for pedestrians to use. When the large "Renovation of Christopherson Steps" sign was erected by Surrey earlier this year, I wondered if the foundation repairs would be completed during the COVID-19 closure. Fortunately it turns out that this was indeed the case and we now are only waiting for the pandemic restrictions to be relaxed and the stairs unlocked.

The problem with fixing the Steps was access for equipment, removal of debris, plus delivery of the tonnes of rebar, concrete and boulders that would be necessary to complete the needed repairs. Bringing all of this material down the stairs would have been impossible and using trucks on the beach would put people at risk while possibly damaging the environment. Fortunately the BNSF Railway tracks run right behind the Christopherson Steps and the railway was enlisted to help with repairing this structure. Crews first brought in protective fencing to keep the public away from the work area and removed the temporary wooden shoring. Once this was done they excavated a wide area all around the original slab to hold the new footing for the steel staircase. Wooden forms were brought to the scene and installed with cages of rebar steel wired into position within the hollow. The concrete was again brought in on the train tracks and poured into position where the construction workers gave it a smooth finish.

After giving the concrete time to set all of the forms were removed revealing the huge concrete block that is double the size of the original. Once all of the construction materials and debris was removed large flat stones were positioned to act as steps leading to the top of the block, something that was sorely missing from the original design. Lastly rip-rap boulders similar to the ones that line the railway from Crescent Beach to White Rock were placed around the new foundation to help it from getting damaged from future storms. One look at the completed repairs left me wondering why this important support structure was built so small in the first place, especially in such a vulnerable location. Even with global warming and sea level rise, the new Christopherson Steps foundation should protect the staircase for years to come.

There are other trail systems and older homeowner built staircases on the Ocean Park bluff but because of the steepness of these trails and the dilapidated state of many of the stairs, I will not be commenting on their locations and do not endorse their use. Since Crescent Rock Beach can at present only be reached safely from either White Rock or Crescent Beach, many people looking to visit their favourite spot on this clothing-optional shoreline are now walking on the tracks instead of the shore. The BNSF have stepped up patrols with ride-a-long RCMP officers who are handing out $115 tickets to many people for trespassing on the railway. I was at the Crescent Rock boulder on Monday and saw two people waking on the tracks get stopped and fined. Since it is likely to be a while until the staircases are reopened, make sure to check the tide charts posted daily in the White Rock Sun before heading to the beach so you'll know when the tide is out and there is shoreline to walk on.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 15, 2020

Party on the Patio

Those patio lanterns
They were the stars in the sky
Those patio lanterns
Lighting up our lives
Those patio lanterns
They were the stars in the sky
Those patio lanterns
Lighting up our lives
Oh, those patio lanterns

Lyrics to "Patio Lanterns" written by Kim Mitchell, Shaking Like a Human Being album, 1985

How many times this year have you heard the Covid-19 rallying cry "We are all in this together"? Well just like how some people can catch the Corona virus and not even show symptoms while others suffer a wide assortment of ailments leading to death, businesses are also affected (infected?) differently. By far the most damaged sectors of our economy are travel, hospitality, entertainment, bars and restaurants. Some of these businesses may never be the same, others will be lucky if they recover and many more will have to close their doors forever. Now that Covid-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted it makes sense that businesses that have born the brunt of the economic shutdown are given the most help to get their doors open, people rehired and cash flow back on track.

Many restaurants closed their doors to customers coming in for a meal but have managed to stay afloat by delivering food or having customers come by and pick it up. Now they get to reopen to the public but with social distancing in effect, meaning that many have to cut their interior tables by over half. In order to make up for lost seating, many restaurants are looking to enlarge their patio spaces for the summer months to improve their customer capacity. Cognizant of the difficulties facing the restaurant sector, many cities are waiving fees and expediting the processing of enlarging patios onto sidewalks, parking lots and roadways. The City of Vancouver has waived fees for this process, the City of Delta has recently done the same and the city of Port Coquitlam is offering restaurants there grants of up to $50,000 to help expand patio areas. Unfortunately this is not the case in the big city of Surrey whose helping hand is still reaching for cash.

With reallocating privately-owned parking spaces at commercial properties, no more than half of the stalls can be used for queuing or patios. Accessible parking stalls cannot be repurposed or relocated. The parking to patio application necessitates a simple sketch plan of the proposed outdoor space being converted along with landowner approval, proof of insurance, and an indemnification waiver. There is also a $200 application fee for this, however other permit fees for using roads and obstructing traffic will not be charged. Tables and chairs, patio umbrellas, propane heaters, moveable planters and fencing are allowed but businesses cannot build or install structures requiring a building permit. Already we are starting to see the transformation from parking lot to patios with the venerable Ocean Park Pizza and Village Pub south Surrey turning tables on their competition with a spacious parking lot patio at the rear of their building.

If a restaurant wishes to expand their patio onto city owned sidewalks or roads, then the cost quickly gets prohibitive. Besides the same $200 application fee there is a $500 damage deposit, a $500 traffic safety cost for both local and low-traffic roads. If the area in question is an arterial road of high-traffic collector road involving the installation of heavy concrete jersey barriers to safely separate people from traffic then the cost has been estimated at a whopping $1,400 per parking stall. It remains to be seen if these fees stop restaurateurs from expanding their patio footprint. The recently formed Surrey Economic Recovery Task Force, comprised of the Surrey Board of Trade and a number of business improvement associations across Surrey and White Rock, believes that these costs are prohibitive to most businesses and want to see them reduced or eliminated. In total the SERTF represents a total of 9,500 businesses in the region including Surrey's 1,120 restaurants.

Look for these contentious fees imposed by the City of Surrey to come up on this week's Council meeting at Surrey City Hall. Councillor Linda Annis who voted for the Parking to Patios initiative is now concerned after becoming aware of the fees being charged by Surrey. In a Global TV interview she stated “I feel that all fees should be waived. … We need to make it easy for these people that are struggling so much to get back into business. It becomes a real problem because they aren’t paying business taxes then, people have lost their income, people are struggling with employment issues right now - we need to get them back in working.” This all sounds great to me because as much as I would love to see our local restaurants ssucceed, I'm really looking forward to sitting down with friends, ordering a wonderful meal, and getting away from this so-called "new normal."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITOR'S NOTE:

STREAMLINE SURREY RESTAURANT PATIO APPROVAL PROCESS AND CANCEL CITY FEES: COUNCILLOR LINDA ANNIS

Surrey, B.C. (June 15, 2020): Councillor Linda Annis will introduce a notice of motion at today's virtual council meeting to cancel city fees associated with creating restaurant patio spaces, all part of helping local restaurants survive the economic impact of COVID-19.

"When council approved the idea of helping restaurants create more space by establishing patios, I questioned why we were charging city fees when we knew our restaurants were hurting due to COVID-19," said Annis. "We want our restaurants back in business and that means giving them the chance to open patios as a way to social distance. The fees need to go and the red tape at city hall needs to be cut if this good idea is going to get real traction with our 800 local restaurants. We should be doing everything we can to help our city get back on its feet and that includes giving our restaurants a fighting chance against the economic impact of the pandemic. Most restaurants are having really tough go and the last thing they need to worry about right now is having to pay fees to city hall to save their businesses."

Annis said she will also introduce a second notice of motion today aimed at giving Surrey's neighbourhood Business Improvement Associations a portion of their funding this summer, rather than having to wait until city hall has collected all of the city's property taxes.

"Our local BIAs are an important part of our economic development and we need them intact to help our city recover. BIA revenues are tied to property taxes and because the city is allowing people to defer taxes due to COVID-19, the city wants to defer paying the BIAs," said Annis. "I believe that rather than not paying the BIAs anything at all, we should pay out a portion of what we owe based on what we collect by the normal tax date of July 2. In other words, if the city has collected 70 per cent of taxes by July 2 then we should pay the BIAs 70 per cent of what we owe them, rather than making them wait."

Annis said recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19 means being more flexible and creative, including doing things differently at city hall.

"City hall needs to be a real partner in Surrey's economic recovery," said Annis. "It means working closely with our business community to make sure we get local businesses and people back to work as quickly as possible."

 

 

June 08, 2020

8 Min. 46 Sec. That Shook The World

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers that sparked anger against racism and police brutality across the world has even brought protest to our little corner of the world. On Sunday I witnessed three ladies standing at the corner of 152 St. and 32 Ave. holding up Black Lives Matter signs with passing drivers honking horns in support and giving them the thumbs up. This impromptu demonstration obviously paled in comparison to the 1,500 people who showed up at Centennial Square in Victoria or the 5,000 strong throng in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery last week. That being said, I thought their grass-roots display of support for this cause in south Surrey was heart-warming and deserved to be noted.

In Canada we like to think that we do not have a problem with police brutality and racism against people of colour by the RCMP and other police forces. Unfortunately the record here is not exactly lily white if you pardon the rather uncomfortable pun. Fortunately for incidents involving police forces across BC that result in serious injury or death, since 2012 these are investigated by the Independent investigations Office (IIO) that was modeled after Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, and Serious Incident Response Teams in both Alberta and Nova Scotia. Complaints that do not involve serious injury or death are handled here by the BC Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP or the Military Police Complaints Commission. Check out Wikipedia's list of excessive police force incidents in Canada at the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_excessive_police_force_incidents_in_Canada

There is now a public push to have the RCMP and other Canadian police forces wear body cameras that record both sound and audio. These would help to bring extra evidence to criminal proceedings and clarification as to whether police actions were justified and legal. There is a change.org online petition titled "Require the BC RCMP to wear body cameras" that to date already has over 20,000 signatures. The goal of the petition is to “have the Solicitor General of B.C. (and other provinces) change the requirements around body cameras to protect those most at risk of police mistreatment.” Over 70,000 people have signed a petition to have Halifax police wear body cameras and a similar petition in Toronto has generated 80,000 signatures. Some police forces are already making this change with Calgary police and Ontario's Peel Regional police supplying their officers with this new technology. The head of the IIO, Ron MacDonald, recently stated "At this point in time, it’s my view that all front-line officers in this country should be equipped with body cameras.”

Mayor Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition seems to be trying to ride the tide of public disgust with racism and police violence, sending out tweets and running Google ads with anti-RCMP messages. Last week they distributed links to a Globe and Mail story that ran in November of 2019 under the title of "More than one-third of people shot to death over a decade by RCMP officers were Indigenous” Of course this story does not delve into the fact that that the RCMP patrol many smaller towns across Canada and over 600 First Nation Reserves, likely skewing these results. That said, criminologists have voiced concern over studies that show Indigenous people are seriously injured or fatally shot by police forces across Canada at much higher rates than other visible minorities. This is not just an RCMP problem, it is an issue for all Canadians concerned with the treatment of First Nation peoples.

The Safe Surrey Coalition smear campaign against the RCMP was plainly visible with a tweet and facebook post accusing several RCMP members of murder and evidence tampering. The post read “Poorly trained RCMP murder a defenseless man and then delete video evidence to cover up their crime.” This was in reference to an IIO release recommending charges against five RCMP officers in Prince George in connection to an arrest in 2017 where a man died after being pepper-sprayed. The Safe Surrey social media accounts were quickly cleansed of the inflammatory comment but not before the damage was done. Mayor McCallum claimed he did not know about the tweet and that it was posted by a staffer without his prior approval. The officer-in-charge of the Surrey RCMP, Brian Edwards, emailed his members that he was "deeply disturbed that the Safe Surrey Coalition would endorse such a communique and that this type of commentary is unfair to all RCMP members.”

Pretty tough time to be a cop in Surrey. People are looking at the police with mistrust, branding them as racist, violent and untrustworthy because of the death of George Floyd and the resulting media shit-storm over protests and riots. Now we have had two incidents of the Safe Surrey Coalition taking pot-shots at the RCMP on their social media sites, likely in response to the Keep The RCMP In Surrey signs sprouting up on boulevard lawns across the city. I personally find it ridiculous for the Mayor and his team to be bashing the RCMP when they hope to hire these same members to staff their new Surrey Police Force. I know a few front-line officers at both the RCMP and VPD and they tell me they would not be interested in working in Surrey with the poisoned political climate and a mayor who has the RCMP in his cross-hairs.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 01, 2020

Shooting Off About Surrey

Baby, close your eyes and listen to the music
Drifting through a summer breeze
It's a groovy night and I can show you how to use it
Come along with me and put your mind at ease
A little less conversation, a little more action, please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Lyrics to "A Little Less Conversation", performed by Elvis Presley in the 1968 movie "Live a Little, Love a Little."

Put a pan of cold water on the stove and turn it onto high. As the temperature starts to increase you will notice small bubbles begin to form on the surface of the metal. When the water gets hotter they will get into a more agitated and excited state, bubbling wildly before the water finally starts to boil. This is about where my blood was at last week when I found out about the following two Surrey stories.

Amicable: relating to behaviour between people that is pleasant and friendly,

The Abby Lane Amica seniors complex in south Surrey on 16 Ave. recently hired an Elvis impersonator to perform for the the residents of this retirement and seniors complex. This show was part of Amica’s national #SmilesForSeniors campaign aimed at combating feelings of loneliness and isolation for seniors who are housebound and isolated due to restrictions from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ersatz Elvis performed Elvis's greatest hits in the courtyard with residents on the balconies above enjoying the fresh air, the music, and a chance to be entertained. Unfortunately a few of the elderly residents in the apartment building across the 16 Ave./North Bluff Rd. divide in White Rock objected to the amplified music and oblivious of the many smiling faces on the balconies at Abby Lane, complained about the noise to Surrey city hall.

I should note here that the same Elvis impersonator also performed for seniors at the Amica complex in North Vancouver without any disparaging discourse from their neighbours. Last month Mark Donnelly, aka Mr. O'Canada from White Rock sang the national anthem for residents of Abby Lane with residents joining in on the singing. No word on if neighbours Jacqueline Lewis and Ellen Canesso from across the street in White Rock complained about this display of Canadian patriotism. Abbey Lane has also provided their residents with aerobic instructors in the front courtyard with music and moves to residents on the balconies so they can get stretching and exercising during the COVID-19 pandemic. I would think that with freedom of movement basically curtailed inside of Abby Lane and all efforts focused on keeping residents healthy, that people would applaud such moves.

Surrey's loud-music bylaw states "No person shall play or operate any radio stereophonic equipment or other instrument or any apparatus for the production or amplification of sound either in or on private premises or in any public place in such a manner as to disturb the quiet peace rest enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the neighbourhood or of persons in the vicinity." Surrey Bylaw officials have written Amica's head office in Toronto to warn them to stop or face fines between $100-$2000 a day. Because of this, all outdoor activities in the courtyard have now been cancelled including a planned upcoming Canada Day celebration for the seniors. I guess White Rock will soon reciprocate by banning all future Wings over White Rock, Canada Day fireworks plus Concerts at the Pier when the Covid crisis is over.

Hello Surrey bylaws department, why are you bending over backwards for a bunch of withered whiners from across the street in White Rock? You should serve the people that pay your bills in Surrey, not those who pay property taxes to another city. A smarter idea would have been to tell this old biddies to make their complaints to the bylaw department of White Rock. Considering the enjoyment the performances have brought to retirees at Abby Lane during the Covid crisis, common sense should have prevailed, the music been toned down and the performances allowed to continue. I have had people make complaints to me regarding my services and when I find out they are not from the properties I work on, I quickly tell these squeaky wheels in very undiplomatic terms to get lost and find another hobby.

Flushing $44 Million Away

When Safe Surrey was campaigning there was little talk about the cost of some of their election promises, such as ditching the RCMP for a private police force or changing from LRT to elevated Skytrain. We now know that the Surrey Police Farce will cost us millions for even less cops on the street, resulting in "Keep The RCMP In Surrey" signs sprouting like mushrooms on lawns throughout the city. Now comes word on the change from LRT to Crimetrain will cost Surrey $44 million just to get back to ground zero.

On May 28 the Mayor's Council on Regional Transportation released the Surrey Compensation Agreement Update with the details and costs associated with the change from Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT to the Surrey-Langley Skytrain. The agreed to value covering the costs associated with this change was pegged at $39 million with an additional $5 million dependent on the selection of the future rapid transit option for King George Blvd. The proposed compensation sources include the city owned property needed for the project pegged at $11.4 million, lands dedicated by city purchase at $5.5 million, park & ride spaces at 12.8 million and $9.3 million of Surrey taxpayer dollars. If this sounds like a lot of money to you, consider that TranLink spent $54 million to plan the original LRT system in Surrey.

Now for the kicker. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum confirmed that this agreement had been approved between the City of Surrey and Translink, characterizing the money thrown away as "not unusual for a project of that scale." He is on record as saying "It's pretty standard in big projects that this amount of money has to be given to get the right-of-ways and so forth." Instead of 27 km. of at-grade rail corridors build on three major corridors, we are now looking at four stations and 7 km of Skytrain reaching to Fleetwood with further expansion to Langley planned for the distant future. There currently is no timetable for the repayment of the money owed to Translink but this will be established once the Skytrain extension project goes out for tender.

The total amount of money spent by Translink on the LRT plan was $54,000,000 or the equivalent to $100 for every man, woman and child living in Surrey. Look around your home at how many people are living within your walls and imagine throwing a $100 Borden bill into the toilet for every person and hitting the flush button. It's easy to spend money when its not coming out of your wallet and unfortunately the promises made by Doug McCallum and his dwindling Safe Surrey Coalition come at a big cost for the residents of Surrey. For a look at the Surrey Compensation Agreement Update and the details it contains please visit the following Translink link:
https://www.translink.ca/-/media/Documents/about_translink/governance_and_board/council_minutes_and_reports/2020/May/In-
camera_report_on_Surrey_Compensation_Agreement_2020_05_28.pdf

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 


May 25, 2020

Don Pitcairn

Surrey Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

Lyrics to Lovers in a dangerous time, written by Bruce Cockburn, performed in isolation by the Barenaked Ladies "selfiecamjam" below.

Allison Patton/Doug McCallum

I get to hear a lot of scuttlebutt on the streets of the Semi-pen about the behaviour of elected officials but generally I have found that the more grandiose the gossip, the more unlikely that it is true. When you start hearing the same basic story from multiple sources across the community, your radar starts to ping and you begin to question if there is a kernel of truth behind the vitriol. With a disclaimer posted on this column due to issues related to the previous White Rock Council, I don't want to put my head on the chopping block or spend copious amounts of money defending my freedom of speech against frivolous lawsuits. Then comes the day when someone braver, more connected and with deeper pockets throws a big rock in the pool and starts making waves. In this case it was legendary free-lance journalist Bob Makin who on April 30th in thebreaker.news posted his opinion piece titled "When the personal intersects with the political, the public has the right to know" at the following link: https://thebreaker.news/opinion/surrey-mccallum-patton/

This must read article begins with "What is the status of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum's relationship with Councillor Allison Patton? Are they merely members of the majority caucus on Surrey city Council? Or is there more to it?" In it Mackin reveals what I had been told from multiple sources, that McCallum and Patton have allegedly been witnessed leaving each others personal residences together. The rumour mill here has been churning up the belief that these two, besides being members of the Save Surrey slate have a professional business relationship or possibly a more personal one after separating from their spouses. Now while I realize this sounds like a twisted version of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" 70's sitcom but once you become aware of the other bizarre news concerning these two, stuff that hasn't received any ink in the Surrey Now or PAN, you really start to wonder what is fact, and what is fiction?

Surrey mayor's office spokesman Oliver Lum provided no details twice earlier this year when questioned about the "McPatton" partnership, offering up the identical response of "The personal affairs of the Mayor is outside the scope of this office." What makes this more galling bordering on nauseating is that Surrey recently passed a new Code of Conduct only last month on April 20th.(

Click here to read the Code of Conduct)

This Corporate Report plainly states "A Council Member shall rigorously avoid situations which may result in claims of pecuniary interest, conflict of interest or bias" and that "Council Members intend to demonstrate their leadership in ethical behaviour and to promote the principles of transparency, accountability and civility through their decisions, actions and behaviour." Ten days after the new Code of Conduct was accepted things really went off the rails for McPatton as word of the weirdness at the Wellness was leaked.

Besides being a Surrey Councillor, Allison Patton is a naturopath who operates from the Mountainview Wellness Centre next to the Semiahmoo Mall. Yes, the same one who was fined and suspended for misusing "physician" title and more recently under fire for posting naturopathic COVID-19 claims. On the evening of April 30th Surrey RCMP officers were called to the front entrance of this business for a "breach of Peace" complaint. Video footage obtained by Postmedia shows McCallum and Patton arguing with a group of people including one of her former business partner Galina Bogatch telling them they are trespassing. Even more interesting is Doug McCallum saying to a uniformed police officer "We just signed a lease here." I should note here that the third naturopath in their former partnership was Caleb Ng, Allison Patton's husband who no longer works at at Mountainview and has announced he is opening up a new business called the west Coast Centre for Regenerative Medicine, only a stone's throw away from his old clinic.


Just when you thought this sordid soap opera couldn't get any stranger, on May 1st the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce was holding a COVID-19 update webcast on Zoom. This included Allison Patton from an office inside the Mountainview Wellness Centre adorned in a plastic face shield. In the background a door opens and the head of a man who appears to be Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum enters the room crashing the video call. Mrs. Patton's microphone was muted at the time but she turns and talks to the man who partially retreats out of view before leaving and allowing her to resume her video call. You can check out this so called "Zoom bombing" posted at the bottom of the following column: https://thebreaker.news/news/mccallum-patton-naturopath/ You be the judge if that is Doug McCallum appearing to play Mayor whack-a-mole, which then begs the question to be asked "What the hell is he doing there?"

There are lots of questions regarding exactly what is the relationship between Mayor Doug McCallum and Councillor Allison Patton and nobody is saying anything with the "Mum's the word" protocol in effect. Unfortunately this story is not going away anytime soon with Dan Fumano writing about Surrey's latest power couple in this weekend's Province and Sun newspapers (see links below plus a Youtube video of the RCMP talking to McPatton). If it really is nothing, then it is time they issue a plausible public denial. If the rumours are true, then some transparency is in order especially when considering the public perception of now these two might vote together at city hall. In this province we have had Gordon Wilson and Judy Tyabji, Gordon Campbell and his Maui wowie, Gregor Robertson and Chinese pop singer Wanting Qu, and Grey Halsey-Brandt who as Mayor of Richmond had both his old wife and new wife as councilors at the same time. Time will tell if we can add Doug McCallum and Allison Paton to this lovely list.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0_cMZdRrMk
https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/surrey-mayor-should-be-transparent-about-any-ties-to-city-councillors-private-business-critics-say/
https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/surrey-city-hall-follow-up/

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May20, 2020

Devil in the Details

 

With property tax time upon us in the midst of a global pandemic and forced economic recession due to Covid-19 restrictions, I was glad for the opportunity to once again have the Province of BC pay my property taxes to the City of Surrey. Ever since I turned Freedom 55, I have taken advantage of the ability to not pay my property taxes even though I was financially able to do so. What made this program so appealing and lucrative was the interest rate, set at 0.7% per year and only charging simply interest instead of having it compound. Instead of paying my property taxes, I simply used the money to top up my Tax Free Savings Account or TFSA. The idea was to pad the TFSA and pocket the dollar difference between the TFSA investments and the government's low interest rate.

But whoa Nelly, put the brakes on, hold your horses for one darned minute, not so fast mister. It turns out there was a fly in the ointment that nobody was really advertising and that the interest rate being charged could fluctuate and vary widely. When I first became aware of property tax deferment, the interest rate was 0.7% with the all important simple interest charged along with ultra low yearly fees once the account was set up. This went on for a couple of years while I gleefully rubbed my hands together, paying myself instead of the bean counters at Surrey City Hall. Then a couple of years ago things started to change. In April of 2018 the rate jumped half a percentage point to 1.2%. Six months later in October the rate went up again to 1.45%. While this is not a large number it was a doubling in the interest rate charged in only half a year.

You can probably guess where I am going from here. If you figured that the rate jumped again you would be correct with it now sitting at 1.9 percent. How high can it go, well lets say that the sky is the limit. The rate is based on prime minus 2% and with Ottawa printing money like it was the Kruger mill pumping out toilet paper, who knows how high our interest rates might get. Looking back into the historical rates charged in this program, the lowest rate was in 2009 with a minuscule 0.25% with the highest rate a year before in 2008 at 2.75%. From the lowest to highest rates, this equates to an eleven fold increase, something people might want to think about should rates go on a run like back in 1981 when the prime rate hit 19%. Who was Prime Minister of Canada at the time? None other than Pierre Trudeau, Justin's father.

Now when you consider the average life expectancy in Canada is 81 years old, it would be very easy to rack up a $125,000 property tax debt using an average of $5,000 per year, a figure that may be low for many of the properties in the Semi-Pen. If the stock market tanks (any further), interest rates soar or real estate collapses like a house of cards, the outstanding property tax deferral may eat up a sizeable chunk of the retirement income that people hope to pull out of their homes. Life is full of risks and without having a crystal ball or the Amazing Kreskin forsight, property tax deferment may come back to bite you in the ass over the long haul, especially if the prime rate continues its upward trajectory. At 0.7% interest, getting involved with this program was a no-brainer, if rates hit 7% even simple interest would start adding up quickly.

With the 2020 due date for property taxes in Surrey now pushed back to July 2 it should give residents a little more breathing room and time to consider whether property tax deferral is the right choice for them, especially now in rather uncertain economic times. I'm still going to hedge my bets, using my property tax money to invest in other areas knowing that I can make payments or simply pay off this account at any time, whether we plan to sell our humble abode or not. While our house may be our home, it generally is most people's largest lifetime purchase and should always be treated as such. I still believe that over time the compounding interest of the investments bought with property tax money should greatly surpass the simple interest charged by the BC Property Tax Deferment program.

For more information about property tax deferment in BC, please visit the following links that include a variable interest calculator.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes/interest-fees
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes/interest-fees/history

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 11, 2020

Stop the Asian Invasion

Being a guy who loves the great outdoors and spends plenty of time outside and in the wilds of British Columbia, I have a long and painful history with yellow jacket wasps and both European and bald-face hornets. This began when I was only in Grade 2 getting swarmed by black and white bald faced hornets after damaging their basketball sized nest. When I was 10 years old, I went to put on my slippers in the fall and was stung on the big toe by a queen bald-faced hornet that I quickly dispatched. Once while building a fort in the bush as teenagers, myself and two friends had to run for our lives after disturbing a huge yellow jacket nest under a rotting log. I even have a permanently damaged quadriceps muscle in my leg that tore while running to escape a black and white cloud of bald faced hornets. On Sunday while pruning a butterfly bush a queen bald face hornet flew out of the branches and stung me in the forehead. All of this is nothing compared to the threat from our new alien invader, the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia), the world's largest hornet.

Here are the background facts about the Asian giant hornet taken from the Invasive Species Council of BC website:
- Asian giant hornets are large headed and can vary in colour from different shades of orange, yellow and brown. Worker hornets are approximately 3.5 centimetres in length and queens can be up to four to five centimetres in length, with a wingspan of four to seven centimetres.
- Four species native to B.C. — the bald-faced hornet, yellow jacket, elm sawfly and northern horntail — are commonly mistaken for Asian giant hornets.
- These Asian giant hornets only nest in the ground, unlike other species of wasps or bees that build nests and hives in trees and/or buildings.
- It is not known how the hornets, which are widely distributed in parts of China, Korea and Japan, arrived on the Island. It is possible they were transported with personal or commercial goods.
- Hornets are generally not interested in humans, pets and large animals. They hunt insects for food, are not attracted by pollen or nectar and only attack when threatened or if their nest is disturbed.
- People who notice a hornet’s nest on their property are advised to avoid it and get professional help in removal.
- If people have allergies to insect stings, they should avoid any contact and carry an epinephrine autoinjector (such as an epipen) during the summer season.
- If a pet is stung by Asian giant hornets only once or twice, treat it the same way as other insect stings — apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and itchiness. If a pet is stung multiple times or has a severe reaction, seek immediate veterinary care.
- The Invasive Species Council of BC is a registered charity committed to reducing the spread and impacts of non-native species within B.C. To report invasive species, a "Report Invasives" mobile phone app is available for download or visit: bcinvasives.ca/report


The following Information Report about Asian giant hornets was released recently by the BC Ministry of Agriculture:

Be on the lookout for Asian giant hornets this spring and summer

Residents along 0 Avenue (pronounced as "Zero Avenue"), from Surrey to Aldergrove, are asked to report sightings of Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) that may emerge from their nests in the coming weeks and months.
In December 2019, two specimens were found near Blaine, Wash., and a single specimen was found in White Rock in November 2019. These findings indicate a probability that nesting hornets are overwintering in the area. Wooded habitat, like areas near the Canada-U.S. border, offer suitable hornet nesting grounds.
Residents along 0 Avenue may be the first to notice them.The provincial apiculturist will place hornet traps in the area and distribute pest-alert notices to 0 Avenue residents in the coming weeks, along with information and pictures of the Asian giant hornet and the steps to take if you spot the insect.
Asian giant hornets are large compared to other hornets, with noticeably large orange heads and black eyes. Worker hornets are approximately 3.5 cm in length. Queens can be up to 4 cm to 5 cm in length with a wingspan of 4 cm to 7 cm.The Asian giant hornet is classified as a serious honeybee predator.
Asian giant hornets hunt insects for food and generally are not interested in humans, pets and livestock. When their nest is disturbed, they will attack with painful stings, which can be hazardous to people͛s health.
British Columbians who think they may have seen an Asian giant hornet can report their findings to the Invasive Species Council of BC at 1 888 933-3722, via the council's "Report Invasives" mobile phone app or online: https://bcinvasives.ca/report
The Asian giant hornet was first found in British Columbia in August 2019 in Nanaimo. The single nest was located and destroyed.

Now for the bad news. I met up with my sister at my parent's place on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day, with proper social distancing and no hugging or kissing might I add. I told them about getting stung earlier in the day, showing the still red bump on my forehead and the conversation quickly went from bald face hornets to the Asian giant hornet. It turns out that my sister who lives in Strawberry Heights in Langley near 56 Ave. and 248 St. had an encounter with this huge orange and black insect. She was out pruning her boxwood hedge in late March while the weather was still cool and a giant orange and black hornet measuring over 2 inches long fell out of the foliage and began crawling on the ground. As she described, "It was an oh crap moment" before she stomped this scary looking bug to death. Unsure of what she had seen, she later went online looking at queen wasps and hornets, finding nothing that looked similar. It was only after reading the New York Times article posted in the WR Sun last week about so-called "Murder Hornets" (a sensationalized fabricated nickname) that she realized what she'd destroyed. Her home is 7 miles north as the crow (or hornet) flies from the US/Canada border.

In Japan the Asian giant hornet kills an average of 30-40 people a year, many who inadvertently disturb the ground nests they create, often using old rodent burrows or rotting tree roots for their home. Their quarter inch long stinger delivers a painful sting with a poison that can kill red blood cells and damage living tissue. By far the greatest danger the Asian giant hornet poses is to honey bee colonies and the subsequent reduction of plant pollenization and decreased agricultural yields. To get an idea of the ferocity of this large hornet, watch the following YouTube video below showing how 30 Asian giant hornets kill 30,000 honeybees in only three hours before pillaging the hive. Please take the time to become familiar with what these invasive bugs look like and when gardening or hiking, if you see one or come across a nest, report it right away to the phone number or email address listed above. If we can't stop these Halloween Horror Hornets (my own fake news name), we may be stuck with them forever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ1eAM8CChc

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 04, 3030

Gunning for Trudeau

 

So here are are in the middle of a planet wide pandemic, borders and international flights shut down, people told to stay home and the economy indicators dropping faster than a lead balloon and what is our Liberal federal government doing? You would think that their sole focus would be on the COVID-19 virus, ways to control it and keep Canada safe and re-open our battered economy. Instead Prime Minister Turdeau, his Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and the Liberal party decided this week it was time to enact the immediate ban on 1,500 rifles in Canada as a way to make the country safer. Gee, and I thought washing hands, wearing face masks and praticing social distancing would have been a higher priority.

Now I realize that a mad-man with a fake police car, real RCMP uniform and weapons including a stolen RCMP pistol shot and burned his way in a trail of destruction across Nova Scotia. Unfortunately the RCMP there have refused to reveal what type of firearms were used in this spree or how many people were shot or died when their homes were set ablaze in the middle of the night. It has been widely reported that the gunman was prohibited from possessing firearms and that the weapons involved were allegedly purchased in the USA and smuggled back to the Maritimes. What does any of this have to do with 2 million law-abiding firearms owners across Canada who use firearms responsibly and legally?

To make matters worse the ban and confiscation of these firearms was not debated about or voted on in Parliament. Instead it was enacted by an Order-In-Council without question, without debate, without consideration and without any of the other parties in Parliament having any input. It doesn't matter if you are or not a firearms owner, the fact that this confiscation of Canadian's personal property is taking place with the stroke of a pen should be extremely concerning. We are supposed to live in a democracy and yet we suddenly become aware that the Liberals and Turdeau believe that Canada is now a dictatorship. History lesson folks, the first thing the Nazis did once gaining power in Germany was to ban firearm ownership. There is nothing a totalarian regime fears more than an armed citizenry.

Did I mention that this property grab is already estimated to be priced at $600 million dollars? If you believe that is the final cost, I have some swampland in Bridgeview for sale for you. It was the Liberals that brought in their vaulted long-gun registry in 1993 with a price tag of $2 million. When the Conservatives finally killed this social-engineering debacle in 2009, the final price tag was $2 billion, that's BILLION or a thousand times the original Liberal cost estimate. Meanwhile the Libs have announced a paltry $65 million a year to combat guns and gangs and a measly $17 million a year to combat the smuggling of guns across the Canada/US border, the number one source of crime guns. I believe they need to take aim at the real problem instead of attempting to control law-abiding citizens.

Our illustrious leader had this to say about his proposed gun grab. "These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada." Unfortunately he does not seem to realize that many of these firearms are not military weapons and can be used for legitimate sporting purposes. He might also be surprised to learn that previously I have competed in the BC Service Rifle Championships held at the DND Vokes Range in Chilliwack. In that time I took gold twice in the BC Service Rifle Championsip and won two golds and a silver in the BC Service Conditions Championsips through the BC Rifle Association. When I first started shooting service rifle, BCRA members were able to sign out an FN rifle for six months from Base Chilliwack. Should I bother to mention that these rifles were all used in a safe manner by the law-abiding members of our association?

Here is what the oldest shooting club in Canada had to say about the Liberal's dictatorial firearms ban and planned confiscation of private property.
For over 150 years the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association has operated under the mandate of promoting marksmanship and the safe handling and use of firearms across Canada. Like all Canadians, we are saddened, shocked, and angered by gun violence in our communities. We understand the government's need to take steps to limit the illegal use of firearms, and support them in achieving that goal. Today's action by the government of Canada has unjustly and disproportionately affected our members and the law-abiding gun owners of Canada who are are statiscially among the least likely to be involved in criminal activity. It also ignores the legitimate sporting use of semi-automatic rifles for target shooting competitions. Since the late 1970s we have safely conducted National Championships alongside our partners in law enforcement and the Canadian Armed Forces that include the civilian use of rifles that as of today have been deemed prohibited under the nominal aim of increasing public safety. As an association we are actively working to examine our next steps and to ensure that the safe and legitimate practice of our sport can continue.

Meanwhile handguns, the firearm of choice for gangbangers, which have been legally registered since 1937 in Canada were not mentioned in this firearms grab. I should point out that handguns are much easier to hide than a long gun plus they hold double the number of rounds of a semi-automatic rifle, ten rounds versus five. Considering the timing of the Liberals firearms confiscation, the fact it was not debated in parliament and the other parties in this minority parliament were not notified, I believe it is time for a non-confidence motion to bring down the Trudeau government.

If not that, then the Liberals racking up more debt than any other Canadian government that didn't fight a world war or endure a recession during the past 125 years needs to be considered, and that was before 2020 with the $150 billion in costs for the COVID-19 crisis.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 27, 2020

Big Love

 

I've got big balls
I've got big balls
And they're such big balls
Dirty big balls
And he's got big balls,
And she's got big balls,
But we've got the biggest balls of them all!

Lyrics to Big Balls by AC/DC, Back in Black album, 1980

Of all the meeting places in White Rock, Five Corners is the one location where you are most likely to see people you know or make new acquaintances. This was the case this week when after bumping into my daughter I met the most loving lady in White Rock, Allison Voth. She was kind of hard not to notice, what with the five foot diameter blue ball, three foot white ball and two foot pink Big Love Balls plus wearing a fuscia sweatshirt emblazoned with LOVE. She had a couple of friends helping with carrying them around uptown taking pictures of shuttered businesses, those lucky enough to still be somewhat open, and even the rainbow crosswalk.

It turns out that Allison like many others found herself out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Turning lemons into lemonade she decided to hit the roads of White Rock in order to help spread some love in these rather dark times with her Big Love Balls. While at first concerned about the reception she would receive, our "Local Love Enthusiest" quickly found out that she got back as much love as she was putting out there. Everywhere she went people wanted to say hi, get their picture taken and share a smile with some love. Looking to share some love with our first responders she has stopped by the Peace Arch Hospital (where a stressed out security guard did not show much love), the White Rock RCMP detachment and the White Rock Fire department, both of who took the time to pose with the collection of Big Love Balls.

The creator of the Big Love Balls is Wendy Williams Watt, an artist from Vancouver whose optimistic mission is to include and uplift humanity with her functional conceptual art. The slogan that best explains her strategy is "A moment. A movement. A monument. A momentum." Mrs. Watts has this to say about the experience,“I created Big Love Ball for countless reasons. But simply put, it’s what I feel inside. It is a physical expression of a feeling I have when I interact with people who are genuinely opening their hearts. The positive reaction I receive every day is more than I could have imagined. Over the past six years, I have had the immense privilege of sharing this with my friends and family. And if that is not enough, I witness those I’ve never met sharing that same sentiment with their loved ones. I see every photo and read every comment attached to Big Love Ball and I am moved to tears often.”

You can check out Wendy's bigloveball.com website if you want to be inspired. Best of all it includes an online store that features Big Love and Stay Home t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. You an order Big Love Buttons in numbers from 10 to 100 in a rainbow of colours for use in weddings, marketing, or to just spread some love. There is a fine assortment of very cool greeting cards and a Big Love poster available. Best of all is the Big Love Balls themselves. The massive five footer is on sale from $44.50 - $89, available in 7 different colours. The three foot diamater ball is $22.50 - $45, also available in 7 colours down from 12 originally. The two foot are only $12.50 - $25 in 10 colours, while the one foot is $6 - 12, in 6 remaining colours. I should note that the one and two foot balls have a standard beach ball valve and can be blown up by mouth, while the 3 and 5 foot are inflated by a electric air mattress blower that can blow up the 5 footer in only 8 minutes.

Look for Allison and her Big Love Balls across White Rock and Surrey in the coming weeks. She dropped into the Surrey Golf Course recently where her three foot white sphere was a big hit with the golfers, making for some great photos on the tee. Mrs. Voth has also approached White Rock's Mayor and Council with the idea of them posing with the Big Love Balls in front of City Hall on Monday before the five o'clock Council meeting is held. With plenty of exposure on social media through ExploreWhiteRock and SouthRockBuzz, Helen Fathers contacted her and the White Rock's Farmer's Market will be welcoming the 5 foot blue Big Love Ball on May 3rd when it opens for the season. If you are going to attend for a selfie with "Big Blue" please ensure not to touch the sphere and to observe proper social distancing.

That was going to mark the end of this TNT when I received the following email from Allison Voth explaining her reasons for bringing a whole lotta love to White Rock and Surrey. She said it was okay to edit it before publishing but I think that its worth reading in its original full version. If you wish to contact Mrs, Voth you can find her on Instagram @honeyheart.ca or by email at honeyheartalli@gmail.com. I hope you enjoy this TNT extra posted below.

Love you all,
Don Pitcairn

 

TNT Extra: "The Burden of Love" By Allison Voth


Today marks day 7 since I have taken this symbol of my love outside for my Community to witness. My close family & friends know I collect heart-shapes rocks from my beach walks. Hearts find me everywhere, so when I discovered www.bigloveball.com we became the perfect match
My Love of local Community extends to this Vancouver company. An Artists vision to share the very essence we are made of. LOVE. It's the very thing that bonds us together within our unique expressions of it. My passion is to serve our global family within our common-unity. That common unity it unconditional love. Talking about it, liking memes about it, poems, songs. Stories of heartache, pain, loss, grief, trauma, rage, anger, fear. It's not enough. We must forgive what we co-created and change it to what we want to see, feel & experience. Our trials & tribulations prepare us for the day we must act on it. It becomes the very platform & foundation to build upon.
Day 1, I began with an idea. I felt squeezed, pressured and limited to express my heart with the world, alone, laid-off I felt deflated. I thought, "I just have to be more creative". Creativity is my favourite energy to be in, playful, free, unlimited. It is best expressed as co-creation. With you, with our love. I'm overjoyed that this ball found me. How simple that it's message instantly incites smiling, laughter, playfulness, joy & kindness.


The RCMP came outside for photos. The Firehall were exceptionally kind. The local news reporter happened to see me on the rainbow crosswalk at 5 corners. He said "This is the best story going on in White Rock right now, we need this". What he really meant is that we need to see the Love. Keep expressing it. Don't suppress it.
Day 1, as I dressed & brushed my teeth I was filled with thoughts of fear. People will judge me. They will say I shouldn't be outside. They will think it's unsanitary. They will come too close me...feeling the tension build, I said "NO!" to those thoughts and affirmed with conviction that I am stepping outside to do this. Those thoughts aren't me, they are a program of fear operating in the background. Ctrl+alt+delete. A jogger ran past me that very morning and said "Great job, there's too much depression" as he flew by me. Nervous & anxious to get my photos over with early in the morning to avoid people, he filled me with more Love to give.
I'm healing from my own pain with witnessing the effect of love. Hearts in the window. A world of hearts. All inspiring avenues for people to touch the most painful place that we spend the most time avoiding, the depth of your heart. Stay there, don't close.
I can no longer shrink from this challenge, I will not let this change in our society crush me. The hug I so desperately need is within the air of this symbol of my affection for my little City. It is bigger than that. My Love for humanity expressing so many hearts fill me with awe and I feel a sense of waking up in my dream.
Never do I want re-experience a collapsed lung. I had it three times and emergency surgery years ago for it. I know the risks. I am scared too and that's okay. I'm human. I embrace both the polarity that teaches us. The catalysts.
And yet, I carry this burden within me, on my back, lugging around a 5ft beach ball and wonder when I will feel a hug. It's all in the unknown. I exist now. The burden isn't mine. It's in every heart across the globe. The heaviness, the fear, anxiety & stress. Let's embrace the unknown with courage in our hearts.
I carry this for you, so you too know you are not alone. I got you. We got this. For all those who can't walk, breathe, fight, leave the house, pay their rent, keep their family safe or buy food. For the tragedies still occurring. It's not about me, it's about us rising up together as one.
My breath is your breath, my heart is your heart, my tears, your tears, my smile your smile. My gratitude to do something, anything, isn't yours vs. mine. It just is. It's LOVE, pure & unconditional. That's the glue. It transcends space & time. Feel it. You are it.
Help me carry this burden.
Maybe I have to let go first…

 

 

 

April 20, 2020


Gander a Gaggle of Geese

 

How about some trees so the birds
Won't have to sit upon the ground, uum
How about some wings so the
Birds won't have to walk to get around
And how about a bird bath or two
So the birds will all be clean
How about some feathers so their
Underwear no longer can be seen
How about a chirp so the birds
Won't have to whisper when they sing
And how about some common sense so they
Won't be blocking traffic in the spring


Lyrics to "Tennessee Bird Walk" by Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan, 1970

Enjoying the great outdoors as much as I do, you get in rhythm with the seasons and the ebb and flow of mother nature. One of the most visual changes is the arrival or departure of migratory birds, in particular flocks of Canada geese, snow geese and sandhill cranes that due to their large migratory numbers are hard to miss. Last month the Canada geese arrived back in the Semiahmoo peninsula and began pairing off preparing for mating season. As usual there are a honking large number of them that have set up shop atop the many flat roofs in the Everall Street region of uptown White Rock. Nests are being prepared and eggs will soon be incubating under downy plumage. Once the eggs hatch and the goslings get bigger they will descend from their rooftop nests and families of geese will begin walking around, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.

This will be when the problems start, especially on the border between White Rock and Surrey. For years now I have watched gaggles of geese cross back and forth on 16 Ave./North Bluff Road. The prime crossing corridor takes them from the Everall Street region in uptown White Rock to the Southmere Village Park in south Surrey. The attraction at Southmere are the large fields of grass (like butter lettuce to geese) and the two large holding ponds located in this park. After the goslings hatch the parents take their goslings to the water to feed almost immediately after birth. In the brooding area these young are raised communally with other families in a group called a crèche. Because of this behaviour, the numbers of geese crossing 16th/NB can be substantial and literally stop traffic cold.

If you live in the Semiahmoo Peninsula it is likely that you have encountered this gaggle of geese and chances are you anticipate their arrival every spring. Unfortunately this four lane road is used by a large number of drivers from around the region including commercial trucks that tend to not stop on a dime. If drivers don't see the geese entering the roadway, there is the possibility a bunch of them will become speed bumps, which literally gives me goose bumps. Also drivers slamming on the brakes may end up getting rear-ended by other drivers behind who cannot see the geese jay-walking across this section of 16th/NB. Since this geese crossing often gets used multiple times a day, it is time that the cities of Surrey and White Rock work together to ensure the safety of both the geese and passing motorists.

There is a very easy fix to the fowl problem. Simply post "Geese Xing" signs with the silhouette of geese and goslings on either side of the road. The City of Chilliwack does this "Watefowl Crossing" signs on Vedder Road in an area with meandering streams and ponds that is a haven for ducks and their brood. Taking it one step further, in the spring when the area is busy with plenty of ducks and ducklings they attach temporary safety flags to the top of the signs, further alerting motorists to the danger. Drivers are always on the lookout for the lines of ducks and ducklings with all four lanes stopping at once to allow for safe passage. Sometimes when the ducks simply take over the road, you can watch as drivers leave their cars to gently shoo parents and their babies out of harm's way. I have also recently seen "Duck Xing" signs at Beach Grove in Tsawwassen so this is not a new idea.

Canada geese mate for life, return every year to their old breeding grounds and lay between 4 to 9 eggs per mating season. I have witnessed gaggles of geese on 16th/NB numbering over 30 birds, both adults and goslings. Just like the peacocks in Sullivan heights, I don't think this problem is going away anytime soon so I believe proper signage alerting motorists to this rather amusing wildlife dilemma is a must. Now I realize that city halls are not operating at peak efficiency these days and this will require both Surrey and White Rock to work together but this is something that could be done quickly and easily. It would also make for a feel-good news story at a time when we are all suffering an overdose of doom and gloom every time we turn on the TV, radio or computer. Lets hope these "Geese Xing" signs can be posted before the flocks of geese families start crossing 16 Ave./North Bluff Rd. in May.

Happy 4:20 on 4/20


Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

APRIL 14, 2020

Easter Very Long Weekend

 

In my last TNT I warned that the Christopherson Steps in Crescent Heights(west end of 24 Ave.) and 1001 Steps in Ocean Park (west endof 15A Ave.) were creating issues with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. My guess is that by-law officers reported to Council that the stairs were well under the 2 metre width required for safety plus some people were using them like the Grouse Grind with gyms being closed. With the Easter long weekend approaching it was decided on Thursday to finally shut these staircases down. The warning on the Surrey.ca website read: "Effective immediately the 1001 Step and Christopherson Steps are closed to all public use. The closures are in effect until further notice." The only problem with this edict was the lack of public notice that ended up causing its own health problems and public relations nightmare.

The issue with this closure was that nobody used common sense on how it should properly be done. These staircases all have gates that are locked every evening and opened up early in the morning. Some bright person at Surrey Hall decided they needed to be closed right away and they were locked up in the middle of the day after people were already at the shoreline. This meant forcing anyone at Crescent Rock Beach to walk for miles on the rocky shore or trespass on the BNSF train tracks. Case in point, an acquaintance I know from the beach made his first trip of the year to Crescent Rock after spending much of the winter cooped up at his home with a series of health conditions. When he went to leave after enjoying the peace and solitude of the beach, the stairs were shut down with his car parked at the top. Not knowing the local shortcut maze, he walked to Crescent Beach, up Crescent Road to 128 St., across to 24 Ave. and finally down to his car. This walk took him 2.5 hours because of a total lack of planning or common sense shown by the Surrey Parks Department. Any reasonable person would have simply not opened the gates up in the morning, ensuring nobody was trapped at the beach.

You can plan on the Christopherson Steps and 1001 Steps to be closed for some time but regardless of COVID-19 the Christopherson Steps were going to be closed this spring for repairs anyways. Along with the "STAIRS CLOSED" signs linked to surrey.ca/COVID19, there was a newly erected 4'x8' sign boldly announcing the renovation of the Christopherson Steps. In a previous TNT I had alerted to the foundation damage done by logs battering the footings during winter storms at high tide and how the base of the metal elevated walkway had been shored up (pun intended) using wooden beams. Well a permanent fix is finally being done, hopefully this time using construction forms, concrete and rebar. The message on the sign reads "Construction will begin in spring 2020 to repair damage to the foundation of the Christopherson Steps railway overpass caused by winter storms and king tides. The Steps will be closed during construction. Learn more by calling 604-501-5050 or by emailing parksrecculture@surrey.ca, www.surrey.ca/newparks." There is no actual date given for the start of construction or when it might end.

Access to Crescent Beach was also limited this weekend to help ensure proper social distancing of folks on the beach and walkway. For this the City of Surrey seemed to actually plan things well with signs and cones everywhere at the corner of Crescent Road and 128 Street at Crescent Park plus several side streets. Traffic control personnel were waiting to shut down public access at a moments notice if and when the Blackie Spit parking lot was filled to capacity. Bylaw officers, the COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Team and RCMP officers were on site in Crescent Beach this weekend, alerting people to keep their distance and not congregate in groups. I talked to several of them and they were actually pleased with the public response and lack of problems. All of these measures apparently had the desired effect since it was not necessary anytime during the Easter long weekend to divert visitors away and only allow access for Crescent Beach residents. Of course maybe people were paying attention to the simple homemade signs posted on the boulevard across from Crescent Park that had the following message: PLEASE, STAY, HOME.

It was a quiet weekend in White Rock with the iconic pier being closed, waterfront parking lots and parkade being off limits and for the long weekend the promenade being shut down to the public. The Semiahmoo First Nation also put their lands on lock down, closing parking lots being the WAG and Peace Arch Duty Free, closing the Semiahmoo Beach gate access plus banning shoreline access from Peace Arch Park. With the beautiful dry weather we are strangely experiencing in April that is drawing people to the beach, the band Council also instituted a fire ban with no camp fires, beach fires or even briquet bbqs allowed. Besides keeping fine smoke particulates from the air during a respiratory infection crisis, the Semiahmoo Lands lack fire protection, leaving their homes at risk and making this extra step necessary. Hopefully some of these restrictions across the Semi-pen may be relaxed over the next two weeks where the long range forecast shows plenty of sunshine and only the small risk of showers for a couple of days. Unless there is a large change in the BC COVID-19 outbreak trajectory in the near future, you can likely expect the same kinds of controls and closures for the Victoria Day long weekend in the middle of May.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

April 06, 2020

Crescent Beach Covid Blanket Bingo

Every lad and every lassie
hanging out at the shore
looking smart and looking classy
ever learning the score
Beach Blanket Bingo
Beach Blanket Bingo
Beach Blanket Bingo
That's the name of the game!


Theme song for the movie Beach Blanket Bingo, Donna Loren, 1965

 

So here we are in the middle of a global pandemic, many people are laid off from work, schools are closed down and the weather is cold and crappy. Then the sun comes out, the temperature climbs into the double digits and everybody wants to go outside to get some fresh air, stretch their legs and regain some sanity. Unfortunately with the herd mentality, everybody looks for someplace nice to go for a walk. In this time of social distancing to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, that is where the problems start.

As most people in White Rock already know, the amount of visitors to the City By The Sea depends on two things, sunlight and warm temperature. This has always been the case but during a pandemic it can be an invitation for some spit swapping with rather deleterious effects for an elderly and sedentary population. After wall-to-wall people descended into the White Rock waterfront several weeks ago, cramming onto the pier and sidewalks along Marine Drive, White Rock Council took measures to turn the tide of people away. Not only did they block off Canada's Longest Pier, they also took the extra step of closing the large beachfront parking lots and new parkade, loss of revenue be damned. Needless to say with no where to park and not many people wanting to jump on a bus these days, things have quieted down along the promenade with social distancing now easier to manage.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Crescent Beach. It has constantly been featured in TV news broadcasts over the past few weeks and not in a good light. Several weeks ago it was crowds of people at Blackie Spit, on the pier and on the walkway, plus a beautiful couple and 50 of their closest friends having a wedding not far from the point at the middle of the beach. Last week it was a replay but without the wedding with locals complaining that too many people were coming to the waterfront and that the Blackie Spit parking lot should be closed to the public. Fortunately the cold weather we experienced this week coupled with cloudy weather helped to keep crowds to a minimum but Crescent Beach was still busy, with Surrey by-law officers in the area taking counts of people and watching for adherence to safe social distancing.

The Rocky and secluded shores of Crescent Rock Beach between Crescent Beach and White Rock also has its own challenges with respect to Covid-19. There are now signs at the top of the Christopherson Steps (24 Ave.), the 1001 Steps (15A Ave.) and the Olympic Trail staircase (130 St.) in south Surrey posted by the City of Surrey. These inform people "DO NOT ENTER if you have any of the following: fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, difficulty breathing" with more information about social distancing and the BC Centre for Disease Control. While you are instructed to stay at least 2 metres away from other people, these staircases are only 1.5 metres wide. Fortunately there are resting platforms where people can maintain their space but some people seem oblivious to the intricacies of the metric system and simply march on by.

Here is what I witnessed on a trip to Crescent Rock Beach on Sunday afternoon, using the Christopherson Steps for access. At the top of the stairs I met a Surrey bylaw officer who was there doing a count of the persons on the stairs, including looking for people using it for exercising and not just beach access. Hard to believe that during a pandemic people trying to stay healthy are breathing hard and sweating profusely passing other folks in a confined space. At the shoreline there was a group of six young Indo-Canadian men who were having a few wobbly pops and sitting closely together on a log. There were a few couples and some families sitting on blankets with other people simply walking the beach. We sat down enjoying the late day sunshine noting that those at the clothing-optional beach were all dressed for the elements.

The by-law officer I'd met informed me they were sending a report on crowds and social distancing at Crescent Beach to Surrey Council. With the weekly negative television news coverage on crowds drawn to Crescent Beach I would not be surprised to see changes coming that would limit either parking or only allow access to residents. With White Rock doing their best to discourage beach visitors, it puts more pressure on Crescent Beach, which already has its loyal share of followers. I should note here that Metro Vancouver has closed off parking lots to Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen for crowd control. Other local nature areas here that are seeing a huge upswing of visitors are the Serpentine Fen and the Mud Bay Park trail, with parking lots at both of these areas often being full.

The long term forecast for next Sunday is sunny, high of 12 degrees and with 11 hours of bright sunshine. In a regular spring this would be a great day for doing spring clean ups, working in the yard or going to the beach. Let's hope that something is done before then to help flatten the curve of those who might want to drive down to Crescent Beach to catch a few rays, feel sand under their feet or maybe dip their toes into the waters of Boundary Bay. With nearly 550,000 people living in Surrey, Crescent Beach will likely be overwhelmed by people tired of being cooped up in their house or looking for something to do to keep their children happy and occupied. The Covid-19 epidemic can only be stopped if we keep large numbers of people from congregating and Surrey needs to follow White Rock's lead on this issue.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 30, 2020\

Canada Against Covid

Oh land of blue unending skies, Mountains strong and
sparkling snow, A scent of freedom in the wind, O'er
emeralds fields below.
To thee we brought our hopes, our dreams, For thee we stand
together, our land of peace, where proudly flies, The Maple
Leaf forever.


Lyrics to "Maple Leaf Forever", written by Alexander Muir in 1867, the year of Canada's Coronation.


Sung in recent times the Closing Ceremonies for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics by Michael Buble.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYlCGQ628gE&t=2h19m10s

 

One of the things I like to always have on hand is a hockey stick with a Canadian flag taped onto it. I prefer real wood, either a Sherwood or Coho, with a flag I pick up for free from my local MP's office. It really is amazing the times when you can pull it out of the closet, wave it around or put it in the back of the ol' pickup truck before going out for a rip. The Canada Day long weekend is a natural, the Summer and Winter Olympics, International ice hockey games, concerts, camping trips, journeys to the USA and political rallies are always good times for the Maple Leaf. In fact my last Canadian flag Coho combo went missing at a rally in north Surrey for Justin Trudeau before he was first elected Prime Minister. I loaned it to a Liberal supporter who wanted to wave it around at the back of the room and when the event ended he was nowhere to be seen. Only in Surrey, I should have known better than to trust a fellow politico.

I recently had a birthday that was rather anti-climatic considering the party was cancelled with friends and family told to keep their distance due to COVID-19. While that had me down in the dumps, it quickly turned around when my wife gave me my birthday present. There nicely folded and wrapped in shiny cellophane was a brand new Canadian flag. Now this wasn't your dollar store variety or even the cheap "Made in China" ones the Federal government gives out (I kid you not), this flag was the real deal. Made of thick material that is actually sewn together with a triple seam and the Maple Leaf having a wide embroidered border, it measures a true 3' tall x 6' long. For a guy who takes a Canada flag on vacation everywhere he goes that is proudly hung from hotel room railings or adorned on the back window of a bus or van, it truly was an awesome gift.

Now I figured it would likely be a while before I got to finally use my new Canada flag since July 1st is a long way off, its too cold for camping and we are basically house bound. Watching Prime Minister give out his daily address to the nation in front of his home at Rideau Cottage, I was surprised to see that the backdrop did not include a single Canadian flag, just a couple of spruce trees on either side of the doorway still adorned with Christmas lights. Then I got to watch on the news as more and more people went onto their balconies in the west end to applaud and bang pots in support of front line health care workers, a trend that is growing in neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland. It was then that I thought that since as Justin says "We are all in this together" and "We are all members of Team Canada" that it was time to use the good old red and white to inspire Canadians to do their part to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea was to rebrand my old "Canada Flag Day Holiday" Facebook page from 2011 as "Canada Against Covid" encouraging Canadians to put up Canadian flags, plug in red and white Christmas lights plus wear Canada shirts and jockey jerseys as a show of national support. This thought got a great boost when I rolled into the Royal Oaks strata complex in Tsawwassen on Friday. With lots of seniors including some aging war vets, the residents there always put up a great show on Canada day with Canadian flags hung throughout the property. Imagine my surprise when I realized they had beaten me to the punch, with Canada flags flying everywhere and red hearts attached to some of the doors. It turns out that someone there had the same idea as myself and had told their neighbours to sport the red and white as a patriotic display during these dark and deadly days.

You can find the "Canada Against Covid" Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/canadaagainstcovid/ The cover photo shows my brand new Canadian flag attached to our front railing with a string of red and white lights strung across it and me wearing my classic red and white Team Canada Olympic hockey jersey from 2006. The page description reads: "Canadians from coast to coast across the great white north need to come together at this historic time to fight against the COVID-19 virus. Show your support by putting a Canada flag outside your home or in a window. Put Canada car flags on your vehicle. Brighten the night with red and white Christmas lights. Wear Canada apparel including Olympic hockey jerseys. Together we can take the necessary steps to help stop the spread of this disease. Join the fight, put up the Maple leaf and show off your red and white."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 23, 2020


Social Distancing Disgusting

It's no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Navokov
Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me
Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me


Lyrics to "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta album, 1980.

 

Watching the news this weekend reminded me of the classic scene from Cool Hand Luke where the Captain of Road Prison 36 talks about inmate Paul Newman. "What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it; well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men." With daily public health warnings going out from the BC Health Ministry and Dr. Bonnie Henry plus plenty of information about the COVID-19 pandemic from around the world, you'd think people would start to take the risk seriously. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case as we continue to double in coronavirus infections every 3 days; the same rate that has led Italy to over 5,000 deaths so far.

I have avoided people like the plague over the past few weeks, which included cancelling a family birthday party so that all of my family members including my two octogenarian parents would remain safe and healthy. It was actually an easy choice since my father is currently holed up in his basement man cave only 4 days into his 14 day self-isolation after returning home from California. Nobody is dropping by for a visit, we have not gone out to see anybody else and all communication with people has taken place at a distance that could be measured with a 10 foot pole. We decided not to visit Crescent Rock beach this weekend since we realized with many public facilities closed it would likely be a magnet for people, especially with the nice weather. The other issue with going to our beach is that it is accessible only by narrow staircases at the Christopherson Steps and 1001 Steps, or by walking south from Crescent Beach on a strip of shoreline that can be very narrow when the tide is in. No problem, the sun deck was nice and warm and we got plenty of early spring cleaning and gardening done.

Unfortunately it looked to us as though many people did not receive he memo or decided that their well being was more important than the health of society and our elders. I guess a lot of pot peddlers have decided to stay home so the Indigenous Bloom dispensary on Semiahmoo First Nation land was very busy. While staff only allowed a small number of people into the store, folks were lined up waiting outside right next to each other seemingly oblivious of the two metre social distancing rule. This weekend TV news stations on multiple channels showed large crows of people visiting the White Rock pier to enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures. The promenade was also a hot bed of activity with crowds of people making social distancing all but impossible in the middle of the day. By far the most nauseating display of callous disregard for public health had to be the two love-birds who got married with a large throng of their friends and family on Crescent Beach. No word on whether their vows included "In sickness or in health." Across the Salish Sea in Esquimalt, VicPD broke up a raucous house party jammed with young adults who believed their youth made them "immune" to the virus. Absolutely astonishing ignorance.

I have to admit that I was rather taken back by the polar opposite views that I saw on Global TV on Sunday night. After watching story after story regarding the COVID-19 pandemic it was time for a well needed commercial break. Onto the screen came an ad for Molson Ultra, formerly Molson 67 that is a low calorie light beer. The spot featured a bunch of younger people with plenty of women in close contact to each other. It went on something like "We know about apres ski, and apres yoga, and that apres weird cardio jazz class so why not apres together with Molson Ultra? It turns out that in the worst marketing timing ever, Molson has just launched a national advertising campaign for their light beer, "aimed at drinkers interested in health and wellness." The two ads they are airing feature 25-35 year old women enjoying a Molson Ultra as a social reward for completing health-related activities. These ads need to be pulled immediately as the best health related activity these days is staying home and away from other people, not hanging with your friends.

As much as I would like to think that people will follow orders and do the right thing, in the end the idjits and morons among us will ensure that the coronavirus continues to spread and the death count soars. I believe it will take an absolute lock down and "test, test, test" as recommended by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to slow this pandemic. With President Trump declaring California a major disaster area due to COVID-19 and Everett in Washington State directing residents to "shelter in place" it shows that some jurisdictions are putting health concerns ahead of civil liberties. Here in Canada this weekend, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency while Northwest Territories shut its borders to people who are not residents. Our Federal government has both the Quarantine Act and the Emergencies Act they can use to help stop this pandemic before it is too late. I suspect it will only be after the morgues are full and our health care system is swamped that Justin Trudeau will use these extraordinary powers to quarantine the Canadian population and hopefully stop the COVID-19 spread.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 16, 2020

Panic-demic

 

I had to watch in utter dismay as people faced with reports of increasing Novel Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) infections resorted to panic buying. Now I can see why people would want sanitary masks, disinfectant and hand sanitizer, but toilet paper? News flash folks, there is no need to be hoarding toilet paper unless you are brainless sheeple (sheepel in the USA). Images of citizenry lining up by the hundreds outside of Costcos, Walmarts and other big box stores shows us all the media created paranoia involving Covid-19. You have to wonder what is going through people's heads when you see them leaving a store with enough toilet paper to build a fort in their living room. This may be the "Me Too" era but these fools are showing us they live in a "Me First" reality. What is next, people lining up outside of Cabellas and rushing in to buy guns and as much ammo as their pick up trucks will hold?

The run on toilet paper by many in our society only goes to show the effect that the news and social media has on our daily lives. Unfortunately the fear that has been created by reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic has led to rash purchasing decisions that have nothing to do with reality. People who are now sitting at home with stacks of toilet paper they do not need should take a long look in the mirror and realize the bigger the A-hole the more toilet paper is needed. The Newton Costco sees a rush for toilet paper every morning when they open the doors. The local Wal-Mart and Super Store in South Surrey have had their shelves cleaned out like a babies butt. I'm sure that the Save on Foods and Safeway have seen similar panic buying happen and I really don't care. We have our usual stash of ass-wipe and I'm not going to join the herd mentality and fill a buggy with something I don't need just because some other morons thought it was a prudent thing to do.

What is interesting is that most people fail to realize that we have our very own toilet paper plant here in the Lower Mainland just off Stewardson Way in New Westminster. That is where you will find Kruger Products (www.kruger.com) that is Canada's largest producer of tissue paper products. You will likely know many of the brand names they produce, Cashere and Purex bathroom tissues, the White Swan line of products plus Scotties facial tissues and Sponge Towels. With the increased demand due to COVID-19 panic buying, Kruger has responded and is now running three shifts a day to up their production. Sorry to say but in a pinch you can use facial tissues, serviettes, or even pieces of paper towel to clean up after a #2 bathroom break. Almost every public washroom has large industrial rolls of toilet paper (made by Kruger) and nobody is counting how many sheets you use or take. For anyone who has camped in the great white north, old-school newspaper works in a pinch as does the old standard, a hand full of leaves.

While COVID-19 makes all the headlines the season influenza strains are packing morgues across the planet without raising a headline. I know a couple of guys who recently contracted it, one threw up so hard he blew the blood vessels in an eye turning it bright red. The other dry heaved for so long he was left with a forehead and eye lids that were red, looking like he had a sunburn. For the 2019/2020 influenza season the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates in the US the flu has caused 34 million sicknesses, 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths so far without causing any panic buying. If you really want to be scared, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates roughly 1.35 million people die annually due to traffic accidents with 20-50 million people getting injured. Even with these numbers, I don't see governments calling for roads to be blocked and for cars to be kept in the garage.

That being said, the COVID-19 virus is nothing to be sneezed at, especially if you are older. The infections have now leveled off in China but are rising worldwide to a total so far of over 135,000 with Iran, Italy Europe and the United States now seeing significant growth in this disease. Early data shows that the Corona virus is much more virulent than the flu causing death in 2.3% of all cases in Wuhan China, vs. 0.1% for the seasonal flu. Where COVID-19 really gets scary is with the elderly that see a 6% fatality rate for those aged 60 and above, with 18% death rate for people over 80. Social distancing and preventive measures should reduce peak infections and hopefully not exceed health care capability to deal with the outbreak. More than wearing masks or hoarding toilet paper, properly washing your hands, not touching your face, avoiding crowded conditions and close contact with other people are the best way to stay healthy. If you do feel sick, STAY HOME and self quarantine, good advice whether the COVID-19, the flu or the common cold.

In case you are not familiar with them here are the main symptoms of a COVID-19 infection as experienced by those infected in China. Please note that the coronavirus rarely causes a runny nose easily distinguishing it from the common cold.

 

If you want to keep track of the COVID-19 outbreak and see data on its spread and control on a worldwide basis them check out the rest of the detailed scientific data posted on the Our World In Data website at https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus It uses daily data from the World Health Organization to help track this new illness in countries around the globe. In case you were wondering, Canada's COVID-19 infections have doubled in the past three days alone with 244 total and 68 new cases just on March 15, while the USA doubled in four days to 1678 cases with zero new cases on Sunday, a number that sounds rather suspect. Worldwide COVID-19 infections have doubled in 24 days with approximately 135,500 reported illnesses including nearly 11,000 new cases on Sunday alone. Amazingly they have no information on how huge stockpiles of toilet paper will keep you save from this disease.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

The Naked Truth - March 9, 2020

What The Truck is Going On?

 

'Cause we got a great big convoy
Rockin' through the night
Yeah, we got a great big convoy
Ain't she a beautiful sight
C'mon and join our Convoy
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy
'Cross (all of Surrey)
Convoy
Convoy


Lyrics to "Convoy", song by C.W. McCall, Black Bear road album, 1975

I have to admit I have a fine collection of cheater roads that make crossing from one end of Surrey to the other a breeze even in rush hour. I'm not going to itemize them here lest they become jammed with commuters who learn all of my driving secrets. The one I will share is Colebrook Road from King George Blvd (the KGB) to 160 St. This rather antiquated roadway that is covered with an anti-slip coating due to the road angle allows you to miss the 8-way traffic light at 152 St and #10 Hwy. Unfortunately it can also mean you occasionally get stopped by a train on the CN tracks but even these can be watched for. I can put this cheat in my TNT because the word is certainly out on this little short-cut with a non-stop string of cars using this road to get from Cloverdale down to Hwy 99 or the Semi-pen.

With this former farming roadway floating on peat bog, Colebrook Road is probably the worst road in Surrey to drive on. It is full of bumps and dips and in the winter gets pockmarked with potholes, some big enough to flatten a tire or dent a rim. The Surrey road maintenance crews try their best to patch up Colebrook but with the vehicle traffic it sees these days this is a never ending chore. The road is also off limits to large truck traffic with a 10,000 Kg limit for vehicles traveling down a road so notorious the Mud Bay Blues Band even did a song about it. You would never know about this weight limit by the large amount of semi-truck traffic that rolls unimpeded down Colebrook every morning and evening. The reason is that several farms in this region have apparently been turned into illegal truck parks on farm land.

The Agricultural Land Commission does not allow the following on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) property:
Fill placement or removal of soil on ALR land;
Aggregate extraction;
Parking or storage of commercial or industrial vehicles;
Operating a commercial business unrelated to farming;
Construction of buildings other than a principal residence without a permit;
Impacting/obstructing a watercourse.
Unfortunately with several ALR properties south of #10 highway and north of the Serpentine River from 157 St. to 160 St. land owners are flagrantly disregarding the rules over farmland use. You don't have to be a detective to see this, simply go to Surrey's Cosmos mapping system that includes satellite imagery at https://cosmos.surrey.ca/external/
By far the worst case of flagrantly ignoring the rules on ALR usage not to mention ripping up the asphalt on Colebrook has to be the home at 5192 157 St. The latest image off Cosmos shows 32 trailers stored on the property plus a large number of the tractor trucks that tow them. It is interesting how all of these trailers got to the property off roads not allowing vehicles with GVW over 10,000 Kg. Just south of there at 5050 157 St, another graveled farm has 6 more truck trailers parked in a gravel lot. Nearby at 15832 Colebrook Road, a mansion with a massive graveled parking lot has 7 more trailers and several tractor units.

Why the Surrey By-laws and the ALC are doing nothing about these properties remains a mystery, especially with the damage from heavy trucks being inflicted on Colebrook Road. I realize the RCMP are busy in Surrey but I think if they put even one squad car on Colebrook for several hours in the morning and evening they would be able to ticket multiple semi-trucks for being on this rural farm road. If you believe as I do that farmland should be farmed and growing food, these delinquent properties can be reported to the ALC at the following website: https://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/alc/content/alc-act-alr-regulation/compliance-and-enforcement/unauthorized-use-of-alr-land

On that page is a tab to download the Compliance and Enforcement Land Use Activity Report Form in order to get these properties on the radar. Check out the Cosmos site on the Surrey.ca website to get a grasp on the size of this problem in only this half mile square piece of Surrey.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

The ALC responds to information brought to its attention that may involve activity that contravenes the ALC Act. If you witness, are aware of, or have concerns over any activities on ALR land that appears to be unauthorized, consider if the activity may be permitted under the ALC Act or ALR Land Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation. If you believe that the activity is not permitted and you would like to submit a report to the ALC C&E team, the Compliance and Enforcement Land Use Activity Report Form must be completed and submitted to the email address: ALRLandUseConcern@gov.bc.ca.

 

March 3, 2020

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

I don't have a problem with authority, it's stupid bureaucracy that drives me nuts and why I usually try to avoid dealing with governmental departments at all levels. Unfortunately sometimes this cannot be avoided and so you grit your teeth and control your temper while having to deal with the pencil pushers and all of their asinine ridiculous rules that give them the sense of control and validate their pathetic existence. That being said, let this TNT begin.

In my yard in South Surrey I have planted over 60 trees in the past decade on top of the ones that were already here including five that are now covered under Surrey' s tree protection bylaw. Recently I had two trees that needed to come down; a cherry planted just outside my front door and a diseased maple at the side of the property. While the maple was not protected the gnarly cherry needed a tree permit issued by City Hall. I was well aware of this fact and started the process by making my online application.

While that was painless, I had to drive all the way to the Whalley city hall to pick up and pay for my tree permit. This cost $517 including a $400 deposit for tree inspections once a replacement tree had been planted and a year later to confirm the tree was still healthy and growing. No problem, cost of doing business I told myself plus the tree work would all be on the up and up. My arborist buddy from D&S Tree Care came over, we quickly turned the trees into cordwood and stuffed the branches into the chipper. A little later my friend The Stump Doctor dropped by with his machine to grind out the stumps. Total cost for this work was $735 not including the permit.

Of course I still had to plant my replacement tree but had been preparing for this moment once I decided years ago that the cherry that allowed squirrels onto the roof of the house had to go. I had come across a Ginko tree sapling five years back and transplanted it into my back yard with the idea of moving it into the front yard when it was big enough. This living fossil dating back 270 million years had already grown to over 6 metres in height. With help from a friend we dug it up with a big root ball and managed to move it into the front yard for planting. The spot I picked for it was at my side yard where the rotten maple had been removed from. We installed the Ginko with organic topsoil, bone meal and lots of water. Happy with the job I took a picture of this tree and forwarded it back to the city for their approval and to get my first 200 bucks back.

That is where the problem started. Surrey's tree inspector came out and reported that the tree was too close to the property line plus too close to my "parking spot" a gravelled area beside my driveway that I use as a storage and work area. I had missed the rules about how the tree could be no closer than a metre from the property line even though it was in the same spot as the diseased maple that had been cut down. The best part was finding out that any reinspection would cost me an additional $200, something not mentioned anywhere on the Surrey.ca website.

So now the fight begins with city hall. I could have told them the Ginko tree in the back yard was newly planted, thrown some topsoil around it and had it passed. As it sits, I will probably have to dig out the Ginko from its new home, drag it back into the rear of the property, plant it where it came from then move it in a year's time. There is no other space in my yard that will accommodate a mature Ginko down the road. The other option is to rip the 20' tall Ginko out, throw it in the back of my truck and dump it at the front doors of city hall with a note telling them to take my $400 and shove it.

What is ridiculous about their one metre rule is that all of the trees in my yard are planted at or near property lines. This ensures maximum light, maximum space, plus improves their survival when the house is bulldozed and a new mansion is built. With new development, trees away from property lines all get bulldozed, something they need to take into account. I talked to my neighbour about all of my tree plans before starting this project and he was thrilled about having a new Ginkno tree to enjoy at no cost to him. It apparently makes no difference to Surrey that the new tree is planted where the old maple was, rules are rules you know.

Another weakness with Surrey's tree replacement rules are the list of reccomended replacement trees. They are only guidelines, you can plant anything you want but they control where you can put it. If you want to plant a native Douglas fir that can hit over 150 feet tall, go for it. Want to plant a fast growing but soon dangerous poplar or cottonwood, have at her. What is really hysterical is that one of the recommended trees over 20 m tall is the Giant Redwood. These are the largest trees in the world, reaching up to 380 feet tall and with names like Stratosphere Giant, Hyperion and General Sherman. I'm not sure why they are worried about trees closer than a metre from property lines when these massive trees can grow to 30 feet across.

Who knows where this lunacy will end but hopefully my Ginko tree can stay where it is after I talk to the people in the tree department this week. If not, maybe I'll rip out the banana grove in the middle of my front yard and plant a nice big Redwood. The neighbour across the street planted one when he moved in that was only two feet tall. It was 40 feet high when we moved in and has now doubled to at least 80 feet. Sorry to say that if I knew what a big pain in the butt this was going to be I would have quietly pruned off a branch at a time from my old cherry until it died a death from a thousand cuts. I would have saved a lot of money and still had my Ginko tree where I wanted it to be.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 24, 2020


Keep Our Beaches Clean - Dump On The BNSF

 

When I first moved to the Semiahmoo peninsula I became aware of the danger posed to passing BNSF trains by landslides originating from the Ocean Park bluffs. Walking from Crescent Beach to White Rock I got to inspect multiple slide sites along the way and how hilltop residents were cutting trees for views while also draining run-off water onto the slopes above the tracks. My biggest concern was the passing BNSF freight trains, often laden with tankers of petroleum products and hazardous chemicals running next to the waterfront that is lined with large jagged boulders. Depending on the product being carried, a derailment along the BNSF tracks here could have a ruinous effect on the Semiahmoo Bay marine environment.

Year after year starting in 2003 I visited our local train tracks during wet and stormy weather to inspect landslide sites, climbing the steep hillside of the Ocean Park bluff to check out the slide origin. Often these started at the edge of peoples yards where trees had been cut on BNSF property and with big-o drain pipe sticking out of the very top of the slope failure. I have seen many slide sites and became aware that the BNSF Railway simply dug out the mudslide debris from the corridor and placed it on the seaward side of the tracks. Being mud, it would then flow outwards onto the rocky shoreline between Crescent Beach and White Rock. Sometimes these debris fans were several metres deep and covering large areas, with volumes often between 10 and 100 dump truck loads of fill.

At the end of January we had a pineapple express, now renamed as an "atmospheric river" take aim on the south coast delivering copious amounts of rain to an already saturated region. I knew there would be mudslides onto the rail corridor and was not surprised when it was reported that the tracks were closed due to slides. Unfortunately due to recent knee surgery I could not visit the slope failures located just south of Crescent Beach. The knee is now healed, the stitches removed and I'm much more mobile, allowing me to do things like take the dogs for a walk or go to the beach. When I finally made it down to the shoreline south of the 101 Steps, I really was not shocked to learn that the BNSF Railway is continuing their behaviour of dumping landslide debris onto the shoreline of Crescent Rock Beach in south Surrey. 

There are three slide zones just south of the 24 Ave. Christopherson Steps staircase (aka 101 Steps) south of Crescent Beach. The largest one measures 15 x 7 metres in size by 1 metre deep or the equivalent of 7 dump truck loads of fill. To make matters worse, this slide material was dumped in the very same area as another slide on Jan 10, 2018 that was also excavated onto the waterfront. It covered a large portion of the beach frequented by naturists and made it unusable for beach recreation for two years until storm waves eventually washed this muddy debris away. This is an area where sandy beach is at a premium and the burying of this spot once again means it will likely be unusable for another two years. It is unknown how many other new slide dump sites there are on the 6.5 km. of shoreline between Crescent Beach and White Rock.

I always report this illegal dumping to BC's RAPP line, DFO's Observe Record Report line, the RCMP and Ministry of Transportation, there appears to be no consequences to the BNSF Railway and no court action has been taken against them. For some historical perspective, this comes after a March 2007 DFO investigation found the BNSF in violation of the Fisheries Act for this type of dumping and a March 2009 slide near Kwomais Point that was excavated into the ocean where a dead sea otter was found directly next to the debris field. I have reported slide debris excavated onto shoreline here used by sand lance and surf smelt for breeding to the Department of Fisheries (DFO) twice over the past two years but have never been informed of the results of their investigations.

I'm left wondering what it will take to stop the BNSF Railway from using the shores of Semiahmoo Bay as their private dumping ground? Besides writing about this in the White Rock Sun, I sent a news release with slide photos to the major TV stations, radio stations, Vancouver Sun and Province plus Black Press. Our former MP Gordie Hogg, the new MP Kerry-Lynn Findlay, MLA Tracy Reddies plus Mayor Doug MacCallum and the entire Surrey Council know about this latest slide dump next to the tracks. The same goes for the Federal Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau and the BC Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena plus BC Environment Minister George Heyman. I've also shared my information with Chief Harley Chappell of the Semiahmoo First Nation and the Friends of the Semiahmoo Bay Society. 

What we need are pissed off people to start making a big stink about this illegal dumping onto our beaches. I know if I were to show up with dump trucks of muddy fill and start dumping them on the public beaches of White Rock or Crescent Beach that the RCMP would show up and arrest me in a matter of minutes. Why do we tolerate an American railway dumping debris from their train tracks onto our beaches, especially when it often contains garbage consisting of drain pipes, landslide detector fence and poles, used car tires and old household debris? Do we need to follow the indigenous people's lead and blockade train tracks to bring some attention to this problem? I certainly hope not, there are better ways to protest or make a point without being an a-hole.

You can help by taking the time to report illegal dumping from the BNSF Railway onto the shores of Semiahmoo Bay. It can be reported as an environmental crime to the RCMP through Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477. The DFO ORR line can be reached toll-free at 1-800-465-4336, 604-607-4186 in Greater Vancouver or by email at DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca The latest incident that happened on January 31 has three areas of mudslide debris burying the beach 200-400 m. south of the 24 Ave staircase south of Crescent Beach. This material that damaged fish habitat was excavated off the tracks by BNSF crews as reported by their spokesperson Gus Melonas. Please take a minute to make a phone call or send an email. It is 2020 and its time that this illegal dumping was stopped.

Over the past 10 years I have written a number of articles on rail safety and slope stability here in The White Rock Sun. I will continue to monitor and report on the situation until someone, does something.
April 15, 2019 - Freak Sliding Away
March 19, 2018 - BNSF Burying Crescent Beach
April 3, 2017 - BNSF Buries Nude Beach
Jan. 10, 2011 - Calling the BNSF's Bluff
Dec. 20, 2010 - Muddy Tracks Lead To Trouble

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 18, 2020

Slip Slidin' Away

 

She said a good day
Ain't got no rain
She said a bad day's when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been
Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away
Lyrics to Paul Simon's song Slip Slidin' Away, 1977.

 

 

It has been nice to finally have a reprieve from the gloomy wet weather we have been experiencing much of the new year. January saw 22nd consecutive days of precipitation with 245 millimeters of precipitation falling, 55% above the monthly average of 158 mm. This figure also included 34 cm. of snowfall during the month with much of that coming during an arctic outflow period. In total the precipitation that fell was the fifth highest ever recorded in January for this region. An "atmospheric river", aka pineapple express that struck at month's end dumped much more precipitation on February 1st onto the Semiahmoo peninsula where the ground was already saturated. Combined with strong winds that caused trees to sway putting pressure on soaked soil, it was inevitable that landslides would result. 

Not surprisingly the steep hills of the Ocean Park bluffs were once again on the move with several mudslides falling from the hillside onto the BNSF Railway corridor. The largest of these buried the tracks over 1.5 metres deep just south of the Christopherson Steps pedestrian overpass and the western end of 24 Avenue in South Surrey. BNSF crews went to work removing the debris from he railway and performing geotechnical inspections of the slope failures to ensure the hillside was once again stable. Normally after slide events such as these I take the time to perform a "Track Watch" inspection of the 6.5 km. of rail between Crescent Beach and White Rock. Unfortunately due to recent knee surgery I was in no shape to go for such a long grueling hike on uneven and challenging terrain.

It turns out that the Ocean Park bluff wasn't the only hillside in the Semiahmoo Peninsula that was the site of a major slope failure. A friend of mine out paddling on the Nicomekyl River reported he had seen a large slide from a residence located just west of Elgin Heritage Park on Crescent Road. While he did not snap any pictures, he described a large slide from the top of the hill very near the house that tore down the hillside to the river, clearing all of the trees in its path. A series of wooden steps that had been built on the hillside were destroyed and left in shambles. He reported that long pieces of large black plastic hose could be seen in the muddy debris, likely Big-O pipe draining water from the yard above onto the hill. While I have yet to talk to the owners of this property, the house was already close to the edge before the slide and it is unknown if this slope failure has endangered the safety of the dwelling.

White Rock didn't go unspared by the heavy deluge this rain event brought to the City by the Sea. The Coldicutt Ravine was seriously damaged by multiple mudslides covering the trail connecting Marine Drive to the waterfront. Some of these slides covered the trail and buried steps while whole trees and hillsides washed down into the water channel at the bottom of the ravine. This popular beach access point is now closed and blocked off and likely will be this way for some time into the future because of all the damage. The ravine heading down from the from Ruth Johnson Park at Centennial Arena also was severely damaged by this storm. The trail nearest the Eva Bene Butterfly Garden was the scene of multiple slope failures that covered the trail and destroyed wooden stairs that had been built there. As with Coldicutt, this trail is now closed and will likely stay that way for some time. 

Amazingly even with all of the rain the deforested Hump hillside between west and east beach still held its own and the slope in this region remained stable. It is not as though this hillside is not a concern to the City of White Rock. There have been multiple previous slope failures the last time this slope was cleared over a hundred years ago. The retaining walls and cracks in the pavement on Marine Drive have been studied for ground motion and possible structural failure affecting the city services under the roadway. In order to ensure slope stability in this area, the city is planning on putting pilings deep into the ground along Marine Drive this year to hold everything in place. No word yet on when this work will start, how much it will cost or what impact it will have on traffic along Marine Drive.

Predicting landslides in the Semi-Pen is not rocket science, all you need is a rain gauge set out in your back yard. If the ground is already heavily saturated and we receive two inches of rain in a 48 hour period, you can guarantee that mud will be flowing from the hills around here. Draining water onto steep slopes, having drain fields at hill top and the cutting of trees for views all greatly increase the risks of causing slope failure. These landslides pose a risk to anything below including BNSF trains along the Ocean Park bluffs plus can literally leave a home hanging on the edge with massive slope remediation bills or the building being condemned. If you think the danger is not real consider that back in the early 1960's an English gardener living in a cottage along Crescent Road was killed in a mudslide that covered his home. 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 10, 2020 

Trudeau's True Doo

"I see you've got your list out, say your piece and get out
Guess I get the gist of it, but it's alright
Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey
The shoe is on the hand it fits, there's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit 'cause it's alright
Oh well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say and it's alright
(Lyrics to "Touch of Grey", Grateful Dead, 1987)
"

 

The Naked Truth usually revolves around subjects of a local nature and importance to the residents of the Semiahmoo Peninsula but this week I thought I'd let my hair down and broaden my horizons. One of the reasons for this is that I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself with my wonky knee bandaged and stitched after undergoing arthroscopic surgery. It wasn't like I did something to hurt myself, Father Time simply came up and kicked my butt with my body breaking down due to old age and years of abuse. Add to that my long curly locks are gone, the thick dark brown hair is fading being slowly replaced with silver and grey plus a rapidly receding hairline. Something tells me it might be time to update the TNT photo of myself taken on a white sand beach at Cayo Largo, Cuba a decade ago.

Enough about me, its time to talk about the heir (hair?) apparent, none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Let's face it, the younger Trudeau's locks have been the focal point of plenty of discussions throughout the years, including the flattering "Nice hair though" comment used in a Conservative attack ad. When he first took over the Liberal Party in 2013 at the age of 41 his boyish good looks and flowing locks garnered him the title of "World's Hottest Leader." Since that time his stylist has gradually shortened his hair so that he now beginning to look more Prime Ministerial and less GQ Model. If you check out photos of him online you will notice there seems to be a wide variation of hair colours over the years from chestnut brown to damn near black but silver and grey are never seen his head.

The start of 2020 heralded a new page in the on-going saga of Trudeau's hair but this time it was a stubbly beard that was unveiled to the public in the first week of January. Fresh off the Christmas holidays it looked as if our PM decided the Millennial beard look was in and he decided to join the hipster crowd. Don't get me wrong, I regularly grow a beard in the winter because it keeps my chin warm during cold weather and allows me to save money on expensive Gillette blade refills. What was fascinating about Trudeau's beard was not the length or chosen style, it was the fact that it was salt-and-pepper colour. Now when father time started to show up on me, it began with my hair on top, worked its way into my beard and is now slowly working its way south to the nether regions (TMI?). If the curtains were to match the carpet, Justin should have some grey hair on top, leading me to suspect our leader uses the dreaded brown shampoo.

In the case of father-like-son, Pierre Trudeau had plenty of grey hair plus a receding hairline when he became Prime Minister at the age of 48, the same age Justin is now. To see how the stress of being leader puts the years on a person, check out how Stephen Harper went from having light brown hair with some grey at age 47 to almost totally silver Phil Donahue look-a-like in only nine years as P.M. Barack Obama went from almost black to nearly white (hair that is) in his two terms as US President that began when he was 47. It was Obama who gave Trudeau some hair advice nearly four years ago saying “I indicated to him that if, in fact, you plan to keep your dark hair, then you have to start dyeing it early. You hit a certain point when “it’s too late. You’ll be caught.” In fact only Donald Trump seems to not be going grey but varnish tends to yellow as does fiberglass with epoxy coating.

Now we have all seen the pictures of Trudeau from the past changing the colour of his skin to a much darker tone, so is it such a jump to believe that the Prime Minister dyes his hair? These days getting rid of grey is as easy as grabbing a box of Just For Men, Clairol Natural Instincts For Men, Redeken For Men 5 Minute Camo plus countless others. If you are an older Canadian you likely remember Montreal Canadian's Maurice "The Rocket" Richard commercial for Grecian Formula 16 where Jean Bellevue opens the penalty box door telling him "Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good." We might have to revamp Clairol's famous slogan "Does she or doesn't she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure" and change the "her" to 'him" for Justin. Regardless, I thought it would be fun to be the first columnist in Canada to openly question how Trudeau is keeping his youthful hair colour while sporting a greying beard?

I can't be bothered dying my hair as it is getting to the point that I'm just glad there is still some there to cut. I've noticed at the barber shop the cut hair on the floor is noticeably darker than what they leave on my head. I'm becoming living testament to the saying "If you live long enough you'll start to resemble your father." Given enough time its amazing how many men end up looking like a sad-sack Santa. I figure there are easier ways to look younger than dyeing your hair anyways. I simply put on a ball cap from any major sporting team and I lose ten years right away. Turn the hat sideways and I lose another ten, pull it over my ears and I'm almost half my age. No creams, no dyes, no plastic gloves, no instructions needed. Throw in a thick gold chain, a couple of tattoos plus a nose ring and I might even be cool again.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


 

February 03, 32020


What The Tuk-Tuk?

I must admit that in my limited time in Asia including a four-day stop in Hong-Kong and a one night stay in Bangkok, Thailand, I never got to ride in a tuk-tuk. For the uninitiated they are a three wheeled trike also known as an auto rickshaw that is a motorized version of the traditional man-powered or cycle rickshaw. There are many version but the regular style has a steel frame with sheet metal sides covering a small front cabin for the driver with handlebar controls a sloped roof with or without drop-down side curtains and a cargo/passenger area at the rear. Propulsion in early years came from small 2-cycle gas motors with LNG and electric motors now becoming commonplace, especially in congested cities. They are commonly used as a form of urban transportation in subtropical or developing countries, both as a taxi and for private use.

Now imagine my surprise when I parked near the London Drugs at the Peninsula Village Mall recently and I saw this strange looking vehicle tucked (pun) against the far side of the lot. I went up and checked out this bizarre tricycle that was teal in colour with brown seats and room for a driver and lots of cargo or passengers. Unfortunately nobody came out of the store while I circled this rather unique vehicle and it was still there when my shopping was done. I left a White Rock Sun business card tucked into the handlebars with a note that I was interested in talking to the owner about this rather unusual mode of transportation. If I had been on the ball I might have asked the manager of London Drugs if he knew who owned the tuk-tuk parked outside the store as it turned out it was an employee who contacted me several days later.

Dave Thiele lives in the south Surrey area not far from the Semiahmoo Mall. In 2012 he was diagnosed with brain cancer which caused him to lose not ony his full-time job but also his driver's license. Looking for another way to get around he purchased an electric two-wheeled bike but suffering from focal seizures, he ended up falling down on the side of the road and getting injured. Going back to the drawing board, Dave researched other modes of transportation and located an electric tuk tuk on the Alibaba website. Manufactured in China it seats up to 6 people, weighs 250 Kg., has a 80 Km. range and is powered by 3 car batteries. His tuk tuk has a maximum speed of 35 Km/h and handles surprisingly well without spending any time on two wheels instead of three. With the tuk tuk being only one metre wide, it easily fits into local bike lanes that measure 1.4-1.8 metres across.

This tuk tuk was purchased off the Alibaba.com website and custom built to specifications for around $2,500. Getting it into Canada was no easy task since it does not fall neatly into the parameters for electric personal vehicles or electric bikes. By the time the tuk-tuk was delivered, shipping costs and Canadian taxes nearly doubled the overall price. The savings on gasoline and insurance plus little to no maintenance or repairs means that this vehicle will pay for itself in he short term while giving Dave freedom to move around the peninsula in the network of bike lanes. To say that Dave's tuk tuk draws a crowd would be an understatement as people often stop him on his travels to learn about his 3-wheeled electric bike. He has become a big of a celebrity known as "Tuk Tuk Dave" since he has the only vehicle like in it in the Semi-Pen. There are only a couple more in town, one in Vancouver being utilized to shuttle between food kiosks and another on the North Shore being used by someone with mobility issues.

It has been 20 years since the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulations have been changed in the province of BC. In that time we have become worried about global warming and climate change, carbon pollution and getting drivers out of gasoline powered vehicles. Uber and Lyft have now finally started operations, years after they have opened up in cities across the planet. As we move into the future with electric vehicles leading the charge (ha-ha), we need to ensure that we do not exempt two and three wheeled vehicles from our roads due to outdated and onerous regulations. Currently in BC tuk tuks would not be able to be used as a taxi vehicle, even in high tourist areas or crowded city centres. With E-tuks as they are known now being sold in cities in the US, South Africa, Europe and south-east Asia, it makes sense that plan for their use here and in Vancouver that wants to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.

For more information on zero emission tuk tuks and their multitude of uses, please visit the following links:
http://etukusa.com/
https://etukfactory.com/

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 27, 2020


Freezing My Tail Feathers Off

 

 

 

Heading off to Mexico for a mid-winter vacation always means plenty of preparations before finally boarding the plane. You make lists and try to think of everything so that hopefully the world will not end and you will have a home to return to. We were lucky to have a family member live in our house during our holiday, looking after our dogs plus keeping an eye on the place. When we left the long range forecast did not look great but after only a short time away outflow winds and deep freeze temperatures were called for. Sorry to say that I had not planned for Alberta type weather and there were things that got overlooked. A quick WhatsApp phone call ensured that tropical palm trees and succulent cactus were hauled into the house from their makeshift greenhouses on both of our sun decks. Then I had to ask my long-suffering mother if she would look after feeding the hummingbirds.

For years now we have been feeding Anna's hummingbirds here near Crescent Beach, which unlike the Rufus hummingbirds that migrate to Mexico in winter (smart), now stay in the Lower Mainland year round. It is believed the proliferation of hummingbird feeders, increases in average temperature plus the introduction of winter flowering plants have spread this purple throated hummingbird's range so that they are now been taking up residence in the interior of the province. These tiny birds use nectar or sugar water as an energy source plus forage for small insects that provides them with protein and essential minerals and amino acids. For most of the year it is a simply job of mixing the 1/4 cup sugar into one cup of water to create the syrup (with no red dye) and ensuring that the feeder is scrupulously clean and free of mold or mildew.

The issue is what to do when the weather turns cold and the feeders begin to freeze just as the hummingbirds need energy the most. There are plenty of ways to deal with this problem but most require you actually being home to deal with them. The easiest way is to bring in feeders at night and put them out before daybreak when hummers as we call them first start to feed. Of course this means you need to be up early every day, weekends be damned. Frozen feeders can have any metal parts removed and be put in the microwave for thawing, taking care they are not hot when put outside. Some folks have several feeders, rotating them throughout the day to ensure that the hummers are not only well fed, but have warmed food for their cold little bodies. During the day a thick thermal sock pulled over the feeder helps to retain heat.

When cold snaps happen while I'm home, I move the feeder from in front of our kitchen window to a nearby porch light that I leave on. The lamp has an older incandescent 60W light bulb in it providing heat and the feeder is wired on so that it sits next to the glass. My folks use a similar system, hanging an older model automotive work light with a 100W rough service incandescent bulb under their feeder. Outdoor incandescent Christmas lights can also be strung in a ball below feeders with their collective heat keeping the syrup from freezing in the feeder. A buddy told me their friend wires an empty essential oil diffuser under their hummer feeder and the small heater unit provides enough warm to keep the syrup flowing. By far the most inventive method I've heard of is customers of mine who taped Hot-Shot chemical hand warmer pads to the bottom of their pan styled feeder. You can now buy commercial feeder heaters including Hummer Hearth if the $50 price tag doesn't scare you away.

During the recent snowmageddon the Wildlife Rescue Association reported they had received over 75 calls from people who had found frozen or starving hummingbirds. In their medical building they had over a dozen hummingbirds at once that people had dropped off to be nursed back to health. Last week my friend at work came to me with a small Anna hummingbird that he had found laying on the ground. The little bird was soaked with rain with its tiny feathers clinging to its obviously dead body. I put a dime next to it for scale and took the picture that you see just above. For a person who had just brought a beaded hummingbird ornament home from the beach at La Manzanilla I see top of TNT), it was quite a sobering moment. Our yard is full of winter flowing shrubs for Anna's to forage on and our feeder is always kept thawed. If you want to feed overwintering hummingbirds you must keep your feeder warm and available or you risk killing the very birds you are trying to help.

For more information about Anna's hummingbirds and how to safety feed them in winter please refer to the following links:
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Annas_Hummingbird/id
http://www.seattleaudubon.org/sas/Learn/SeasonalFacts/Hummingbirds.aspx

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

January 20, 2020


Digging Your Own Snowy Grave

As usual when we travel in January, we arrived home to find that the Lower Mainland had been turned into a winter wonderland. After both of the last two winter pilgrimages to warmer lands down south, the taxi that brought us home from the airport had to park on the street because there was too much snow in the driveway. My mother was staying in the house dog-sitting and at age 81 I had instructed her not to shovel any snow and instead asked the neighbour to simply carve a path from the road to the front door in case of significant snowfall. After trudging our luggage inside and unpacking, the very first job I undertook was to dig out the yard. With six inches of the white stuff plus plenty by the roadway from passing plow trucks, it was a heavy arduous job.

Even though I am in good physical shape and accustomed to digging, I know that snow shoveling can be dangerous due to the sheer weight and volume of snow, especially when it is allowed to build up, which was the case in this instance. Back in the early 1970's our neighbour was a nice Dutch man in his eighties named Mr. Kohey. He lived across the road with his wife in a home that had a large semi-circular driveway. While this meant you could always drive forwards, it also ensured there was twice as much blacktop as any other home in the neighbourhood. After a heavy snowfall, Mr. Kowie went out to clear his driveway, armed with a push shovel consisting of two foot square of plywood screwed onto a five foot length of 2x4. He managed to clear nearly two thirds of the snow before suffering a major heart attack and dying. I never forgot this incident and as I get older take extra care myself now that I'm above 55 years old.

I usually talk to people about taking care when shovelling after a heavy dump of snow, which is tough to do when laying on a beach with a margarita in my hand. One of my good shooting buddies Oliver who is my age and lives in White Rock never got the memo from me about the increased risk of heart attack from shoveling snow. Last week after the outflow snows he went outside to clear walkways, stairs and parking areas around his property on Columbia Street. His wife went off to work and was there when she received an urgent call from Peace Arch Hospital. It turns out a Transit driver had spotted Oliver laying in the snow near a bus stop with his shovel beside him. The driver stopped and administered CPR while 911 was called. Unfortunately even with help from emergency services and hospital staff, Oliver could not be resuscitated. It is believed he succumbed to a heart attack related to the exertion from shoveling snow.

A study in the Canadian Medial Association Journal found that from November to April, the snowfall months, among men a third of all heart attacks occurred the day after a snowfall. If there were two or three days of snow, the heart attack rate was even higher. The scary thing was they found this was true regardless of the person's age, cardiovascular risk, blood pressure or other health conditions. Women did not have this same link, likely because they avoid shoveling snow or perhaps use smaller shovels. The simple act of lifting snow creates a Valsava maneuver where people hold their breath during exertion. This can lower blood pressure and cause blood clots to form in coronary arteries, triggering a heart attack. Also when shoveling the arms are in motion while the body stands relatively still and in cold weather blood vessels can constrict, increasing the risk of clots. While no accurate data has been collected, it is believed shoveling snow is related to a hundred deaths across Canada each winter from heart attacks. Snow clearing is believed to be so dangerous that many medical sources tell men to stop shoveling when they hit age 50.

Here is an edited list of snow shoveling safety rules that was recently published in Canadian Family (canadianfamily.net) that I believe is worth sharing:

Get Ready

Before you head out to shovel, avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and large meals.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after shoveling.
Dress in layers and wear boots designed to keep you from slipping.
Warm up! This is exercise and you should stretch before starting, with a special focus on your back. Do it again when you’re done.
Have the right shovel on hand. Studies have proven ergonomic shovels reduce muscle strain. Test shovels, paying special attention to how your back and wrist feel when you use it. To avoid heavy loads, a shovel should be 25-35 cm (10-14”) wide.
Scoops are fine to get snow out of the way, but using them for shoveling (lifting and throwing) is dangerous. You should be able to stand upright when using your scoop, with your arms bent at a 90° angle.


Get it Done

Wear safety glasses in windy conditions or when using a snowblower.
Safe snow removal should be done early and often. If possible, clear the snow as it accumulates if you’re expecting a lot.
Proper snow shoveling is done with your feet placed about hip-width apart. Face the snow you are about to shovel. With your weight on your front foot, use your leg to push the shovel. Shift your weight to the back foot, breathe in, lift and keep the scoop of snow close to your body. Bend your knees, keep the back straight, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your legs. Walk to where you want to dump the snow.
Never twist. Face the snow you want to shovel and face the direction you’re throwing in.
If the snow is heavy, push it to edge of the dumping area and throw it out of the way from there.
Shovel no more than 15 scoops per minute and take a break every 15 minutes or so. If there’s someone around to help, you can each take 15 minute shifts at doing the heavy lifting.
At a rate of 15 scoops per minute, each shovel load should be no more than 5-7 kg (10-15 pounds). At a rate of 10 scoops per minute, the weight of each shovel load can be increased to about 11 kg (24 pounds).
Snow should not be thrown higher than 1.3 meters (approximately 4′), nor thrown further than 1 meter (about 3′).
Take it easy if snow is wet and heavy. A 5 x 9 meter (about 16 x 30 feet) driveway covered in 30.5 cm (one foot) of wet snow, equals approximately 3628 kg (four tons) of snow!
You should be able to stand up straight behind a snowblower. Maintain full control by moving slowly. If you have to push it, stay behind it as opposed to pushing sideways. NEVER use your hands to clear chutes or blades. Be sure to read the manual and use the machine as the manufacturer guidelines suggest.
If the plow blocks your driveway with a pile of snow, get on it ASAP. The longer it sits there, the harder it will be to remove.
Be aware of signs of strain or heart attack and never ignore these signals. Using a snowblower does NOT eliminate the risk of heart attack.


If you’re a senior citizen and/or have health conditions, consider hiring someone for snow removal or asking neighbours for help.
The long range forecast for the Lower Mainland does not show any below freezing temperatures for the next two weeks but we still have several months of winter ahead and the high probability of yet another snow event. With the elderly demographics here in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, I hope that this information can help keep people safe when clearing snow. This column is dedicated to my friend Oliver, a really great guy who will be greatly missed by all who knew him. I ask you to remember what happened to Oliver when it snows and you are getting ready to go clear your property. As the picture used in this TNT states, snow shoveling is not for the faint of heart.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - January 6, 2020

Pearl of the Peninsula

My wife and mother were walking the dogs the other day in the neighbourhood above Crescent Beach when they encountered a large and beautiful bird. While we are used to seeing bald eagles and various owls in the region, spotting a peahen, the female version of peafowl (males are peacock) was definitely a first. The peahen was strutting around the side of the road pecking away, seemingly oblivious to our two dogs that were yapping up a storm over this strange looking bird. While not an invasive species, peafowl are considered an introduced species that Conservation officers do not respond to.

Another woman out walking her dog also stopped to check out the peahen and engaged in conversation about the new arrival. She informed the ladies that the bird had shown up in the past few weeks and could be found meandering from yard to yard in this heavily treed neighbourhood. It has already been such a hit with the residents that they have given her the name "Pearl". Rather interesting, she revealed that folks in the neighbourhood believe that Pearl was trapped and relocated from Sullivan Heights and let loose on Surrey Mayor Doug MacCallum's property not far away by a disgruntled resident.

For the past decade wild peafowl in Sullivan Heights numbering up to 100 birds have been ruffling feathers due to the messy excrement these large birds have been leaving on sidewalks, patios and roofs. It is believed they originally lived at a local farm that was developed into a subdivision and have now adapted to their new suburban environment. While many residents love the big colourful birds, others see them as a nuisance, especially in the spring breeding season when males can become agitated and aggressive. Besides threatening people and pets, the males peck at their reflection in windows and shiny vehicles, often damaging the paint.

Over the past year Surrey has been trapping the Sullivan flock to reduce their numbers with these peafowl relocated to the Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove or adopted out to distant farms. In 2018 one Sullivan resident upset over the flock roosting in a large Douglas Fir above his house finally resorted to cutting the tree down without a permit to end the problem, receiving a $1,000 fine. Currently Surrey only traps nuisance peafowl here after receiving complaints from the public. It is believed there are still 40-50 birds living feral in the Sullivan area with people receiving fines of $250-$450 from Bylaws for feeding or harbouring them.

So far only the one peahen has been spotted in Crescent Heights but if a male peacock is also dropped off they will likely find each other with their loud cries and start breeding in the area. Unfortunately it only takes one person to cry fowl over these birds for the City of Surrey to begin to take action against them. There is no way of verifying whether Pearl was dropped off at the Mayor's house as claimed but it is a rather interesting rumour. Personaly I kind of like the idea of a few peafowl bringing some colour to the neighbourhood. Hopefully nobody will squawk about them and we can enjoy the company of these brightly feathered birds.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 30, 2019

TNT Year in Review 2019

To help celebrate the end of 2019, here is the TNT Year in Review that also is a quick reference to stories you may want to read.

January 7, A Long Walk to a Short Pier: A pictorial of the shoreline damage from Crescent Beach to the Semiahmoo Reserve of all of the damage inflicted by the windstorm that severely damaged the White Rock Pier.
January 14, Sobering Thoughts: An in-depth look at the changes to Canada's drunk driving laws that now allow the police to demand a breath sample without any signs of impairment.
January 21, Hobnobbin With Hobbits: We take you down under to New Zealand where the Canadian Rifle Team arrives to compete in the ICFRA World Long Range Championships.
January 28, White Rock Sun closed for vacation.

February 4, Shooting Kiwis in New Zealand: A week of target rifle shooting with the world's best marksmen is detailed with fullbore target rifle shooting being fired at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards.
February 11, Palma Sunday: The Holy Grail of international target rifle shooting is held with the Australian team beating out six other countries to capture the coveted Palma Trophy.
February 19, Tracking Surrey's Snow Plow Tracker: After coming home to a foot of snow I give details on how Surreyites can watch snowplows in action on city streets on an online map.
February 25, Dingy Dock For White Rock: After the pier was destroyed, a look at the possibility of installing a marina in front of White Rock or a dingy dock to replace the sailing club dock.

March 4, Cinderella Story, Fairy-tale Ending: The Semiahmoo Totems girl's basketball team wins the B.C. Secondary Schools Girls AAA Basketball Championships for the first time since 1953.
March 11, Ditch The Switch: It was time to look at getting rid of the twice yearly time change and efforts on both sides of the US/Canada border to ditch the switch.
March 18, It's A-boat Time: After the White Rock shoreline being strewn with wrecked sailboats, a column on changes to the laws covering derelict vessels in our waterways.
March 25, Another Day, Another Bluff Clearcut: Yet another story about millionaires cutting trees for views on unstable slide-prone slopes above the BNSF Railway tracks, this time near the 1001 Steps.

April 1, News of the Day: On April Fool's Day a tongue in cheek article loaded with hard to believe stories including Donald Trump revealing that "fake news" is actually real news.
April 8, Auto Crime Prevention Notices Preventing Nothing: Instead of Surrey RCMP staking out the crime prone South Surrey Park and Ride, the lot is littered with ICBC flyers.
April 15, Freak Sliding Away: With heavy rains another mudslide roars onto the tracks from the Ocean Park bluffs stopping rail traffic until the mess is dumped yet again onto the beach.
April 22, Pitcairn Not Going Postal: Imagine an important package taking longer to be mailed than it would take to walk to Ottawa. Best part it was returned to sender by Canada Post.
April 29, Reach For The Beach: A trip to Crescent Rock Beach quickly yields five different stories from this clothing-optional shoreline that are fill this revealing TNT.

May 7, Someone Stole SURREY: Crime gets personal when someone steals the highly prized SURREY personalized license plate from my ride while visiting a Surrey park.
May 13, Ratatouille on the Menu: Rats running roughshod around a White Rock restaurant and what Fraser Health environmental health officers are doing about it.
May 21, Feel the Buzz: A swarm of honey bees makes for a sweet story about the business (bee's nest?) of beekeeping that is alive and well in Surrey.
May 27, Steal Your Love: An attempted dog-napping of a Pomeranian named Love near Earl Marriott Secondary school leaves me barking mad.

June 3, The Plain Facts About Plainfin Midshipman Fish: Read about this humming toadfish where the male is the one who looks after the eggs and young brood.
June 10, Giant Hogweed vs. Giant Parsnip: With media alerts about Giant Hogweed, I detail how to tell this nasty invasive plant from its smaller native cousin.
June 17, WAG - We All Go (for weed that is): After months of prior knowledge, I finally get to reveal what I know about the Indigenous Bloom marijuana store.
June 25, Busy as Beavers: Illegal tree cutting on the Hump in White Rock plus unauthorized tree trimming along the Nicomekyl River in Surrey are explored.

July 2, Zamboni Skate-A-Thon: A history lesson about BC's first Zamboni ice resurfacer that spent time at Centennial Arena before ending up at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
July 9, Seeing Sea Stars: A day outing to the shoreline at Kwomais Point finds a sea star massacre where 48 of these creatures are left to die on a rock in the hot sun.
July 16, "I Want To Walk In My Own Two Feet": John Jefferson's long road to recovery after a motorcycle crash is chronicled including his successful talus bone replacement.
JULY 20 - 10TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE TNT IN THE WR SUN!
July 23, White Rock South in SoCal: San Clemente California is visited yet again, giving people from White Rock ideas on how to run a thriving seaside community.
July 30, ...And Then I Snapped: A very short piece on the day when the meniscus of my knee ruptured, leaving me on the disabled list and waiting for orthoscopic surgery.

August 6, Green For Cash Grab: The new red light and speed intersection cameras have me seeing red about this blatant cash grab with hard to see warning signs.
August 13, Riverside on the Riverfront: Surrey residents are given the chance to have their say about the land the city expropriated from the Riverside Golf Course.
August 20, "Smart" Meter My Ass: After years of bullying, threats and fines, BC Hydro finally installs a so-called smart meter on our home despite continued protests.
August 26, Surrey Sharpshooters 1st and 3rd in Canada: Fullbore rifle shooting again takes the stage with matches in BC and Ontario and Surrey shooters leading the way.

Sept. 2, A Short Walk Around a Long Pier: For those people who hadn't seen it, the substantial repairs done to the White Rock pier are revealed in story and photographs.
Sept. 9, 40th Avenue Fiasco: After yet another fatal crash at 176 St., three dangerous intersections along 40 Ave in south Surrey are examined in deadly detail.
Sept. 16, Colebrook Park: Surrey's latest park on Colebrook Rd. west of the KGB is explored including pictures of the zany boardwalk that criss-crosses the bog there.
Sept. 23, Federal Election Primer, S. Sry-WR: Everything you ever wanted to know about the five people who want your vote in the upcoming Federal election.
Sept. 30, Taking The Tour: The Peninsula Art Tour allows people in the Semiahmoo Peninsula to epose themselves to art.

Oct. 7, Cloverdale Cockfighting Corner: After yet another cockfighting ring is busted near the corner of 168 St. and 50 Ave., this rural area gets put under a microscope.
Oct. 14, From Guns to Laser: Tri-Cities Washington is featured with a record score at the Rattlesnake Range and info about the LIGO deep space gravitational observatory.
Oct. 21, Battleground British Columbia: On election day, the 338canada.com website is chronicled including polling data that shows Gordie Hogg will lose his seat and the Liberals form a minority government.
Oct. 28, Crosswalk Your heart and Hope Not to Die: After yet another scooter related vehicle crash, crosswalk safety is looked at including ways to improve pedestrian safety.

Nov. 4, Dog Gone Dangerous Driving: Dogs flying out of the back of vehicles and being injured or killed is examined with some extremely vivid personal stories.
Nov. 12, Digging in Dinotown: Of all of the interesting things I've ever discovered at work, the fossilized dinosaur egg I dug up while landscaping in Surrey takes the cake.
Nov. 18, Beer For The Pier is Here: The Semi-Pen's resident hop-head takes a look at the fundraising efforts for the White Rock pier including craft beer from local microbreweries.
Nov. 26, Try to Finish The Rugby Field House: The new rugby clubhouse will already be old before it ever gets finished at the snail's pace of construction.

Dec. 2, Tighten Your Belts, Hold Onto Your Wallets: Good advice for Surrey taxpayers before the public open house on the Draft Five Year Financial Plan with the costs for the new Surrey Police Department.
Dec. 9, All Hail The King of Surrey: Surrey football star Jonathan Kongbo who won a Grey Cup ring with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is now headed to the NFL after rehabbing his injured knee.
Dec. 16, Not My Mayor: Surrey's Mayor Doug MacCallum's election promises, decisions and ideas are examined along with the call for a referendum on the proposed change in policing.
Dec. 24, Christmas Gift List: The annual list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa left under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula.
Dec. 30, TNT Year in Review 2019: In case you didn't notice, you're reading it.

There you have it folks, the titles and topics for another year's worth of The Naked Truth in the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 23, 2019

Christmas Gift List 2019

If there's one thing I love about Christmas it's the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun this holiday TNT is always special. Here's the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa left under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, listed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.

Jennifer Brooks and family - For the mother and family of Judson Brooks who waited four years for justice before finding out the BC Prosecution Service had dropped all charges against the RCMP officer who shot Hudson outside the south Surrey precinct, a lifetime supply of Kleenex and a copy of Al Green's soulful ballad "How do you heal a broken heart"

Dave Chesney, WR Councillor - For the man who can be seen cruising around town in his vintage 1966 Ford Mustang fastback in candy apple red paint, a fresh 289 Ford engine to make his baby purr once again. As a stocking stuffer, still waiting for a "Mustang Parking Only" sign for his stall at City Hall.

Brian Edwards, Chief Supt. Surrey RCMP - For the officer now in charge of the Surrey RCMP a gift card to the Army & Navy annual shoe sale where he can go to get more boots on the ground since no new cops will be hired in Surrey once again. What he really wants from Santa this Christmas is a referendum on the police transition question.

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor - For this veteran White Rock councillor an ocean kayak to enjoy the smooth sailing and calm waters now that she is working with a much more respectful and competent Mayor and Council since the former slate was wiped clean.

Kerri-Lynne Findlay, Conservative MP for SS/WR - For the Conservative lady who took on good ol' Gordie Hogg for the second time and came out victorious, a DVD copy of the 37th season of NBC's reality series "Survivor - David vs. Goliath." As a stocking stuffer, Queen's News of the World album featuring the hit single "We are the champions."

Gordon Hogg, former Liberal MP for SS/WR - After decades of public service and 17 election campaigns, a Lazy-Boy recliner and a fine bottle of Caribbean rum so that Gordie can now relax a little without worrying about the needs of an appreciative public. For his long-suffering wife Laverne, our sympathies now that Gordie will be home full time.

Doug MacCallum, City of Surrey Mayor - Fresh off the disaster of a council meeting where Surrey's 5-year budget including millions for the new Surrey Police Dept. but no new cops or firemen were rammed through without any questions or discussion, a copy of Robert's Rules of Order manual. As a stocking stuffer, a paperback version of Mein Kampf.

Gus Melonas - BNSF Railway Spokesperson - For the railway mouth piece a toy train under the tree for the work he does keeping us informed about railway issues here in the Semi-Pen. For billionaires Warren Buffet and Jimmy Pattison, a lump of coal in their stockings for contributing to rising CO2 levels and ocean levels by sending coal to China.

Traci Reddies, MLA for Surrey-WR - After suffering from heart failure and acute hepatitis from a virus she picked up while on holiday in Brazil, a "staycation" here in BC that hopefully won't result in hospitalization from serious health problems that almost gave her constituents a collective heart attack.

Semiahmoo First Nation Council - For Chief Harley Chappel and Councillors Joanne and Genine Cook, a hot-line direct to White Rock City Hall now that the two Councils are talking again. As a stocking stuffer, a new sign changing Totem Park to Bernard Charles Plaza, something that somehow got missed 10 years ago.

Darryl Walker, Mayor of White Rock - For White Rock's Mayor, an ugly Christmas sweater to replace the worn out Mr. Rodger's sweater he invariably shows up wearing for White Rock's Council meetings. For a stocking stuffer, a gift card to The Men's Wearhouse.

Dianne Watts, political talking head - For the former Mayor of Surrey and the former MP for south Surrey-White Rock who now gets to pontificate on TV, radio and print media on any topic deemed political in nature across this region, a box of soap.

The White Rock Pier - For the second year in a row, this inanimate object and not a person makes the Christmas list for Semi-pen movers and shakers. For Canada's longest pier that reopened in August after major repairs, a boat load of money to complete the rebuild of the remaining structure.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year planning your safe ride home.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 16, 2019

Not My Mayor

In the United States the movement #Not My President is giving Americans a way to focus on the actions of President Donald J. Trump. I'm starting to think we need the same type of campaign here in Surrey to deal with our Mayor Doug MacCallum whose decision making process and unsubstantiated claims in the media are under public scrutiny. I understand that the Surrey Safe coalition ran for election under a party banner and platform, winning the Mayor's chair plus nearly sweeping the seats in Council. This victory was made possible by the splitting of the Surrey First slate and the desire by the Surrey electorate for change. There are 337,289 eligible voters in Surrey of which only 101,588 cast a ballot in the 2018 civic election or a lowly 35.3 percent. A total of 45,564 people voted for Doug MacCallum amounting to only 13.5% of the electorate, hardly a ringing endorsement for the man who once again is the Mayor of Surrey.

Ridesharing with Uber and Lyft has been long promised by the Provincial government yet it doesn't seem to matter whether it's the Liberals or the NDP, their arrival has been repeatedly delayed. It is embarrassing that Vancouver is the last major metropolitan city in North America that does not allow ridesharing firms to compete with established taxi companies. Even more embarrassing to the City of Surrey is that the Translink Mayor's Council voted last week to fast track a regional business licence for ridesharing companies, with Doug MacCallum being the only voice of opposition. Asked to explain his vote he said, "Again, a large amount of our residents in the city of Surrey do not support ridehailing." The exact opposite appears to be true with a July 2019 Mainstreet Research poll finding that 78% of Surrey residents supported ridesharing with a further 74% wanting it implemented "as soon as possible." The Surrey Board of Trade surveyed 6,000 Surrey businesses in May of 2019 with 90% saying they strongly supported having ridesharing services in Surrey.

The replacement of the Surrey RCMP with a new Surrey Police Force was one of Doug MaCallum's Save Surrey election promises. Unfortunately this campaign plank did not give many details as to the cost, length of transition, number of police officers plus the effect on the city's budget. If the people in Surrey knew this adventure was going to cost $130 million to implement, result in the cutting of many planned capital projects, have no new police or firefighters being hired for two years and result in over 38 fewer officers for $19 million more a year, I wonder who would have voted for Safe Surrey? Less cops for lots more money doesn't equate to better crime-fighting by my math at a time when Vancouver is hiring an additional 25 officers this year. Unfortunately the Province has ruled out holding a referendum on the policing change in Surrey, ignoring a public petition on this issue that now has approximately 35,000 signatures and counting towards its stated goal of 50,000.

While marijuana has been legalized across Canada and retail stores operated by the Provincial government and private enterprise continue to open, pot dispensaries are not being allowed to open in Surrey. Mayor MacCallum is against cannabis stores and production facilities in BC's second largest city “until we get crime under control.” What is ridiculous about this statement is that keeping legal marijuana shops from opening only allows the black market to continue to flourish across Surrey. There are multiple "green-line" delivery services easily found online that will deliver your choice of marijuana flowers and concentrates directly to your door. This allows for gangs to continue to control both the production and delivery of marijuana products while ensuring the government sales and tax dollars dwindle. The Indigenous Bloom dispensary on the Semiahmoo First Nations does thank Mayor MacCallum for the defacto monopoly they have been given in legal retail sales in Surrey.

I had to save the best for last, Mayor MacCallum's desire to build a "wandering canal" in Surrey running from the Fraser River to south Surrey along “a street that’s not used that much.” While this vision was first thought to be a joke when it was revealed in July but again it made waves in November when the Mayor suggested it would be possible in the Bridgeview area. With the 5-year plan diverting millions for the Surrey Police Force and budgets being cut across the board, it is nonsensical to even consider floating such a bizarre plan. MacCallum is on record as saying “The idea certainly came to me when I noticed that in Qatar, when I was there, that shopping centres had canals instead of walkways in a lot of their shopping centres. But if you look at other places, like Venice, they have canals that they use for transportation.” News bulletin for the Mayor; Bridgeview isn't Venice and in case you missed it, Venice was just devastated by historic flooding.

It would be nice to see Mayor Doug MacCallum representing the residents of Surrey instead of causing such turmoil and spreading blatant mistruths. It is time he stop supporting the taxi lobby and their donors and work with mayors across the region to bring ride hailing to Surrey. The transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Force should be put to the people and a referendum held on this important topic that will have ramifications in the city for years if not decades. Business licences need to be granted for retail pot shops and the green lines closed down to take money out of the hands of gangsters. As far as the concept of a Surrey canal, forgettaboutit; they need a new ice area in Cloverdale a lot more than Bridgeview needs another water-filled ditch.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

December 09. 2019

All Hail the King of Surrey

Most people know that the Mayor of Surrey is Doug McCallum (once again), others believe that Dianne Watts is the Queen of Surrey, but but few realize that Surrey has a King. He is no other than Jonathan Kongbo, aka "King Kongbo", a 23 year-old Surreyite who now appears destined to join an elite list of Canadians who play in the National Football League.

Jonathan Kongbo was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, but his family moved to Canada when he was 5 years-old to escape the civil war that threatened their safety. Fortunately his father had a degree in Agricultural Sciences and found work as an inspector for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Growing up in Surrey Kongbo was a multi-sport athlete attending Holy Cross Regional High School. Excelling in basketball, he was persuaded by his coaches and the Holy Cross principal to try out for their Crusaders football team in Grade 12, believing his impressive size and speed would better suit that sport and increase his likelihood of a US college scholarship.

It turned out they were right as Johnathan quickly attracted attention of football scouts, becoming the top junior college prospect in the United States. He accepted a scholarship to the University of Wyoming where he was a redshirt in 2014, meaning he participated in academic work but did not actively play for the Cowboy's football team. In 2015 Kongbo transferred to the Arizona Western College in Yuma where he was a Junior All-American with the Matadors, getting 49 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks. Moving on from there he played college football for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2016 and 2017, again adding to his impressive resume of tackles. In his senior year Kongbo moved to linebacker and after only six games tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in October 2018 during a game against Auburn and did not play at for the rest of the season.

Even with his injured knee that needed surgery and rehabbing, Kongbo entered the Canadian Football League Draft and was at one time ranked the number one prospect by the CFL Scouting Bureau. He was eventually taken 5th overall by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, signed to a 3-year contract on May 17, 2019 and put on their 6-game inured reserve list. His rational was to play football in Canada rather than taking a year off to rehab his damaged knee. Jonathan finally got into his first professional football game in Canada on August 1st against the Toronto Argonauts. In the 12 regular season games he played for the Bombers this year, he recorded 12 tackles and 1 sack, helping Winnipeg to make the CFL Playoffs. Komgbo played in all of the Bomber's playoff games this fall, including the 107 Grey Cup against the Hamilton Tiger Cats where Winnipeg won their first Grey Cup Championship in 29 years.

In a stunning move last week the Winnipeg Blue Bombers released their all-star defensive end to pursue work in the National Football League. In a club statement Bomber's GM Kyle Walters revealed "He (Kongbo) chose to sign with our organization rather than wait for a season to continue training. This agreement came with the understanding that if he received any NFL interest, we would work with him to help him pursue those interests. Jonathan is a great young man and deserves the opportunity to explore all avenues in his career. We wish him the best and certainly will welcome his return if nothing comes to fruition in this regard." It has not yet been revealed which NFL team or teams is looking at acquiring his services but obviously the US scouts have not forgotten about the 6'5" tall, 255 pound Kongbo who will soon be sporting a Grey Cup ring from his rookie season.

This rising football star looks to now be ready to hit the gridiron back in the States in the near future. Currently there are 16 Canadians under contract with NFL teams with 10 of these playing on active rosters. There are even two Canadians in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Arnie Weinmeister, a defensive tackle for the New York Giants (1950-1953) inducted in 1984 and Bronko Nagurski, a fullback for the Chicago Bears (1930-37, 1943) plus multiple time World Heavy Weight Champion wrestler inducted in 1963. If Kongbo is signed with an NFL team, he will be the first person from Surrey to play professional football in the United States. I'm kind of hoping it is the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks who have shown interest in Jonathan Kongbo but regardless of what team he ends up playing for, I will be cheering for the King of Surrey. You can follow his foray into the NFL on his twitter feed: @King_Kongbo

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 02, 2019

Tighten Your Belts, Hold Onto Your Wallets

Monday is going to be a special day in the history of Surrey with the Finance Committee holding a public meeting at City Hall to consider the Draft Five Year Financial Plans. This meeting will allow Surrey residents to give their thoughts on the proposed budget, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Council Chambers at 13450 104 Ave in Whalley. With changes made by Mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Councillors, I would expect a large capacity crowd for this event that will proceed the Monday night Council meeting where the Budget will receive first, second and third reading. You can find links to the 2020-2024 General Operating, Capital Program, Utilities and Self-Funded Programs, plus City Grants for 2020 corporate reports on the Surrey.ca website at https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/14284.aspx

It is worth while noting that last year's 5-year budget plan axed $136 million in capital projects that Mayor McCallum said was needed in order to reduce city debt levels. The 2020-2024 budget's main focus is on paying for the transition from RCMP the new Surrey Police Department. Surrey will spend $700,000 on a police transition project office and over $25 million to pay for costs for the new SPD. Over the five years it is estimated that the additional operating and one time costs for the police department changeover will total $130 million. In 2019 Surrey will spend a total of $186 million for police services plus civilian support staff, which includes the 10% federal subsidy for the RCMP and additional revenues. By 2022 when the transition is complete and the RCMP contract cancelled, Surrey anticipates paying $205 million a year for policing costs.

Unfortunately money doesn't grow on trees and planned residential property tax increase Surrey residents need to realize that even with the increase is policing costs, it does not mean more boots on the ground. There will be no increase in the number of RCMP officers in 2020 until the time that their contract is terminated. When the SPD is finally up and running, the Surrey Police Board will then make decisions on staffing numbers. The Surrey Fire Service will feel the pinch of the police force transition with no new members being added even though Surrey is growing by an average of 1,000 people a month. The police Chief has assured Council that not increasing fire-fighting capability would not compromise safety in Surrey but more people and buildings increases the demands for the SFS.

Capital spending on the arts in Surrey is playing second fiddle to the cops with a measly $850,000 budgeted for five years, which corresponds to 32 cents for every person living in Surrey per year. There is no new money for the postponed Grandview Heights Community Centre or the new ice arena in Cloverdale. There is $10 million budgeted for the Cloverdale Arena in 2024, which might have to be spent on changing the refrigerating system away from dangerous ammonia. Just as in 2019 there is no money for increasing staffing levels even though the report notes that "this is not a long term sustainable strategy." If you thought the roads in Surrey weren't great, the budget calls for no increase in the Roads & Traffic Safety Levy for the years 2020-2024. Fortunately there was nowhere in the budget where money was allocated for Mayor McCallum's zany canal idea, aka "Dougie's ditch."

Unfortunately due to a mechanical breakdown on my truck that I will be getting fixed on Monday afternoon I will not be able to attend the meeting at Surrey City Hall. If you do not want to make the excursion up into Whalley to be part of the proceedings, please realize that you can watch them live. They are available on the Surrey.ca website at https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/6993.aspx where you hit the blue "Watch Council Meeting Live" tab. A simple Google search of "Surrey Council Meeting Live Broadcast" will also take you there. We now know how much the police force transition will cost us, what remains to be seen is whether it improves the policing services we receive in Surrey and helps reduce the crime problem that has plagued the city for far too long.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 26, 2019

Try To Finish The Rugby Field House

In south Surrey at the SW corner of 148 St and 20 Ave are two immaculate playing fields used for rugby by the Bayside Rugby Football Club (baysiderfc.com), aka the Bayside Sharks. In existence since 1988 Bayside RFC promotes kids rugby grades K-7, junior rugby U14-U19, men's rugby in 3 divisions, women's rugby, SOB's over 35 and summer co-ed touch rugby. Many years ago the idea of a clubhouse with changerooms and washrooms was first conceived and in 2013 the Bayside RFC began formal discussions with the City of Surrey on forming a partnership to build a facility for field users, host teams, community groups and private functions.

The basic agreement was for the City to base build the washrooms and changerooms below plus the roof and exterior with the Bayside RFC providing the funding and construction of the interior of the upstairs clubhouse plus an outside deck. To sweeten the deal, many of the players and directors of the team provided donations in kind, providing building materials plus performing various construction tasks at a reduced rate. The total budget was approximately $2.3 million with the City paying $1.4 million for their part, and Bayside spending $600,000 to $1,000,000 for tenant improvements.

Bayside RFC worked hard to finance their portion of the build doing fundraising in the community with many rugby connected people donating to the cause. Their "Build-A-Wall" fundraiser sold bricks for an interior wall for $500 engraved with memories of dearly departed, family names, company names and corporate donors. They held their Field House Lottery this summer with over $40,000 in prizes and a sizeable 50/50 draw. Donors to the Rugby Field House are eligible for a tax receipt through the Canadian Rugby Foundation. If you wish to join the Bayside Builders you can donate via cheque, Paypal or Interact to the Bayside Athletic Association, or request an engraved name on the wall to builders@baysiderfccom.

The issue about the Rugby Field House is the slow pace of construction. Shovels first hit the ground in May of 2018 with a completion date of April 2019. Unfortunately the building is far from complete and not even at a lock up phase as we head into the second winter of the building being exposed to the elements. The construction is so far behind that the sign advertising the April 2019 completion date was finally removed this summer. Currently the lower level had the doors on, the roof has been built but only covered with membrane and the upstairs doors and windows are missing. I took the pictures in this TNT of the building in the first week of October and it still looks relatively the same today.

Talking with Bayside RFC executive Stephen Black, he explained that a lack of a construction schedule was hampering getting the building completed. Many rugby players running construction companies had complained of a lack of advance notice in order to line up their crews to complete their tasks. The club cannot begin to complete the inside of the clubhouse and the deck until the windows are installed and the roof is completed. This project is moving ahead so slowly that there now is no set completion date, seven months after the job was to have been finished. This building is being overseen by the City of Surrey Parks Department with Project Manager Rudi Booiman supervising the rather lengthy construction.

I should point out that the Bayside RFC has had a great relationship with the city and appreciates the top-notch fields that they consider the best they've ever played on. The issue is that the construction delays are hurting fundraising, while players are still being forced to trudge over to the South Surrey Athletic Park for changerooms and washroom facilities. With the roof not completed and upstairs windows and doors not installed, wind can blow rain and snow into the building, possibly causing damage before it is ever completed. There is an upcoming meeting scheduled with Tim Neufeld, the city’s park development services manager, and it is hoped that the building delays will finally be addressed and a proper construction schedule created so that the Rugby Field House can get back on track.

On a final rugby note, I leave you with the Semiahmoo Old Boys Rugby Football Club's theme song "We are SOB's", sung to he tune of "Sweet Molly Malone" in the key of G, website at sobrugby.com.

Verse 1
We come from South Surrey, and White Rock, and Delta
We run helter-skelter against other teams.
We're all a bit older but shoulder to shoulder
We still play great rugby, at least in our dreams.

Chorus
We are SOB's the scourge of all ruggers
SO WATCH OUT YOU BUGGERS!
We are SOB's

Verse 2
Our hair is much thinner, our waistlines are fatter.
But that doesn't matter, we'll play win or lose.
We'll fumble and stumble but no one will grumble
Cos after the game we'll be into the booze.

Chorus
We are SOB's etc.

Verse 3
And when at last our playing days are all finished
we won't feel diminished, we've had some good years.
But for all sorts of reasons we've just run out of seasons.
So get up to the bar, boys, and down some more beers!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

November 18, 2019

Beer For The Pier is Here

I've been a avid specialty beer drinker for years that started with my airline Captain father's travels that exposed him to plenty more than generic Canadian lager. Unable to purchase locally made beers matching those he found on frequent overseas trips, he started home brewing his own using recipes he dug up years before the Internet. I followed his lead, making ales of my own, often carrying carboys into the Watershed Park in Delta to fill with artesian well water that was chlorine free. When the microbrewery revolution began, I started enjoying Old Yale Beer from Chilliwack who won Canada's best IPA three times before taking the Canadian Brewery of the Year award in 2014. Since that time I have visited countless Craft breweries and definitely have my favourites including some only a short distance from home.

When the pier was seriously damaged in last year's winter wind storm, many in the Semi-pen community banded together to help fund repairs. The White Rock Friends of the Pier Committee have played a vital role in collecting donations, selling planks on the repaired pier, plus planning events and fundraising (https://www.friendsofthepier.com/committee). It did not take long before local brewers realized that "pier" and "beer" rhymed and this summer White Rock Beach Beer and 3 Dogs Brewing, both on Russel Ave. near Johnson Rd., collaborated to produce the Pier-Fect beer that was sold in house and on tap at select restaurants. Partial proceeds from this collaboration were then donated to the coffers at Friends of the Pier.

Not to be outdone, Trading Post Brewing in Langley stepped up to the plate to also help with pier restoration. Not only did they have large production volume, they also have their own canning line and distribution across BC through the BCLB. They now produce their "Beer FOR The Pier" featuring a label with the White Rock pier, setting sun over Boundary Bay, plus the lamps and archway overhead. I was in Trading Post recently and was very surprised when I saw the iconic pier motif on cans in their cooler. The label reads , "Together with the "Friends of the Pier" committee, we created this light, easy drinking Kolsch using local Lumberjack hops to remind you of good times strolling the pier with friends." It goes on to say, "All proceeds from this "Beer For The Pier" will go towards repairing the historic White Rock pier so more memories like this can be made for year's to come."

Don't think I missed the "can be made..." reference on the label. Instead of growler fills, being able to purchase cans allows for a much broader market for this fund raising beer. I have to admit the label is pure White Rock and anyone who has visited the City By The Sea would easily recognize the pier on the front of the can.

If you are in Langley, drop by the Trading Post brewing and tasting room located at #107-20120 64th Ave., Langley, BC. You can also find the four packs of 473 ml. tall cans that are 5% ABV and 18 IBU at local liquor stores. Nothing like having a beer and helping to pay for Pier restoration with $2 million in donations needed to reach their final goal. In the time it took to write this TNT I got to enjoy a Beer For The Pier and rather enjoyed it.

Too bad you can't have one when at the beach, I guess we'll have to wait for next year's White Rock Craft Beer Festival for that opportunity.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 12, 2019

Digging in Dinotown

 

It really is amazing what you can find if you keep an eye open as you go through the world. Over the years I have had the good fortune of finding many valuables while at work. I cannot count the number of wallets and purses I have located, all which were either returned to their owners or delivered to the police. Once while working in downtown Vancouver I found 5 wallets in one day that I gave to a startled VPD officer sitting in a squad car on Granville Street. Not to be outdone, my wife Sheryl once found two wallets on the snowy slopes of Whistler in the same afternoon, both of which were returned to their very thankful owners in the Village with cards and cash intact. I've come across plenty of jewellery too, with the most notable finds being a one carat diamond gold men's ring and a hand cast custom 14 K gold chain, both found in parking lots.

This year myself and my crew have come across over $8,000 worth of treasures laying in the street. One was a tablet bag or "murse" that was empty except for a few mundane items. The man that found it looked at the Prada name badge and guessed it was a cheap Chinese knock-off. Upon further inspection it became clear that the handbag was actually the real deal, with a quick internet search revealing a retail price of $3,200. A month ago while driving down an alley I spotted a buffet that had been discarded next to a dumpster. A quick pit-stop revealed that it was made from Honduras mahogany wood in New York prior to 1920. We loaded it for a furniture restorer friend in White Rock who figures it will be worth $3,000-$4,000 when properly refinished. Just last week the latest find was a set of four BMW mags and X-ice radials put out for disposal that we quickly turned into $550 cash on Craigslist. Truly, one man's garbage is another man's gold.

Sometimes it it not the value but the age that is the most significant factor in a find. One day I was working with shovel in hand when a rock came out of the hole I was digging. No it wasn't a big gold nugget or massive gem, it was just a rock not much different than the millions I have moved over my lifetime. What caught my eye was not the colour or even the texture, but the rather interesting oval shape. As I picked it up I said to my guys, "Hey, I think this is a dinosaur egg." Needless to say, they all had a good laugh at my expense, as we were landscaping on a property in Surrey. Even with the ribbing I was taking, I kept it because to my untrained eye, it looked exactly the same as ones I had seen at rock and gem shows in the past. It even sat in the work truck for a while until I finally brought it inside and gave it a very careful cleaning.

Once the dirt was off it, the preserved details of this rather unique find became very clear. Measuring 9 cm. long by 6 cm. wide and 5 cm. tall, this oval shape rock showed a smooth outer casing that appeared to be fossilized egg shell. While missing in about 60% of the surface, enough was left spread about on the top side on a thin layer to show that my rock had once indeed had a complete covering of this material. What I surmised would be the egg white was hardened rock, very rough and quite different from the surface layer. Turning the rock over onto its bottom flat side revealed a round flat circle of very smooth rock that curved up into the surrounding substrate with loose edges you could easily stick a knife tip into. What I was looking at was the fossilized yolk, which was the final revealing point that I had actually stumbled across a real dinosaur egg.

Of course once I realized what I had, it was time to hit Encyclopedia Google to check out images and descriptions of other dinosaur eggs. While I thought my specimen was really unique, I suddenly realized that dinosaur eggs with embryos baby dinosaur bones were far more interesting. Another revelation was that most dinosaur eggs are round and not oval, with circular eggs being laid by herbivores and oval ones by carnivores. Intact nests of dinosaur eggs are also more highly coveted by paleontologists and collectors than single random finds. What makes my dinosaur egg special is that I wasn't digging for bones in the Alberta badlands that is known for fossils, but simply planting shrubs in Surrey. Some people may think it looks like a giant turd but I can assure you that from research I now know that dinosaur dung looks quite different.

There are still many mysteries surrounding this egg. I have no idea how old it is, what type of dinosaur laid it, or how it happened to be deposited into Surrey soil. I also do not know the value off this egg, not do I really care. What I do know is that it was free to me and I have no intention of ever selling it as it's the most interesting thing I've ever found. The egg now occupies a prominent position on one of our shelving units that contains collectibles, blown glass and indigenous baskets. I always get a laugh when people visiting our home look at this shelf and ask, "What's that rock doing there?" When I tell them to grab it and take a look (It's a fossilized rock, you can't break it) they almost always respond with "Hey, is this a dinosaur egg?"

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 04, 2019

Dog Gone Dangerous Driving

Last week the BC Williams Lake SPCA released information about an accident in October involving a German Shepherd cross puppy who fell out of the back of a moving pickup sustaining a serious leg injury. The dog named Chilli was in the box without any form of restraint which is illegal under Section 72 of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act and Section 9.3 of the B.C. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. As someone who previously had a German Shepherd for a pet and companion, the picture of Chili now minus a front leg, was truly heartbreaking. You can read the full details of this story on the Williams Lake Tribune at https://www.wltribune.com/news/they-were-unaware-of-the-dangers-spca-says-of-owners-whose-puppy-fell-out-of-truck/

I was once following a friend's truck heading home from camping at Chilliwack Lake that had a young Rottweiler sitting in the back. Near the tight S curve at Tamahi Creek the dog climbed onto some camping gear and then was thrown out of the pickup on a sharp corner. It first landed on the asphalt at 60 kmh before sliding onto the gravel shoulder and down into the surrounding forest. I quickly stopped and made my way into the bush, following the sounds of wimpering and yelps to find the dog some twenty feet down from the hillside. I gently carried the badly injured dog back up to the road and reunited him with its frantic owner who eventually had turned around. The Rottweiller survived his near death experience with extensive veterinary help and a very large bill.

Unfortunately this was not my only experience with animals flying out of vehicles. Years ago I was driving past the intersection of KGB and 152 St with my friend who was an ambulance attendant when we heard a large crash. Cutting through the then Mazda dealership parking lot, we came across a scene of destruction, a Ford F250 that had rear-ended three cars waiting at a red light. This so-called accident happened at just after noon and involved a drunk driver, with many irate motorists ensuring he did not leave the scene. The people in the car that had taken the brunt of the crash seemed okay but my friend Ian told them to stay put and began to check for injuries. I walked forward towards the next car and spotted what I thought was an infant dressed in a white sleeper laying on the street in death throws and covered in blood. It took a moment for me to realize it was not a child but someone's small dog, leaving me wondering how it had got caught up in the carnage.

I approached the driver's door of the car in front of where the dog laid dying and encountered an elderly woman behind the wheel who appeared to be uninjured. I asked her if she was okay, she responded "I think so" and then asked me if I had seen her dog, a small white Bichon Friese that had been sitting above the back seats near the window. It was then that I realized the broken rear window was the result of this lady's pet being ejected from the car by the force of the crash. I went back to check on the dog that had since stopped moving and found it dead from head trauma, either from hitting the car behind or the asphalt. I had the unfortunate task of informing the driver that her dog had broken through the rear window and had not survived the crash. I'll never forget the look on her face when I gave her the bad news before moving on to check the condition of the occupant of the last car involved in the chain-collision.

At the very least dogs should be tethered in the middle of the front of the truck box so they can't jump out. Even better is to crate them and secure with tie downs, the method I used to transport my German Shepherd to obedience class. Unrestrained pets inside a vehicle can be ejected in car crashes through windows or when vehicle doors fly open. If you like to drive with your dog on your lap keep in mind that if the air bag doesn't kill them, the impact with the dash likely will. Our dogs travel in the rear seat with safety harnesses that attach to the seat belts for maximum protection, or crated in the back of our SUV for long trips.

Many people say their dogs are like their children so I suggest we treat them as such and keep them safe. You wouldn't drive around with kids running around the back of a pickup truck or have them in the car without seat belts would you? Think about that before a car crash that you survive without injuries becomes a death sentence for man's best friend. I'd like to close out this TNT with a quote from comedian and author Louis C.K.: "You know the only thing happier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged one."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

OctobEr 28, 2019

Crosswalk Your Heart and Hope Not to Die

CBC Vancouver picture

On Saturday morning at 11 a.m. a red pick up truck struck and seriously injured a person driving a mobility scooter in the crosswalk at 56 Ave. and 177B St. in Cloverdale. The mangled scooter was wedged under the front of the truck that ended up partially parked on the sidewalk just beyond the crosswalk. On Global TV a resident told their reporter this was the second accident at the crosswalk in recent times and that the lack of a left hand turn light for traffic southbound on 177B St. was putting pedestrians at risk. Persons riding scooters are less visible to drivers than someone standing tall plus many of these machines move quickly once put into gear. The mobility challenged people that I know who operate these scooters all have waving flags attached to them and wear hi-viz vests when traveling because of the risk from inattentive motorists.

While scooter operators can put on gear to make themselves more visible, I believe it is our antiquated crosswalks that are adding to the pedestrian accidents on our roads, increasing costs to ICBC and Medicare. At almost all intersections you have a thick white stop line and then two thin lines across the road separated by several metres marking the crosswalk boundaries. At crosswalks away from intersections, thick white bars called "zebra bars" are painted onto the roads along with white "walking man" pedestrian signs posted on either side of the roadway. All of this is not only inadequate, it is downright dangerous, especially when you see what is being done in other jurisdictions and countries to improve pedestrian safety with innovative paint schemes and improved signage.

 

The white crossing man pedestrian signs used across Canada are a joke as they are hard to see in an urban environment and almost invisible in foggy or snowy conditions, weather that we often receive here in the Great White North. In the USA, they utilize the same walking man signs for crosswalks but they are made with a high-vis yellow background, the most visible of all colours to the human eye. Going one step further, these signs are placed on either side of the road, are double sided, plus have sideways arrows pointing slightly downwards below them. In some places they even have yellow flags attached to the sign post that pedestrians can use to catch motorists attention when crossing the road, especially at night. It is not like our traffic engineers have not seen them as high-vis yellow pedestrian crossing signs are used at airports in Canada including at YVR and Winnipeg.

The borders of the pedestrian zones. Regardless of for a pathway or intersection, other countries now use thick yellow zebra bars across the roadway to signify all crosswalks, something I believe should be done here instead of having nothing on the asphalt at intersections. The province of Quebec that has had an issue about motorists failing to yield to pedestrians for some time has a new TV commercial that has recently gone viral showing these yellow stripes popping up from the ground and forming a barricade for pedestrians to travel behind. If you look carefully at the picture you will see the white walking man signs on either side of the street with a downward facing arrow underneath, that you likely would not have noticed had I not pointed them out.

The rainbow crosswalk is extremely easy to see and no matter what your thoughts on the LGBTQ communty and inclusivity, at least they are visible as the crosswalk at 5 corners in White Rock has shown. Elsewhere in Canada, cities are addressing their crosswalk safety problems with innovative new solutions. Earlier this summer, Beaumont, Alb. became the first city in western Canada to paint several 3D crosswalks, similar to ones used in India, China and Germany in an effort to slow drivers down and improve pedestrian safety. Barrington Mass. has crosswalks painted with red and yellow bars plus the words STOP, LOOK, WAVE as you step off the sidewalk. In New York they have crosswalks painted with the stars and stripes and the motto "Live For Today 911." Iceland is now using 3D pedestrian schemes utilizing the traditional white bars with yellow ends and blue sides. In Spain local artists are invited to add patterns of colour between the regular white zebra markings for extra visibility and street beautification.

With so many ways to mark crosswalks, what we need here in Canada is a plan for maximum safety visibility and improved pedestrian safety that can be implemented from coast to coast. My suggestions are as follows:
The white "walking man" pedestrian signs should be changed from white to a high-vis yellow background.
The playground "boy running after ball" signs should also be changed from yellow/orange to high-vis yellow background.
With school signs already high-vis yellow, all pedestrian related signage will then be one consistent easy to see colour.
Sideways arrow signs with high-viz yellow background should be placed under all "walking man" pedestrian signs as per US Transport regulations.
All zebra bar crosswalk markings need to be painted with high-vis yellow instead of white for greater visibility, especially at night and in winter.
Intersection crosswalks should be painted with wide high-vis yellow borders, including high-vis zebra bars in high pedestrian traffic locations.

Once Kerry-Lynne Findlay gets sworn in as our new Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock, I'm hoping she can assist me in addressing these proposed safety improvements for Canadian crosswalks with the Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau and the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC). It is about time that the crosswalks in Canada got a much needed upgrade that will reduce accidents and help save lives. To stick with white pedestrian signs and empty crosswalks with little to no markings is only inviting a continuation of the crashes that happen on our streets on an all to regular basis.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 21, 2019

Battleground British Columbia

.338 Calibre, 338Canada, 338 House of Common seats

 

Welcome to October 21st, 2019, the 43rd Canadian Federal election day! I always look forward to exercising my right to vote so I can punish those politicians for their lies and deceit, reward those who are honest and straightforward and to consider alternative policies from other parties. When it comes down to who to vote for, I always look at what I call the 4 Ps; Person, Party, Platform and Prime Minister. I don't usually preach who to vote for, telling people to get educated and to make an informed decision based on their motives, life experiences and personal situation. What does annoy me is people who say they will not vote for a certain political party because they claim it would be a "wasted vote", or in other words the candidate has little chances of winning. I say that the only time you waste your vote is when you don't take the time to make your mark at the ballot box.

It turns out that much of my family are politicos who follow the ins and outs of the political scene in Canada, especially during election time. My father has used his 81 years of experience to create his own theory about voting patterns in Canada at both a Federal and Provincial level and how they change over time relative to each other. Last week my mother forwarded me a scathing letter-to-the-editor for my perusal before sending it to the Province newspaper. I told her to not change a thing and simply push the send button, while realizing my writing skills might actually be inherited. My two daughters who are in their late 20's are busy with school, work and their millennial personal lives but amazingly I discovered recently that they are also deeply involved in following political drama and are extremely well informed about the parties and the players from their local ridings all the way to Parliament Hill. Needless to say, I'm so proud of them.

As a marksman, the number 338 for me corresponds to the .338 Lapua magnum rifle cartridge that was developed as a high powered long-range bullet in the mid 1980s for military snipers. Imagine my surprise when I found out from various family members that 338 is the number of federal ridings across Canada, with 170 seats needed to secure a majority in Ottawa. It was then that I learned about the 338Canada project, which is a statistical model of electoral projections based on multiple opinion polls, previous electoral history of Canadian provinces and demographic data. The very detailed and interesting website 338canada.com is the creation of Philippe J. Fournier, an astronomy and physics professor from Montreal. For a great side read, check out this MacLean's article from May 2019 about this election modelling whiz: https://www.macleans.ca/politics/how-an-astrophysics-teacher-became-the-ultimate-oracle-of-canadian-elections/

If you read this TNT before heading out to cast your vote, you might want to consider looking at the data found within 338Canada. Since the writ was dropped, members of the Pitcairn clan have been following this website on a daily basis, looking at trends in ridings across Canada that they find interesting. They now have me hooked and I follow at least half a dozen ridings, none more than here in South Surrey-White Rock. In the odds of winning the most seats across Canada, the Liberals have almost always been ahead of the Conservatives but they were in a dead heat earlier last week, finishing on Sunday with the Libs at 59.6% and the Cons at 39.7%. 338Canada has the odds of a CPC majority at 2.5%, the LPC at 21% and with both parties in a dead heat of near 38% for plurality or getting the most number of votes but not enough seats for a majority. In the popular vote projection, Libs finished at 32.2% +- 4.9%, the CPC just behind at 31.6% +- 4.5%, the surging NDP at 18% +- 3.7%, Greens and the Bloc back at around 7% and the People's Party far off the pace at 2.5%.

Closer to home we can check on British Columbia and the 42 seats up for grabs here. The 338Canada popular vote projection has the CPC at 30.1%, LPC at 26.5%, NDP at 25.9%, Greens at 13.6% and the PPC at 2.7%. The graph showing these statistical changes over time reveals that the NDP numbers have grown from 18% to nearly 26% ever since the federal leaders debate on October 7th, with much of this coming at the expense of the Liberal and Green support. As far as seat projection in BC, 338Canada has the CPC pegged at 15.6 +- 8.1%, the NDP at 14.1 +-6.4, Liberals far back at 9.8% +- 6.9, and the Greens at 1.9 +- 1.9. Of interest is the riding of Vancouver Granville where Jody Wilson-Raybould's chances of winning her seat as an independent after getting turfed from the Liberal Caucus because of the SNC Lavalin affair have her slightly ahead of Liberal challenger Taleeb Noormohamed. Once again, according to 338Canada, there have been large swings in the BC seat projection graph since the leaders debate showing its importance.

And now without further adieu (drum roll please), here are the 338Canada polling results for the South Surrey-White Rock riding and its 104,050 residents (census 2016). Remember that this riding was a Conservative stronghold for decades until the last federal by-election in 2017 where long-time White Rocker Gordie Hogg won it for the Liberals by 1,617 votes over Conservative Kerry-Lynn Findlay. According to 338Canada popular vote projection (PVP) the riding is leaning CPC with Conservative Kerry-Lynn Findlay leading with 42% +- 7.6%, the Liberal's Gordie Hogg running second at 36.4% +- 7.3%, with the Greens and NDP far back at 9 and 8 percent respectively. According to the PVP graph, the Cons have had a lead over the Libs for months, with their numbers coming together just after the leaders debate before the CPC built up their current lead. In the odds of winning, 338Canada has Kerry-Lynn Findlay at a whopping 78% and incumbent Gordie Hogg at a distant 22%. If 338Canada is correct, our riding will swing back to the Conservative fold on Monday.

It will be very interesting to see how these numbers from 338Canada compare to the actual voting results. I'm sure that the main parties are all acutely aware that the votes cast in B.C. might crown the victor in the 2019 Federal election. How else do you explain that for the first time in history, the four leaders of the most popular political parties, Trudeau, Scheer, Singh and May were all campaigning in B.C. on the final day before voting? For a change it looks like the Canadian election will not be decided east of the Rockies before our polls close. If a minority government is elected, it might be the NDP or Greens with their seats from B.C. that are able to form a coalition with the lead parties and advance their political agenda. Remember that while the BC Liberals won the last provincial vote, it was the NDP and BC Green Party teaming up to govern together in Victoria, something they have done successfully now since May of 2017. Time will tell if a similar coalition government scenario occurs on Parliament Hill in the near future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

POST ELECTION UPDATE

The 338Canada post-election report: We called it

Philippe J. Fournier: In every region the 338Canada projection was on the mark, and correctly identified the winner in 299 of 338 districts

(read the breakdown)

 

October 14, 2019

From Guns to Lasers

Sun turnin' 'round with graceful motion
We're setting off with soft explosion
Bound for a star with fiery oceans
It's so very lonely, you're a hundred light years from home
Freezing red deserts turn to dark
Energy here in every part
It's so very lonely, you're six hundred light years from home


Lyrics to 2,000 Light Years From Home, the Rolling Stones, "Their Satanic Majesties Request" album (1967)

The Naked Truth usually deals with events taking place within the confines of south Surrey and White Rock but as I travel the subject matter often follows. This column is coming to you from Richland Washington and then on a journey 1.3 billion light-years from home. If that sounds a little unusual, ready yourself for a TNT ride from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to the deep corners of the known universe where black holes collide together and dying stars explode on a regular basis.

The Tri-Cities area of south-eastern Washington including the towns of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco are home to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. With plenty of wide open space, it is also home to the Tri-Cities Shooting Association (TCSA) and their dreaded Rattlesnake 1,000 yard rifle range. As a member of the Canadian Fullbore Rifle Team I attend matches there several times a year at what is regarded as the third windiest rifle range on the planet. To give you an idea of how difficult the conditions are at this range complex, there has never been a perfect Palma Rifle Match score fired there in 20 years. This consists of 15 rounds shot at 800 yards, 900 yards, and 1,000 yards for a total score of 450 points. The closest anyone has ever gotten was Emil Praslick from the US Army Marksmanship Unit who fired a 448 several years back, unfortunately shooting an 8 on his final round of the day. I know how it feels having gotten a miss on my last shot in the Washington Long Range Championships earlier this year to go from first to fourth place with one trigger pull.

Several times I have gone "clean" at the 800 and 900 but with daytime heating and desert winds, I've never been able to complete the trifecta of getting a perfect score at the 1,000 yard that features a 20 inch bullseye and 10 inch X-ring used for tie breaking. On Sunday with cloudy weather and light rain showers, I managed to get through the two morning shoots without dropping a point in over 30 rounds fired. At the 1,000 yard mound, I began the final 15 round match of the day and by round 10 had not dropped a single point. It was at the moment that I realized it was possible in the light winds to set a new range record. With adrenaline levels slowly rising I fired a bullseye followed by three Xs, leaving me a final bullet. With heartbeat now racing, I focused all of my attention on releasing a perfect shot. When the target came up, there it was, a bullseye 10 and a total daily score of 450-21X. Needless to say it was a Tiger woods moment with a war whoop and lots of fist pumping. With my score from the Saturday I finished a respectable third in the match, picking up a bronze to complete my set of NRA medals, having won the gold and silver in previous years.

The danger area of the Rattlesnake range extends far into Hanford Reservation lands with the nearby nuclear power plant there releasing a steady thick cloud of steam towards the horizon. The property is home to America's plutonium processing plant where atomic warheads are armed and decommissioned under extremely high levels of security. It is also an area where nuclear waste is stored and atomic generators from submarines and battleships are buried. I knew about all of this radioactive related activity from the locals but it was not until I met an elderly couple at our hotel that I found out Hanford is also a central place for deep space exploration. From a scientist who worked on rocket motor noise suppression systems for NASA, I learned about the existence of the LIGO Hanford Observatory. While my father Bob (aka "The Legend") and I were in Richland firing our guns, these two married folks from Seattle were in town for the free monthly tour of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

LIGO aerial view

This scientific and engineering marvel is unlike more commonly known space observatories featuring rotating white domes with telescopes perched on mountains or arrays of large satellite dishes pointed up into space. LIGO consists of two 4 m. long laser interferometers that have 1.2m wide steel vacuum tubes with mirrors arranged in an "L" shape and covered by a 10 foot wide by 12 foot tall concrete shelter. Protected from the elements and vibration, LIGO can search for gravitational waves from distant astronomical events including when stars supernovae or black holes collide. Such violent events cause ripples in space-time as per Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and when these reach earth they can be measured, changing the laser signal in the arm length by the order of one ten thousands of the charge diameter of a proton. To ensure these events are not seismic activity registering from anywhere on the world or vibrations from vehicles on nearby roads, there is a second LIGO facility in Livingston, Louisiana almost 2,000 miles away for result comparisons. Other gravitation wave observatories are also now running in Italy and India with data being cross-referenced to the US LIGOs.

The original LIGO observatories were built in 1998 and operated by Caltech and MIT with $400 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. They first went operational in 2002 but detected no gravitation waves through to 2010. In 2008 the Advanced LIGO Project was conceived to enhance the original LIGO detectors with support from 1,000 scientists in the UK, Australia and Germany plus 440,000 Einstein@Home users who contribute computer power to the data calculations. Restarting in 2015 after a $200 million upgrade the new and improved sensors LIGO began searching the heavens and in 2016 it detected the first gravitational waves originating from deep space. By the end of 2018 LIGO has made a dozen detections of gravitation waves including ten from double black hole mergers and the collision of two neutron stars at a distance of up to 1.3 billion light years away. Scientists believe the data that LIGO collects may greatly increase our knowledge and understanding of gravitation, relativity, astrophysics plus particle and nuclear physics. I should note that the Nobel Prize in physics went to three LIGO and VIRGO (Italian interferometer) scientists in 2017.

All of this made for a rather exciting Canadian Thanksgiving weekend down in the States and I thought I would share it with the readers of the White Rock Sun. The next time I go away to south-eastern Washington for long-range fullbore target rifle shooting, I will try to make sure it coincided with the monthly tours of the LIGO complex. Obviously the LIGO project is extremely complex, hard to explain fully and totally grasp in only a few short paragraphs. If you wish to further explore what LIGO is revealing, check out the following websites that should give you a much greater understanding of the complexities involved. I must warn you that while the subject matter is fascinating, it can be a rather heavy read with plenty of scientific jargon. I have a pretty good grasp of applied ballistics but as can be expected with distant space research, there is plenty of rocket science involved.


https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/WA/news/ligo20190812

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LIGO
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_interferometer
https://einsteinathome.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein@Home

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 07, 2019

Cloverdale Cockfighting Corner

On Saturday SPCA officials and Surrey RCMP offers executed a search warrant on a farm in Surrey that SPCA spokesperson Marcie Moriarty later confirmed was related to allegations of cockfighting. The farm in question with "No Trespassing" spray painted on the side of a barn along with the crude outline of an AK-47 rifle is in the 16600 block of 50 Ave., only blocks away from the Surrey SPCA Education and Adoption Centre at 16748 50 Ave. No live birds were found at the targeted property but other evidence was discovered and taken away for analysis. In the early stages of this investigation nobody has yet been identified, arrested or charged with offences related to animal cruelty. Cockfighting is a notorious blood sport where agitated roosters equipped with razor sharp blades fight to the death in pits while gamblers place bets on the victor.

This is not the first time that farmland south of Cloverdale has been the subject of SPCA and RCMP raids related to cockfighting. in 2008 an operation linked to organized crime was taken down with evidence being seized at three different locations, the two largest in the 14800 block of 168 St. and 16300 block of 150 Street. A total 1,270 birds were seized and destroyed in that investigation that also found five fighting pits, spurs and gaffs, betting sheets and steroids. At that time the SPCA's Marcie Moriarty claimed during a Georgia Straight interview that some of the roosters were being exported internationally back to the Philippines. Five BC men were eventually charged with animal cruelty in this case and in June of 2009 charges against three of these were stayed with the other two receiving fines of $750 and one year probation. At that time, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences related to cockfighting was six months in prison or a $2,000 fine and a two-year ban on owning animals.

The 2008 cockfighting ring arrests in BC were instrumental in changes to Canadian animal cruelty laws and the dismal sentences being handed out to those convicted of these crimes. After no changes in 115 years of Canadian animal cruelty laws, Bill S-203 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) was passed by Canadian parliament and enacted to law several months after the first Cloverdale Cockfighting Corner take down. Of the many changes, it increased the maximum penalties handed down under the PCA Act from $2,000 to $5,000 and up to $10,000 for a second offence. in 2011 after the cull of 56 sled dogs in Whistler that received world-wide attention and condemnation, the BC government made changes to their Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, increasing fines to a maximum of $75,000 and jail terms up to 2 years, up from the former maximum of $10,000 and six months in jail.

Most of us know MP Jody Wilson-Raybould as the former Justice Minister who blew the lid off the SNC Lavallin scandal, before being turfed out of the Liberal caucus by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and now running as an independent in the riding of Vancouver Granville. It was Mrs. Wilson-Raybould who sponsored Bill C-84 last year that expanded existing animal cruelty laws and animal-fighting provisions to cover a broader range of activities and animals, which were passed into law in June of 2019.
Bill C-84 amends the Criminal Code to:
(a) define “bestiality” to encompasses any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal
(b) expand the scope of the offence of encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds so that the offence
(i) includes promoting, arranging, receiving money for or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, and
(ii) also applies with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds for fighting or baiting; and
(c) expand the scope of the offence of building, making, maintaining or keeping a cockpit so that the offence applies with respect to any arena for animal fighting.
Under the new law a person convicted under a summary offence faces a maximum $10,000 fine and up to 18 months in prison. For a second offence, the jail time increases up to five years and offenders may receive a lifetime ban on owning birds or animals and living in the same premises. In addition to these changes, those convicted of bestiality will now be added to the national sex offenders registry, recognizing the correlation (known as the violence link) between animal cruelty, crimes of domestic violence and child abuse.

With Surrey cockfighting seemingly entrenched in the rural area surrounding 168 St. and 50 Ave., it will be interesting to see where the police investigation goes into the most recent raid and if criminal charges are brought against those involved. The changes to both the Provincial and Federal laws governing animal abuse should mean for much tougher sentencing should anyone be charged and convicted of crimes involving battling roosters. With top fighting cocks worth up to $1,000 and bets of up to $5,000 reportedly being wagered, it is not surprising that underground cockfighting continues to this day. What is truly amazing is the close proximity of properties allegedly associated with cockfighting to the BC SPCA offices in Cloverdale. It makes me think that those people involved in cockfighting must truly be bird-brained.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 30. 2019


Taking the Tour

Sandra Tomchuk and Alyson Thorpe

Most of us are familiar with the Tour de White Rock bicycle race but it is not the only game in town. This past weekend the Peninsula Art Tour was in full swing with 32 artists opening up their studios and showing off their wares at 18 different locations across south Surrey and White Rock. This was the 10th year of the Tour that is supported by the Yarmoshuk Reedman Financial Group and sponsored by CIBC Wood Grundy, Private Wealth Management, White Rock Branch. This year's Tour included artistic works in oil, watercolour, acylic, mixed media, pottery, blown glass, mosaics, turned wood and jewellery.

If you noticed any of the various signs posted around town this weekend inviting you into an artist's studio, for next year you need to know that the Peninsula Art Tour 2019 had a downloadable map on their website. Printed brochures with the map were available at the various studios plus at CIBC, creating a location based game somewhere between the Amazing Race and geocaching. I happened to run into one of the tour signs near Peninsula Village where I met up with local artists Sandra Tomchuk and Alyson Thorpe who gave me details on the Peninsula Art Tour and showed me their many works of art available for sale.

If you missed the Tour, not to worry for here are the lists of the various studios, the artists and the artwork they are producing.
14639- 17A Avenue: Nicole Carrie - acrylic, watercolour, mixed media. Rich Schmid - wood turning. Peter Klemm - Oil. Georgia Johnstone - acrylic.
1523 Stayte Road: Jess Rice - watercolour, acrylic, oil. Angelio Morrissey - watercolour, acrylic, oil.
2330 152A Street: Sandra Tomchuk - abstract. Alyson Thorpe - watercolour.
12557 26 Avenue: Jeanette Jarville - oil, acrylic, mixed media.
#1 - 15168 22 Ave.: Audrey Bakewell - watercolour acrylic, jewellery.
2653 Country Woods Drive: Bruce Kleeberger - stone and wood sculpture. Joanne Carter - glass torch work.
14778 Gordon Street: Coleen Lumb - mixed media.
1872 136 Street: Constance Glover - high fired soda glaze ceramics and mosaics.
14336 18 Ave.: David Klassen - charcoal, conte, coloured pencil, acrylic oil.
#201 14855 Thrift Ave., intercom #011: iRMA Bijdemast - contemporary abstract artist
15369 36A Avenue: Doris Anderson - abstract in acrylic. Thomas Anderson - sculpture. Daniel Strathdee - oil and acrylics.
13798 24 Avenue: Nicoletta Baumeister - acrylic, watercolour, oil. Emily Vincent - sterling silver, gold, gems. Mac Grieve - acrylic.
#23 15099 28 Ave, intercom #23: Gail Nesimiuk - abstract, jewellery, art furniture.
13550 13A Avenue: Lee Caufield - contemporary works in mixed media. Gary McDonald - acrylic.
2944 Kidd Road: Lisa Samphire - blown glass. Sid Samphire - grogged stoneware. Adele samphire - wheel thrown stoneware.
12255 Sullivan Street: John Wright - stoneware and ceramics.
1055 Fir Street: Sylvie Peltier - Paintings in acrylic. Gabrielle Strauss - acrylic and mixed media.
14823 Prospect Avenue: Lori Chambers - acrylic, abstract, semi-abstract.

What is really user friendly is that the peninsulaarttour.com website has images of art pieces for all 32 artists that you can click on taking you to their websites so you can examine the projects they are working on plus contact information should you want to pick up a piece or have art commissioned. Contact information for the artist is also listed, making communication a breeze. The Peninsula Art Tour also has a Facebook page with postings from the various artists showing pieces of their works and if you like art make sure to LIKE their page. Check out the listed artists, their masterpieces and help support the creative geniuses living and working here in the Semi-pen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

TNT Extra: if you liked the well known poster used with this TNT, here is some information gleaned from Wikipedia on its origins that might be of interest.
"expose yourself to art" was the name of a poster which featured Bud Clark, future mayor of Portland, Oregon, seen flashing an abstract bronze artwork. Titled "kvinneakt" ("female nude" in Norwegian) it is Norman J. Taylor's sculpture of a nude woman located on the Transit Mall of downtown Portland, Oregon. The poster and Clark himself, at the time a bar owner in Goose Hollow, became widely known. Clark appeared to be wearing only a raincoat, but it was later revealed that he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt under his raincoat.
The photo was taken by Mike Ryerson in 1978, then a staff member of The Northwest Neighbor. Ryerson and Clark originally intended to create a poster for the Venereal Disease Action Council until a reader submitted the caption "expose yourself to art". With $500, Ryerson printed posters, then sold 800 for one dollar each by manning a booth at Waterfront Park. By 1984, the year Clark was elected mayor of Portland, Ryerson had sold more than 250,000 posters, with profits supporting The Northwest Neighbor. Following the election win, Clark sold autographed copies of the poster to eliminate his campaign debt. This now iconic poster is still being printed and widely available online from multiple sources for $9.59 U.S.

 

 

September 23, 2019

Federal Election Primer, S. Sry-WR

l-r Poulin/Findlay/HOgg/Hobby/Crozier

 

We go to the polls to vote in the next Federal election on Monday, October 21, 2019. While much of the headlines and political intrigue in the campaign to date has involved the leaders of the major parties across Canada, it is time to start looking at the people closer to home who want your X on the ballot. The close of nominations for candidates is Mon., Sept. 30, 2019 and the complete list of confirmed candidates will be available on Wed., Oct. 2, 2019. Here in alphabetical order are the bios and websites of the five previously announced candidates that want the all-important job of Member of Parliament for the South Surrey-White Rock riding.

Stephan Crozier, New Democratic Party
A teacher for 30 years, Stephen is fighting to leave a better Canada for the generations to come. He’s seen how families in White Rock and South Surrey are struggling in the housing crisis – and he knows government can do more for families by delivering better public services.
Stephen is President of the New Westminster and District Labour Council and Democracy Direct Society, the organization's community wing which worked to elect those to City Hall who represent the voices of everyday people in White Rock. As part of local and national campaigns, Stephen helped bring strong progressive voices, like Jagmeet Singh and former BCGEU President Darryl Walker, to government. Stephen is standing with the NDP for real solutions that make life more affordable. He’s fighting for universal pharmacare, affordable housing, and bold action on the climate emergency to create a brighter future in Canada.
https://stephencrozier.ndp.ca/

Kerry-Lynn Findlay - Conservative Party of Canada
Kerry-Lynne grew up primarily on Vancouver Island, graduating as a boarder at Crofton House School in Vancouver, and started UBC at age 16. During her 7 years of study at UBC in History, Political Science, and Law, she also served as President of her AGD Sorority Chapter and chaired Law School committees. Kerry-Lynne then established a successful law practice in downtown Vancouver in civil litigation, family and employment law, aboriginal land issues, and mediation appearing in all levels of Court including the Supreme Court of Canada. She currently practices in these same areas, serving clients primarily from Surrey, Delta, Richmond and Vancouver with her own firm, KFindlay Law Group, on 152nd St at 17th Avenue across from Semiahmoo Mall.
She was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1999 after having served as the elected President of the 10,000 member BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association.
Kerry-Lynne is a BC India Business Network Advisory Board member, and Past President of the Little House Society, a house of support and healing for those touched by substance use disorder. She also serves as Treasurer of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, providing service dogs to the blind, and support dogs to kids with autism and veterans with PTSD.
She is an active member of Rotary International, (2018-19 Club President), South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, Surrey Board of Trade, and the Canadian Bar Association. In the past Kerry-Lynne has served as a BC Government appointed member of Delta Police Board, providing civilian governance, accountability and oversight to the Delta Police Department.
In 2011, Kerry-Lynne was elected as the Member of Parliament for Delta Richmond East, a riding that no longer exists. She was appointed by the Prime Minister as Minister of National Revenue, and previously as Associate Minister of National Defence, and Parliamentary Secretary to Justice. She also served as a member of several high profile Cabinet committees including Treasury Board. Among other achievements, she was awarded the Golden Scissors Award in 2015 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) for leadership in cutting red tape for Small Business.
Kerry-Lynne lives in South Surrey with her husband, Brent Chapman, a locally based actor and director, often called upon to MC special events. They are the parents of four children, and grandparents of three small boys. All four of Kerry-Lynne and Brent's children are UBC graduates.
https://www.sswr.ca/

Beverely "Pixie" Hobby, Green Party of Canada
I was born in Ottawa, Ontario and grew up in the Gatineau Hills just outside of the city. Most of my childhood was spent outdoors in the natural environment of the Gatineau Park, cross-country skiing and skating in the winter and swimming, hiking and canoeing in the summer, fall and spring. As a young adult, my love of and concern for the natural environment led me to become an environmental and social justice activist while attending university. After graduating, I attended law school with the goal of practicing environmental law.
I joined the federal Department of Justice where I gained several years of courtroom experience before representing Environment Canada. There, I worked on climate change issues, management of toxic substances, and the development of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Recruited to work on environmental issues on reserve lands, I soon became involved in a number of Aboriginal self-government initiatives, including the development of the First Nations Land Management Act and the Inherent Right to Self Government policy. It was this challenge that brought me to Vancouver in 1995.
​Since then, my career has been focused in the area of environmental assessments of major development projects, including DeltaPort Container Terminal Berth 3, Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, New Prosperity Gold and Copper Mine and the Site C Clean Energy Project. When I am not working on environmental or social justice matters, you can find me practicing yoga or playing the violin with other musicians. I get a kick out of experimenting with raw food recipes, and I enjoy kayaking in Boundary Bay, working in my organic veggie garden, and singing with the Soul of the World Choir. I love sailing with my son, hiking in the forests of the Semiahmoo Peninsula or strolling along the beach, and sharing Reiki healing with friends and neighbours.
​In 1997 I authored The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act: an Annotated Guide published by Canada Law Book, which I up-date every year. In 2014, I left the federal public service, and continue to practice environmental law from my home in Crescent Beach. Last summer I combined my passion for social justice with my experience in environmental law and represented a group of citizens in White Rock, Ocean Park and Crescent Beach in the Canadian Transportation Agency’s arbitration process in relation to the environmental and health issues resulting from BNSF’s trains carrying thermal coal from the US through the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
https://www.pixiehobby.ca/

Gordie Hogg, Liberal Party of Canada
Gordie Hogg is an accomplished community leader with a proven record of public service, and was elected as the Member of Parliament for South Surrey—White Rock in October 2017. Having served as Mayor of White Rock, as a BC Cabinet Minister, and as a Member of the BC Legislative Assembly, he understands what it takes to create good jobs in South Surrey—White Rock, and he has been working closely with Justin Trudeau to grow and strengthen our middle class.
Gordie and his family have deep roots here in South Surrey—White Rock, where his father also practiced as a prominent physician. He and his wife are proud to live here, and to have raised their son here. He served on White Rock council for 20 years, 10 of which he was mayor. He has been a board member of more than 15 committees and non-profit societies, including the Peace Arch Community Health Council and the Peace Arch District Hospital.
Gordie recently completed his PhD at Simon Fraser University, and has acted as a board member on more than 15 committees and non-profit societies. He has also been a foster parent and little league coach.
https://gordiehogg.liberal.ca/

Joel Poulin, People's Party of Canada
It's exciting to announce the candidacy of Joel Poulin to become the MP for South Surrey White Rock, representing the People’s Party of Canada. A passionate and hard-working individual, Joel looks forward to making a difference in the riding and being a presence of change at the federal level.
Joel and his wife Sharaya have been married for 4 years and live in the West Beach area of White Rock. As a tower crane operator Joel has worked on many interesting projects all over British Columbia including the one billion dollar, Forrest Kerr, hydro-electric infrastructure project in northern B.C. Another project was the Audain Art Museum, a 56,000 square foot steel and concrete, original design building in Whistler, B.C. as well as many residential high rise developments across the lower mainland. Last year, after completing his Real Estate Trading License at UBC Sauder, Joel transitioned full time into his new career as a Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Little Oak Realty.
With the creation of the PPC, Joel found the perfect opportunity to represent White Rock, South Surrey at the federal level, hoping to ensure that each segment of the community is listened to and represented fairly. The People's Party of Canada is a new yet dynamic party led by Maxime Bernier. This robust, new party stands for the values of freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect. The PPC is about action and applying practical solutions to problems that Canadians face. The party’s goal is to make Canada stronger by applying fiscally responsible policies, reducing provincial trade barriers and protecting people's freedoms. The values and proposals put forward by the People’s Party of Canada are what drew Joel to represent them in South Surrey White Rock.
https://www.sswr-ppc.ca/

This TNT should help broaden your knowledge of the candidates vying for your vote. Make sure you educate yourself on the platforms of the various political parties and the promises they are making so you can make an informed decision on election day. Please be aware that:
You can vote in person at any Elections Canada office in Canada, any time before 6:00 p.m. (local time) on October 15.
You can vote by mail if you apply no later than 6:00 p.m. (Eastern time) on October 15.
You can vote at your advance polling place on October 11, 12, 13 and 14 with the address of your polling place on the voter information card that you will receive in the mail.
You can vote at your polling place on election day, Monday, October 21, 2019, again with the address of your polling place on the voter information card.
You can also find the address of your polling station on the elections Canada website (elections.ca) after September 24th.

Make your mark, get out and vote!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 16, 2019

Don't Fear Colebrook

Colebrook Road..., the name always brings with it a sense of apprehension and dread. Years ago when I was growing up in Delta and Surrey Colebrook Road had a reputation as a place that you should avoid when the sun went down. Used as a drag strip, dumping ground and quiet vicinity for illegal activities, this dark stretch of pavement running east to west across the bottom of Panorama Ridge was always notorious. Then in 2013 four people were found murdered during a six week period, with all of their bodies found within a 50 meter stretch of the dead end close to Hwy. 91. Things got so bad that the Mud Bay Blues Band even wrote a song titled Colebrook Road warning about its lurid and dangerous history. The addition of LED lighting west of 125 A Street plus installation of HD video cameras has certainly lowered the crime rate for this lonely road that parallels the BC Railway train tracks. Fortunately I now have some good news about Colebrook road that should have people interested in spending time there.

Most residents do not realize that there is a very large Surrey park along Colebrook road west of King George Blvd. The City of Surrey added this land aptly named Colebrook Park to their park inventory years ago but development of this 175 acre parcel has been slow to say the least. With the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor project, Colebrook road was realigned with a new road being built north of the tracks west of Birdies and Buckets. Because the new roadway took up valuable parkland that was environmentally sensitive, a large meandering waterway was installed in this area as habitat compensation. Several years ago an area was cleared at 14311 Colebrook road and a heavy white metal gate installed to deter illegal dumping. Earlier this year work began on creating a large gravel parking lot behind the gate plus trails were pushed into the woods heading north and west. With a grant of $250,000, contractors began work this summer building new walking trails.

Most of Colebrook Park is very wet, even during the relatively dry summer months. The fields east and west of the parking lot are choked with swamp grass that is impenetrable in the spring and summer and saturated in fall and winter. Small streams and ditches criss-cross the flat portion of the park with many ponds and swamps present. Because of the constant high water table, trail building at Colebrook Park is not an easy endeavor. There is now a gravel trail that heads due north out of the parking lot with a small bridge that crosses the field edge ditch. It goes through the forest them up the hill, connecting with the trail running west to east along the bottom of Panorama Ridge that is a right-of-way for the Metro Vancouver sanitary sewer. Other than the tell-tale orange sewer grates, you would not know that a huge sewer trunk line runs through this area as it has been buried and the area remediated to a natural setting.

By far the most interesting trail is the one that heads west from the parking lot. It is gravel up to the trees where it changes to raised wooden platforms that meander at odd angles through this boggy woodland area that is full of large western red cedars. This boardwalk goes for hundreds of metres and includes a metal grate for traction when it will be frosty in the winter. Because of the environmental sensitivity of this area and the fact you would likely end up with a soaker, it is advisable to stay on the boardwalk and not explore through the swampy forest. As with the north trail, the west one goes up the hill and also meets up with the Met-Van right-of-way completing a loop. If you look down from the railway overpass on the KGB, you will see a large back-filled area that will become a future dog park, which will also be connected to the Colebrook Park trail system.

These new trails are only the beginning of what is being planned for the near future. I've been told by Surrey Parks staff that phase two will likely begin next year with a multi-use trail heading west from the parking lot through the forest. Other nature trails are also planned along with a pathway that will parallel the large ditch that runs along Colebrook Road plus pedestrian access points for neighbourhoods in Panorama Ridge. It is interesting to note that there is a log house contained within the northern edge of the parks boundaries that may eventually be open to the public. Wildlife enhancement areas plus planned wetlands will provide more habitat for waterfowl and wildlife. You can check out the long range plan for Colebrook Park at https://www.surrey.ca/files/Colebrook_park_Plan_2001.pdf .

While there is no word yet on an official opening, the trails are accessible but you will have to park outside of the locked gate on Colebrook Road and walk in. The best thing about Colebrook Park now is that it is deserted since nobody is aware of the interesting trail systems that have been recently constructed. My wife and I took her dogs for a walk throughout the trail loop and did not see a single soul. It is not very often that you get a 175 acre park to yourself in a city of over half a million people. Once this park is put on the map and the gate is opened, you can expect it to attract plenty of visitors. If you are planning a trip to nearby Mud Bay Park and the Delta Dike Trail, make sure your outing includes some time to explore Colebrook Park.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 09, 2019


40th Avenue Fiasco

On Thursday morning I heard that 176 Street (aka Hwy. 15) in south Surrey had been closed because of a fatal vehicle crash that happened just before 7 a.m. Because the closure went from 32 Ave. up to 56 Ave. I surmised it was likely because of yet another crash at the corner of 40th Ave. Taking 184 St. to get around the closure, we met an RCMP cruiser blocking 40 Ave. and then encountered another car crash just a few flocks north where a passenger truck had plowed into the back of a Porche that was stopped while attempting to turn left into their driveway. This blocked all southbound traffic and severely impacted northbound travel. Coupled with 192 Street being closed for construction and paving, north-south traffic in south Surrey was basically gridlocked all the way from 168 St. to 200 St. in Langley.

When 176 St. was widened by the B.C. Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, 40 Ave. became the only road from the border to Hwy. #1 without a traffic control signal. Even the lowly 20 Ave. at least has a pedestrian demand light to go along with its very light traffic volumes. The 40 Ave./Hwy. 15 intersection has four through lanes plus two left hand turning lanes measures 35 metres across. The speed on Hwy. 15 in this area is 80 kmh but drivers on this dedicated truck route often drive at 90-100 kmh. I should also point out that this is in the flats in a boggy agricultural area that is conducive to fog formation which lowers visibility. There is now a roadside memorial for 23 year old "Belly" who died at the scene of a two-car crash that also injured the other driver. According to family members, Belly was headed east on 40 Ave. through the intersection and was hit by a car northbound on Hwy 15. A sign on a nearby hydro pole seeks witnesses and has family phone numbers on it.

This meat grinder of an intersection has needed a traffic light for years. While 40 Ave. is not considered an arterial road, it offers the only east west connection from Hwy. 10 down to 32 Ave. There are already calls to now block through access on 40 Ave, making it a right turn only onto the divided Hwy. 15. This will only make traffic worse, pushing cars onto the already plugged Hwy. 10 and 32 Ave. connectors and large detours for drivers. Instead of restricting traffic flow, it is high time that the City of Surrey and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation remove impediments to mobility and look at opening the boondoggle and bottleneck that is 40 Ave. We don't need another fatality to show us how dangerous the corner of 40 Ave. and Hwy. 15 already is. I know several people including a Surrey Planner that refuse to drive through this intersection on 40 Ave. because of the risks involved in crossing a designated truck highway.

The rest of 40 Ave. is also what I kindly refer to as a shit-show. For years the east end of this once-upon-a-time farm road has been blocked around 190 St., eliminating its use as a traffic connector to 192 Street that is now being widened and repaved. Its dead-end road designation attracts undesirables and criminal elements and this is where two Surrey teens were gunned down in June of 2018 in an unsolved double homicide. The roadside murder memorials are there should you care to visit, drop off flowers and pay your respects. Traveling west through south Surrey, 40 Ave. is blocked again at 152 St. after a Surrey Engineer was seriously hurt in a crash there years ago. This corner allows traffic on 152 St. to turn left each way but traffic on 40 Ave. can only turn right, meaning that past this dogs-breakfast of an engineering marvel, people constantly perform dangerous u-turns to get back on 40 Ave. A neighbour there pointed out to me that with bus stops on either side of 152 St. pedestrians have to jump the double concrete curbing to get across this 27 metre wide road that does not have a crosswalk.

Not quite as deadly but certainly dangerous, 40 Ave. terminates at King George Blvd. after swinging around the Peace Arch RV Park. While turning right onto the KGB to head northbound is usually quite easy, turning left to head south is a sphincter clencher at the best of times. At either rush hour you are basically taking your life into your hands trying to squeeze into traffic. Because of lengthy delays, people take chances and I constantly see near misses at this dangerous T-intersection. A tactic some drivers use from 40 Ave. is to cross the northbound KGB lanes, using the wide median to park in while they wait for a break in the southbound flow. The problem here is that often the front end or back corner of their vehicles are left hanging into oncoming traffic. I have seen multiple bad crashes at this site and the asphalt was heavily damaged by a vehicle fire from one of these spectacular wipe-outs. Only metres south of this location, the off-ramp from Hwy. 99 northbound experiences the identical driving challenges.

So here are my proposed fixes for the 40 Ave. fiasco going east to west. From 192 Street, remove the barricade at 190 St and widen this country road to arterial standards like nearby 184 St. At the corner of 40 Ave. and Hwy. 15, install a traffic light before someone else is killed, something that should have been done when 176 Street was widened. At 152 St., remove the stupid barricades that block through traffic for 40 Ave. and install another traffic light that would also address pedestrian safety. I would suggest that the Hwy. 99 northbound off-ramp terminate at a three way intersection located at the corner where 40 Ave. now turns north, with a 3-way stop or traffic light. This would incorporate the off-ramp and 40 Ave. traffic, meaning only one and not two roads entering King George Blvd that are currently only 150 metres apart. At the current 40 Ave. and KGB intersection, install a final traffic light there allowing for safe left hand turns on the KGB. The final result is removing all blockages to allow traffic to flow, while installing traffic lights for safety at dangerous and busy intersections. It is important to note that some of these changes would be Surrey's responsibility, some the B.C. Min. of Transpo., and others the cost would be shared.

I've been informed that Belly's family will be starting a petition to have a traffic light installed at 40 Ave. and Hwy. 15 once they have the RCMP collision report. I've talked to them about the issues with the entire length of 40 Ave. and they agree that something needs to be done. Stephanie Cadieux is the MLA for the Surrey South riding that encompasses the 40 Ave. fiasco. Let's hope that she will be able to help with upgrades at Hwy. 15 and near Hwy. 99, while Surrey City Hall looks at the multitude of problems on this one stretch of roadway that has been neglected for decades. It is time that 40 Ave. stops being treated like a local farm road and is given the classification of "arterial road", which is what people utilize it for. If you have your own thoughts on this matter, Mrs. Cadieux's email is stephanie.cadieux.MLA@leg.bc.ca, the Surrey Engineering Department's email engwebmail@surrey.ca, or feel free to contact Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, his Safe Surrey councillors or the remaining councillors who may be able to help address this long standing problem.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

NOTE


ICBC statistics reveal there have been 63 collisions in the uncontrolled intersection of 40 Ave and Hwy 15 between 2013 and 2017. In those crashes there were a total of 31 casualties. No word yet on the total cost for vehicle damage repairs and body injury claims arising from this carnage.

 

 

September 02, 2019

A Short Walk Around a Long Pier

With the iconic White Rock pier now open, I decided it was time to go down to the waterfront and check out the repairs. Unfortunately I waited until the holiday Monday on a nice sunny day, ensuring that I was not alone. While the work at Memorial Park is something to behold now that it finally has been completed, it was the size of the crowds taking the walk on the 1540 foot long pier that really was impressive. I must admit, it was great to see all of the happy smiling faces of people who obviously were enjoying to set foot onto the pier after it as seriously damaged in the windstorm on December 20, 2018. When you think White Rock, it is the pier, promenade and boulder all come to mind. At long last the trilogy is complete again and lets hope that White Rock has smoother waters for a while.

Crossing the BNSF tracks at the end of the pier I was discouraged that the large metal archway with "White Rock, BC, Canada" on it did not have a banner below proclaiming it to be "Canada's Longest Pier." My disappointment lasted only a couple of seconds when I saw that one of the plank boards had been heavily carved with this slogan running from one side of the pier to the other. It was nice to see that after the former administration had fought against this slogan, mainly because Dave Chesney had the audacity to suggest it, that saner heads at City Hall now recognize the value it adds to this historic landmark. Speaking of history, there is a brass plaque at the pier entrance that states, "White Rock Pier, original structure built by Federal Govt, 1914-15, designated a heritage monument April 26, 1982." Fortunately it did not get stolen like the one commemorating the construction of the White Rock promenade that disappeared last month.

Joining the horde I meandered down the pier to check out the repairs and rebuilding with the barge from the construction crew still moored not far offshore. All along the way there were new boards and railings installed periodically to replace ones either damaged or rotted. It was noticeable that the railings which once had been very straight now were out of alignment, no doubt from the pounding the structure received from the loose dock and the sail boats that crashed into it. Getting to the section where the gaping hole had once been, there were thick new deck planks 12 inches wide and sturdy railings, all in pressure treated wood to withstand the elements. It was interesting to note that the repaired section is out of alignment with the old portions of the pier, likely so that the new pilings did not line up with the old ones. I took along my trusty rolling measuring tape and discovered that the replaced section measures 102 metres long, consisting of deck 291 planks.

For a guy who has spent plenty of time around and under local bridges, I could not wait to check out the damage and repairs done to the support structure of the pier. Descending from the walkway on the concrete stairs that lead to the beach, the first big change I noticed was under the pier head where the entire area had been boxed in with large planks bolted to the pilings. At this point the beach rises, decreasing the area between the sand and the pier, making it susceptible to damage from logs and debris during high tides and wind storms. The planks are placed close enough that there now is no access, which is good in case someone decided it would be a good spot to light a campfire from all the driftwood. It appears that steps have been taken to protect the pier from both Mother Nature and morons too.

Walking out onto the sand flats, I had to marvel at the number of repairs that had been made to the old structure. The pilings were noticeably leaning in many areas with large black metal collars bolted onto damaged pilings to help hold them together. In other areas brand new wooden pilings with metal caps had been added to give more support to the decking. New creosoted cross beams have been bolted onto the pilings throughout the old structure to help give it more rigidity and strength to combat against wind, waves and debris. While these repairs may last for a while, there is no doubt that the pier was really standing on its last legs and would have eventually have needed to be replaced in the near future. Considering what happened last winter, I would suggest that the pier should be closed to the public during periods of high winds and large waves until it is all rebuilt.

The replaced section is a marvel of new marine construction techniques. Instead of creosoted wood, the pilings are steel pipe covered with a thick black coating for salt water corrosion resistance. The pilings are spaced three wide and there are 22 rows of them. On top of these are long reinforced concrete rectangles holding the row of three pilings in place. Large concrete slabs sit atop of these with heavy wood deck planks above that. To say that the new section is built like a proverbial brick shit-house would be an understatement. When walking the pier on top the two sections look relatively the same but the underneath support structure is now night and day. When funding from Ottawa is finally secured this federally built historic site should be completely rebuilt so that it can withstand another hundred years without being damaged or destroyed. With a federal election looming this fall, lets hope for a funding announcement when the pier is officially reopened on Saturday, Sept. 21st.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 26, 2019

Surrey Sharpshooters 1st & 3rd in Canada

David Calvert, now shooting for the English Rifle Team 

.......won the MacDonald Stewart Grand Agg by one point over South Surrey's Jim Paton

Once again I find myself finger pecking a TNT on my tablet at 10,000 metres, this time jetting home from Ottawa with my dad Bob Pitcairn (aka "The Legend") sitting beside me after yet another major 
fullbore target rifle championship.

Three weeks ago we started our summer of shooting attending the B.C. Rifle Association's (BCRA) Fullbore Target Rifle Championships, this year held for the first time in Kamloops instead of its usual location at the DND Vokes range in Chilliwack. Besides the usual local yokels, the 14 man Wales Rifle Team also joined the fray with plenty of top calibre shots. After 3 days of close competition, Wales supporter David Calvert won the B.C. Open by V-bulls (center bullseyes), I took the B.C. Target Rifle Championship as the Province's top marksman, and my father Bob and I tied outright for the Lt. Governor's Prize. Using old age, tretchery and years of skill, The Legend added to his storied range history, beating me in a 5 round sudden death shoot-off to secure a chair ride from the firing point.

Only three days after that provincial match I boarded a jet bound for Ottawa to compete in the 137th Dominion of Canada Rifle Association's (DCRA) annual Target Rifle Championships. This event attracts international teams and "hitters" from across the globe including the Welsh, English, Channel Island, USA and even Jamaica rifle teams. The Canadian Cadet National Rifle Team was there in numbers, Canadian and English under 25 teams plus many women competitors in what years ago was a male dominated sport. In total there were four people from South Surrey competing, including 17-yr-old cadet Karen Chen from the 2947 RCACC based in Richmond who was my junior/senior match partner.

After settling into rustic army barracks accommodations with my Dad as roommate, we began several days of warm-up matches, getting used to the ranges peculiarities, wind flow patterns and noting sight zeros for the various ranges of 300, 500, 600 yards plus the long range 800 and 900 metres. After the first day of competition, yours truly found himself in the early lead for the Grand Aggregate. Unfortunately for me my 81-yr-young father went on a tear, going clean and not dropping a single point for three days, leading the Grand for several days himself. In high temperatures and thick humidity with thunderstorms present, he faltered in the heat allowing other marksmen to jump into the lead.

After eight days of intense completion, David Calvert, now shooting for the English Rifle Team won the MacDonald Stewart Grand Agg by one point over South Surrey's Jim Paton, arguable one of Canada's finest marksmen. The Governor General Prize went to Jon Underwood of the Surrey Rifle Association in England after shooting a perfect 300 that included two lomg range matches. Three shooters finished two points back including myself who placed 4th due to v-count missing out on a coveted bullion badge. In the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, Jim Paton once again reigned supreme for the 5th time winning the gold with Fazel Mohideen from Pickering, Ontario taking silver and another Surrey sharpshooter, Don Pitcairn getting the bronze for third place. In the Under 25 Team match Canada won by a handful of points, while in the Commonwealth team match, Canada was golden followed by the USA and Britain.

In a historical note I found out that DCRA Hall of Famer Sam J. Perry, who won the King's Prize at the Bisley ranges in England in 1904, was from Vancouver, BC. When he returned home he received a hero's welcome as the Commonwealth's top shot and a parade was held in his honour. It was Perry, who after being given the victor's chair ride in England, decided that the Governor General Prize winner should be chaired in Canada. In 1914 he commissioned the construction of the elongated wooden chair that is still used today to hoist aloft the winner on the Connaught ranges in Ottawa. When Sam Perry retired, it was in the quiet seaside hamlet of White Rock, as revealed by legendary Vancouver Sun journalist Lee Straight in a column he wrote years ago on this very subject.

For full details and match results visit the following rifle association websites:
BCRA - bcrifle.org
DCRA - dcra.ca

Naturally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 20, 2019

"Smart" Meter My Ass

 

Capitulation: the act of surrendering or ceasing to resist an opponent or demand.

It has been a long and valient fight against a relentless foe with an army of thousands, unlimited wealth, tenacious perseverence and government backing. Unfortunately with nowhere to turn and no political support from the weak kneed NDP/Green alliance against corporate trespassing onto our property, we have finally given in to BC Hydro and join the other serfs who were forced to have a so-called "Smart meter" installed on their homes.

This protracted battle against having one of these wireless digital units installed on our house goes back to 2011 when our omnipresent electrical Crown corporation decided to spend almost a billion dollars to put them into service across BC. Due to health concerns, house fires from faulty units, reports of overbilling compared to analog meters, loss of meter reader jobs plus the billion dollars wasted, we opted out of their stupid program.

What ensued was years of bullying tactics, trespassing on our property, relentless corporate terrorism and high monthly charges of $32.40 to keep our analog meter. It was so bad at one point that we made threats against their installers and contemplated extracting revenge on their executive officers and infrastructure. Of course this never happened but sometimes we felt like we were prisoners in our home trying to keep the wolves at bay. Government controlled monopolies are never people friendly as they don't have customers, they have users who are forced to utilize their services, no matter how terrible or expensive (hello ICBC and NavCan).

in the latest and final gambit, BC Hydro wrote to explain that our analog meter had expired and needed to be replaced. Workers found that the meter was covered with a wooden board courtesy of the former owners tired of drafts around the unit. A picture was provided of our meter along with yet another threat of disconnection, directing us to the website bchydro.com/meterchoices. Of course they explain that BC Hydro no longer stocks analog meters and your choice is a smart meter or a dumbed down one that does not transmit data. For this later hunk of junk that we still don't want you must pay an additional $20 a month on your bill.

We decided to rip the cover board from our meter, something I will now have to replace. Eventually I expect these digital units will be used for time-of-use billing as our world becomes more electrified. Until then realize that the old dependable analog meters were cheap and lasted for up to 40 years. BC Hydro estimates that this year 40,000 faulty or failed units will have to be removed, along with another 48,000 getting pulled to check accuracy and for overbilling. Industry experts in Canada believe and that Smart meters will be obsolete within 6-10 years when they need recertification and the US Congress has been informed their lifespan is 5-7 years, not the 20 years BC Hydro has announced.

I predict that in the near future the so-called dumpster fire at ICBC will be a candle in the wind when compared to the money being burned by BC Hydro. With Site C dam building costs and overruns, obscene run of river electrical contracts, infrastructure replacement including dams and generating stations plus their dumb meter program, I expect the red ink to flow from their corporate headquarters like the 3,000 gallons of fake blood that poured from the Overlook Hotel elevators in the movie The Shining. If you think your Hydro bills are high now, just wait a few years.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 13, 2019


Riverside on the Riverfront

Before I get going with this week's TNT I have to point out that an important milestone in the White Rock Sun was recently reached. July 20 was the 10th year anniversary of yours truly penning my first The Naked Truth column. If you scroll down, hit the archives tab and scroll way down again, you can read my very first TNT about Surrey's clothing-optional shoreline, Crescent Rock Beach. During this time I have written over 520 TNTs from such locations as Australia, England, New Zealand, and across the US and Canada. Some have been penned in airplanes but this one is being written while driving home on the Coquihalla Hwy. 

Last week the Surrey Parks Dept held their second open house about their ideas for the proposed Riverfront Park on the south shore of the Nicomekyl River between Elgin Rd. and 40 Ave. I dropped by the Elgin Hall on Crescent Road after work and was pleased to see the parking lot full of vehicles and the building packed with people. Surrey Parks staff were out in force answering questions from residents, many who live near this future park. There were photo-boards throughout the walls of Elgin Hall explaining much of the park's design process. 

These included the following:


Public Open House #2
Overview
Existing land uses & circulation
We asked you
Park planning principles
Environment
Heritage
Public art
Climate change and sea level rise
Park concept plan
Madden mill
The Oxbow and Creek
The floodplain, the meadow & ravine
The bluffs
Proposed features
Share your thoughts with us

There is no way that I can properly condense the information contained in these 16 boards but they are now posted on the City of Surrey website for your viewing pleasure. Since this will be Surrey's longest waterfront park, I feel it is important for Semi-pen residents to have a look at the plans at;

https://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation/24604.aspx

When you are done reading this column, please take the time to visit this site to fully appreciate what is being proposed.

Surrey is looking for resident's inputs and questions with an online survey at the above web address, email at nicomeklriverfront@surrey.ca, or by phone at their office at 604-501-5050, Doug Merry at 604-598-5778 or Mickella Sjoquist at 604-592-7033. To date this project has attracted 14,000 views on social media, over 600 responses via phone and email plus a large number of folks replying to their online survey. Your ideas and contributions can help guide the planning process for this new exciting park.

The elephant in the room was that there was nothing at Elgin Hall regarding Surrey's rather rushed 2015 expropriation of the Riverside Golf Course that makes up the bulk of the west end of this new park. Personally I find it highly offensive that they do not call the new park "Riverside" instead of Riverfront. I talked to Ken Porier, the former owner whose family ran the golf course, driving range and golf centre for 60 years about the new park. He informed me his lawsuit against Surrey will begin this Oct. in BC Supreme Court as he tries to receive fair compensation from the City for his land.

It may not be the Venetian canal that Surrey mayor Doug McCallum was looking for but this park on the banks of the Nicomekl river should be an amazing new green space for people to enjoy and explore. Take the time to get involved, check out what is proposed and have your say. From what I've already seen, the Nicomekl "Riverside" Park should be a jewel for South Surrey residents to enjoy for generations to come.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


 

August 6, 2019

Green For Cash Grab

Now that I am back on my feet with my knee working again, it's time to put the boot to John Horgan's NDP and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth about their new red light & speed intersection cameras. Five of these went live last Monday, three in Vancouver, one in Maple Ridge and one in south Surrey at the corner of King George Blvd and 152 St. It won't be long before a total of 35 intersections will have these new units that will be used to issue tickets for running red lights and speeding. With my interest in road safety, I decided to go check out the KGB/152 St. cameras. What I saw turned me from a supporter of this new initiative to one of the growing list of people screaming "CA$H GRAB."

The Dippers promised that all of these radar cameras would be posted so that drivers knew of the intersection locations. Unfortunately they could not have chosen a worse colour for these signs, making them hard for motorists to see. They consist of a white background with a black camera logo and text reading SPEED & RED LIGHT in a rather thin font. In order to grab driver's attention, the border of the sign is alternating white and green. To say that they are barely noticeable in the natural environment where green is the predominant colour would be an understatement. Nestle them up against a boulevard tree in full leaf and these signs effectively disappear.

Road signs come in many different colours with each signifying something different to drivers and are as follows:
Black and white: Posted regulations (speed limits) telling drivers what they can or can't do on the road.
Red: Stop, Yield and Do Not Enter are all this colour, giving drivers crucial information and actions.
Yellow: Signifies warning, alerting drivers to take caution, slow down or to be alert for possible hazards.
Green: This colour is used for guide signs, street signs and those telling you where you are, where to go, and the distance.
Blue: Also used for guide signs telling you about available services like rest areas, hospitals, gas stations and hotels.
Orange: Is reserved for construction and maintenance projects, including areas where workers may e directing traffic.
Brown: This colour is reserved for parks and recreation signage.

From an early age we are all taught that red means stop and green means go. Red is also used to signify danger while green means safety. The former red light camera intersection signs at least had a large red dot on them for visibility. Red is one of the easiest colours for the human eye to see because of its long wavelength, not so for the colour green. The Kelly green that is used on the new red light/speed camera signs is the same as what many municipalities (including Surrey) use for their road signs. Green is also synonymous with American greenbacks plus Canadian one dollar and twenty dollar bills printed in green, the colour of cash.

With the world's main check for colour blindness being the D-15 Farnsworth color test, I'm now wondering if our own Mike Farnsworth is colour-blind. I certainly cannot rationalize why the NDP would use the green and white border for the red light/speed camera signs over one that was, oh let's say red and white. A red and white border would make these signs much more visible leading to safer driving behaviour in crash prone intersections. Also having one of these signs posted on the traffic light standard between the lights above the roadway would also help to alert motorists to the possibility of having their picture taken and an expensive ticket mailed out.

The other issue I have with this program is that the BC Government is keeping secret the speed over the posted limit where a driver will receive a ticket. My guess is the reason for this is so that over time they can progressively lower the number as more and more of these cameras get mounted. When asked what the speed limit would be, Farnsworth would not state numbers, saying instead, “If you drive like a normal person, you’re not going to get a ticket. Drive like a self-entitled jerk, you’ll get a ticket.” If this program wasn't a cash grab, then Minister Farnsworth should have been truthful and given the number to the driving public instead of acting like a jerk himself. Keep in mind folks that even 1 kmh over the limit is still defined as speeding under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 30, 2019


...And Then I Snapped.

Hey ya'll prepare yourself for the rubberband man
You've never heard a sound
Like the rubberband man
You're bound to lose control

When the rubberband starts to jam


Lyrics to "The Rubberband Man" by the Spinnerrs

 

This TNT will be short and sweet for reasons I will soon explain. After attending friend's of ours wedding reception last night, I awoke with my left knee feeling sore. I'm not sure if it was The Macarena, The Chicken Dance or The Twist but I thought maybe I should have limbered up before limboing down. Thinking little of it, I went about my list of weekend chores expecting the discomfort to eventually recede.

At the end of the day my wife asked me to walk with her to the beach so her dogs could have a swim. We live only a few blocks from the water and the knee was feeling ok. We went to Crescent Rock beach for a couple of hours, cooling off and giving the pooches some fun in the sun. Ready for dinner, we made our way up the Christopherson steps (190 of them, not 101 as advertised) and headed for home with nothing wrong.

Halfway back to the house we crossed the road and I was walking on a boulevard lawn when there was a loud snap and my left knee immediately buckled. Sheryl immediately asked "Oh my God, was that you?" I stood there in disbelief at the instant searing pain in my leg, wondering what had happened. When I tried to walk, I could not put any weight on my left leg without excruciating pain. Walking home was suddenly not an option.

Fortunately one of my friends who is a beach regular had left just after us and as he drove by I flagged him down. Explaining my medical situation, Gord helped me to his truck and drove me the last block to the house. Once there he lent me his shoulder to get inside where I then bum scooted up the stairs, needing his help to make it to our family room couch. I've been here ever since with ice packs on my elevated knee that feels like crap.

Needless to say my TNT topic went out the window, with this column being typed on my tablet and not our laptop as I can't make it to the office. I don't know what happened to my knee but if nothing changes overnight I will have to pick up a set of crutches tomorrow morning and go see my doctor. As to how this injury could happen without a misstep or trauma is beyond me but as of now I only have one good leg to stand on.

Naturally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

July 23, 2019

White Rock South in SoCal

We decided to take a break and head down to Los Angeles to visit a friend who lives in nearby Corona, California for an extended weekend of fun in the sun. Part of the itinerary was a trip to the coast to spend some time at the beach in San Clemente, a quaint little seaside village that I like to call White Rock South. The town is built onto a hill facing the water with fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean and amazing sunsets. A railway line runs along the edge of the beach with Amtrak commuter trains, just like in White Rock. The final thing that makes San Clemente a home away from home to anyone from the Semi-pen is the 1,296 foot long wooden pier that is a little bit shorter than Canada's longest pier.

Our getaway was booked to coincide with the 45th annual San Clemente Ocean Festival that was held that weekend. Leaving my friend's giant Suburban at his home, we hopped on board a commuter train that took us on an hour long ride from Corona directly to the beach entrance. From there we walked out onto the pier to check out the collection of vintage Woody automobiles including a new Mini that had been Woodyized with old-school surfboards on top. We grabbed a bite and a pint at one of the two restaurants at the pier end before hitting the beach. This all reminded me of the good old days when you could take the train to White Rock, cars were allowed to drive on the pier and a restaurant was at the pier entrance.

The San Clemente Ocean Fest is quite the spectacle and it attracts very large crowds to participate in the many events, watch the athletes, try some food and shop from local artists. California lifesavers and ocean athletes compete in a total of 9 different events for both men and women that put their rescuing and survival skills to the test. New for this year was the Junior Lifeguard events for future lifeguards aged 9-17. Catering to the kids they also held the annual Dolphin Dash for ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 with varying start times and distances of 0.5, 0.75 and 1 mile in length. As to be expected, surfing and boogie board contests were also held for juniors plus women and men, wrapping up Saturday's activities.

The ocean events did not slow down on Sunday starting in the morning with a 5K beach run/walk. This was followed by an open ocean paddle contest for men and women over a 5.5K course outlined by large buoys tethered in the water. The ultra athletes then took over with a biathlon consisting of a 1K swim and 5K run. That was followed by a one mile ocean swim with a mob of competitors all wearing orange swim caps numbered for safety. A run-swim-run race of 200m, 300m and 200m was held for those with a little less energy while SÚP sprint races and splash and dash relays ended the athletic competitions. By far the most fun was the rubber duck charity race featuring bathtub toys bought for $5 that were released from the pier with the first to shore winning a hefty cash prize.

All of this athletic prowess, fun times and family friendly entertainment in San Clemente left me wondering if something like this could be held in White Rock with the beach and pier being used for viewing. Of course some of the events would have to be altered, with boogie boarding instead of surfing for example. Ocean kayak and paddle board races could start on one side of the pier, race out around the breakwater and then back to shore ending in front of the White Rock boulder. A rubber duck race on an incoming tide would be a sure-fire hit with all ages. A running race down the centre of the 1,572 foot long pier followed by a 1K ocean swim would be great fun to watch.

I don't have all the answers or details but I believe that the city of White Rock could learn more than a thing or two from San Clemente. This is the second time we have visited this town and our first chance to see the San Clemente Ocean Festival. If White Rock wants to revitalize the City By The Sea and fill empty storefronts along Marine Drive, what better way than providing a series of fun ocean themed events bringing crowds of people to the shore. It would be very easy to emulate the success that San Clemente has with their Ocean Fest by simply contacting their organizers and gathering together corporate sponsors (visit oceanfestival.org).

Pitcairns

I still think the White Rock Sandcastle competition should be revived in some form plus a sand art weekend using rakes to create intricate designs would bring the sand flats alive. If you have any interesting ideas on how to bring more ocean fun and crowds back to White Rock, please forward them to the mayor and council. The other option is to send them to the WR Sun editor Dave Chesney where they might be posted in his forward thinking "Good Idea" spot. Great timing, I just finished this column as my ears popped as we descend to YVR. Yet another TNT written in a commercial jet as we wing our way back home!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 15, 2019

"I Want to Walk in My Own Two Feet!

Perseverance def: persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

 

I first met John and his wife Shannon at their home near Five Corners in White Rock that had a temporary metal ramp going to their front door. John was in a wheelchair, stuck in a house with stairs and multiple floors leading to a rooftop patio. I learned that on June 25, 2017 John and his wife were traveling south of Osoyoos in the USA when a deer jumped out of the woods into the path of their motorcycles. With no time to react, John struck the deer, causing to him to lose balance and control, laying down his bike that then skidded into a guardrail. The impact seriously damaged his right leg extruding his talus bone, one of the main bones of the ankle, out onto the gravel at the side of the road. Fortunately his wife insisted that the EMTs take the bone to the hospital on the possibility it could be salvaged and his foot saved.

At Harborview Hospital in Seattle, surgeons cleaned the bone in an iodine wash and placed it back in his ankle, warning him of possible future infection. After 18 days in Harborview and a further 12 days in Peace Arch Hospital, John was allowed to finally go home. It was only a few days later when his wound began to weep and open that they realized an infection had set in which required three times daily intravenous treatments and further plastic surgery. By Christmas of that year and into January of 2018 John began to walk around the house and start physio rehab. By the spring the ankle began to swell and get sore, putting him back in a wheelchair. Throughout all of this the word "amputation" was frequently used by doctors as a remedy to his ongoing medical issues. Finally in August of that year his dead talus bone was removed and the joint packed with antibiotic cement.

Not wanting to lose his foot and mobility, John started researching talus bone replacement using 3D printed replacement bones that orthopaedic surgeons at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland were pioneering. John sent this information to Dr. Alistair Younger at Footbridge Foot and Ankle Clinic in Vancouver. He met with Dr. Younger who determined that John was a perfect candidate for this procedure. Dr. Younger applied to Health Canada for permission to perform John's talus bone replacement but was denied twice as he was told it was experimental. Dr. Younger kept pushing and after 8-9 months of delays, approval was finally given and the surgery scheduled for the first 3-D talus bone plus total ankle replacement ever done in Western Canada. On May 24th it took only two hours for Dr. Younger and his team at St. Pauls Hospital to fully repair John's ankle (visit Providence Health Care News, http://phcnews.ca/news/orthopaedic-first-western-canada for details).

Post-operative x-ray of John's surgically repaired ankle

It has now been seven weeks since the operation and on Sunday John met with Dr. Younger for a post-operation follow up consultation. The surgeon and his entire team were thrilled with the outcome of his surgery and recovery, with x-rays used to clear him for walking and driving. On Monday John will begin physiotherapy to regain his strength and muscle mass after spending most of the last two years in a wheelchair and losing 45 pounds in the process. With the success of John's ankle surgery, Dr. Younger expects the use of 3D printed talus bones to save thousands of unnecessary foot amputations and prosthetics, with many new patients already stepping forward. The cost of the replacement talus bone is $12,000 or 10% of the cost for a custom fitted artificial foot, reducing medical costs while keeping people intact and mobile.

Throughout this lengthy and painful experience John refused to agree to an amputation of his damaged right ankle, looking for a remedy to repair it so he could walk again. His wife Shannon provided her total and unconditional support to him during this two year medical odyssey for which he is eternally grateful. His battle cry of "Don't give up! Be your own mentor!!" could be adopted by many people facing their own daunting medical challenges. John will be working to regain his strength and agility, hoping to be able to get back in the saddle and ride off into the sunset on his motorbike again. As he explained to me "You don't park the car just because you've had an accident." After more than 40 years of safe biking across North America, John is looking to putting his two feet forward and getting back on the road of life.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note: So that he can focus on his recovery, John has asked that his last name not be made public at this time.

 

July 08, 2019

Seeing Sea Stars

On Canada Day my wife and I wanted to take a break from the crowds and go to the beach for a little R&R. Knowing that the shoreline near the Crescent Rock boulder south of Crescent Beach would likely be packed with naturists, we decided to visit a rather remote beach near Kwomais Point. Going down the 1,001 Steps staircase at the west end of 15A Ave in Ocean Park, we crossed under the BNSF tracks and proceeded south to the Point where there is a private spot sheltered from view of the trains by several alder trees and a patch of scrub. The shore is very rough and rocky in this area and the beach consists of small pebbles with little to no sand. What it lacks in comfort, it more than makes up for with its stunning views, incredible wildlife displays and quiet privacy.

We performed a little "beachscaping" on our selected spot, leveling the pebbles, clearing it of small rocks and bringing in a log from down the shore that we could rest on. Laying down a blanket and towels, we broke out our picnic supplies and began enjoying the fruits of our labour. After a few hours of sun tanning I decided to go for a walk a little further down the beach as this was an area I had only ever seen while doing railway corridor inspections after reports of landslides onto the tracks. I knew there was not much beach past Kwomais Point as heavy wave action and the addition of big rip-rap by the BNSF Railway meant the area was a boulder garden. Little did I know my hike would end shortly and suddenly with a heavy heart.

I had not walked far when I came upon a sight that I could barely comprehend. On a large flat boulder were the remains of a large number of common purple starfish known as ochre sea stars.

 

 

July 02, 2019

Zamboni Skate-A-Thon

One of my buddies is Bill Kendrick who sells a line of heavy duty equipment through his company Kendrick Equipment. Last year he purchased Crocker Equipment with the goal of adding Zamboni ice resurfacing machines to his fleet of specialized industrial and municipal equipment. Along with the inventory, Bill acquired an extremely rare vintage Zamboni Model F that has a rather unique local history. With space at the business being at a premium, Bill Kendrick recently decided to donate his early Zamboni to the BC Sports Hall of Fame. At 5,630 pounds in weight and standing 7 feet tall and 13 feet long, it is the heaviest of all the 25,000 artifacts that the Hall has acquired to date.

What makes this vintage Zamboni so interesting is that it was the first Zamboni ever used in B.C. It was bought in September of 1956 for approximately $10,000 by the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) for use on the Forum ice sheet in the pre-Coliseum days. In the mid-1970s this same machine (serial number 56) was sold and purchased by the City of White Rock for use at the Centennial Arena. Apparently delivery back then included driving it on roadways all the way from Vancouver to White Rock that included a trip over the Pattullo bridge. The first Zamboni in White Rock faithfully serviced the people and skaters of White Rock for years and was eventually put out to pasture and sold. A new all-electric version with a coveted serial number 11,000 now clears the Centennial ice sheet while keeping the air clean inside.

The early models of Zamboni ice resurfacers were built on a army surplus Jeep frame with all wheel drive capabilities and a tight turning radius. Because of this, a transmission repair company in Surrey purchased the Model F machine from White Rock, stripped it of many of its one-of-a-kind ice making parts and began using it to transport transmissions in a muddy lot behind their building. Years later, Earl Vorath who worked for Crocker for over four decades, found out about where the #56 Zamboni had gone to and decided to restore it to its former glory after trading a metal lathe for it. Fortunately the mechanic shop had kept the body panels and machinery parts so rebuilding this vintage piece of ice cleaning equipment was still possible.

What makes this a fascinating story for White Rock is that the Kinsmen helped to finance the purchase of #56 by holding a "Zamboni Skate-a-Thon" on March 27, 1976. Bill Kendrick found a brochure/sponsor sheet numbered 342 in the Crocker archives and passed it along to me. It reads as follows:
The Skate-a-Thon has been organized to raise funds for the purchase of a Zamboni Ice Resurfacer. The skater who is asking for your support will skate laps at the White Rock Centennial Arena. Prizes will be awarded to the teams and individuals skating the most laps and raising the most money. Teams can win prizes.
You are asked to pledge on a per lap basis. The skater you have sponsored will return after the contest with a card certifying the laps covered so that he can collect your donation. NOTE: SOME OF THE SKATERS MAY BE ABLE TO SKATE AS MANY AS 100 LAPS OR MORE IN THE TIME ALLOTTED. All cheques made payable to the Zamboni Skate-a-Thon.

It is interesting to realize that not that long ago, purchases of machines for use by the city were financed by community donations and not by taxes. Unfortunately the used sale price of the #56 Model F Zamboni is unknown along with the total amount of money raised in the 1976 Skate-a-Thon. The brochure/sponsor sheet did have enough room for 60 sponsors and the rules noted "If you skated 50 laps at 2 cents per lap, the sponsor will pay you $1.00." The brochure that I now have will be donated to the White Rock Archives along with a copy of this TNT column. If you decide to visit the BC Sports Hall of Fame, when you see the blue and white antique Model F Zamboni there, stop and think about the years of service this machine spent doing circles on the ice of Centennial Arena and how a Skate-a-Thon helped to pay for it.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 25, 2019

Busy as Beavers

Recent citizen vegetation control

In the nearly 10 years that I have been writing my TNT for the White Rock Sun, tree cutting on the Hump hillside between East and West beach has been relentless. In fact, next to landslides from the Ocean Park bluff threatening the safety of trains on the BNSF tracks, it unfortunately is likely my second most visited topic. If you were to delve way back into the TNT archives you would see the Hump hillside covered in first growth forest, with plenty big leaf maples, red alders and wild cherry trees, many with trunks over 3 feet wide. Over the years pictures in my TNT of new clearings and stumps continued to be posted as gradually the tree canopy was reduced as the creme de la creme on Marine Drive called for unobstructed views of the White Rock pier and Boundary Bay.

Often the City of White Rock, apparently with the blessing of the BNSF Railway were behind the clearing, with misinformation from City Hall obscuring the amount of tree cutting and the size of the trunks being felled. The culmination of all of those years of clearing was the nearly complete razing of the Hump hillside in 2016 under the guise of "vegetation control" so engineers could better see retaining walls at the top of the hillside. Apparently no one realized it was the engineers in the passing trains, and not the ones working for White Rock who would have the unobstructed view of these small walls. Along the way White Rock replaced the safety railings and sidewalk along Marine Drive that had leaned 10-20 degrees from vertical towards the ocean due to slope movement.

I think the final desecration, the nearly complete logging of the Hump was the final straw that broke the Coalition's back with Councillors Grant Meyer, Lynne Sinclair, Bill Lawrence and Megan Knight getting kicked out office. If former Mayor Wayne Baldwin has not decided to jump like a proverbial rat from the sinking ship, I believe he would have been ousted by an electorate looking for payback for a laundry list of transgressions including the clear-cut Hump. What was once a beautiful green backdrop behind the gleaming White Rock boulder now looked like an ugly flattened battlefield with the tree trunks piled up like cord wood at the base of the hill waiting for disposal. The proposed replanting with dwarf shrubs never materialized and nature in all its glory has taken over, with new trees springing up into the sunny void.

Last month White Rock Council was informed by staff that they were going to do some more "vegetation control" on the Hump at the bequest of owners in condos living along marine Drive. This idea was quickly shut down, with nobody even asking what the hell White Rock was thinking in considering to cut trees down on BNSF property that is a known slide threat. Apparently that idea did not sit well with two men who decided they would take matters into their own hands on Sunday and do their own clearing, White Rock politicians and residents be damned. Of course this is a rather high visibility area and these fellers were reported to White Rock By-Laws and the RCMP who attended and stopped their hatchet job. If past history is any indication, I expect nothing will happen to these hack and slash artists, since if White Rock can clear-cut the entire hillside, what's wrong with cutting a few saplings, right?

(see above photo)

I decided to take a close look to see what had been cut and headed down to the area just east of the Pier. A narrow trail had been cut down into the blackberries that snaked down onto a steep zone that is part of a 150 m. wide slump slide that happened around 1900 when the Hump was cleared of its large firs. This was an area that was last cut for the fine folks in the Top Of The Rock development. There were wild cherry and maple saplings up to two inches across sprouting from the old stumps, which had been sawed through several feet off the ground and the branches pulled down. The overall effect looked like a punji stick boooby-trap that someone did not have time to properly conceal. Now that the trail through the blackberries is there, It would not surprise me to see someone from the condos across the street sneak in under the cover of darkness to finish the job.

Nicomekl clearing

This problem is not confined to White Rock as residents from Surrey as just as guilty at chopping at green spaces to improve views. in the Southport neighbourhood near the Elgin Road Sea Dam crossing the Nicomekl River, there is a green way that has been repeatedly mowed and pruned even though it is environmentally sensitive parkland. I wrote about this back in December and alerted the City of Surrey to the problem. They promised to contact the neighbours and consider putting up signs or fencing to stop illegal clearing. After viewing the Hump hacking, I drove by Southport to find that while the grass is no longer being mowed, the native trees and shrubs have once again been power pruned down to several feet, resembling bonsai trees. A letter has gone into Surrey Parks Department, calling for some real action on this problem of people who think their view is more important than our parkland or important riparian habitat.

The Hump hillside needs to be left in a natural state as a green oasis along the beach and no tree cutting except for those endangering the BNSF trains should be allowed. More than anything this is to help stabilize the hillside, which growing cracks in the pavement on Marine Drive tell me is still moving to the pull of gravity. This property should be classified as "Ravine Lands" to ensure it is not logged again or possibly expropriated from the BNSF Railway and turned into a natural park. People caught cutting trees in public green spaces need to have the book thrown at them with their names and faces made public. The folks cutting down the greenspace at Southport in Surrey at 142 St. should be identified, the area be replanted by Surrey and the cost added to their property taxes. Hopefully these self-centered idiots would then get the message that these natural areas belong to all of us and the wildlife that lives there.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

June 17, 2019

WAG - We All Go (for weed that is)

So here we are eight months after the legalization of marijuana and we still have no recreational dispensaries in Delta, Surrey, White Rock or Langley. In fact, the local governments in Delta, Surrey and Langley voted not to allow pot shops to set up shop. Well the genie is finally out of the bottle with the long awaited opening of the Indigenous Bloom Medical Hemp and Cannabis Dispensary in partnership with the Semiahmoo First Nation behind the Washington Avenue Grill restaurant at #7 - 15782 Marine Drive. They now have a monopoly on marijuana sales south of the Fraser in this region, akin to being the only liquor store for this gigantic area. I was not able to attend the grand opening on Saturday attended by SFN Chief Harley Chappel, Chief Robert Louie, MP Gordie Hogg, MLA Traci Reddies and White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker. I did drop by on Sunday for Fathers Day and was very impressed by the new storefront.

You first enter the store into a reception area where you are warmly greeted by the staff who welcome you to Indigenous Bloom and check your valid photo ID to ensure that you are 18 years old. Once the formalities are complete the electronic door opens and you are ushered into the spacious and bright sales floor with likely the best oceanfront view of any dispensary in Canada. There are two identical countertops stocked with the same products, showing that they expect large crowds and brisk sales in the near future. What makes Indigenous Bloom and their 6 locations unique is that unlike the legal recreational pot shops that only sell flowers, Bloom carries a wide assortment of marijuana products most stores currently do not offer.

Indi-Bloom stocks 18 different strains of marijuana bud, each with different flavours, strengths and genetics. All samples are in small clear plastic boxes on the counter allowing customers to view the flowers through magnifying glasses and also smell the product through a series of air holes. The names of the strains are quite creative and in no particular order they are Skiskaberry, Jedi Kush, Death Bubba, Chemo, Blue God, Bubba Kush, Darth Vader, Grand Daddy Purple, Blu Nuken, Space Cookies, Duke Nukem, Pink God, 4 Star General, Scout Master, Moby Dick, Strawberry, King Tut and Laughing Buddha. Most of these flowers sell for $12-15 a gram with discounts for quantities up to an ounce (28 grams) and all are dispensed in child-proof containers. Most importantly, there is no sales tax charged because you are on Reserve land.

Besides bud, Indi-Bloom also carries a wide assortment of medicinal products created from marijuana. This includes the concentrates shatter and live resin that is pressed directly from flowers. They have tiny bottles of tinctures containing both CBD and THC in various ratios that are used to treat a variety of ailments. The Bloom Body Rub with both CBD and THC in Shea butter sells for $60 and I know people who swear by it for helping with sore joints and arthritis in the hands. While the Federal government just released new recreational pot edibles guidelines on Friday, they will not come into effect till Oct 17, 2020, a full year after legalization. You do not have to wait at Indi-Bloom as they currently stock cookies in various flavours and strengths, brownies and gummy candies, again in both THC and CBD varients. Fizzy infused bath bombs are available along with rolling papers and lighters that you won't find in recreational dispensaries.

For those people who are afraid that this store will be a magnet for crime, it follows all of the health Canada guidelines for security. This includes strong doors and windows, alarm systems and video monitoring with cameras covering every square inch of the premises. The Indigenous Bloom office contains a large secured vault for storage of flowers and products, deterring anyone intent on trying to steal their pot products. In fact the White Rock RCMP came down to the store to check out the security apparatus before it opened and were impressed by what they found. They had originally planned on increasing night time surveillance around the building once the Indigenous Bloom store was operational but it was decided that extra visits would not be needed.

No matter on your stance on marijuana or whether you use pot or not, this new storefront is definitely worth a peek to see where the future of weed retail is going. For myself it was a rather unique experience and I found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable about the products. It is doubtful Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum would ever allow marijuana dispensaries to open in Surrey, with illegal green-lines running across the city instead. Councillor Dave Chesney told me he expects a recreational dispensary to open in White Rock in the next six months, eventually giving Indigenous Bloom some competition.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 10, 2019

Giant Hogweed vs. Cow Parsnip

You may have read the story printed in the White Rock sun this week titled "Look but do not touch" about giant hogweed plants growing everywhere in the Semiahmoo peninsula. The truth be told, the giant hogweed that can blind eyes and burn skin is relatively rare while its native cousin the cow parsnip is widespread. Since they are both topped with a large umbrella of distinctive white flowers that open in June, it is important to be able to tell the difference. 

Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) shares the family and genus of giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and therefore have several notable traits in common. Both have prominent white flowers arranged in umbrella like clusters, known as umbels. Both are large showy plants with leaf bases that form sheaths and wide leaves divided into 3 leaflets. These plants are easy to spot in the native landscape because of their height and the mass covering of white flowers. It is when you see them up close that the big differences between them become apparent.

I spotted what I thought was giant hogweed growing in a Surrey Park last week. When I went for a hike to reach it, I found out that it was cow parsnip. Both of these plants are very striking but while the cow parsnip can grow to heights of 2-3 metres tall, the giant hogweed dwarfs it, towering up to 5 metres. The leaves are also a tell-tale sign, with cow parsnip spreading up to half a metre and the giant hogweed spreading up to 1.5 metres. While both have 3 lobed leaves, the cow parsnip ones are rounded and hairy underneath while the giant hogweed has sharply pointed lobes with a smoooth underside. The stalk of the plants is the easiest way to tell these species apart, with cow parsnip being 2-3 cm wide and green, and the giant hogweed 5-6 cm across and having red mottled spots.

It is the giant hogweed stem hairs and leaves that are dangerous, containing a toxic sap that when it contacts skin can cause burns, blisters and permanent scarring. If you do find a giant hogweed, please be aware that WorkSafe BC has issued a toxic plant warning for it, requiring water resistant gloves, coveralls and jackets to be worn along with eye protection for safe removal and disposal. Giant hogweed should be removed as each plant can produce an average of 50,000 winged seeds that can survive for up to 15 years. To report this plant along City of Surrey roads, boulevards, ditches or in park land, please call their service request line at 604-501-5050.

The cow parsnip is is not as hazardous as its larger more famous cousin, but it can cause phytophotodermatitis reactions like hogweed and should be avoided, especiallly if wearing shorts or having exposed skin. Both giant hogweed and cow parsnip are part of the apiacaene (carrot) family that contains some of the most deadliest plants on the planet. This includes poison hemlock and water hemlock where eating even a small portion of these plants can cause death. Others are rather tasty, including parsley, cilantro, dill and carrots that lack the furocoumarin chemicals found in the sap of cow parsnip and giant hogweed. 

I have only seen the giant hogweed twice in Surrey and reported it to City hall where crews were dispatched to deal with it. I actually drove by the plant on 184 St. in Cloverdale when it was being removed and the workers were less than half its height. It is interesting to note that due to its toxicity and persistent seeds, this plant is disposed of in the garbage rather than put into green waste. The cow parsnip is quite common and even though it looks big, it is half the size of giant hogweed that looks like it came out of a Jurassic Park movie set. 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 03, 2019

The Naked Truth 

The Plain Facts About Plainfin Midshipman Fish

Now is the best time of year to head down to the nude beach and check out the wildlife. No, I don't mean the many naturists and nudists quietly soaking up the sun along Crescent Rock beach. If you want to see massive numbers of Bald eagles and Great Blue herons in close proximity as they battle over a seasonal banquet, May and June is the Plainfin Midshipman fish breeding season. This is also when birds of prey descend onto the beach between Christopherson Steps and 1001 Steps to try out their fishing skills and thievery as they attempt to rob each other of their prize catch.

The Plainfin Midshipman (Porichthys notataus) is a member of the toadfish family. In the spring they emerge from the depths of the Pacific ocean and arrive on rocky beaches in mass to breed. The males dig burrows under rocks in the intertidal zone, excavating nests in the mud and sand. When the breeding chamber is complete, males hum loudly to attract females to lay their eggs on the bottom of the rocks at the roof of the excavation. The plainfin midshipman is a great father as after the female lays her hundreds of eggs, it is the male who tends to them for three months, cleaning and guarding his brood that can number up to 1,200 eggs. 

Caring for fish eggs in an intertidal zone is complicated as the environment goes from wet to dry several times a day with the tides. Water and oxygen levels drop dramatically when the tide is out while the temperature rises in the nest, leaving the doting fathers as a proverbial "fish out of water" for hours. Toadfish have developed the ability to endure long periods of exposure to air and to tolerate extreme swings in temperature. Because the Plainfin Midshipman breeds in such an extreme environment, climate change with possible warmer water temperatures, higher sea levels and beach erosion may reduce their survival rates in the future.

When the Plainfin Midshipman breeding season is in full swing, it is a banquet for the birds. At Crescent Rock Beach several years ago I counted 120 Bald eagles on the shore (many more were in the trees) plus over 150 Great Blue Herons. The herons sit on the rocks and ambush the fish while the eagles swoop down and grab the toadfish as they swim in shallow waters. You can get eagles fighting herons for fishing spots and for fish, eagles chasing other eagles who have made a catch, plus crows swooping in to steal toadfish that have been dropped on the rocks. It makes for quite the aerial display with plenty of loud squawks from the agitated herons and the warbled cries from the eagles. 

If you go down to the beach to watch the display, please try not to disturb the birds as the fish they catch are being used to feed ravenous young back at their nests. The same goes for the Toadfish, now is not the time to be turning over rocks at the beach. This can result in the males getting crushed, the burrows collapsing and the eggs being destroyed. Enjoy the show and the huge number of raptors that are attracted to Crescent Rock beach every spring during Plainfin Midshipman breeding season. McMaster University has a detailed article about our Toadfish that was researched near Crescent Beach including some great photos of the fish and their eggs. Check it out online at:https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/being-a-dad-is-hard-when-youre-a-plainfin-midshipman-fish/

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 27, 2019

Steal Your Love

You ain't about to give it up for no one
I'm gonna have to steal your love
I don't need a knife, I didn't need a gun
I know how to steal your love

Lyrics to "Steal Your Love" by Lucinda Williams, Essence album, 2001.

 

The following notice came across my wife Sheryl's Facebook page last week from her friend Robyn Squire. I thought I'd print it here in full for its raw emotion and serious public warning. More details are below on this attempted dognapping in south Surrey.

WARNING - DOG THIEF CRUISING THE WHITE ROCK AREA HOPING TO STEAL YOUR DOG!


My friend Michelle and I were up on my deck just above the street planting some flowers when my phone rang and I stepped inside for two seconds to grab it.
I looked back for some reason and saw a woman stop her SUV in the middle of the street, jump out, run over to my dog on the grass, GRAB HER, then took off her leash and threw it in the backseat and was just quickly jumping into her front seat with her under her arms football style when I yelled:
STOP.... OMG.... THAT IS MY DOG.... PLEASE STOP.... STOP.... WHAT ARE YOU DOING? She didn't stop or turn around and she definitely heard me as I was just a few feet away at that point.
I ran up to her and literally grabbed her back out of her arms. I was stunned and speechless with adrenaline pumping through my veins and I thought I was going to hit her. I just turned around, glanced at the license plate number, saw the vehicle type and make, noted she is about 45ish with black hair to her shoulders and creepy looking. Sooooo creepy looking.
This woman had no intentions of asking who's dog is this or oh ohhh someone's dog is here without its owner, no no noooo this was nothing like that. This was a full on attempt to steal someone's pet in mere seconds and she's definitely a pro acting with purpose and swift intent.
WATCH OUT EVERYONE PLEASE!

This incident happened last Wednesday, May 22nd at approximately 4 p.m. in the 1700 block of Lilac Dr. near Alderwood Park in south Surrey not far from Earl Marriott school. The dog in question is an 8 month old purebred Pomeranian named Love who is worth $2,000. If Robyn had stayed inside to answer the phone, her puppy would have definitely been stolen. As it was, the alleged dognapper roared away the scene after tossing the dogs retractable leash, collar and harness into her back seat. Amazingly the alleged thief never spoke a single word during this incident or as Love was taken from her hands. Unfortunately the license plate was not recorded, though it is believed the vehicle was a navy blue Ford Escape approximately 4-5 years old. The RCMP were notified and have asked Robyn to seek video footage from around the neighbourhood of this attempted pet abduction. She has been driving around the area looking for the suspect vehicle and its caucasian lady owner, so far without success.

This attempted dognapping is far from normal behavior. Last week my wife was driving home and saw what appeared to be a dog loose in our neighbourhood. Turning around her car she went back, located the beautiful young Boxer she had seen and told it to go home. The fun-loving animal gladly obliged and went to the front door of a house just down the street. She rang the doorbell and a teenage girl who obviously had been crying answered the door very glad to see the family dog that had previously bolted from the yard. Most people look at dogs as family and will try to find their home, while to thieves they are simply money. Dogs should not be left alone in an unlocked area, never tied up outside of stores and it is important to tattoo or microchip them for identification. Unfortunately thefts of dogs are treated as a property crime with no consideration for the psychological effects losing one's pet has on the owners.

If you have any information about this attempted dognapping, the woman in question, the dark blue SUV, or possibly have dash cam video or home surveillance recording from the Alderwood Park area last Wednesday afternoon, please contact the Surrey RCMP at the 604-599-0502 non-emergency reporting number.

Surrey Police File # - 2019-73648

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 21, 2019

Feel The Buzz

 

And I'll be taking care of (bee's nests) every day
Taking care of (bee's nests) every way
I've been taking care of (bee's nests), it's all mine
Taking care of (bee's nests) and working overtime, work out

Altered lyrics to B.T.O's "Taking Care of Business" with apologies to songwriter Randy Bachman.

So there I was in Surrey last Thursday walking down a fence line at one of my customer's properties when I suddenly noticed that I was surrounded by a cloud of thousands of flying insects. One look led me to believe they were wasps that I may have innocently disturbed, likely by walking on top of a subterranean nest. Since I have been attacked by both wasps and hornets many times over the years, I immediately ran for shelter, ducking into a neighbour's garage. Not being stung and still unsure exactly what I had seen, I cautiously ventured back towards the end of the driveway where the bugs were thick as thieves. It was then that I realized this mass of insects was actually a swarm of honey bees that had chosen a cedar tree at the end of the driveway to set up a bivouac surrounding their queen.

This was only the second swarm I had ever seen actually land and take up residence, the last time over 40 years ago at my parent's property in North Delta. In that case a swarm of bees landed in a Berberis thorn hedge separating my parents property from the yard next door. A gentlemen named Mr. Mills who was a well known community beekeeper was summoned and he collected the pile of bees, shaking them into a pre-built wooden hive box. He did this will little fanfare and even less protection, informing us that the swarming workers were full of honey and not interested in defending the hive, only following the queen on her search for a new home. In an absolute stroke of fate, his son Richard who I've known for over 40 years is now working with me and I quickly called him over to check out the spectacle.

With advice from Ric I phoned the Honeybee Centre at the corner of 176 St. and Fraser Hwy. looking for their help in contacting a bee keeper. Getting only a message, I then called the BCB Honey Farm located on King George Blvd. near Hwy. 99 in south Surrey, also getting an answering machine. Not long afterwards, I received an excited phone call from Eric Jennings of the Surrey Beekeepers Association who had been alerted to my swarm report. He informed me that the SBKA has a list of experienced beekeepers who would relocate the swarm at no cost. With swarm season of May to June in full swing, Eric told me the club was now collecting 2-3 swarms per week. Giving him the address and exact location of the swarm, he told me he would be on site in 20 minutes to deal with the bees in a sustainable manner.

When Eric arrived it really was show time as we all stood in amazement checking out the estimated 20,000 bees that had assembled into the small cedar tree. They were only seven feet off the ground and easily accessible with only a step ladder. The bees were so docile you could put your hand directly up against the ball of swarming bees with them vibrating and tickling your palm, without getting stung. Eric put on a white bee-proof jacket with hat and veil and shook the mass of bees down into a "bee box" specifically made for transporting swarming honey bees. The queen fell with the bulk of the insects and finding preformed wax slabs ready for colonization they immediately set up shop in their new home. Releasing pheromones, more and more bees flew or crawled into the transport box and within 45 minutes the lid was on the hive and it was off to its new home.

I get to experience a lot of nature in my work and private life but it was pretty amazing to be involved in a swarm capture. I should note here that a girlfriend of mine years ago kept bees and I helped her work them, so I have had some previous experience with beekeeping. Our European honey bees are a gentle insect and when treated kindly it can be an interesting and rewarding experience. Besides pollinating all of our fruits and crops, they also give us sweet honey and aromatic beeswax that is far superior to paraffin for candles. For anyone wanting to take up beekeeping as a hobby, you should know that the City of Surrey allows four hives per lot to be kept within city boundaries. Depending on the beekeeper's diligence and the food supply available to the hive, this can result in 5-10 gallons of honey produced per season. Now ain't that sweet!

For more information about bees and honey in Surrey and White Rock please visit the following:
Honeybee Centre, 7480 176 St, Surrey, website: honeybeecentre.com
BCB Honey Farm, 4121 King George Blvd., website: bcbhoneyfarm.com
Surrey Beekeepers Association, website: surreybeeclub.ca
(Note: the SBKA meets on the third Wednesday of every month except Aug. at the Honey Bee Center from 7-9 p.m.)

If you encounter a swarm of honey bees and want it safely removed, please visit the surreybeeclub.ca website clicking on their "Swarms" tab where you can read up on proper honey bee identification and find Eric Jenning's phone number at 604-314-0785.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 13, 2019

Ratatouille on the Menu

"Charlie didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat."
Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard in the movie Apocalypse Now.
"It's pretty hairy in there. It's Charlie's Point", to which Lt. Col. Kilgore confidently replies, "Charlie don't surf!"
Robert Duval as Lt. Col Kilgore in the movie Apocalypse Now.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU9Y1sNs1rs

After those two quotes from Apocalypse now its time to crank up Wagner's instrumental "Ride of the Valkyries" and get into the guts of this TNT. If you are not familiar with this music used in the soundtrack from the the "Charlie's Point" scene in the Oscar Award winning movie, you should check out the edited version in the YouTube link listed above.

Some close family friends decided to go down to White Rock for a romantic evening last week and got more than they bargained for. Walking along Marine Drive in West Beach on Thursday night they settled on the Charlie Don't Surf restaurant for dinner. Since the weather was warm and it was still light out, they decided to sit on the patio where they could enjoy the breeze, the view and the people. What they did not expect was to be sharing their meal with wildlife..., and vermin at that.

Sitting near the east side of the patio they watched in amazement as a rodent started to climb the wall just behind the last table where two ladies were sitting. "Look, there's a mouse" he said, with his date yelling "That's no mouse, that's a freaking RAT!" He told me it climbed up alongside some conduit pipes and mesh a foot behind this one ladies head, making its way to the awnings above where it ran across the beams above the tables covered with food. They told me that the rat did not appear fazed by the people below and that it looked very comfortable with its surroundings, likely sizing up later dining opportunities. While this incident was oddly entertaining, they found it rather uncomfortable to be eating under a rat as it crossed over their heads. The rat was witnessed by many of the people on the deck and according to our friends nobody was offered any compensation by staff for having to eat dinner with a big rodent.

Our friends decided that their rat experience should be reported and contacted the Fraser Health Authority with their story. It was then that they learned Fraser Health environmental health officers complete routine, follow-up and complaint inspections. Inspection reports and violation tickets can be viewed online at:
https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/food-safety/food-facilities-inspection-reports-and-violation-tickets#.XNjynKRlCM8


Here is the inspection report from Charlie Don't Surf on February 25, 2019 that resulted in a "High" hazard rating for this establishment. It is interesting to note that having rodent infestations is listed as a "noncritical" hazard. It could be death to a business as happened in Vancouver after a rat was allegedly found in soup at the Crab Park Chowdery, with the loss of customers causing it to close.

Critical Hazards: Total Number: 2
301 - Equipment/utensils/food contact surfaces not maintained in sanitary condition [s. 17(1)]
Observation (CORRECTED DURING INSPECTION): Tongs and other utensils are being stored in water by the grill. During the inspection, the water was dirty with food debris.
Corrective Action(s): Tongs and utensils are to be washed, rinsed, sanitized, and air dried every 2 - 4 hours. If storing in water, replace with cold water every 30 minutes.
Violation Score: 5

302 - Equipment/utensils/food contact surfaces not properly washed and sanitized [s. 17(2)]
Observation: Glassware washer was run 3 times and there was no final sanitizing rinse (maximum water temperature inside of the machine was 43C and there was 0 ppm chlorine measured after the final rinse). The main dishwasher was run 4 times and there was no final sanitizing rinse (54C water temperature and 0 ppm chlorine measured after the final rinse).
Corrective Action(s): All dishes and utensils must be washed, rinsed, sanitized, and air dried. The glassware and main kitchen dishwashers must have a final sanitizing rinse. For low temperature dishwashers using chlorine, 50ppm chlorine must be detected on the dishes after the final rinse. Provide test strips and check chlorine concentration daily.
Violation Score: 25
Non-Critical Hazards: Total Number: 3
304 - Premises not free of pests [s. 26(a)]
Observation: Rodent (rat) droppings were found on the floor in the dry food storage area, under the prep sinks, under the glassware washer, on shelves in the dish rack storage area, and in the walk in cooler. Mouse droppings (and mice) were found in the laundry room. Operator has a contract with licenced pest control and has provided a copy of a recent invoice.
Corrective Action(s): Premises must be kept free of pests. Check all food storage containers. Discard any food that may have been contaminated. Today, food appears to be in bins with lids. Consult with your pest control expert.
Violation Score: 15

305 - Conditions observed that may allow entrance/harbouring/breeding of pests [s. 26(b),(c)]
Observation: Pests are entering the building. The operator has been working to seal all entrances.
Corrective Action(s): Continue working to seal all entrances.
Violation Score: 9

306 - Food premises not maintained in a sanitary condition [s. 17(1)]
Observation: Food debris and rodent droppings noted on the floor. Prep coolers require cleaning.
Corrective Action(s): Thoroughly clean all food storage, dishwasher, laundry, food preparation, washroom, and main kitchen areas. Eliminate all food and water sources for pests.
Violation Score: 15

Several inspections since that time have listed ongoing work with a licensed pest company to solve this problem plus keep the establishment rodent free. The last routine inspection on May 10th yielded a low hazard rating but this was also the day that our friend's rat encounter was being reported to Fraser Health. I know from first hand experience that the Semiahmoo Peninsula is overrun with rats and it is not surprising that they are along the White Rock waterfront. That being said, now that I know I can check Fraser health Inspection Reports of any restaurant, I think I'll check out their history before making a reservation for dinner.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 07, 2019

Somebody Stole SURREY

 

I'll never forget the time when the thought first occurred to me. We had been camping on Texada Island, the largest of the gulf islands. When we drove to take the small ferry back to the mainland, we lined up behind a truck with the personalized BC license plate TEXADA. I talked to the gentleman about his plate while waiting for the boat, telling him I thought it was a great idea. After the short voyage and long drive to Sechelt, we boarded the Queen of Surrey to take us back to Horseshoe Bay. Up on the observation deck there were orange lifesaving rings marked with the ferry's name and I had my wife Sheryl pose for a picture with it while wearing her hot pink "Surrey Girl" t-shirt. Suffering from Surrey overload, I quickly realized that SURREY might be available as a personalized vehicle plate. Cue the flashing light bulb hanging over my head.

When we were home, a search of the ICBC vanity plate database revealed that SURREY was indeed available. We filled out the necessary paperwork and applied to get the license plate along with paying the $100 charge. Originally we were turned down which was hilarious as ICBC will not issue personalized license plates that may be interpreted as" vulgar, indecent or offensive." After talking to a manger and promising a Global TV exclusive on the story, he capitulated and wisely gave us our SURREY plate. We attached it to our Surrey Shirts Jeep with extra heavy bolts using several different size heads to make removing it difficult. Even we realized that though we had plenty of Surrey merch and swag, the one-and-only SURREY plate was the best souvenir that we had. For Surreyites, we did make a version of our plate available to the public in sticker form.

The custom SURREY plate was a heck of a lot of fun. I can't tell you how many times we have had people honk and wave as they passed us (the Jeep was rather slow), plus people taking pictures of our vehicle while stopped at traffic lights was constant. What I can tell you is that I was pulled over three times while driving in Surrey by RCMP officers who all wanted to know how I had got the SURREY plate and asking if they could take a picture. I really didn't mind as these encounters were always plenty of fun and the officers were excited about hearing the story and getting their photo. There was even a wealthy Surrey developer who inquired about purchasing the SURREY plate, and he could not understand why I would not sell it even when the offer got rather inflated. He shook his head when I told him that to me having the SURREY license plate was priceless.

Well the Jeep got older and even slower and after 12 years of ownership it was time for a change. My wife had driven it as our winter vehicle for years and was tired of zip-up windows, standard transmission and complete lack of frills. We decided it was time for an upgrade and began our search looking for something with a little more room and plenty of bells and whistles. After months of searching and sleuthing, I finally got to live my boyhood dream and bought a Cadillac. No, not the behemoth Escalade but a lightly used SRX4 SUV that ticked all of the boxes on our wish list. We put the Surrey plate on our new ride along with a "I Love Surrey" custom license plate frame. While the Caddy is our new corporate vehicle for Surrey Shirts (surreyshirts.com) we decided to forgo much of the vinyl lettering that covered the Jeep, keeping the SRX's classy look.

Unfortunately during all of the excitement of having a new vehicle, we overlooked the security measures for the plate we had taken with the Jeep. I had meant to visit Home Depot and pick up some stainless steel screws that would be impossible to remove without the proper tools. Instead the bolts were simple slot head screws making the license relatively easy to remove should someone think the SURREY plate would make a great souvenir. Well our greatest fear was realized this weekend when somebody decided that they needed the SURREY plate more than we did and stole it off our SUV. I did not notice it was gone and was driving home when a car stopped beside me and the driver said through his open window, "Hey dude, do you know you don't have a license plate?" When I told him it was our personalized SURREY plate he responded, "Bummer, only in Surrey eh?" before driving off.

Kicking myself for not welding the plate to the bumper, the ordeal of dealing with this problem began. It was the back plate that was stolen so this had to be reported to the Surrey RCMP, who found it rather ironic, if not hilarious. Secondly the plate had to be cancelled and regular boring license plates put on the Caddy making it look like any other SUV. Thirdly we have had to order new SURREY plates at a cost of $100 again, along with the $40 yearly cost of having a vanity plate. In the long run it's still worth it to me to have the SURREY plate paying homage to the second largest city of BC. I should mention I'm not the only homer around as I have seen a SUV in Ladner sporting the DELTA plate. The only difference is that I doubt the DELTA plate would ever get stolen unless they came to the dark side and crossed Scott Road.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 29, 2019

Reach for the Beach

It is not exactly summer yet, what with heavy hail reported in Langley and Abbotsford plus snow this weekend in Hope, but after chores galore we decided to grab the beach bag and make our way down to Crescent Rock beach on Sunday evening. With a keen eye and inquisitive mind, it did not take me very long to pull together a number of related stories from the waterfront to fill this TNT.

The City of Surrey was forced years ago to build the metal pedestrian overpass at the Christopherson steps, located at the west end of 24 Ave., due to liability concerns from people crossing the BNSF train tracks. Large concrete bases were pored to secure this steel structure that is coated with zinc to stop the salt water spray from rusting it away. Unfortunately an overpass is only as strong as its foundation and there is a rather interesting repair that has recently been done to this structure. At the last set of stairs, a thick wooden brace consisting of two large beams has been installed with more wooden beams surrounding a new concrete pad. This is only a metre away from the concrete base for the steel upright that has been seriously eroded from last winter's storms. While the wooden support looks strong and robust, it is not steel and I bet a heavy log being tossed by large waves would snap it like a toothpick, just like sailboats hitting the pier. It is interesting to note that while the BNSF Railway uses mountains of rip-rap to protect their rail corridor, apparently nobody at Surrey has considered placing protective boulders around the base of this structure to reduce the force of wave erosion or stop log battering rams.

The BNSF Railway has been busy rebuilding their waterfront rail corridor throughout the Semiahmoo Peninsula after it was almost washed off the map by severe wind storms last December and January. This included resetting the rails at Kwomais Point, replacing ballast stone and bringing in trainloads of rip-rap boulders to strengthen their wave defenses as I have previously documented. Unfortunately next to the Christopherson Steps and in nearby areas the boulders had been dumped from above and rolled down covering large areas of sand on the shoreline. This is unfortunate for two reason, first the sand is breeding ground for feeder fish like Sand Lance and Surf Smelt, secondly this strip of beach is prime recreational property for people in the summer. It is hard to lay your beach blanket down on jagged boulders and there is little sandy beach in the Crescent Rock Beach region already. In fact much of the 6.5 Km. of shoreline from White Rock to Crescent Beach is now covered in boulders, creating a cobbled beach where waves strip sand away instead of creating it as would normally happen. If you ever go to Lily Point in Point Roberts and see how our shoreline would have looked before the railway, it will bring a tear to your eye.

Only meters away from the Christopherson Steps I could see two large shiny steel poles on the other side of the tracks. I knew that the BNSF Railway had finally extended the Landslide Detector Fence to near the end of Bayview Avenue but I was surprised I could see these from the beach. Climbing the bank for a look I discovered that while the LDF usually consists of poles that are five feet tall, these ones looked to be almost double that with the detector wires going high into the air allowing easy access underneath. The reason is that there is a sandy slope in this area where kids have been playing and climbing for many years. Instead of trying to restrict access, they have actually made an opening to allow for pedestrian access. What is bizarre is that trespassing on the rail corridor is illegal and dangerous and yet the BNSF has made it easy for people to access the sand hill. If the top of the hill were ever to let go, the height of the LDF in this spot would mean that the detector system would likely not be triggered. Hell of a way to run a railway I say.

Only metres from the sandy hill was a monument to the dangers of encouraging people to play in the vicinity of a busy industrial railway. A rudimentary cross with the name LUNA and R.I.P along with flowers had been placed on the hillside next to the tracks. I do not know the details but I would assume that someone lost their dog to the train in this spot. This area is almost across the tracks from where Jack Stroud was recently hit and killed by the Amtrak passenger train. While people getting hit by trains here always makes the news, pets getting mowed down by trains almost never gets reported. If you are wondering how often this happens consider that in my last two Semi-pen homes, I have had neighbours with dog/train stories. One lady almost got killed while trying to get her dog off the tracks and fortunately neither was hurt. My current neighbour had one of their dogs hit by a train with it loosing a leg from the impact. In both of these instances, the event happened within spitting distance of the Christopherson Steps overpass, with one directly in front of the sandy hill. I'm surprised I don't have whip lash from shaking my head so much.


When we did finally make it to a sheltered spot out of the wind at the beach, we found it deserted of people but full of wildlife. Bald eagles flew by above, great blue herons congregated on a slowly emerging sandbar looking for their evening meal, and seagulls relentlessly dropped clams to break them on the rocks. Watching all of the action and taking in the amazing view, I saw something make a big splash far off in the waters of Boundary Bay. I immediately pointed to the spot and it took only a moment for two large grey humps to emerge from the water with tell-tale spout of water spray. While it has recently been reported that grey whales were near the pier, on Sunday they were in Boundary Bay not far from Crescent Beach. This is not the first time I have seen whales in the bay and is why we always carry a small pair of binoculars to watch them. Unfortunately South Koreans have yet to put a telephoto lens into my Samsung cell phone so this pix I grabbed off the internet will have to do. When he packed up and left the beach due to the cool weather, we met people who were standing on the top of the Christopherson Steps walkway watching the whales from this high vantage point. The Kwomais Park view point is another great spot for spotting whales.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2019


Pitcairn Not Going Postal

 

Going postal is an American English slang phrase referring to becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment. The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1986 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1970 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed by current or former employees in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage. Between 1986 and 2011, workplace shootings happened at roughly two per year, with an average of 12 people killed per year.

 


Source: Wikipedia.

I must admit I do not regularly use the services of Canada Post. If I want to send someone a message I simply text, email or pick up the damn phone and give them a call. Most of our bills and banking is now done online and very rarely do I have to send a letter unless it is a cheque to one of my suppliers. I recently learned a very valuable lesson about Canada Post. If you have documents that are important or time sensitive, do not send them through regular mail channels, especially if the envelope is non-standard size and has to be processed by humans instead of by machines as in the case with regular envelopes.

Case in point, I competed in the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association Winter Postal Matches where marksmen from across Canada fire .22 rifles at very small targets from 20 yards. Stickers are sent from the DCRA offices in Ontario, attached to the backs of targets, and when the six competition targets are completed, they are then returned to the offices for scoring and awards presentations. I have worked very hard the past couple of years to try and shoot a perfect score of 600 and managed my best personal score of 599 this year that was likely gold medal worthy. I finished my targets in mid-March and mailed them to the DCRA offices in a 9.5 x 13 inch manila envelope with the required $1.90 postage.

Imagine my disgust when my wife sent me a text more than five weeks later with a picture of the very same envelope I had previously mailed. The address was scribbled out in black felt, marked "Return to Sender" and "RTS" in two more areas plus a "Moved/Unknown//Demenage Ou Inconnu" glossy sticker attached. Somehow they had actually managed to deliver my envelope back to me using the home address I had written in the upper left hand corner. Why it had taken so long to actually return my envelope remains a mystery but I know that a letter sent by boat to Australia generally arrives in a couple of weeks. I am waiting to find out if my targets that I couriered back with UPS will actually still be accepted as they are now late.

When I purchase items from Amazon, it generally takes two days for my parcel to arrive, usually free of charge. Because of their fast and efficient delivery system, they have become one of the largest retailers on the planet. Canada Post on the opposite hand continues to shrink in the amount of mail it delivers and their profitability. Mail delivery has been cut in half since 2006 or the equivalent of two billion letters. With regular stamps no longer showing their value, few people realize that the price for a regular letter increased to $1.05 this January, up from a loonie. Other mail within Canada increased between 10 to 35 cents, US bound mail going up 7-20 cents and overseas mail a further 15-20 cents. Meanwhile Canada Post has announced they expect to finish 2018 with a financial loss after rotating strikes before Christmas.

I will no longer trust my documents and parcels with Canada Post, using one of the many Courier companies to make the delivery even if I have to pay more. As the FedEx motto states, ""When it Absolutely, Positively, has to be there overnight." While I do not usually require this level of service, I expect mail to be delivered to the stated address, or promptly returned, something that Canada Post failed miserably to do. In the end this fiasco may cost me an engraved DCRA gold medal for the best smallbore shoot of my life. Learn from my mistake and avoid this Crown corporation that can't manage to do the one think they are entrusted to; deliver the mail.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 15, 2019

Freak Sliding Away

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

Lyrics to Slip Sliding Away, Paul Simon, 1977, Greatest Hits, Etc.

No, the Greeks don't want no freaks
Said, the Greeks don't want no freaks
Just put that monster smile on them rosy cheeks
'Cause the Greeks don't want no freaks
No, the Greeks don't want no freaks

Lyrics to Greeks Don't Want No Freaks, Eagles, 1979, The Long Run.

 

I must admit, I was surprised by the announcement last week of yet another mudslide from the Oean Park bluffs onto the BNSF Railway tracks. Usually it takes two inches of rain in a 48 hour period to get landslides moving around here but this is not always the case. Often illegal drains from hilltop properties, people emptying swimming pools, or tarping off large areas of land during rainy periods can cause slope failure with even modest amounts of precipitation. Though we did not have a deluge last week, there has been plenty of rain falling as is usual in April on the West Coast. While the other local newspaper showed you a stock photo of a BNSF freight train rolling along the beach with their slide story, that was not good enough for the person who wants to investigate the causes of these mudslides that are often "out of sight, out of mind."

Hearing that the most recent slide had happened "eight kilometers north of White Rock" made me wonder if this was a mistake because by my math that would be in the vicinity of the Crescent Beach Marina. On Sunday afternoon I once again donned my hiking boots, hard hat, reflective vest with road flares, and went out searching for the latest mess on the tracks. I figured it would likely be somewhere near Crescent Beach but all of the slides there were ones I had previously inspected. When I got to the 1001 Steps near Kwomais Park, I realized that the location was completely wrong and that the latest mudslide could be anywhere. After miles of very tough walking, I was on the beach not far from the Coldicutt Trail when a BNSF coal train rolled by. It wasn't until I took a picture of it that I realized I was sitting right next to a wide muddy debris field. Two kilometers west from White Rock at the mile 124 track marker, I had finally found what I was looking for.

To be quite honest, this slide was pretty routine for around here. The slope above the tracks had failed where one of the many rivulets coursed down the slope from the hillside above. While it was not raining, the amount of water draining from the bluff was considerable and constant for kilometers. I found no evidence of man-made causes for this slope failure and it was likely that the bank simply got saturated by water that had fallen in the past two weeks and been draining down to the ocean. The figures of 1.5 m. deep and 20 m. long that BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas reportedly provided were not far from my measurements. To call this a "freak slide" as he suggested was a stretch because I have seen slides from the Ocean Park bluffs onto the tracks at many times of the year and from various causes. As I often warn people, if you cut trees for views and have pipes draining water onto the hillside, you can expect landslides threatening the BNSF rail corridor below.

Once again the BNSF has apparently used the shores of Crescent Rock Beach as their personal dumping grounds, excavating the trees, soil, rocks and muck onto the shoreline. They have been warned in the past to keep debris confined to the rip-rap areas alongside the tracks but as you can imagine with mud this is rather difficult. Instead of bringing in a railway dump car to take the debris away, they dug the muck from the ditch side of the tracks and dumped it on the ocean side where it then ran down covering a large area of shore, burying any living creature in the vicinity. It was at one of these dump sites several years ago near Kwomais Point that I found a dead sea otter laying directly next to the piled debris. I thought the BNSF would have cleaned up their act on this issue after burying a long stretch of sandy beach at the Crescent Beach marine park last year but that seems to still not be the case.

Anyone can report this track-side excavating to BC Conservation officers or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The RAPP line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) has an online form at https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/ or they can be called on their 24 hour hotline to report a violation at 1-877-952-7277 or *7277 on the Telus Mobility Network. Since this impacts habitat of sand lance and surf smelt that are food for salmon, it can also be reported to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) at 1-800-465-4336 for investigation. You can also ask our MP Gordie Hogg why the BNSF, an American railway, apparently gets free reign to use our waterfront as their private dumping grounds without criminal charges ever being laid of fines imposed. Imagine what would happen if someone were to dump truck loads of muddy fill onto the public beaches of White Rock? I'm sick and tired of the double standard and big business flaunting environmental laws here in Canada without any repercussions.

Check out the pictures of the crud excavated onto the beach from this latest slide. If this annoys you as much as it does me, take a minute to file a report with the proper authorities. Remember the mudslide happened on Wednesday, April 10th around noon and was cleaned up by BNSF crews by 4:30 p.m. The slide came from the Ocean Park bluffs in south Surrey onto the BNSF Railway tracks at the 124 mile marker about 2 kilometres west of White Rock. The debris field on the beach covers an area 20 metres long by 6 metres wide and over a metre deep. Don't forget to tick the "Dumping" and "Fisheries" violation boxes. The more people who report this incident, the more likely that with a history or repeatedly burying the beach in the Semiahmoo peninsula, the BNSF might actually be held accountable for their actions. I have made my reports to both the RAPP line and DFO, please take the time to make yours.

RAPP line online: https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/
RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277 or *7277 on the Telus Mobility Network
DFO: 1-800-465-4336

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 08. 2019

Auto Crime Prevention Notice Preventing Nothing

With the arrival of Spring and a new employee who uses transit, we now circle through the south Surrey Park & Ride lot in the evening to drop him off so he can catch his bus. We rolled to a stop and as he was collecting his belongings I noticed that there were slips of paper about the size of a parking ticket under the windshield wiper of every vehicle. Noticing how many had been thrown onto the ground by motorists who had obviously already left, I had to look at what they were figuring it was likely some cheesy advertising flyer. I quickly picked up over a dozen of these from the pavement, some of which had already been run over.

I was much closer to the mark with my guess that they were tickets from the police. It turns out they were "Auto Crime Prevention Notice" slips left by "A police officer or community volunteer (who) checked your vehicle as a potential target for auto crime." From the hand writing on the slips, it was obvious that two people had gone through the lot checking out hundreds of automobiles. Here is the list of what they were looking for taken from these papers:
1) Your vehicle has an anti-theft device (such as an alarm,immobilizer or steering-wheel lock) in use (Y/N).
2) There are personal belongings in plain view (Y/N).
3) Your windows or sunroof are open. (Y/N).
4) You have an expired decal or decal buildup (Y/N).
Comments: ________________________________

I am fully aware of the crime problems at the south Surrey Park & Ride. My other employee avoids the place like the plague and refuse to park there. The reason is that he had his mint Chevrolet Malibu stolen from this lot and the thieves then vandalized the interior by pouring oil over it and attempting to light it on fire. After this incident, thinking that the nearby Park & Pool lot might be safer, he parked there (for free) but had someone break his windows of his replacement Honda Civic. Both of these incidents happened during the day while we were at work. Since that time he has parked in a south Surrey neighbourhood and we have a regular meeting point within walking distance. The south Surrey Park & Ride lot is also where a husband and wife I know drove separately to it, got on a bus to go downtown and when they came back after their show, both of their vehicles had been stolen.

The auto crime prevention tips on the pseudo ticket are worth considering but also worth questioning. They are as follows:
1) Secure your vehicle every time you leave - day or night.
2) Keep your spare key in your wallet not on the vehicle.
3) Remove all your belongings.
4) Don't leave anything in view, including spare change.
Now I think locking your vehicle obviously makes sense, as does not not leaving a spare key but with the size of the new keys that also double as clickers, who wants to have one of these in your wallet? As far as removing all your belongings, I can see "valuables" but highly doubt that "charger wires visible" or "empty lap-top box visible" written in the comments section really count as things a car thief can exchange for his next fix. Many vehicles were marked for having "decal buildup" but yet I've never been told about this problem by any ICBC insurance broker. Because of this only two of the dozen slips I picked up received a check mark on the coveted "You've taken care to prevent auto crime. Thanks!" section.

Instead of wasting time and paper plus contributing to littering, if ICBC and the Surrey Crime Protection Society really wanted to crack down on auto theft at the Park & Ride, I can recommend a much better way. There is a small hillside near the KGB that provides a birds-eye view of the lot; simply have someone sit in a beach chair with a pair of binoculars and monitor that behaviour and activity of the people who come and go. If they spot something suspicious, call the RCMP to quickly attend and hopefully make an actual arrest. The most glaring security issue with the South Surrey Park & Ride is that there are no CCTV cameras in use like at almost all other Translink lots. When the government was wasting $4.5 million to build the second lot on the other side of the KGB that acts mainly as a driver training course, they should have included video cameras for the lot that actually gets used.

If there were CCTVs and actual police patrols of the South Surrey Park & Ride, I'm sure a lot more people would park there and take transit. If this were to happen, maybe the white elephant lot that won a Teddy Waste Award in 2014 from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation might actually be used and help generate income. Instead, there are plenty of folks that refuse to use either the Park & Ride or Park & Pool lots because they are a magnet for criminals who know that people will be gone all day and because they are not monitored or patrolled. The Auto Crime Prevention Notice slips will do little to reduce crime; catching and convicting thieves who target these areas is the auto crime prevention notice that I'm posting.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 01, 2019

News Of The Day

New Westminster Mayor Jonathon Johnny X Cote

In the City of White Rock, with an estimated $5 million dollar bill for pier repairs and no Provincial or Federal funding yet announced, consideration is being given to bridging the 100 foot gap that now remains after storm damage late last year. It has been apparently decided that the cheapest repair would be to build a small section of suspension bridge, tying the two pieces together. White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker is rumored to have been overheard saying this about the plan, "The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver and if a suspension bridge works at the pier, then we can then charge people for going onto it. As a bonus, if any more boats get blown loose in a storm, they can simply float right underneath, win-win!" Installing the cables and planks is a quick and easy fix and should be ready for the summer tourist season. It should be wheelchair friendly allowing access to White Rock's many elderly residents.

In Crescent Beach, they have taken note of the upcoming changes in White Rock allowing dogs to be walked on the Promenade beginning this Fall. Not to be outdone, I've heard the Crescent Beach Property Owners Association is teaming up with Surrey Council to also make themselves more pet friendly. For years you've been able to have your dog at Crescent Beach from Sept 15th to May 15th. Since the summer months are off limits to dogs, it has reportedly been decided that this would be the purr-fect time to allow people to bring their cats to the waterfront. Just like at the White Rock, owners will have to ensure that any cat poop is cleaned up so the beach doesn't become a giant kitty-litter box. I've been informed each garbage receptacle will be equipped with little feline poop bags and a kitty litter scoop to make clean up a breeze. I'm pretty sure that White Rock Councillors will be hacking up a hair-ball when they realize they've been licked by a bunch of pussies.

Today I also learned from unknown dark web sources that the Cowichan First Nations have applied to Aboriginal Affairs Canada to have their Great White Rock returned to Vancouver Island. According to legend, the Sea God had a son who fell in love with the Cowichan Chief's beautiful daughter. After having their union refused a blessing by first the Sea God and then the Cowichan Chief, the Sea God son took the huge white rock from their beach and tossed it across the Salish Sea. "I will hurl this tone over the water! Wherever it falls, there we will make our home and establish our tribe" he said. Falling sixty miles from Cowichan, the rock came to rest on the shores of the Semiahmoo Bay where the two lovers made their home and established the Semiahmoo tribe. After seeing footage of wrecked sailboats being pulled from the White Rock beach onto a barge, Cowichan elders allegedly decided the same could be done for their sacred white rock and now want it back.

The Semiahmoo First Nations have been in the news lately for the water infrastructure project that will finally see an end to the boil water advisory they have been under for the past 15 years. While this will provide clean and fresh drinking water for members of the tribe, it also means they can finally move forward with their long rumoured shoreline water park on the empty playing field behind the WAG. This idea was apparently shelved for years due to lack of water availability from the City of White Rock plus concerns over how arsenic and manganese might stain the slides and swimsuits. Now with pure water getting ready to be piped in, the band's wild dream of a water park might finally become a reality. There are unsubstantiated reports that the Chief and Council are considering the name Whalley World, similar to the Walley World park featured on the National Lampoon's Vacation film, since the water will be flowing in from Surrey.

With the success this weekend of New Westminster's Mayor Jonathan Cote (a.k.a. Johnny X) and his first-ever wrestling match during the Royal City Rumble, look for other local Mayors to soon follow suit. It is believed that Surrey's Mayor Doug McCallum, who like any Surreyman is not afraid of a fight, is now considering stepping inside the octagon for an upcoming MMA match. It has been reported to me that someone resembling Mayor McCallum has been seen attending training sessions at the Surrey Masters Martial Arts, located only two blocks from City Hall. Speculation has been running rampant ever since it was realized that McCallum has the letters "MMA" in his last name. Word on the street is that Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald has challenged Mayor McCallum to a grudge match and if Surrey's top cop wins, the RCMP won't be replaced with a municipal police force.

On a final note, U.S. President Donald Trump revealed this morning that what he calls "fake news" is actually real news. Of course nobody believed him since he tweeted this out on April Fool's Day. If he was serious does that now mean that real news is actually fake news? When it comes to anyone named Donald, you just don't know what to believe these days..., I mean this day.

Jokingly yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 25, 2019

Another Day, Another Bluff Clear Cut

 

A friend who lives in Ocean Park recently forwarded me pictures taken from near Kwomais Point that reminded me of the Hump hillside after "vegetation control" was done so that some retaining walls could be seen. As we know this led to the final razing of the Hump hillside, apparently to provide pier views to a select group of folks living on or near marine Drive. This was done with the blessing of the BNSF Railway, even though Transport Canada had warned both them and the City of White Rock that tree cutting for views on the steep bluff hillsides was the number one cause of landslides onto the waterfront tracks.

After reviewing their pictures, I put on my best camo and hiking boots and made the journey to the Ocean Park bluff close to the 1001 Steps at the west end of 15A Ave. After descending the maze of stairs that reminded me of famed graphic artist M.C. Escher, I followed a trail up into the bluff and found what had so infuriated the person who alerted me to the Semiahmoo's latest logging show. Close to the base of the hill was a massive conifer stump with rounds cut from it that were in excess of three feet across. The area on the hill above the giant fir had obviously also experienced a landslide recently with lots of fresh soil that magically had Big-O drain pipe sticking out of it. It should come as no surprise that Transport Canada listed old or improper drain pipes as the other major causes of mudslides from the bluffs.

Following the trail upwards, I saw even more areas where trees had been cut to the ground or hacked level to the ground only a few meters high. The hillside below multiple houses in a row on Ocean Park Road had obviously been cleared of trees multiple times so that now the only thing growing on the bank are blackberries and even these have been brush-cut down to allow for a completely unobstructed water view. The fallen cordwood had even been lined up along the hillside like giant lawn edging. When I got home, checking on the Surrey Cosmos site showed that the area in question was far beyond the property line, past the City of Surrey Easement and way onto BNSF Railway property. Aerial views from a year ago show the giant fir that had once stood in the middle of the hillside clearing extending its shadow across the manicured lawns. Now like the rest of the forest, it is gone and all that remains is a barren hillside.

If I can look at the Surrey Cosmos online mapping site (https://cosmos.surrey.ca/external/) and see where people are extending their lawns and gardens onto City property or clear-cutting BNSF lands on the steep bluff hillside above the tracks, why does City Hall and the BNSF ignore such activities? It is not like the City of Surrey does not realize that much of the landslides from the Ocean Park bluffs are often related to illegal logging done for views. After seeing what the BNSF allowed White Rock to do to the Hump, I really can't imagine them giving a damn about what a hilltop homeowner does to the trees above the tracks, unless a slide actually hits a train or delays train traffic. The complete lack of accountability or responsibility is absolutely appalling, especially when one considers it was likely commercial arborists who did the tree cutting.

It is my understanding that the person who sent me the original photos is going to be contacting the City of Surrey to report this tree cutting and determine if permits had been issued. I will make sure that Gus Melonas from the BNSF Railway gets the photos of the tree clearing on their property plus the addresses for the homes involved. At the end of the day I certainly won't hold my breath waiting for anything to happen as past history has shown that often little to nothing is done and arborists get only a slap on the wrist for illegal logging. It should come as no surprise that hilltop homeowners would risk paltry fines and the possibility of causing landslides for an unobstructed million dollar view.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 18, 2019

It's A-Boat Time

With Bill C-64, the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act about to become law across Canada after receiving Royal Assent several weeks ago, boat owners will finally be on the hook for the proper disposal of their old boats. Until now, un-seaworthy boats were often abandoned, left to rot on pristine shores or kept anchored until they finally sunk, creating environmental, safety and navigation risks. You do not need to go far to see some of these boats, there are several on the banks of the Nicomekl River and others anchored not far from the Elgin Road Sea Dam that look like floating garbage containers. The new legislation will increase boat owners responsibility and liability, with individuals facing fines of $50,000 and businesses up to $250,000 for derelict vessels. For the full details on this new Act, please visit: https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/C-64/

The Boating BC Association (boatingbc.ca) has a large portion of their website dedicated to proper boat disposal. They give information about what to do with unwanted boats, how to know when its time to retire a boat, possible boat donations, disposal and recycling options plus costs, and environmentally sound practices for vessel disposal. Also when boats are retired they have to be de-listed from the Boat Registry and or have their Pleasure Craft License removed and BC Boating has detailed information about this process. With an aging automobile that no longer runs or is unsafe to drive, you cannot leave it on the side of the road and are responsible for having it towed to a salvage yard. Marine vessels can no longer be left to rot on our shores where they are an eyesore and environmental hazard.

This new Legislation coincides with the Federal governments Abandoned Boat Program (ABP) at Transport Canada and the Small Craft Harbours (SCH) Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Abandoned Boats Program has been running almost a year and will end at the end of March after spending $1.3 million to deal to with the removal of abandoned, wrecked and hazardous small boats. The Small Craft Harbours program will spend $1.325 million over five years to remove or dispose of abandoned or wrecked boats in waterways owned by the Dept of Fisheries an Oceans. Recipients can receive up to 100% funding for gaining legal possession of a derelict boat and up to 75% for the work needed to remove and dispose of the wrecked vessel.

I have had hands on experience with dealing with a wrecked boat here after an old pleasure boat ran aground years ago near Kwomais Point. The owner, a man from Saskatchewan, simply abandoned the destroyed vessel, leaving locals to deal with the diesel soaked garbage and flotsam that covered the shore all the way to Crescent Beach. On February day with light snow we picked the shore for litter and debris, piling what we could carry next to the train tracks. The BNSF Railway helped clean up the piles we had left for them, depositing it in a Super-Save bin near Crescent Road that Surrey had paid for. In the end, all that remained were the vessels main beams and two large diesel engines that the Coast Guard drained of fuel. While the owner promised to help and bring friends to assist with the cleanup, he never bothered to show up. With the new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, he would have to clean up his own mess.

It has been estimated that there are over 600 derelict vessels ranging from small recreational boats all the way up to giant commercial ships abandoned and polluting Canadian waterways. Since the City of Surrey can apply for funding to deal with abandoned boats, now would be a good time to survey the shores of the Nicomekl and Fraser rivers to take inventory of derelict vessels and get them cleaned up. Hopefully some of the garbage scows anchored in the Nicomekl can finally be towed away to the dump. At the end of the day, when you decide to purchase a boat, you had better have a plan on how to deal with it when its days are done. Thankfully the sailboats damaged by the Dec. 20th windstorm have been salvaged from the beaches of White Rock and no longer pose a threat to the public.

Naturally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

March 11, 2019

Ditch The Switch

I don't know about the rest of the residents of the Semi-Pen but it didn't help me having to wake up on Sunday morning and get to deal with yet another ridiculous time change. I have written about this debacle several times previously, the last time on Nov. 7, 2017 when at least we got an extra hour sleep instead of being robbed of an hour. This time it was for the switch to Daylight Savings Time, meaning we don't get an extra hour of sunlight, we just get to enjoy it a little later with the sun setting on Sunday evening at 7:08 p.m. Why we have to put up with this twice yearly change in the time is absolutely beyond me and something that should have been abolished decades ago, if politicians had any backbone or mental fortitude.

On a personal level, here is what my morning routine involved. Resetting two alarm clocks, changing the time on the stove and microwave, reprogramming the time on the alarm pad and electronic furnace control, changing the time in two of our three automobiles (fortunately the convertible doesn't go outside in the winter), resetting three watches, reprogramming several antiquated electronics, fixing three timers and adding an hour to four clocks located throughout the house. That is a grand total of 20 clocks and timers, either digital or good old-fashioned moving hands that needed to have my hands make this change. By the time I was done I was ready for a nap having lost an hour sleep on top of after staying out past my regular bed time. Its not just me who wants the time change abolished, read this Change.org petition for reasons why it should be put into the dustbin of history: https://www.change.org/p/british-columbia-government-christy-clarke-stop-the-time-change-in-british-columbia

Last fall BC Premier John Horgan made it clear that he would not support getting rid of the time change even after receiving thousands of letters on the subject. He is on record as saying, “Certainly our trading partners in Washington, Oregon and California have no interest in changing the time, that was made clear to me.” Well it is amazing the difference four months makes as last Saturday the Washington State House passed a measure voting 89-7 to stay on Daylight Savings Time year round. This has to next be cleared by the the State Senate, which currently also has its own bill on the subject. If ratified, they will only take effect if Congress in Washington DC votes to allow individual states to stay with DLS on a year round basis. There are currently 26 States considering legislation to stop the twice yearly time change, with California voters passing a ballot last November to stay on DLS full time and Oregon considering putting this change to their voters.

In the past week Premier Horgan sent a letter to the governors of Washington Oregon and California that stated, "A change in our time zone would have significant impacts on British Columbia. It makes sense to me that we move in unison on this matter." Unlike any of the US States, BC could pass its own legislation to permanently stay on DST as it would not need approval from Ottawa. It would be nice if our Premier had the courage and conviction to play a leadership role to end the yearly time changes and let the coastal States follow our move instead of being their lap-dog. It's not like he would be setting a precedent as the Peace River region, the little town of Creston and the entire province of Saskatchewan do not bother with changing their clocks. They all believe in the "Set It And Forget It" philosophy which works for then and for me.

Sorry to have to cut this TNT a little short but I have to be up early tomorrow morning and even with my little nap on Sunday I'm already thinking of hitting the hay. I think that by the second Sunday in November 2019, if the politicians have not figured a way to get rid of the twice yearly time changes that people simply refuse to move from Daylight Savings Time, leaving our so-called leaders behind. We don't need legislation, we don't need Congressional approval, all we need is for people to stop buying in to this ridiculous practice that should have been mothballed long before I was even born. You don't need to be sleep deprived sheeple any longer. Lets hope a "Set It And Forget It" Facebook page pops up soon to help end this twice yearly insanity.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

P.S.

TNT Extra: It seems that I'm not the only Donald who is sick of time changes. On the day this TNT was posted, U.S. President Trump tweeted "Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K with me!" It's nice to know "The Donald" reads the TNT in the White Rock Sun. Too bad the Democrats will now stonewall efforts to make this change.

 

March 04, 2019

Cinderella Story, Fairy Tale Ending

 

When people here think about the Semiahmoo Totems, it is usually the two totem poles on East Beach at the Grand Chief Bernard Memorial Plaza Within Lions Lookout Park, better known locally as Totem Park. This weekend that all changed with the Semiahmoo Totems girl's basketball team winning the B.C. Secondary Schools Girls AAA Basketball Championships at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday beating out the Walnut Grove Gators by a 72-61 score. It was not like this was unexpected with the Totems going undefeated in their season and throughout the playoff games finishing with a perfect 40 wins - 0 loss record. This was the school's first senior girls AAA basketball banner since way back in 1953.

It was not like the finals were a walk in the park. While the Semiahmoo Totems were the number one seed, their rivals the Gators were the number two team and at one point in the second quarter held a 17 point lead. Foul trouble kept Faith Dut, the 6 foot 3 inch tall Totem guard on the bench for most of the first half with only 4 points and 4 rebounds up to that point in the game. At intermission it was the Walnut Grove Gators holding a 7 point lead, 28-21. The second half was a different story with Dut finding her stride and finishing the game with a team high 23 points and 13 rebounds. An interesting note to this story, the grade-12 student Dut has been recruited by the University of Florida Gators women's basketball team so she will soon go from beating Gators to playing for them.

Look for the Semiahmoo Totems to likely retain their top seed rating for the next few years as their point guard Deja Lee played stellar B-ball during the playoffs and was named the Championship Player of the Game and the Tournament MVP. In the final game on Saturday Lee had 19 points, 6 assists and 4 steals, great numbers for a young woman who is only in grade 10. There are a further five other grade 10 regular players in the Totem rotation so much of their lineup will likely remain unchanged going into the future. This is the second year in a row that the Totems have gone undefeated in regular season play, showing how this resilient group can get the job done both on offense and on the defensive side of the ball. In 2018 they finished 4th in the playoffs after getting beaten by the Kelowna Owls who went on to win the Provincial Championships.

The ace up the Totem's sleeve has to be their legendary basketball coach 59 year-old south Surrey resident Allison McNeil who works with her co-coach Lori Pajic at Semiahmoo Secondary. McNeil's basketball coaching resume is beyond impressive having started coaching at several high-schools before becoming the head coach of SFU's women's team for 13 years. In international competition, she coached Team Canada over 16 years to several World Championship and Olympic appearances, the last being the 2012 Summer Games in London where Canada was beaten by the US in the quarter-finals before their team went on to win the gold medal. Since officially retiring in 2012 Allison has volunteered her amazing talents to coaching young women on a variety of local teams including at Elgin Secondary and Semiahmoo where she has mentored the girls there for several years with the results speaking for themselves.

Monday should be a rather chaotic time at Semiahmoo Secondary with the Totem girls meeting their classmates and getting accolades and praise for their accomplishment. No word yet on when the Provincial Champions banner will be hoisted up into the rafters of the gymnasium but you can bet it will be an exciting time to be a Semi student. I would like to be the first one to start the chant of "Two more years!.., Two more years!" The Semiahmoo Totem girls basketball team are on a roll and with their core players plus Mrs. McNeil's tutalage, I would not be surprised to see more championship banners added to their collection before these girls graduate from high school.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 25, 2019

Dingy Dock For White Rock


 

We all know the wise old proverb that states, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." The damage to the White Rock pier and the dock that used to hold the sailboats belonging to the Lower Mainland Yacht Co-op (LMYC) now gives the City of White Rock the ability to make changes to how the docking system works at the end of the pier. The City owns the west wharf that is operated by the White Rock Harbour Board. Seeing the damage caused to the pier by the out-of-control sailboats during the Dec. 20th windstorm, you have to question whether (weather?) keeping boats permanently moored in this location far from shore and protected by a small rock breakwater is a good idea. For now it is a mute point as the pier is out of commission, the west wharf is in shambles and the Co-ops boats have been wrecked.

A friend of mine who lives in the Semi-Pen was the Water Sport Responsible who looked after 17 Club Med resorts across the Caribbean for 15 years. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about boats, marinas, sailors and tourists. He was recently telling me that he thinks White Rock should rebuild the west wharf and allow visiting yaughts and sailboats to dock for the night inviting the captain and crew to wine and dine in the seaside restaurants along marine Drive. Further to that, tethered moorage balls chained onto concrete pedestals stopping anchor damage to any eel grass beds could be used for additional boats with both the dock and moorage balls generating docking fees for the City. The east wharf could then be advertised as a "Dingy Dock" allowing boaters to moor their boats, jump in their dingy and take a short walk on Canada's Longest Pier into White Rock. He does not believe the LMYC year-round control over the west wharf is in the best interest of the City of White Rock, especially after trying to join them and reviewing their limited operations.

Now might be a good time to once again consider the idea of building a marina in White Rock's front yard. It would be interesting to know how many people who live in White Rock have their boats in facilities miles away from the City By The Sea. In neighbouring Blaine they have 629 state-of-the-art boat slips for commercial and pleasure boats with permanent moorage plus 800 feet of visitor moorage. Try to imagine the economic impact of all of those boats with their owners and crews descending into the sleepy hollow of Marine Drive. Point Roberts has a large marine resort with all the amenities a boater could ever want and hundreds of slips that are always packed. White Rock's loss is these two neighbouring city's gain as they reap the rewards of catering to people wealthy enough to afford a nice boat. For those worried about environmental impacts, both Blaine and Point Roberts are Blaine Harbor are 5-star Envirostars and Certified Clean Marinas.

With the pier in shambles and many businesses closed along the Drive, it would be wise for White Rock to do something to attract people to the waterfront. There is now free parking at the White Rock waterfront until the end of March but this fact needs to be advertised so folks across the Lower Mainland know about it. I believe the opening of the promenade to leashed dogs during the off-season was a good start, but why not do it now instead of waiting for next October? How about some signage along Hwy. 99 alerting visitors from the US to the White Rock beach? Surrey has a great big "Welcome to Surrey" sign on Hwy. 99 at 8th Ave. but nothing pointing the way to the White Rock waterfront, the beaches or Canada's longest pier. The 16 Ave. exit is the same with nothing alerting people about the nearby town of White Rock. There needs to be signage pointing the way to the beach at both of the land crossings at the US/Canada border.

When the pier is finally rebuilt, I would still love to see a zip-line attraction from the top of the Hump hillside all the way to the end of the pier, a distance of around 1,700 feet. Besides attracting daredevils to take the ride, the pier and promenade would make excellent viewing vantage points to watch the fun. Not only would it be the longest zip-line over water in Canada, I believe it would be the only one going over the ocean. With awesome views of Boundary Bay and Mount Baker, this year-round attraction would help to put White Rock on the map again. Of course, it would likely generate a hateful response from the usual "NIMWR" crowd (Not IN MY White Rock) who never want anything to change in their cherished little seaside town. City Hall needs to alter their corporate slogan to "Revitalize, Rejuvenate, Invigorate" and put some excitement back into White Rock. Any or all of these fresh ideas proposed in this TNT column might be a good place to start.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

February 19, 2019


"Tracking Surrey's Snow Plow Tracker"

 

It was really nice taking a break from the winter doldrums to go to New Zealand in the middle of what is their summer. Unfortunately it appears we should have extended our trip to avoid the winter weather that was waiting for us when we arrived. While we were flying home the Lower mainland was receiving a large dump of snow after shivering through a week of outflow conditions. I stepped off the plane wearing shorts and a t-shirt, sporting a nice tan even after wearing SPF 50 for three weeks. When the taxi took us home the driver refused to go into our driveway because of the fear of getting stuck. I agreed since there was almost a foot of snow that we had to trudge through with our max weight luggage. Before emptying my bags, I found the dusty snow shovels and went to work clearing the driveway so our AWD car could make it to the street and people who didn't have snowshoes could reach our front door.

I used to live in a house on a cul-de-sac not far from our current home in Crescent heights. It was nice and quiet but as I found out the first winter, there was no snow clearing done by the City of Surrey. After one particularly heavy snowfall, the only way any of the neighbours made it to the connector street was because I took my 4x4 Ford truck and drove back and forth to ensure that everyone had a path to drive their cars in. Other times with less snowfall, it would melt and turn to ice, making the the road a proverbial skating rink. It was a great way to get to know the neighbours by helping them to push their vehicles around the street. The house we now live in was selected in part because it is on a main road with local bus service, ensuring that we receive prompt snow clearing and salting by Surrey. I don't even mind or complain when the plow fills my cleaned driveway with the slop from the street.

After years of being somewhat lacking in the snow removal business and after the dreadful winter of 2010, the City of Surrey has upped their game with 63 snow clearing vehicles now at the standby when snow starts falling. These include salters, sanders, plows and brine trucks to all help remove snow and keep ice from forming. New for this year is a specifically designed machine dedicated to plowing sidewalks in the central core of Whally around the skytrain and SFU university. Surrey uses an average of 8,000 tonnes of salt in a regular winter, with their new salt shed holding a mountain of 17,000 tonnes of rock salt. Even with all the new gear, the coolest think about their snow clearing operations is the new "Surrey Plow Tracker" website available online at https://511portal.com/surrey .

This mapping system shows the highways and byways of the City of Surrey, hi-lighting which roads are regularly plowed. This of course includes busy connector roads, areas around schools, senior centres and steep hills. What is amazing about the Surrey Plow Tracker is that it shows you the actual location of snow clearing vehicles on the streets using GPS technology plus colour codes the roadways allowing you to see how long it has been since the roads have been plowed. It is broken into four colours, green for <2 hours, orange for 2-6 hours, pink for 6-12 hours and grey for >12 hours. Instead of phoning the Works Department to ask why you are snowed in, you can simply check out the Plow Tracker system to see when plows are heading your way. I'm not sure how much of Surrey's $3.7 million snow removal budget was used on this tracking system but I think it is priceless.

Depending on the severity of the snowfall, priority is given to the main roads to ensure they are kept clear and traffic flowing. The Surrey Plow Tracker shows you the roads of the city and whether they are priority or secondary roadways. You should know that the City of Surrey doesn’t normally do residential road clearing because the weather here usually warms up or rain melts the snow. Vehicles help to move the salt from main roads onto side streets, ensuring that the snow on these streets will melt without the help of additional rock salt. If snowfall is significant and the temperature does not warm up the plows will finally tackle residential streets but this is an even more rare occurrence around here than heavy snow. If you have questions about road clearing or feel the need to request plowing, the City of Surrey’s service request line can be reached at 604-591-4152,Mon-Fri (except statutory holidays) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before doing so, I would recommend to check out the Plow Tracker site to see how crews are dealing with the latest storm. Sorry White Rockers but Surrey's system does not extend into the hillside community of the City By The Sea.

Tuesday should be a great day for you to check out this latest innovation from the City of Surrey. A snowfall warning was issued by Environment Canada at
21:43, Monday, 18 February, 2019 that reads as follows:
SNOWFALL WARNING IN EFFECT. 5 to 10 cm of snow for Metro Vancouver eastern suburbs and Western Fraser Valley on Tuesday.
A frontal system will cross the south coast on Tuesday. Snow will begin Tuesday morning. The snow may become mixed with rain Tuesday afternoon and early evening before changing back to snow Tuesday night. The eastern suburbs of Metro Vancouver and Western Fraser Valley can expect snowfall accumulations of 5 to 10 cm through Tuesday night. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. The snow will taper off early Wednesday morning.
Adding to the fun more another 5 cm of snow is expected at the end of the week. It looks like I'm not getting back to work anytime soon so tomorrow I'm going to grab a hot coffee, sit by the fire and go online to watch the Surrey snowplows to their stuff during the next winter storm. If that doesn't warm the cockles of my heart, there's always the covered hot tub out back.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 11, 2019

Palma Sunday

It seems that writing my TNT while couped up in the confines of a Boeing 777 flying at 35,000 feet is becoming common place. Combine the white noise of the jet engines with non-stop turbulance and the music of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon album compliments of Air New Zealand makes for a rather unique writing environment. This column was penned while flying over the Pacific Ocean between Samoa and Tahiti, a little west of Pitcairn Island that was made famous by the mutineers who took over the HMS Bounty several centuries ago.

My third ICFRA Long Range World Championships is now over. While you were bundling up from the outflow winds and blowing snow, myself and wife Sheryl aloong with the members of the Canadian Palma Rifle Team were heading to the sunny Seddon Range not far from Wellington, New Zealand to take on the best riflemen on the planet. Last week began with the long range individual matches that were opened with a shot being fired from a .303 rifle that was awarded to Kiwi hero Sgt. L. Loveday back in 1916. Even from 800 yards the shooter, 82 year old NZNRA patron Barry Geange who has shot in 60 NZ Championships, managed to hit the 20 inch bullseye at 900 yards.

The competition was fired Palma style, that is 15 rounds on score shot at 800, 900 and1,000 yards repeated 3 times. Day 1 featured only one 800 yard range in the afternoon due to the opening ceremonies. Day 2 and 3 were shot at 900, 1,000 yards in the morning with the 800 later in the day when daytime heating created plenty of wind to deal with. The final day of the match featured the 900 and 1000 yard ranges with the top ten reaching the final where they shot for gold and glory in front of a large audience. In extremely difficult wind conditions only two shooters managed to keep all of their shots on the 34 inch wide black aiming mark. S.M. Negus of Australia managed to keep his lead and win gold with 20 year-old fellow Aussie Mitch Bailey taking silver and David Luckman from Britain coming from far back to grab bronze. Johan Sauer from Vancouver managed to win silver medals in two matches, the only Canadian to bring home any of these highly coveted medals. The top Canadian in aggregate score was yours truly, Don Pitcairn, who finished back in 67th position.

The end of individual matches led us to the holy grail of international team rifle shooting, the Palma Match. The first competition was back in 1876 when the Great Centennial Match was held in New York, contested by the USA, Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Australia with the Yankees winning the 7.5 foot tall Palma trophy produced by Tiffanys. Since that time there have been 29 Palma matches featuring a total of 30 different countries from around the world. The modern Palma was shot yearly from 1966 onward until the 1976 Bicentennial match in the US where it was then changed to a 3 and now 4 year cycle. The team size has been standardized to 16 shooters plus 4 coaches, head coach and team captain plus assistants.

On day 1 the USA dropped only 4 points in total at the 800 yard, taking an early two point lead over the heavily favoured Australian team. By the end of the 900 and 1,000 yard ranges the Aussies had built themselves a sizeable 22 point lead that included lots of centre v-bulls. Day 2 showed their dominance with their team "going clean" and firng a perfect score of 1200 points at the 800 yard. From there it was all Team Oz as they continued to add to their lead. When the gun smoke had cleared, Australia took gold with a score of 7028-773v with Great Britain winning silver 77 points back and the USA getting the bronze 29 points behind the Brits. Of note, Brandon Green and Nate Guerney of the US had the top individual scores dropping only 3 and 5 points respectively out of 450 total. After that the rest of the top 10 shooters were all Australians. The host New Zealand finished in 5th place place while Canada was well off the pace at 6th position out of 7 teams.

Our plane lands soon in snowy Vancouver with many of our teammates heading off on connecting flights to eastern Canada. With lessons learned we will begin to train towards the next Palma Match that takes place in South Africa in 2023. Hopefully my Dad who had qualified for both the Open Team and Veteran Team this year will join us after he unfortunately had to withdraw for a much needed knee replacement. That is one of the beautiful things about target rifle shooting, you can be competitive from a teenager up until your eighties as long as the body, mind and eyesight allows. It also means you can travel the world meeting people and making friends with marksmen from around the globe, renewing old acquaintances every four years.

Naturally yours,
Don Picairn

 

 

February 4, 2019

Shooting Kiwis in New Zealand

After touring around Auckland the Canadan Palma Team loaded up the van and made our way towards Wellington arriving at the Silverstream Retreat in Upper Hutt near the Seddon Range in Trentham. We met up with the other members of the team that had come in on different flights, guys and girls from the Under 25 junior team, the Open team and the Veterans team. With shooters, coaches, Captain and Adjutant plus spouses and supporters we numbered 45 people strong. Most of the large USA rifle team are staying with us in the buildings that were originally built as a hospital by American Army during WW2, then extensively renovated with modern amenities.

Target rifle shooting is the oldest competitor sport in New Zealand and with plenty of real estate and large farms still attracts plenty of people from both the country and cities. The first New Zealand Championships were held in 1869, two years after Canada was formed. The ICFRA (international Confederation of World Long Range Championships) Championship attracts teams from around the planet, with strong contingents from Australia, Great Britain, America, Canada, South Africa, and of course the host country of New Zealand. Smaller teams from Japan and the Channel Islands off France are also here with Germany, Switzerland, Kenya and the Caribbean unfortunately missing this year.

We got in a couple days of both individual and team practice last weekend, getting wind zeros for our rifle sights plus elevations for the different ranges that are set in yards instead of metres like at home. The team coaches spent time with their shooters learning how to read the large yellow and red flags that show the Seddon range's notoriously fickle and often strong winds. Matches began on Monday with the Wellington Rifle Association Championships, the New Zealand Match team shoot, the Masefield aggregate followed by the Overseas Club Match. You can follow the action on National Rifle Association of New Zealand at NRA.nz.com .

The week of competition started with very warm weather and lots of strong wind that flicked back and forth from side left to right. The hard shooting A. DeToit from South Africa came in first place in the Wellington Rifle Association Match that included ranges fired at 300, 600, 900 and 1000 yards. Even in ferocious winds that shredded most scores, he dropped only one point and that was at the long range. Surrey's Al Katona was the top Canadian five points back of the winner and a long way from the medals. The rest of the week shooters competed shoulder to shoulder in the Masefield Cup that features a series of belt matches at both short and long ranges. Jim Bailey from Australia who I had the pleasure of shooting with walked away with the gold, winning by five points over last years champ John Snowden from New Zealand with South Africa's A. DeToit taking third place. High Canadian was yours truly back in 41st place.

The young and old got into the action on Saturday with the completion of the ICFRA World Individual Championships for Under 21, Under 25 and the Veteran's Aggregate. In the Under 21, L. Rembler of the USA took 1st place, in the Under 25, C. Schwebel of Australia took the gold, and Mark Anderson of Australia who I shot with in Bisley won the top award for those over 60 years old. To finish the weekend, the Under 21 Team match, the Under 25 Team match and Veterans Team match were all won by Australia, showing the strength of their shooting program.

Next week is the ICFRA World Long Range Championships followed on the weekend by the international team Palma Match. All of these 15 round matches are fired at 800, 900, and 1,000 yards. Winds are forcast at 30 gusting to 50 kmh which should make things interesting. Sorry to hear its cold and snowy in the Semi-pen, I'll think of you when putting on the SPF 50 sunscreen before heading to the rifle range to battle the world's best marksmen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 28, 2019 

Hobnobbin With Hobbits

 

This TNT comes to you from 11,747 km away from the beautiful island nation of New Zealand. Every four years the Canadian Rifle Team makes their way to the ICFRA World Long Range Championships, this year being held in the town of Upper Hutt not far from Wellington. Here Canada's Under 25 Team, the Senior Team plus the Veterans Team will compete with the world's best marksmen from across the globe on the Seed in range. Myself plus two other shooters from South Surrey are on the team with several more from around BC. 

The tour started with getting dropped off at the airport long before our flight ensuring there were no lineups at the NEW Zealand Air check-in counter. When you consider how tight security is when flying with conventional lugge, try to imagine travelling with high-powered target rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. You need Canadian government export permits, New Zealand Police import permits, Firearms cards plus your passport. Everything has to be inspected, cross referenced with serial numbers plus the ammo has to be weighed and checked for proper safety packaging. 

After meeting up with another eight team members and saying good-bye to our shooting friends who came to the airport to wish us good luck we passed through security where I basically had to disrobe to clear the metal detector. I guess a Canada pin is a dangerous object in the cabin, while .308 rifles and 10 kg of bullets are okay in the belly of the plane. Of course that was just my portion, I don't even want to add up how much other firearms and ordanance were on board, all with the blessing of Transport Canada. For all of the pain it is flying with restricted goods, you have to laugh that you can't bring nail cutters on board but a sniper team can pack plenty of rifles and gear as long as they comply with government and industry regulations.

After clearing security we encountered a rather large group of people at our gate who also looked like another team in transit. I'm not sure of it was the Tilley hat, my team blazer or the Statesmen eyeglasses from Sight For Sore Eyes in White Rock (shameless plug) but I was chosen to take their photo. After doing my best to cram them all in and take a couple of snaps, I found out they were Aboriginal youths and their chapparones . The 11 teens that were the focus of this expedition were heading to New Zealand Paddling Beyond cultural exchange program with the native Maori indigenous people. I had plenty of time to learn about this program on the 15 hour flight, including their plan to visit Hobbiton where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.

After a restless night crammed into economy seats we landed in Auckland where a rented bus was waiting for us. Our team Captain, Fazel Mohideen from Ontario, took the wheel after we had packed all of our gear, taking care to stay on the left side of the road. Using a GPS app on his phone we navigated through Auckland to the President Hotel with its Watergate restaurant. From there the next few days were spent enjoying the city, bonding as a team and checking out the local tourist traps. There was little jet lag for us with NZ being a day minus 3 hours ahead of us but the folks from Ontario and Quebec needed some time getting used to summer heat after escping from -25 cold and snowy weather.

Before the big drive South to Wellington, we spent several days touring the beautiful NZ countryside and its many attractions. After a major hike exploring a valley with limestone cliffs carved by water with cave upon cave, we went underground to visit a glowworm cave (https://www.caveworld.co.nz/glow-worm-tours/). These amazing little creatures glow 24 hours a day in complete darkness, using their green glow to attract insects that fly into the cave and it's many unique formations . Also on the itinerary was a stop at an active Mauori viĺlage in Rotorua perched above an active geothermal sight with multiple geysers, hot springs and thermal vents (https://whakarewarewa.com).

That's all for week one as we head South for the range and practices with the rest of our team before the main matches begin. 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Monday January 14, 2018

Sobering Thoughts

When cannabis was legalized on October 20, 2018 getting high became as socially acceptable as having a drink to relax at the end of a hard day. What many failed to realize was that while weed was finally becoming legal, impaired driving laws were being tightened. With marijuana legalization on the horizon the Canadian government took steps to strengthen the criminal justice system to deter all kinds of impaired driving. Part one of the former Bill C-46 came into force on June 21 of last year dealing with drug-impaired driving, while part two of this Bill became law almost a month ago on Dec. 18 focusing on alcohol impaired driving.

The big change in the DUI laws was that they implemented mandatory alcohol screening in Canada that authorized police to demand a breath sample at the roadside from any driver they encountered. In the past the police need a reason to pull you over and then have suspicions of alcohol impairment to ask for a breath sample. Now that is simply not the case and already police departments who no longer have to deal with marijuana possession laws are taking to the streets targeting anyone they think might have had a drink. The government championed that "Mandatory alcohol screening will authorize law enforcement to demand a breath sample at the roadside from any driver that has been lawfully stopped." What they did not explain was that the police can pull you over without any violation or indication of problematic driving, akin to them going on a fishing trip.

It did not take long for this change in the law to start showing some rather extreme changes in police tactics. In Mississauga a man bringing in a bunch of beer and wine bottles to a recycling depot after the Christmas holidays was stopped by an officer when leaving and asked for a breath sample early on a Saturday morning. He passed the test but was pissed off afterwards, taking the OPP to task about their profiling based on the number of empties being returned. Personally I have been the victim of this type of profiling when I was pulled over by an Integrated Safety Unit (IRSU) officer after purchasing a six-pack of craft beer on a Friday afternoon last summer in Langley. Having written several columns about the IRSU I was quite aware of who they were and saw their undercover vehicles in the liquor store parking lot. The excuse given for pulling me over was "You almost hit a curb back their with your trailer", which was a complete fabrication. After calling his bluff and flashing a White Rock Sun reporter card he quickly turned tail and left me alone with the IPA I had bought for the weekend. Funny to think that I actually thought buying beer in BC was legal!

The police here are now using these new powers and specifically targeting drivers leaving establishments that produce or serve liquor. A friend of mine was at a craft brewery on the weekend when he was followed from the parking lot by an undercover cop car. While his driving was perfect, he did not speed, he signaled his lane changes and broke no laws, he was pulled over because of where he had been. He was asked to provide a breath sample by the officer immediately after giving him his license and registration. Unfortunately for my friend he had tasted several flights of beer, with many of the winter brews featuring higher than normal alcohol content, and this on an empty stomach. He failed the roadside screening device test even though he did not feel intoxicated and the officer agreed that he could not notice any kind of impairment. He was given an immediate 90 day license suspension, his car was towed and impounded with storage fees for 30 days. Next up is big fines plus major ICBC rate increases. The worst part is he was to start his new job on Monday but without a license he is now unemployed.

Now don't get me wrong, I do not condone drunk driving but am concerned about our rights and freedoms and civil liberties. If we can have police pulling people over for no legitimate reason and giving them a breathalyzer, why not do a strip search for weapons and a cavity search for narcotics while they are at it? I know that possession is 9/10ths of the law and with marijuana now legal and drug possession charges way down, the cops need something to do since they can't be busting hippies for a joint any more. These new DUI laws have given the police powers to harass any and all drivers without suspicion of any law being broken. I expect this new law to be quickly challenged as it will likely not survive a constitutional challenge. Of course here in Canada, this court case will likely take years before making its way to the Supreme Court.

Until that time you can expect the police to run rampant over individual rights and freedoms, turning law abiding people into unwitting criminals as Canada drifts towards a police state. Planning on going to a bar or brewery in the near future for even one drink? I would park nearby and walk to the establishment to avoid being targeted. Did you get a gift card for the Keg or Cactus Club that are known to serve premium cocktails? You'd better have a designated driver and still might be pulled over for nothing. Around the Semi-pen, I would expect to see cops watching the Sandcastle Bowling Alley, Softball City and restaurants along the White Rock strip. Patrons heading to pubs and bars such as the the Town Hall, Sawbucks, Baselines, Ocean Park Village and Browns Social House should make for easy police pickings. I would not expect the local Canadian Legion branches or Elks Hall to escape the attention of the RCMP. With Three Dogs Brewing now located next door to the White Rock Beach Beer Company, Russel Avenue should be a mecca for any cop wanting to find people to randomly pull over for a breathalyzer.

It will be interesting to see what kind of chilling effect that police enforcement of the new DUI laws has on food and beverage establishments here, many that are just scraping by. Until this unjust law is overturned, I will avoid bars like the plaque, have water when eating at restaurants and get growlers filled at craft breweries for home consumption. I resent being treated like a criminal when I've done nothing wrong and this new law gives the police way too much powers that can also be used to target visible minorities. For those reading this TNT, keep in mind that an extra glass of wine, another pint of beer or that double high-ball may cost you a heck of a lot more than the drink itself.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 


The Naked Truth - Jan. 7, 2019

A Long Walk to a Short Pier

Almost everyone is aware of the damage sustained to the White Rock Pier during the Dec. 20th windstorm, mainly due to Tim Shields' viral video of sailboats on a broken dock slamming into Canada's longest pier. What few realize is the pounding that the shoreline and the BNSF Railway received during this nasty storm. On Boxing Day I put on my hardhat and high vis vest and went on a "Track Watch" journey from Crescent Beach, through White Rock, to the Semiahmoo First Nation Reserve. This TNT, which is more of a pictorial than a column, should open up a few eyes to the damage Mother Nature inflicted on shores of the Semi-pen.

One of the good things to note from the storm is that the previous landslide debris deposited onto the shore near Crescent Beach that had blocked shoreline access during high tide has now washed away, leaving behind the Big O drainage pipe behind that initiated this slide.

Crescent Rock nude beach got seriously eroded by the waves but on the bright side it looks like there will be plenty of sand there next summer. The memorial for Jack Stroud who was hit while on the train tracks last year was obliterated but fresh flowers had already been laid at the spot where he died.

 

The erosion of the rip rap boulders that line the shore and ballast stones which hold the ties in place are evident in this photo from near Kwomais Point that shows how close the waves came to the tracks. I was passed in this area by a BNSF freight train carrying 100 tankers of crude oil, and another with 70 gas tankers plus cars of ammonia and hydrochloric acid.

This shot shows an area not yet repaired where waves pulled down the rip-rap boulders and water washed the ballast rock away exposing the ends of the sleepers. I've been told by BNSF employees that more rip-rap and ballast stone are coming in the near future to repair all the damage.

Approximately 200 metres of Kwomais Point took the full force of the storm and the tracks and ties were apparently hanging suspended in several locations. The BNSF has installed tonnes of new rip-rap boulders to shore up the bank and deposited train-car loads of ballast stone on the rails throughout this area.

Most of the tracks heading towards White Rock have been top-dressed with tonnes of crushed ballast rock, covering the ties and the track side facing the ocean. On the places not buried in stones, driftwood lies in between the steel rails in many locations.

Closing in on West Beach, it was not until I got near the houses on Marine Drive that the amount of logs began to suddenly increase, plus sailboat wreckage first appeared. On West Beach by the Boat Launch, the lawns looked like a logging show with tonnes of debris.

All of West Beach was a disaster zone with logs and flotsam everywhere. The Promenade was fenced off and posted "Permanently Closed Until Further Notice." Climbing the Hump I got to watch a mini-excavator on a barge try to pull one of the damaged sail boats off the beach, with the hole in the pier as a backdrop.

Arriving in East Beach, I witnessed a sailboat smashed up onto the rocks with rudder and masts gone and a gaping hole in its side. It was obvious that this boat was completely destroyed by the waves and logs pounding it onto the rocks at the shore.

Of all the wreckage scattered along East Beach, this float likely from the busted sailboat dock was rather unique. It was sitting squarely on the promenade bricks without any damage to the nearby fence or lamp post. The wave that dropped it there must have been huge.

As bad as West Beach was, it seemed that East Beach had even more logs and debris. It was easy to see why the White Rock Polar Bear Swim had to be cancelled as the shoreline would have been dangerous for anyone to access.

The Semiahmoo beach by the WAG and the SFN parking lot got seriously washed with the vegetation mowed down and logs pushed back to the bottom of the tracks. It was here that I found a "Sensitive Shellfish Harvesting Area" sign from Drayton Harbor in Blaine along with a piling from the WR Pier.

There you have it folks, 12 pictures that should give you some insight to the power of Mother Nature and the damage from this historic storm. You should have seen the other two dozen photos that would not fit into this first-of-its-kind TNT pictorial. Kudos to the BNSF employees who worked diligently to repair all of the damage done to their rail line that was closed for 48 hours. It will take a while to remove all of the logs and debris from the beaches in White Rock and preliminary estimates are that the pier will not be repaired until August at the earliest.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth, Dec. 31, 2018

TNT Year in Review 2018

 

What did you manage to do last year? To help celebrate the end of 2018, here is the TNT Year in Review

Dec. 24, Christmas Gift List 2018: Often naughty, sometimes nice gifts left under the Xmas tree for the Semi-pen's movers and shakers.
Dec. 17, Bailey Bridge Boondoggle: Repairs are done on the old Bailey Bridge over a year after this relic was already to have been replaced.
Dec. 10, Geezer madness: A look at how local governments are using land zoning and business licenses to thwart recent marijuana legalization.
Dec. 03, Shoreline Strippers: A green space along Nicomekyl River by the Sea Dam has locals ripping out the riparian area for water views.

Nov. 25, Chantrell Creek Gets Back to Nature: Pictures and information on how Surrey rehabilitated a section of Chantrell Creek back to a natural state.
Nov. 19, What The Firetruck?: What word starts with "F" and ends in "uck"? How about a story on two firetrucks for sale at Crescent Road and KGB.
Nov. 12, Path to Destruction: Expose on logging occurring at the Elgin Heritage Park with healthy 150 year old Douglas Fir trees getting the axe.
Nov. 05, Monday Night Political Football: The civic election is over and plenty of new faces sit down for their first Council meetings in Surrey and White Rock.

Oct. 29, The Best Defence is a Landslide Detector Fence: After 10 years, the BNSF finally extends the LDF through the Crescent Beach slide zone.
Oct. 22, Its Time For Change: A look at the civic election results where Surrey First and the White Rock Coalition were shown the door by voters.
Oct. 16, Speed Kills, Duh: In reversing a deadly Liberal mistake, John Horgan's NDP lower speed limits on BC highways to reduce crashes and deaths.
Oct. 09 Bananas About Basjoo: Banana groves flourishing in Crescent Beach? You bet your sweet bananas there are, with photos to prove it.
Oct. 01, The Number's Game: A preview of the local elections and the huge number of people who are running for Mayor and Council.

Sept. 25, Tracking Our Politicians: Rail safety and rail relocation are always hot button topics before an election, too bad the BNSF and Transport Canada don't care.
Sept. 17, Wrecking The Rock: From Uptown to the waterfront, White Rock is a massive construction zone with the crane and loon fighting to be the official bird.
Sept. 10, BNSF's Behaviour Simply Of-fence-sive: Column on the BNSF trying to extort $225,000 per year from Surrey for a free safety fence meant for the railway.
Sept. 04, Gunning For Mayor: A marksman puts the cross-hairs on gun violence in Surrey and efforts by the RCMP and mayoralty hopefuls wanting to stop it.

Aug. 27, Skimboarding Getting Kayotics: Tofino may have surfing but Kayotics Skimboards in White Rock is taking skimboarding to a whole new level.
Aug. 20, Smogust: BC is burning, temperatures are on the rise and air quality here in the Semi-pen is worse than breathing the air in Bejing China.
Aug. 13, Red Light Runners Beware: New red light cameras are coming to a neighbourhood near you, now running 24 hours a day instead of 6 hours like before.
Aug. 06: Shooting Stops in Surrey: A wrap-up of the Canadian Rifle team's visit to Bisley England with kudos to south Surrey's Jim Paton for placing 2nd.

July 23, This Surrey Shooting Scores a Bulls-eye: A look into the UK NRA Target Rifle Championships held yearly at the Bisley ranges in Surrey, England.
July 17, TNT Time in Britain: A Donald from White Rock goes to Jolly old England the same time that The Donald from the USA flies in with Air Force One.
July 9, Railing on About Track Safety: A dark story about the death of 15 year-old Jack Stroud who was hit and killed by the Amtrak train near Christopherson Steps.
July 03, Glimpsing a Petroglyph: Native rock carvings abound here in the Semi-pen if you know where to look including at the clothing-optional Crescent Rock beach.

June 25, A Line in the Sand at Border Beach: A call for a beach border marker next to the Peace Arch after a jogger ends up in the USA and hot water.
June 18, Disposal Ban With No Disposal Plan: Metro-Van bans styrofoam packaging from the waste stream but has no recycling system in place.
June 11, Dying To Get In There: Problems at the corner of 192 St. and 16 Ave. cause 3 deaths in 10 years as drivers crash into the Hazelmere Cemetery.
June 04, Crime of the Week: RCMP are still looking for information about the murder of 15 year-old Dario Bartoli at Bakerview Park in 2014.

May 28, Musseling Into Our Territory: An interesting expose of the work being done by the BC Invasive Mussel Defence Program to stop invasive species.
May 21, Land of the Free: How to avoid paying Washington State sales tax when you cross the border to go shopping in the United States.
May 14, Mighty Fraser Might Flood Surrey: A 10-day high streamflow advisory for the Fraser River peaks interest about the possibility of flooding.
May 07, Habitat Schmabitat: A story about the Art Knapps store and how they are doing their part to help the environment and build more habitat.

Apr. 30, Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock!: A very blue look at the life and times of guitarist Jason Buie who helped form the WR Blues Society before passing.
Apr. 23, Weed Em And Reap: The invasive and toxic Laurel Spurge is put under a spotlight as it spreads uncontrolled in yards, green-spaces and parkland.
Apr. 16, Mayor If You Dare: An overview of all of the people with aspirations to be the next Mayor as Linda Hepner and Wayne Baldwin bow out.
Apr. 09, The "Legend" Continues: A 79 year -marksman named Bob Pitcairn represents Canada at the Commonwealth Games setting a new record.
Apr. 01, April Fools For Fools: April 1st has become "Tax Increase Day" and this year is no exception with a laundry list of government gouging.

Mar. 26, Preaching From the Chappell: Meet the new Semiahmoo First Nation Chief, Harley Chappell, who answers many questions about the Reserve.
Mar. 19, BNSF Burying Crescent Beach: Landslide debris from the BNSF tracks gets dumped onto Crescent Beach leaving the railway with mud on its face.
Mar. 12, Overpass Opens Before Passover: The severely damaged 152 St. overpass above Hwy. 99 opens early after being hit by an over-height truck.
Mar. 05, A Clear-Cut Job: Arborists roar into action under cover of darkness to cut down boulevard trees all along Johnson Road in uptown White Rock.

Feb. 12-26, White Rock Sun closed.
Feb. 05, Lights Out For Watts: Dianne Watts loses her bid to lead the BC Liberal Party to Andrew Wilkinson after she quit as South Surrey/White Rock MP.

Jan. 29, Super-Blue-Blood-Moon Rising: A super moon, blue moon and blood moon and happen at once in this extremely rare astrological event.
Jan. 22, Taking Tax Relief For Granted: House prices rise stratospherically, property taxes rise dramatically, but the home owners grant never changes.
Jan. 15, Muddying The Waters: A look into operations at the Border Feed Lot and Ecoli contamination of the Little Campbell River watershed.
Jan. 08, Clearing The Air: Soggy manure piles turned over at the Border Feed Lot cause neighbours living downwind to raise a stink.

There you go folks, a full year of TNTs condensed down into one short column. If you see anything here that catches your eye, simply scroll down to read what you missed. If you hit the archives, every The Naked Truth ever written going back to June 20, 2009 is still posted online in the electronic pages of the White Rock Sun for your viewing pleasure.

Happy New Year,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 24, 2018

Christmas Gift List 2018

If there's one thing I love about Christmas it's the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun this holiday TNT is always special. Here's the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa left under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, listed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.

Wayne Baldwin, former White Rock Mayor - A DVD copy of the comedy movie "The Boss" featuring Melissa MacCarthy. As a stocking stuffer, free downloads of every song that Bruce Springstein has ever recorded plus the Ramones song "Glad To See You Go" from their 1977 "Leave Home" album.

Jennifer Brooks and family - Just like Tim Shields below, the Brooks family got their Xmas present early on Dec. 20th when they learned that that RCMP Const. Elizabeth Cucheran, charged in the shooting death of Hudson Brooks at the south Surrey RCMP detachment in 2015, has been ordered to stand trial in BC Supreme Court early in the new year.

Dave Chesney, WR Councillor - A"Mustang Only" parking sign for in front of his stall at City Hall for his vintage 1966 Ford Mustang fastback in candy apple red paint making Dave hard to miss as he rolls by on the hard streets of White Rock.

The Coalition - For the group of Councillors including Grant Meyers, Bill Lawrence, Lynne Sinclair and Megan Knight who transformed much of uptown White Rock into a concrete jungle against the wishes of the people before they were soundly turfed from office, a roll of sod with instructions "green side up."

Democracy Direct - For White Rocks newest councillors, Erica Johanson, Scott Kristjanson, Anthony Manning and Christopher Trevelyan who said they would actually listen to the wants of their constituents, expect to find hearing aids and aural trumpets for all of them under the tree at City Hall.

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor - The beautiful Snover Gill was crowned 2018 Miss White Rock but the lovely and talented Helen needs a trophy for her mantle proclaiming her as "Mrs. White Rock" after receiving the most votes of any Councillor who was elected.

Rodderick Louis, social provocateur - For the highly opinionated, extremely vocal, thorn-in-the-side critic of White Rock Council, a free travel package. Unfortunately it's likely to be an escorted trip out of Council chambers by the RCMP after turning yet another public meeting into a one man gong show.

Kerri-Lynne Findlay, Conservative member - A DVD of the made for television movie The Comeback Kid starring John Ritter. This Conservative candidate will be back for round two, likely taking on Liberal incumbent Gordie Hogg once again to be the MP for the south Surrey - White Rock riding.

Gordon Hogg, MP for SS/WR - A new pair of running shoes as "Good Ol Gordie" gets ready to run again for MP of South Surrey - White Rock in what should be his 16th election campaign over his many years of public service. As a stocking stuffer, a really fun and colourful pair of socks to match his personality.

Doug MacCallum, City of Surrey Mayor - Back in the saddle after a 13 year hiatus, Cowboy Doug gets a bullet-proof vest in case of friendly-fire from the Surrey RCMP he wants to replace. Since he's been such a good boy this year, Santa also brings him a model Skytrain set to play with plus an extra billion dollars to help fund it over the LRT.

Semiahmoo First Nation Council - For Chief Harley Chappel and Councillors Joanne and Roxanne Charles, a clean Metro Vancouver water connection that ends their boil water advisory on the Reserve in place since 2005. Just like last year, some gifts are a long, long, long time coming.

Tim Shields, Master Photographer - Christmas always comes 5 days early for this former RCMP inspector and avid photographer. On Dec. 20, 2017 he was found not guilty of sexual misconduct charges involving a civilian employee in the workplace. This year on Dec. 20 he took the amazing video of the sailboats crashing into the WR pier, just before he and his family made a mad dash to safety. Not bad for the guy who also won the 2018 International Nature Photographer of the Year award (visit Timshields.com).

Darryl Walker, Mayor of White Rock - For White Rock's new Mayor a framed copy of Democracy Direct's election promises including open and transparent governance of the most secretive City Hall this side of North Korea. As a heartwarming stocking stuffer, the knowledge that he knocked another DW, the once formidable Dianne Watts, off the Christmas List.

The White Rock Pier - In a TNT first, an inanimate object and not a person makes the Christmas list for Semi-pen movers and shakers. For Canada's longest pier, which was heavily damaged by boats in a strong wind storm on Dec. 20th, Santa is leaving a pile of new boards and fresh pilings hoping that an army of elves can put this heritage site back together again by summer.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year planning your safe ride home.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 17, 2018

Bailey Bridge Boondoggle

This TNT got its start back in September of 2017 when the Nicomekl Bailey Bridge was closed for extensive repairs. I did a bridge inspection of my own at that time and wrote a TNT titled "Bailey Bridge Blockade" that revealed rotten timbers, truss corrosion and beam repairs that looked like a Jenga game. Emails to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation with questions about the closure and pictures of the bridge structure quickly led to signs going up on the structure with a load restriction of 10,000 Kg. and an announcement that bridge inspectors had noticed components that needed repairs and they closed the Bailey Bridge as a precaution until an assessment could be done by structural engineers. Three weeks after my TNT appeared in the White Rock Sun, the Ministry announced the "Bailey Bridge in south Surrey will undergo full replacement" with details about a steel superstructure, new deck plus approach and abutment works. Drivers were advised that the one lane crossing would be closed for 6 weeks starting Oct. 16, for crews to complete the replacement. Scroll down into the TNT archives to read this mini-TNT dated Sept. 25, 2017 for the intimate details and to check out the pictures of the rot and temporary repairs.

Anyone who still dares to use the Bailey Bridge crossing will tell you that the planned replacement never happened and this antiquated relic remains in place. In November of 2017 the Ministry of Trans announced that the new bridge had been deferred until the New Year while they waited for an environmental approval from the Province. This statement also included information that the current 10,00 Kg. load limit that forces commercial truck traffic and transit buses to avoid the span would remain in place until the replacement of the Bailey Bridge. The new year came and went and nothing was done about the bridge replacement but finally in October of 2018 it was reported that the Ministry "intends to move forward with the project" promising more information by the end of this year. Their statement also revealed the delays were also because "The plan is still being discussed with the City of Surrey in light of their future long-term transportation plan." I thought this was rather rich since this temporary bridge has become a long-term fixture in these parts, one that is dangerous and well beyond its expected life-span.

Last month the Ministry of Trans announced that "Crews will be repairing the single-lane Bailey Bridge crossing of the Nicomekyl River in south Surrey and northbound traffic will be diverted onto the adjacent two-lane structure from Nov. 19 to Nov. 26, 2018." This work went ahead as planned focusing on the south end of the bridge that had already seen extensive temporary repairs. For most of the week there was heavy equipment on site, Mainroad Group trucks and their crews plus piles of debris left under tarps. This weekend I went back to the Bailey Bridge to see the extent of the repairs. This time around the decking was removed, over a dozen of the cross beams replaced plus most of the wooden abutment was rebuilt. Once again, even with these extensive repairs the 10,000 Kg. load limit remains in place for this crossing. It has now been 14 months since the old Bailey Bridge was to have been replaced and they are still throwing good money at bad, putting lipstick on a pig, putting a bandaid on a gaping wound, and trying to fix something that should have been torn down years ago.

Here is the statement I received this week from the Transportation Ministry about this ongoing saga: "The Bailey bridge in South Surrey is an older bridge, and it was always meant to be a temporary crossing only. While the bridge remains safe for travels, it needs a permanent, long term solution. At this time, ministry staff are still in discussions with the City of Surrey on a future replacement project that fits into the region’s long-term transportation plan. We hope to reach a consensus soon, and get to work on a replacement, to benefit people who live and work in this area." The issue I have with this PR spin is that the Bailey Bridge is NOT safe for travel. Northbound heavy commercial trucks and transit buses that usually stay in the right lane must now change into the left lane to go onto the other crossing and then once on the other side of the Nicomekl river, they have to force their way back into the right lane. There is a very short distance from the bridge to the Park and Ride lot and buses are always changing lanes on this curve. It does not help that the highway signs in this area are worn out, illegible and completely invisible at night, likely having not been replaced since the Bailey Bridge was first installed in the early 1970s.

When I walked down King George Blvd. to check the bridge on Sunday, I was amazed at how many broken bits of cars littered the road from previous accidents. Obviously the Bailey Bridge is not fit for heavy vehicles which puts the travelling public at risk if a transit bus driver were to mistakenly cross it. The solar powered highway warning sign flashing the 10,000 Kg. limit has often gone dark, something that is happening way too often on these rainy and cloudy days. Most worrisome is the bridge deck itself that gets notoriously slippery when there is frost, something that happens often this time of year especially at this location near the water at the bottom of a hill. The bridge deck used to be covered with an anti-skid coating, similar to what is currently being used on Colebrook Road from 152 St. to 160 Street. It has now flaked off in all of the areas where vehicles travel, leaving tires rolling on polished wooden planks. This deck coating should have been replaced when it began to wear and the Ministry along with Mainroad Group are responsible for allowing the deck to deteriorate to its current slippery state. A friend who was at our house this weekend told me his wife almost lost control of her Mustang recently when crossing on a particularly frosty morning. I would recommend that if you have to cross the Bailey Bridge when it's icy, do not touch either your gas or brake pedal until safely on the other side.

Slippery When Wet

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Ministry of the Environment plus the City of Surrey should stop dithering on this project and get the old Bailey Bridge replaced asap. Considering the current state of this dangerous relic, I would suggest closing it off completely to vehicle traffic until that time. There were never any backups or congestion when it was closed for repairs and this would likely be safer than leaving it open with all of the problems I have noted here. If they wish to leave it open, I would suggest a 30 Km. speed limit plus the anti-slip coating would need to be reapplied to the slippery wooden planks, especially with winter on the way. I would like to invite an ICBC manager to inspect this antiquated and dangerous bridge for themselves plus check out the rotten and worn out highway signs that are contributing to accidents at the KGB/Hwy. 99 interchange. Maybe they can use flames from their so-called dumpster fire to put some heat on the asses of those whose job it is to ensure we have safe roads and bridges.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

December 10,2018

Geezer Madness

 

 

October 17, 2018 was the official "Weed Freedom" day in Canada when the recreational use of marijuana was finally legalized. While the Federal government under Justin Trudeau's Liberals legalized the purchase of marijuana for recreational purposes, it was not without a staggering number of legal hurdles and regulatory process limiting production and distribution of a wide variety of marijuana products. Three days later we had civic elections throughout our province with politicians and their slates vowing to stamp our marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities like invasive weeds. Many of these people grew up in the prohibition era of "Reefer Madness" and the propaganda campaigns and anti-drug crusades that stigmatized cannabis use. Simply search "reefer madness" on your computer and check out the wild images associated with it and slogans that include the following: the smoke of hell, devil's harvest, assassin of youth, Satan's cigarettes, drug crazed abandon, and weird orgies - wild parties. Fortunately some people saw through this smoke screen and wrote a musical satire about this subject that was later produced as an off-Broadway play.

The first legal recreational cannabis store opened up on Oct. 17th in Kamloops at the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch’s first "B.C. Cannabis Store." Since that time three more stores have been approved by the Kamloops Council and are now up and running serving a (dare I say) growing market. The BC government also utilizes the LDB to provide online sales through their websitebccannabisstores.com where many of their products are "Out of stock" or "Limited quantity" due to lack of product availability and the sheer number of orders being placed. This weekend we found out that Shoppers Drug Mart has now received a license to sell medical cannabis over the internet including dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, plants, seeds and cannabis oils. They even have a website (cannabis.shoppersdrugmart.ca) that states "As a leader in health and wellness for Canadians, Shoppers Drug Mart will soon be your trusted source for medical cannabis from a variety of producers." In case you were not aware, Shoppers is part of Loblaw Companies Ltd., run by Galen Weston Jr. of the Weston family that has a net worth of over $8 billion. I guess that they and all of their 135,000 Loblaw employees across Canada will now be banned for life from entering the USA since they sell pot.

In White Rock Surrey and Delta, there has not been one recreational cannabis dispensary allowed to open even though marijuana is legal. In Delta there are many large commercial greenhouses that have ripped out their tomatoes and are now growing cannabis with the government's blessing. These include Emerald Health Theraputics, Village Farms International and the massive BC Tweed greenhouse, which has 1.3 million square feet of production space that is now generating skunky smell complaints along Hwy. 99. Of course there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth about ALR land in BC being used for pot production instead of food production. It is interesting to note that nobody is complaining about fields of tobacco, grapes being grown for alcoholic wine, non-edible crops such as flowers and Christmas trees, or the use for growing grass at golf courses. I even know of one nursery in Surrey that told me they had been approached to change their business focus from nursery plants to marijuana. When I asked who had approached them they told me "the government" before revealing that they had turned down their offer.

In the big city of Surrey, new Mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition members are on record as being opposed to cannabis retail stores and growing facilities. Prior to the election he stated "Surrey is at a crossroads with out-of-contol crime and gang violence. We need to get crime under control first. My biggest concern is that local cannabis stores and production facilities put another layer of uncertainty onto our city when residents already feel unsafe." What he does not comprehend is that gangs and organized crime have utilized marijuana production and their distribution system to create vast wealth and power. In the past large amounts of cannabis were smuggled south into the US, with cocaine and guns flowing north, adding to the epidemic of gangland murders that continue to plague Surrey to this day. Not allowing brick and mortar cannabis retailers to operate in the city only ensures a continuation of the black market because many people do not want to buy their pot online from government sources and then wait for Canada Post to deliver it. The Safe Surrey Coalition policy on pot will only serve to help further finance the very gangs he wants to eradicate.

It is not like you cannot already get cannabis flowers and related products delivered to your door in Surrey even if you don't have "a guy." The Weedmaps (weedmaps.com) weed finder app for any cell phone lists a dozen mobile delivery businesses operating in the city that include Cannamobile, Premium Budz, Cheap Bud Canada, Bud2Go, Green2go and plenty more. Most of these have an online ordering platform with product pictures and pricing lists that you can peruse before ordering, just like when you ring Dominos for a pizza. There is even a delivery service listed for little old White Rock for those seniors who want some fresh herb without leaving the comfort of their homes. As to who owns and runs these "green lines" as they are called, nobody knows as its not like they can apply for a business license from City Hall. In Surrey it is doubtful that the outstretched and overburdened RCMP have the staff or the heart to go after these budding entrepreneurs who make house calls. With McCallum wanting to ditch the RCMP in favour of a municipal force, it is likely the cops want nothing to do with his trying to block lawful retail cannabis sales in Surrey.

There were many people that voted for the Liberal Party in the last Federal election because they wanted to end decades of pot prohibition. It is sad to see many of the elderly mayors and councillors from around the province using their local powers over land use and business licenses to stifle the legal retail sale of marijuana. It really makes me wonder what the hell these people have been smoking; probably too much state controlled tobacco I reckon. This "geezer madness" has to stop and hopefully when they realize that their cities can actually profit from legal cannabis sales, as Kamloops has quickly figured out, they might come to their senses. If not, just as Canadians voted in a young Justin Trudeau to end prohibition, it might be time to vote in civic elections for those with less grey hair and a little more common sense about cannabis.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITOR'S NOTE

The Province newspaper's front page story on Monday reveals how local governments are also using zoning powers to stop legal medicinal grow operations receiving microcultivation licences from Health Canada, which adds to the current lack of recreational cannabis supply and supports the continuation of the black market.
https://theprovince.com/cannabis/cannabis-business/small-cannabis-growers-find-roadblocks-on-path-to-microcultivation-licences/wcm/6f657d1a-f0cf-4f23-b8ac-72aec47362ca

 

 

December 03, 2018


Shoreline Strippers

 

People often ask me where I get my story ideas from for my weekly The Naked Truth column. It really is as easy as keeping your eyes and ears open as you traverse about our little corner of the world. A month ago I suddenly had multiple topics all bordering on Crescent Road in south Surrey. This will be the last of a four part series from Crescent Road, showing that you don't have to go very far to find something worth writing about in your local newspaper. This quadrilogy began on November 12th with "Path to Destruction" about tree cutting in Elgin Heritage Park, "What The Firetruck" with its focus on a pair of firetrucks for sale at CWL Auto, "Chantrell Creek Gets Back to Nature" revealing Surrey's rehabilitation of the creek bed and finally "Shoreline Strippers" about greenbelt gardening near Southport by the Elgin Road Sea dam. I'm sorry for not revealing this before but I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag until the series was complete. Now, onto this week's TNT to bring this Crescent Road quartet to its stunning conclusion.

Many people heading towards Crescent Beach or Ocean Park from Highway 99 often take the Elgin Road Sea Dam Bridge over the Nicomekyl River as a short cut to Crescent Road. Most people give little thought to the history of this area as they travel through Port Elgin, on parts of the Semiahmoo Trail, over the Sea dam that was built in 1911 which was the earlier site of a wooden bridge constructed in 1874. Just west of the Semiahmoo Trail cairn is the waterfront community of Southport that it nestled beside Nico Wynd Estates and its 9 hole golf course. When this neighbourood was developed a walking trail and green space were installed allowing pedestrians to access the waterfront that also connects to the dike trail going around Nico Wynd and public trails connecting to Elgin Heritage Park. It is a fantastic place to go for a stroll, enjoy the banks of the Nicomekyl River and take in views of the North Shore mountains. Unfortunately it appears to also be a place where water views trump environmental protection, with little to nothing being done about damage to natural park lands.

There are story boards posted by the City of Surrey's Heritage Advisory Committee throughout the Southport section of the greenbelt giving interesting historical perspectives on River Routes, Trails and Roads, First Nations Settlement, Early European Settlers, Elgin Families and Community Life. The last of these signs concerns Riparian Areas and I will repeat here for you exactly what they have to say.


The planted spaces between the river and the pathway are called "riparian areas." Riparian areas are important components of the river's total ecosystem. The vegetation provides habitat for small mammals, birds, and other wildlife. It filters the sediments and water that flow towards the river and provides nutrients and food to plants and animals that live both beside and in the river. Without riparian areas the riverbank might erode or collapse, thereby allowing sediments and pollutants to enter the river.
The Nicomekyl River's riparian areas have changed considerably over time. Agricultural activity and urban development have resulted in much of the area's original vegetation being destroyed. Today, environmental awareness and partnerships between the City, community and private sector have resulted in the protection of riparian areas and replanting of native plant species.

Now this might have sounded wonderful when Southport was first built but soon after people began to move into their houses, the greenbelt began to come under attack. A resident of Southport told me that neighbours have pulled out shrubs, cut down native bushes and taken to mowing the areas between the remaining shrubs to improve their water views. It is important to realize that this is an environmentally sensitive riparian area protects the bank of the Nicomekyl River while providing habitat for wildlife. It is outside of the footprint of Southport and is not owned by the residents with houses overlooking the greenbelt. A quick visit to the Surrey COSMOS site reveals that this greenbelt is classified as Surrey nature park land. The level of gardening seems to change almost from lot to lot with some being completely cleared of plants except for grass. Nowhere on this entire stretch of river are the plants left in an unaltered state until the very last property at Southport where it borders on Nico Wynd. The following two pictures show the view looking west and then east from this boundary. On one side the plants are mature size, woven together and unpruned. On the other side they appear somewhere between an Edward Scissorhands topiary and a Japanese bonsai plantation.

 


Riparian area towards Nico Wynd in natural state

 


Surrey natural park land towards Southport cleared and pruned

The person who informed me about the greenbelt gardening in this area told me he had contacted the City of Surrey and the Department of Fisheries multiple times about the removal of native plantings, the heavy pruning of shrubs and the creation of lawns between the remaining vegetation. He felt that the illegal gardening should stop, the pulled out shrubs be replanted and the area left for wildlife and bank stabilization as was originally planned. I would go a step further and say that signs like at the corner of the Nico Wynd property that reads "KEEP OUT - Environmentally Sensitive Area" be posted along this now razed green belt at Southport. Other signs reading "NO Cutting or Removal of Vegetation, Report Offenders to Police" should be added and if residents don't get the message, a page wire fence like what is used along the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail should be installed to keep these shoreline strippers at bay. The City of Surrey also needs to alert residents of this riverfront enclave that destruction of the greenbelt plants or heavy pruning along Southport will not be tolerated. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are all for trees and the environment but only as long as they don't interfere with their view. How self-centred, short-sighted and selfish to damage natural park land for their own egocentric needs.

Greenbelts are not private property, they are public lands usually set aside in environmentally sensitive areas as natural park areas. People should be thankful that these small tracks of greenery have been left and leave them in a natural state. In the winter the leaves fall off the green belt vegetation and the water is visible from Southport homes ground floors. The rest of the year I'm sure that the view from the upstairs windows is amazing, even without the greenbelt plants being hacked or mowed down. Left alone, this shoreline green space area would attract plenty of song birds, rabbits, river otters and possibly black tailed deer using it as a wildlife corridor along the banks of the Nicomekyl. It is time that Southport's shoreline strippers are held accountable and this natural park land be restored to its original post development condition. If you agree, then give the Surrey Parks Department's General Manager Laurie Cavan a call at 604-598-5760 or pop her an email at lacavan@surrey.ca plus the generic parksrecculture@surrey.ca address about nature areas in the City of Surrey being mowed down by narcissistic neighbours.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE December 20

Good afternoon Don,

Thank you for your interest in the riparian area along the Nicomekl River just west of the Elgin Road sea dam. Laurie Cavan asked me to follow-up with you on the below concern.

The park (presently referred to by Parks staff as “102G-Greenbelt”) was originally planted in 2011/12 as part of a riparian restoration plan related to a strata development directly to the south of the greenbelt. Parks staff have been working with the adjacent residents over the years to ensure that new riparian vegetation is established. As you have observed, there is still unauthorized work occurring in the area. In early 2019 staff plan reach out to the adjacent neighbours to discuss the concern and determine next steps. As you suggest, better signage and/or some form of fencing may be part of the solution.

Please let me know if you have any further questions about this site.

Sincerely,

NEAL AVEN
Manager of Parks

CITY OF SURREY

 

 

November 25, 2018

Chantrell Creek Gets Back to Nature

 

Fish heads, fish heads
Roly-poly fish heads
Fish heads, fish heads
Eat them up, yum

Lyrics to "The Fish Head Song" by Barnes & Barnes, Voobaha album, 1980
https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=JKDtUzRIG6I

For the past few months you might have experienced traffic stopped by flaggers on Crescent Road with strange looking bucket dump trucks crossing from the Elgin Heritage Park parking lot to a driveway across the street leading to 13568 Crescent Road. With little fanfare the City of Surrey has been undertaking the rehabilitation of a 150 metre section of Chantrell Creek. I am pleased to announce that after substantial delays due to heavy rains in September, it appears that the bulk of the work has been done and the Elgin Park parking lot cleared of most of the heavy equipment with fresh gravel laid down.

This project got its start back in 2015 when the City of Surrey Engineering and Parks departments purchased this unique property with several drainage ponds, two fish ladders, concrete spillways and a large concrete outflow structure. I was aware of the land purchase and issues with the ponds and fish ladders from around that time, having worked on an adjacent property. According to neighbours, the drainage system was originally installed by a property developer years ago at Surrey's request to allow for upstream development in the Chantrell Heights area. In 1999 the City of Surrey took over maintenance of the drainage system out of concerns over liability, likely to do with flood and fisheries. According to the City, the drainage system was deteriorating over time and they found it expensive and difficult to maintain due to limited access. The ponds were designed to collect sediment from the water but due to their design they limited fish passage to the upper reaches of Chantrell Creek. It was decided that the ponds and related structures should be removed and the creek's natural drainage system restored.

Phase one of the project began in the spring of this year with tree removal from the areas to be excavated being performed at that time to meet both federal and provincial regulations to not interfere with bird nesting. Unfortunately some of the mature trees that were to be preserved were mistakenly cut down, taking away shade from the creek and opening lines of sites between houses on both sides of the creek that had previously had very private yards. Phase two which was the excavation of the existing structures and reconstruction of the creek bed began in August to meet government regulations for in-stream works. At times there were two hi-hoe excavators working in tandem on the site to reconstruct the stream bed and grade the hillsides for replanting. While it was hoped this work would be completed before fall rains to avoid the impact of sediments washing into the stream, heavy rainfall in September delayed the work far beyond the 50 work days that were originally scheduled.

Having seen the original property with its large ponds and concrete structures, I must admit I was amazed at the transformation I witnessed when I went for a walk to the site this weekend. Except for the small existing foot bridge at the top of the work area, the stream bed and riparian areas on both sides of Chantrell Creek look surprisingly natural with no evidence of man-made materials. The new creek bed was lined with small rocks and large boulders to mimic the upper and lower sections of the natural waterway. The trees that had originally been cut down to allow for excavation were stored on site and have been placed into the waterway to enhance the habitat and help control erosion. The banks away from the creek had been covered with organic top soil and planted with thousands upon thousands of naturally occurring plants and shrubs that you would normally find growing in a ravine drainage system. Not surprisingly, I found several dead salmon carcasses rotting in the rocks and back eddies of Chantrell Creek, a sign that spawning salmon are already returning to this restored habitat.

Most of the work is now complete but there will be a three to five year monitoring period for the new stream system until the plants grow in and it fully recovers from the dramatic changes. While owned by Parks, this section of Chantrell Creek is part of Surrey's Natural Areas and it will not have walking paths or public access. Instead of a constant parade of people and dogs, it will revert to a natural state and be left for the salmon, aquatic creatures, birds, deer and other wildlife. Enjoy the pictures in this TNT as human intrusion will likely be limited to environmentalists ensuring that the plants have all grown and the creek is flowing as planned.

For more information on this ambitious waterway restoration project please visit the Surrey.ca website, searching "Chantrell Creek Rehabilitation" or go to direct to the following link: https://www.surrey.ca/city-services/25016.aspx A Corporate Report for Surrey in March of this year revealed the work was awarded to Western Watershed Designs Inc. at a tendered price of $1,530,632 including GST. If you have questions concerning this project, they can be answered by Project Manager Tindi Sekhon (thsekhon@surrey.ca) who can be reached at 604-591-4765.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Monday Novmber 19, 2018


What The Firetruck?

Q. What word begins with "F" and ends with "UCK"?
A. Why "Firetruck" of course.

Now who doesn't like a firetruck? As a kid we all loved to play with ty versions of them, driving our parents crazy with loud siren noises. Getting older the guys all admired them as they brought the brave firemen to fight fires, and the girls all loved them because they brought the life-saving firemen featured in the "Hall of Flame" calendars. While driving on the road, everyone politely pulls over and stops to let the firetruck go past with its lights flashing and horn blaring. Now what if I told you there was something in south Surrey that was twice as much fun as a firetruck? You'd probably say, "What the firetruck is he talking about?"

Several weeks ago I drove up Crescent Road to King George Hwy (that's KG Blvd for the newbies) and at the City Wide Luxury Auto dealership (CWLauto.com) on that busy corner I spotted not one but two shiny firetrucks sitting next to each other, one bright red, the other flourescent yellow. I knew that CWL specialized in luxury pre-owned vehicles with their lot usually full of Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, Cadillac and high-end sports cars. I originally thought these fire fighting vehicles had likely been purchased locally and were simply being stored there for shipment down into the States as is common with our low Canadian dollar. When these firetrucks were still on site a week later, my rampant curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out what the story was about their appearance at a luxury dealership.

Talking to "Brand Ambassador" Darcy Heisler and owner Blair Morrison, I found out that CWL Auto had indeed recently purchased these two vehicles as in the past they have had success in finding them a new lease on life. It turns out that firetrucks are retired from various Fire Departments based on the age of the vehicle and not their mechanical shape or even the mileage. Purchasing a new Fire Apparatus as they are known is an expensive proposition, with new units costing an average of $850,000 to $1 million. When older units are sold, they often have far less than 100,000 km on as they usually venture only short distances from the Fire Hall. They can be purchased by small communities or groups of homeowners who do not have reliable fire control services or often none at all. Some are bought to have the firefighting gear removed and repurposed as work trucks because of their strong engines and heavy frame. Folks who rent vehicles to movies are always in the hunt for them and some folks just want a firetruck to call their own.

The bright yellow firetruck is a 1980 International Pumper Truck with a Detroit 6V-71 diesel engine. It has 77,000 km on the odometer and only 2,092 hours on the time clock or the equivalent of 87 days of running time. Its hard to imagine that this firetruck that is described as in "mint condition" and "bullet proof" has a pre-owned price tag of only $21,995. It came from a Fire Hall on Vancouver Island where it was bought new and spent its entire time being carefully maintained and fully serviced. The big red fire truck beside it is a 1992 Volvo from the Coquitlam Fire/Rescue with a 6.6 CAT diesel that has only 34,000 km on it (21,000 miles). I was told that Fire Chief Jay Ogloff was not happy to see her put out to pasture, with it now sitting outside overnight in the rain for the first time since it was new. It has an internal 8,000 gallon water tank that pumps out 1,050 gallons per minute, It also has two foam tanks allowing it to put out Class A regular fires and Class B oil fires. As a bonus, the 35 foot long ladder with 10 foot extension is included in the $49,995 price tag. That's a lot of truck for not a lot of bucks.

Besides the conventional uses I have detailed above, a flashy fire truck is also a great promotional vehicle. I was told that someone paid a whopping $15,000 to have their son driven to Southridge School in a fire truck as a fundraiser there. A local craft brewery has expressed interest in having one of these emergency vehicles that they could turn into a rolling beer dispensing truck for festivals. I asked and was told that no, it was not Red Truck Brewing from Richmond which made perfect sense to me. These two fire trucks brought me into CWL for the story and last weekend I purchased a new SUV for myself that was sitting not far from the two firetrucks. I should have bought the red Volvo, it had half the mileage of my new-to-me pre-owned vehicle. Unfortunately my wife doesn't like red trucks and I doubt it would have fit in the garage anyways. Still, it would have been great for watering the lawn in the summer during Met-Van sprinkling restrictions.

To end this light-hearted piece I would like to leave you with a link to the hilarious "Firetruck" song by Smosh that is posted on YouTube with over 23 million views. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=tGpLHj-MVtk as it directly relates to the joke at the start of this TNT column. See if you catch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reference: "Now I wanna take a moment just sit right there I’ll tell you how you can say the word firetruck everywhere." I must warn you, you will never say the word "firetruck" again without thinking about this zany music video.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 12, 2018

Path to Destruction

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I drove down Crescent Road near the Elgin Heritage Park in south Surrey and saw an arborist crew working on some trees near the tidal pond that is located at 35A Ave just west of 140 Street. I must admit I really didn't pay much attention as it looked as if they were simply clearing some fallen branches from the forest. This weekend I managed to drive by the same location during daylight hours and I could not believe what I was seeing. The first thing I noticed was the sudden expansive view of the tidal pond connecting to the Nicomekyl River, with the North shore mountains visible in the distance. I then realized why the view was suddenly there, the tall evergreen trees along the trail were gone!

I turned around a little further down Crescent Road, returning to the part of the Elgin Heritage Park that suddenly had the new water views. I was shocked by what I saw once I exited my vehicle and took a walk down the path that follows along the roadway. There was a long line of wide wooden stumps plus cut up logs that looked to be healthy evergreens consisting of mainly Western Red cedar and Douglas fir. The tree had been cut so they fell into the pond where the branches were then sawed off and removed from the shoreline. Some of the larger trees with massive trunks had been cut into several pieces and left scattered on the ground to decompose in the future. The largest of the fallen trees was a huge Douglas fir that was four feet in diameter. I quickly counted the rings and came up with approximately 150 years of growth. This means this gentle giant had been growing on the property for around 25 years when the Stewart Farmhouse was built in 1894. Unfortunately why the Stewart House is maintained and carefully preserved, the biggest Fir tree in the park that looked structurally sound has now been mowed down along with plenty of its neighbours.

It did not take long to discover the reason for such devastation. As I walked down the trail counting over 30 stumps, many of them large evergreens, I came across a posted sign that read as follows:


NOTICE- Elgin Heritage Park Hazard Tree Work
Please be advised that the City of Surrey will be removing hazard trees at Elgin Heritage Park October 29 - Dec 10, 2018.
The hazard tree work consists of the removal of dead, dying and diseased trees that pose a high risk to the public.
Please be aware of the work zone signage and barriers within the park. Expect trail closures while crews are working.
(A listing of four safety warnings for the public).
For any questions, please call the City of Surrey at: 604-501-5050
While this explained the work that was being done, I saw little sign that the line of evergreens that had been mowed seemingly to improve the view were "dead, dying and diseased." The trunks of most of these fallen trees were outwardly and inwardly healthy and solid with trucks supporting multiple healthy branches and little to no sign of interior decay. I did find an online notice for this tree work on the Elgin Heritage Park section of the City of Surrey website at https://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation/2205.aspx but there was no arborist report listed.

All of the park-goers I saw on Remembrance Day while surveying the latest chainsaw massacre in the Semiahmoo peninsula were simply aghast at what had happened. They wondered why this had been necessary and questioned why so many seemingly healthy trees had been cut down all in the row along the pond. Someone had already laid greenery and flowers on the largest of the stumps as a memorial to its loss, similar to the flowers that sprouted from the stumps along Johnston Road in White Rock when they were all sawed down earlier this year. I walked west along the pathway and when I got past the historic Stewart Farmhouse, I found several other sections of the park that resembled logging shows with stacks of logs and seemingly healthy trees that had been turned into wildlife refugee stumps. In some spots it looked as if this was done more to clear space for existing trees and not to remove trees that were unhealthy. In defense of the city, there were trees that obviously were dead and or rotten that had been cut down, lying next to the healthy ones that I am concerned about.

With the Remembrance Day holiday falling on Monday, Surrey City Hall will not be open for business until Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. I suggest you take a drive down Crescent Road to check out the damage for yourself and then call the City of Surrey on Tuesday at their posted 604-501-5050 number to get an explanation as to why so many apparently healthy trees were cut down in this Surrey Park. New Mayor Doug MacCallum lives near Crescent Beach and drives by this scene every day on his way to work so hopefully he will also question why all of these majestic evergreens on city property were cut down. Too bad the Surrey Tree Protection Bylaw 2006 "does not apply to tree on City owned property that are cut or removed by the City or its authorized agents in accordance with approved City operations". At the very least these trees should have been marked before removal so that people would have had a chance to check their health and possibly question the removal order. It remains to be seen how many more trees will be chainsawed to the ground before the December 10th deadline, likely altering the Elgin Heritage Park forever.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 05, 2018

Monday Night Political Football

 

Monday, Monday, so good to me
Monday mornin´, it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Monday mornin´, Monday mornin´ couldn´t guarantee
That Monday evenin´ you would still be here with me

Monday, Monday, can´t trust that day
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday mornin´ you gave me no warnin´ of what was to be
Oh Monday, Monday, how could you leave and not take me

 

Lyrics to the song Monday, Monday by The Mamas and the Papas, 1966

Armchair quarterbacks will be stuck in their Lazy-boy chairs watching the NFL Monday Night Football on Nov. 5th featuring the Tennessee Titans at the Dallas Cowboys. For armchair political quarterbacks, the real action will be at the inaugural Council meetings at both Surrey and White Rock. Unfortunately they are both scheduled for approximately the same time, making the decision on which historic meting to go to all the more difficult.

In White Rock the first meeting of the new look Council will take place at 7:00 p.m. Standard Time in Halls A/B/C of the White Rock Community Centre at 15154 Russell Avenue. It is a safe bet that they won't hold an In-Camera meeting beforehand as the former White Rock Coalition was so fond of calling. Councillors Helen Fathers and Dave Chesney will make their triumphant return with new Mayor Darryl Walker and fellow Democracy Direct members Scott Kristjanson, Erica Johanson, Anthony Manning and Christopher Trevelyan filling out the rest of Council. It does not appear that any constructive work will be done on the first night but and it will take some time to turn the good ship White Rock around. Lets hope the Question Period is quickly revived for at the beginning of Council meetings but replaced with a Question and Answer Period instead. It will be interesting to see if former Mayor Baldwin and the four horsemen of the apocalypse Grant Meyer, Bill Lawrence, Lynne Sinclair and Megan Knight bother to show their faces on Monday night. For a peek at the Agenda that features the singing of O´ Canada and a First Nations blessing by SFN Chief Harley Chappell, visit https://www.whiterockcity.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11052018-638 .

The focus of the night has to be up in Whalley where starting at 6:30 p.m. Doug MacCallum finally gets his old job as Mayor back, albeit with a bigger office and a nicer view than his old one. The real fireworks will be in two weeks when Cowboy Doug is planning on giving the Surrey RCMP their walking papers, replacing them with a Surrey Police Force in two years time. Not long after that MacCallum plans on axing the LRT for Skytrain regardless of the howls of displeasure from the Mayor´s Council. The Safe Surrey Coalition certainly put the boots to the Surrey First dynasty (die-nasty) who only elected one Councillor Linda Annis, with all of their incumbents getting shown the door by the people of Surrey. The Safe Surrey Councillors are Doug Elford, Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial, Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Steven Pettigrew, who will forward their agenda. For political intrigue, you have to wonder if mayoralty nope-fuls (my new word) Tom Gill and Bruce Hayne will be there to take in the festivities or if Dianne Watts might be in attendance trying to figure out if she can beat MacCallum for a second time in four years from now. You can watch what should be a historic Surrey Council inauguration live on the Surrey.ca website at the following link and then clicking on the Watch Council Meeting Live tab: https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/6993.aspx

With so many new faces on the civic scene, you almost need a program to know all of the players. The Inaugural Council Meetings with their swearing in ceremonies are your opportunity to get to know the folks who will represent your community for the next four years. Hopefully they were the people you voted for and you are looking forward to them fulfilling their platform promises. Monday night is your chance to watch history in the making and to be part of what should be over-flow crowds of well-wishers. If you don´t think civic politics matter, simply look at how those in power in both White Rock and Surrey were swept from office after forgetting to serve the people who voted for them. I´m really glad to see the changing of the guard in these two cities and hope that the communities are now better represented instead of the interests of unscrupulous developers and foreign buyers. If you get a chance, plan on attending either of these two City Hall ceremonies for a glimpse into what the future holds for your home town.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 29, 2018

The Best Defence is a Landslide Detector Fence

I could not believe my ears last week when I got a call from a member of SmartRail, the local community rail safety group, who informed me about changes the BNSF Railway has recently made to the rail corridor near Crescent Beach. I went to the south end of Bayview Avenue on the weekend and there it was all shiny and new, the extension to the landslide detector fence (LDF) that I've been waiting ten years to be completed. While it has been said that the wheels of justice turn slowly, it would appear that steel railway wheels move at a pre-climate change glacial pace. What was so frustrating to me was that it took so long to have this important safety apparatus put in place after multiple mudslides onto the tracks in this area.

This story goes back more than a decade ago when a strong Pineapple Express in 2007 deluged this region with heavy rains, saturating the land and turning hillsides into mud. There were eleven slope failures from the Ocean Park bluffs onto the BNSF Railway tracks between White Rock and Crescent Beach at that time, bringing freight and passenger rail service to a standstill on frequent occasions. This was also the last time that a mudslide here actually hit a train, with slide debris impacting a BNSF freight near Crescent Beach that was stopped for an even larger slide just past the Christopherson Steps (formerly 101 Steps at 24 Ave.). The slide that hit the stopped train originated from a home being extensively renovated on Christopherson Drive and a long forgotten big-O pipe that drained water from this yard onto the bluff. The scary thing about this slide was that this steep hillside was not protected by the landslide detector fence that runs at the base of the hill next to the tracks from West Beach in White Rock to just south of Crescent Beach.

The LDF is a fairly simple system comprised of metal poles placed in the ground and strung with two pieces of wire. When there is ground movement, the soil, rocks, shrubs and trees snap the wire that has a low current and the system then activates stop signals all along the tracks. Before the LDF was first installed (I believe it was in 1957) there were nine train derailments along the Semiahmoo peninsula tracks. Since that time, there has not been one derailment on this shoreline tracks, something the BNSF will gladly tell you. Surprisingly, the LDF stopped well short of Crescent Beach, leaving a 500 foot section of the bluffs closest to Bayview Ave. unguarded. The BNSF, Transport Canada and even the City of Surrey were well aware of this fact as it was reported to them by many members of the community. Even though the risk was well known, the BNSF did nothing to remedy this known safety problem that had an easy and inexpensive fix. Ditto for Transport Canada who even though they toured the tracks in the spring of 2018 did nothing to change the status quo. Surrey issued a Corporate Report about the problem but again nothing was done.

Fast forward to this year and it was yet another slide onto the tracks just south of Crescent Beach in February from the same property on Christopherson Street that finally got some attention paid to the gap in the LDF system. Having a new MP in Gordie Hogg likely helped to get the BNSF and Transport Canada to fix this glaring safety problem with landslides that had repeated in the same spot, though this time without hitting a train. I was informed that members of the BNSF and Transport Canada were going to tour the slide area this spring plus examine the debris pile left on the shores of Crescent Beach by the railway excavation crew. No doubt my March 19 TNT titled "BNSF Burying Crescent Beach" plus signs with contact information for reporting illegal dumping likely had something to do with it. While the new LDF extension has been installed, the huge pile of muddy debris and logs from the slide onto the BNSF tracks that was dumped onto the beach remains, blocking pedestrians from walking down the shore. At high tide, people walk up onto this muddy mess and then along the tracks before returning to the beach at a nearby trail. Again, so much for rail safety.

It may have taken ten years but Crescent Beach is now safer with the LDF extension complete. Unfortunately there is another steep slope in White Rock that now needs its own LDF due to an increased slide threat. This is the Hump hillside between East and West Beaches that was clear-cut on orders of the outgoing White Rock Coalition, which enhanced views to properties along Marine Drive. The last time this steep slope was logged it resulted in multiple landslides plainly visible in a 1920 pictures taken from the pier that is available in the Archives building. Not only does the lack of a LDF in this affect rail safety, it also poses a serious risk to pedestrians on the promenade. You only have to watch the video of a derailment on BNSF tracks in Everett Washington several years ago to understand the danger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeT0m-hpD_4). While there were promises to replant the razzed hillside, nothing has been done in over three years. A LDF needs to be installed along the base of the Hump, the hill should be planted with native trees capable of stabilizing the slope, then his steep hillside should be classified as ravine lands and left in a natural state. Now to see if this common sense idea takes another decade to actually happen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 22, 2018

Time for Change


Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Several choice verses from Bob Dylan's 1964 song "The times they are a-changin'."

All Saturday I wondered how the civic election results would turn out in White Rock and Surrey. In the end my prayers were answered and my wildest dreams came true with nearly the exact results I was hoping for. In White Rock where former Mayor Wayne Baldwin had already jumped from the sinking ship, the rest of his merry Coalition members were made to walk the plank. In Surrey the result was similar with Surrey First headed by mayoral hopeful Tom Gill going down in flames with all of their incumbents kicked to the curb and only one council member elected. How did this happen and what does the future now hold after a dramatic change in local governance in both of these cities?

In The City By The Sea, public angst against Baldwin and the White Rock Coalition councillors had been increasing for years. Water quality concerns, OCP changes along with the rubber stamping of residential towers, garbage service cancellation without consultation, ending of question period, secretive in-camera meetings, the clear-cutting of the Hump and the devastation of Johnston Road all infuriated the masses. Long before the election writ was dropped, this anger and the belief that City Hall was tone deaf to complaints from residents led to the formation of the political group Democracy Direct (http://www.democracydirect.ca/). Refusing donations from developers and special interest groups this grass-roots organization was financed by the candidates and small donations from the electorate. Their platform of community orientated development, an approachable City Hall, environmental protection, support for local businesses and sound fiscal management obviously resonated with voters who had seen enough of the White Rock Coalition, even without Wayne Baldwin who decided not to seek a further term. Democracy Directs Darryl Walker was elected as Mayor with 30.2% of the vote, followed by independent candidate Mike Pierce and the Coalitions Grant Meyers far back in third place. The two independent incumbent councillors, Helen Fathers and Dave Chesney (the editor of this paper) retained their seats, finishing one and two in voting followed by four Democracy Direct candidates Chris Trevelyan, Erika Johanson, Scott Kristjanson and Anthony Manning. The WR Coalition was left in tatters with all of its candidates going down to defeat. Of note, White Rocks Laurae McNalley received nearly 80% of the vote for Surrey School Board Trustee.

In Surrey where they say The Future Lives Here, the electorate also made it clear that they were ready for a change. Surrey First who had dominated Surrey for years including taking every seat in Council and School Board in 2014 started to show cracks in their association. First is was Mayor Linda Hepner announcing she would not run for Mayor again after only one term, stepping aside before she was pushed from her throne in a coup. Of the many who wanted to lead Surrey First, it was Tom Gill that was selected as their choice for Mayor. Unhappy with this decision, Councillor Bruce Hayne then split from Surrey First, taking Barbara Steele and Dave Woods with him to form Integrity Now. With the electorate concerned over gun and gang violence, levels of policing, transportation issues, rampant development and housing affordability, the split up Surrey First oligarchy suddenly became vulnerable. Former Mayor Doug McCallum started Safe Surrey (safesurrey.ca) with a strong public safety platform including promises to dump the RCMP in favour of a local police force plus suspending the LRT for an extended Skytrain. When the ballots were counted it was obvious that his message resonated loudly with voters who wanted a new direction at City Hall. Doug McCallum took back his Mayors chair with 48,484 votes, followed by Surrey First Tom Gill at 28,475 with Bruce Haynes nipping his heels close by at 27,951. For the eight council positions, seven went to Safe Surrey candidates, Brenda Locke, Doug Elford, Laurie Guerra, Jack Hundial, Allison Patton, Steven Pettigrew and Mandeep Nagra. The only one stopping a complete sweep for Safe Surrey was Linda Annis from Surrey First who kept Bableen Rana from joining her Safe Surrey teammates at City Hall. I should note that for School Trustees, Surrey First Education took the top 6 spots, followed by two candidates from Surrey Students Now.

There is a famous quote often wrongly attributed to Mark Twain that goes “Politicians are like diapers: they should be changed often, and for the same reason.” In the case of both White Rock and Surrey, political dynasties that thought they could ignore problems in their communities and treat people with contempt found out the hard way that the winds of change were blowing. I for one am not a fan of political slates, especially those financed by large donations from developers or any other well-funded special interest group. Personally, I was glad to see the WR Coalition and Surrey First slates removed from power by the electorate as I felt both were out of touch with the needs of the community. It will be interesting to see if the new Mayors and Councils will be able to keep the concerns of their constituents in mind and make good on the promises they made during the election campaign. One thing is for sure, if they follow the same path as their predecessors, it will only be a matter of time before an upstart political David rises up to slay the proverbial Goliath as happened in this case.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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October 16, 2018

Speed Kills, Duh

 

I'm glad the B.C. (Beyond Corrupt) Liberals were kicked to the curb by the NDP/Green coalition for a large number of reasons. More than anything it was their out-of-the-blue decision to increase speeds on rural highways throughout much BC that was number one in my book. Back in the summer of 2014, then Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced they were increasing speed limits on 1,300 kilometers of rural highways throughout the province, most by 10 kmh. This was supposedly done to put the speed signs in line with the flow of traffic, which is often 10-15 km above the posted limit. Somehow Mr. Stone believed that raising the limit would not cause an actual increase in traffic flow stating "Experience from other speed changes undertaken by the ministry show that this will not mean everyone will automatically drive 10 km over the new speed limit." Sorry to say, but what a crock of bull from a blithering idiot. At that time I wondered what kind of delusional planet Mr. Stone was living on. You should know that these changes were done over the objections of the RCMP and the BC Association of Chiefs of Police who I guess know nothing about the link between speeding and crashes.

It did not take long before the raised highway speeds resulted in increased crashes, injuries and deaths. Two years later the BC Liberals ended up rolling back speed limits along two sections of highway where speed limits had been increased. Highway 1 from Hope to Cache Creek was returned to 90 km/h from 100 km/h and Highway 5A from Princeton to Merritt was lowered to to 80 km/h from 90. At that time is was revealed that government staffers had found that crash rates had increased in 14 of the 33 sections of highways with the new raised speed limits. The Transportation Minister ignored these findings, saying at the time that "increasing speed limits was not a mistake." At that same time UBC professor of engineering Tarek Sayed studied the data on highway crashes and found accidents were up 11 percent along sections of highway where the speed limits had been increased. The higher level of carnage on B.C. highways led to increasing costs to the public insurer ICBC that turned into a so-called "dumpster fire" during the LIberal's watch.

This story was back in the headlines last week when Doctors and Engineers at UBC revealed research suggesting the number of fatal crashes had doubled on highways in BC where the speed limit was increased. The study titled "Road Safety Impact of Increased Rural Highway Speed Limits in British Columbia, Canada" was published in the Journal Sustainability at this link:
https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/10/3555/htm
Researchers examined crash and insurance claim data taken from the sections of highways that had seen the 10 kmh speed limit increases back in 2014. Their findings showed that fatal crashes more than doubled to 118 percent (equaling 15 more deaths), injury claims rose by 30 percent and injury payout jumped by 43 percent. This was no surprise to me considering I was taught in defensive driving years ago that the force of a crash doubled for every increase in speed of 10 miles per hour. The video showing staged car collisions with crash test dummies at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 mph reinforced this message. A quick physics lesson will tell you that the faster you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident causing injury or death. No one gets killed in a 5 kmh bumper kiss but your chance of surviving a roll-over crash at 160 kmh are rather slim.

Amazingly the now ex-Transportation Minister Tod Stone has come out publicly against this report and its findings, reportedly stating to several news organizations that it "full of gaps and analysis challenges" along with calling the findings "irresponsible" since they didn't take weather conditions and the effect of distracted driving into consideration. Maybe instead of listing to the speed demons at SENSE BC (sense.bc.ca) and talking non-sense himself, Mr. Stone should instead try some common sense and admit that he made a mistake that apparently killed over a dozen motorists. Since he questions the validity of the results of his own highway speed increase experiment, I suggest we roll the speeds back to where they were and see if there is a corresponding decrease in the accident rate on these sections of highways. My money says it goes back to the crash levels seen before Mr. Stone's unnecessary and ill advised speed increase.

I just got back last night from four days down in the USA and paid attention to their road safety signs. It is interesting to note that they have two speed limits on their highways, one for passenger vehicles and one for trucks and buses. This might have helped stopped the multi-vehicle crash here last February on the Coquihalla involving two buses, two transport trucks and two passenger vehicles that injured 29 and shook up 135. Seeing the speeds that folks here drive in adverse weather conditions, I think we should have two signs, one in white with black lettering showing the higher maximum speed during the day and dry conditions, the other below in black with white lettering showing the lower maximum speed during the night and wet conditions. Along with improved speed signage, maybe its time to start looking at re-testing so-called good drivers every 5 years to ensure they actually know the rules of the road and safe driving techniques.

Years ago the BC Ministry of Highways and local municipalities installed light blue "Speed Kills" diamond shaped signs showing a crumpled car on them. These have gradually been replaced with the orange-yellow diamond signs featuring the same "Speed Kills" message and crashed

car. The picture at the top of this column is from 16 Ave. near 200 St. in Langley at a high collision intersection that has been the scene of several fatal collisions due to speed. I believe that a pair of these signs should be installed at either end of the road that Mr. Stone now lives on so he could see them every day when he leaves and arrives home. Maybe then he could understand that his decision to raise highway speeds across this province was not just irresponsible, it was dangerous and if the numbers are correct, downright deadly. Mr. Stone is still the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson and his constituents should hold him accountable for the increased carnage and ICBC insurance rates his unwarranted decision has apparently caused, along with failing to accept his failings during his time as B.C.s Transportation Minister. Hopefully we will soon see our highway speeds put back where they belong by the new Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 09, 2018


Bananas About Basjoo

Having been born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and marrying a girl from Winnipeg makes you appreciate living in Canada's Banana Belt here on the West Coast. Even in the Semiahmoo peninsula there are areas lower in elevation than others and more protected from winter outflow winds, allowing some rather interesting plants to be grown here that you would not expect to normally see. With a passion for tropical plants, over the years I've grown a wide assortment of palms and bananas in our yard, most that did not survive our arctic blasts of weather, or didn't adjust from indoors to outdoors after a long winter inside. Many people are now quite used to seeing the Chinese Windmill Palm with its furry trunk that provides winter insulation used in Lower Mainland landscapes. What turns most people's heads is seeing a large banana grove taller than the roof of a two story house. Even more bizarre is finding out that they actually produce bananas here in south Surrey.

The banana in question is the Musa Basjoo, known commonly as the Japanese banana, the Japanese fibre banana, or the hardy banana. Originally believe to have originated in southern Japan, it has been traced back to subtropical southern China in the Sichuan province. This tall and beautiful plant is commercially grown for its fibre used to produce textiles known as banana cloth. It began to be grown as an ornamental plant in the late 19th century in western Europe where it then spread to the more temperate regions of the United States and Canada. The thick trunks or pseudostems and long leaves only cope with a light freezing but the underground rhizome or root zone is winter hardy as long as steps are taken to protect it. I have had neighbours do nothing to their bananas and seen them regrow even after cold winters here, even though they were rather small. With a few tricks anyone can have a large and lush banana grove simply by following a few easy steps.

You can purchase your own Musa Bajoo from almost any garden centre in the spring, heck even Costco sells them for only 20 bucks. They can also be picked up free of charge from anyone looking to reduce their grove size by dividing the roots. When planting, dig the largest and deepest hole possible planning for future growth and filling it with well drained compost rich topsoil These bananas like to be warm and protected so the south side of a building away from easterly winds is usually the best location. During the summer I keep mine well watered and supplied with fertilizer and high nitrogen manures to promote rapid and long leaf growth. These plants have a three year life cycle so after a few years the largest of the plants will form a large flower that grows into inedible small bananas with white pulp and lots of black seeds. Once that stalk has flowered it will die so it can be cut down to allow new shoots room to grow.

It is the care during the winter months that will affect the size of the banana plants in the next growing season. In October I start piling lawn clippings around the base so the heat from their decomposition will later warm the ground. Instead of raking up leaves for disposal, pile them all around the base of the bananas in a thick mulch layer at least a foot deep to keep the rhizomes warm. When frost finally arrives, usually in November, use shears or a machete to chop down the leaves and layer them on top of the mulch pile to hold it in place. By far the most important step is to protect the pseudostems or stalks from freezing as if kept healthy they will not have to restart growing from ground level the next spring. There are a lot of ways to do this, many that are easy with one or two stalks but bordering on impossible for large groves.

With small plants, it is easy to wrap the stalks with any kind of insulation. Cheapest and readily available is best, whether old fiberglass bats covered in plastic, old blankets and towels, chunks of cardboard or even sheets of bubble wrap. As the grove gets bigger and bigger you will need more and more insulation to the point that you'll have to build a shed just to store all of this stuff. For cheap and easy I like to use lumber wrap since it comes in long pieces and is free from any lumberyard. When the individual pseudostems are covered with several layers, the entire grove may then be wrapped up in these free tarps. Lastly, it is best to purchase a large green tarp to cover the entire grove since the regular orange or blue are tacky and detract from your yard and neighbourhood. Tie with rope to keep in place and anchor with metal spikes or heavy rocks for the winter.

To ensure that the stems don't freeze if we get outflow temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees for days on end, some gardeners introduce supplemental heating inside their banana tents. In the past I have used a small 150W outdoor halogen light that is waterproof and provides lots of heat. While this works, it also has the undesirable effect of causing the bananas to grow and start to lift the tarps off the ground. The safest and most effective heating tool is the plumber's friend, electrical heat tape that is usually used to thaw frozen pipes. Simply wind the tape through the grove before wrapping up for the winter and leave the plug exposed. When temperatures dip to below -4, which fortunately isn't very often in these parts, simply plug in with an outdoor rated extension cord to a GFI protected plug. As soon as the cold snap is over, ensure to turn off the heating tape to stop unwanted growth.

When the spring finally returns, simply unwrap all the grove and remove all of the old leaves and mulch pile that protected the roots during the winter. If you have properly protected the pseudostems from freezing, coils of yellow banana leaves will soon start emerging from the tops of them, turning green as they unfurl. Definitely an interesting and unusual plant for the garden, it is worth the extra work to ensure they are as tall as possible. Banana plants make the WR Sun's motto "Where you can vacation and be home the same day" certainly ring true. Sitting next to them in a lawn chair with sunglasses on and a margarita in hand makes you believe your home is a tropical paradise. In the United Kingdom with weather similar to ours, the hardy banana has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit signifying its new found home in the English garden.

By far the most rewarding part of growing bananas is waiting until the fall then sending pictures of them to friends back east in Canada who are digging out from the first dump of snow. I did this to a buddy in Calgary last week after 40 cm. of the white stuff fell there paralyzing the city. Worst part about it for him is that he's originally from south Surrey. It was way more fun than bugging him about the Flames hockey team.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

October 01, 2018

The Numbers Game

Something very strange is happening in the world. It seems after Donald Trump got himself voted in as President of the United States that suddenly everybody wants to run for office, likely thinking "Well if The Donald can get elected, I've got a chance." Having ran for the Green Party of BC twice myself and participated in other's election campaigns, I tip my hat to anyone with the gumption to run for public office. That being said, the sheer number of candidates seeking the Mayor's chair and Councillor seats locally this year is absolutely overwhelming. Just like going to a sporting event, it is now at the point that you need a program to know the players.

White Rock is a prime example of how civic elections are now becoming a gong show with slates, parties, independent coalitions, groups and individuals all vying for your vote. With Wayne Baldwin jumping ship, there are a total of 6 candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring for Mayor. Councillor Grant Meyer is now running for the top job with the White Rock Coalition slate, along with Darryl Walker for Democracy Direct, and four independents, Tom Bryant, Judy Higginbotham, Mike Pearce and Gary Wolgemuth. It will be interesting to see how well-known "Higgy" does considering that she is actually from Surrey (gasp!). For a town of 20,000 residents to have so many people running for Mayor shows that civic politics is becoming more of a participation sport than one for armchair quarterbacks.

The six Councillor seats up for grab have attracted an even larger throng of candidates with 22 people declaring their candidacy. The White Rock Coalition has a full slate that includes three incumbents, Democracy Direct has fielded four candidates, while independent incumbents Dave Chesney add Helen Fathers are back for another kick at the can. I'm not going to waste time and space writing all of the other independent candidates here except for Zachary Johnson who like Judy Higginbotham is an outsider looking in from Surrey. I hope for once that at the all-candidates meetings we don't hear the question, "Who here is from White Rock" with the obligatory show of hands. How tacky, elitist and small-town minded. Of note, there are even two people running for the position of Surrey School District #36 Trustee with one of these actually living in White Rock (double gasp!!). How about a show of hands there too while I slowly shake my head. For the full list of candidates, please refer to the following White Rock City website link: https://www.whiterockcity.ca/DocumentCenter/View/2249/3-10-Declaration-of-Candidates-at-Close-of-Nomination-Period---Signed

Since White Rock's population is 20,000 and Surrey's is 540,000, the same level of interest in Surrey's Mayor chair as that in the City By The Sea should yield a total of 162 candidates looking for the job. Fortunately that is not the case and with Linda Hepner ducking out after only one term in office there are 8 people running for the coveted penthouse office in downtown Whalley. Two of these, Tom Gill and Bruce Haynes, are former councillors but no longer slate running mates. Former Mayor Doug McCallum is back trying to reclaim his old job that he originally lost to Dianne Watts back in 2005 after 9 years at the helm of the good ship Surrey. Six of the mayoralty candidates are members of political slates, in alphabetical order they are Integrity Now, People First, Progressive Sustainable, Proudly Surrey, Safe Surrey Coalition and Surrey First. Should you prefer an independent mayor, you get to flip a coin between Francois Nantel and John Wolanski.

There are 48 candidates running for the position of Councillor in Surrey a total of 6 people for every one of the 8 seats available. This includes those aligned with the six slates listed above plus a couple of others, GreenVote and IVSA Adding to a ballot that will likely be as long as a roll of toilet paper, a further 27 are running for the position of school trustee with two more slates, Surrey Students Now and Act Now Surrey. To vote responsibly and know what each candidate stands for, it basically becomes a research project involving hours of tedious homework. I'm not going to try and alter the election results or tell people how to vote, but on Oct. 20th, make your mark at the ballot box for who you would like to see run (or possibly ruin) your city. For a full list of all candidates for all positions plus to view information about each of them, visit the following link at the Surrey.ca website: https://www.surrey.ca/election/candidates/candidate-list.aspx

It is not only in White Rock and Surrey that Civic elections are becoming political events involving a throng of candidates. In Vancouver there are 21 people running for the Mayor's job, including one candidate who appears topless in her bio picture (sorry but you're going to have to find the link yourself). There are a whopping 71 Councillor candidates, 33 for Park Board Commissioner, and an additional 33 for School Trustee. Now quickly folks, add the total number of candidates up in your head. I'll save you the brain ache and with the help of my trusty dusty Texas Instrument TI-503 calculator, that gives you 158 choices to vote for. For those of you who thought Lotus Land was already a bit crazy, the ballot selections for 2018 are going to be mind boggling, especially without the candidates being listed alphabetically as before.

Don't be disheartened by the surge in candidates we are seeing this year and wondering who to vote for. Up the coast in the village of Lions Bay the local Mayor and Council must be doing one hell of a job, for their Mayor Ron McLaughlin and four Councillors were the only ones nominated, and were acclaimed on Sept 24th for another four years at the jobs in City Hall. No need for an expensive election, plethora of lawn signs or a bunch of candidates on a mile long ballot. Of course, the population of Lions Bay is only 1,550 but to have a Mayor and Council be unopposed shows the constituents must be happy with the work they are doing. In White Rock and Surrey, this appears to not be the case and it is likely we will see the winds of change blowing as we get a little further into Fall.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 25, 2018


Tracking Our Politicians

I must admit I've become somewhat of a rail safety freak after living near the tracks in Crescent Heights and viewing first hand how the BNSF runs their railroad through the Semi-Pen. When I heard that there was yet another rail safety forum being held, I decided once again to skip out on work to go see if anyone would show up, especially on a Friday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when I entered the White Rock Community Centre to find a standing room only crowd of approximately 200 people in attendance. The whos-who of Surrey and White Rock politics was impressive with MP Gordie Hogg, MLA Tracey Redies, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and others in attendance including former Surrey Mayor Doug MacCallum. For all of the dignitaries at the head table, the many White Rock councillors in attendance, and all of the folks who came out, it was who was not there that spoke volumes.

I came to the meeting with several questions to ask to members of Transport Canada and the the BNSF Railway. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I found out that neither had sent a representative to take part in this meeting. It was not like they were not invited, I asked event organizers and was told that both had been officially invited and decided not to partake in the meeting. It is telling and disturbing that a railway that supposedly prides itself on its safety record fails to attend a public meeting concerning their railway and the well-known dangers it poses to this community. Even worse, can someone tell my why Transport Canada could not sent even one employee to observe and report back to their superiors? Either they need more tax money to hire more personnel, or they should be fired and their budget axed due to gross incompetence.

It was not like there was nothing to learn from this latest rail safety meeting. A week before, Surrey Council had unanimously passed a motion to contact both Transport Canada and the BNSF to ask for trains to reduce speed to 10 MPH from south of the Christopherson Steps at 24 Ave to the Crescent Beach Marina. This is due to 14 instances since 2014 where a train stopped on the track due to decoupling or mudslides blocking emergency personnel from reaching the beach. The latest blockade of the two Crescent Beach entrances was on July 21 where a BNSF coal train decoupled, blocking access for 2.5 hours, far beyond the mandated 5 minute maximum blockage.
This is not a new story, since it was back on Feb. 25 in 2015 when "Surrey City Council endorsed a resolution to call for freight speed restrictions from 30 miles per hour (mph) to 10 mph leading in and out of the Crescent Beach area, from the existing Nicomekl railways swing bridge to 24th Avenue." Unfortunately the BNSF and Transport Canada did nothing then and I expect they will continue to do the same, regardless of the lives they endanger every time a broken down train cuts off the island of Crescent Beach.

I did find it rather strange that the Mayors of both Surrey and White Rock, both who are not running in the next civic election in less than a month's time decided to be front and centre at this meeting. The odds of them being able to accomplish anything in their last month in power is negligible, especially with the BNSF and Transport Canada being tone-deaf to their demands. You would think that these lame-duck Mayors would have ducked out of this latest railway safety meeting since they have seemingly become somewhat of a dog and pony show with plenty of promises but very little action. Still, the idea of relocating the tracks and improving safety along the waterfront is obviously of high importance to many of the people who live here. I wanted to ask Transport Canada why they forced White Rock to fence off their waterfront yet cannot force the BNSF to allow Surrey to build a safety fence to keep pedestrians off their property at Crescent Beach without a $225,000 yearly lease payment? It looks like it might be time for me to pay their offices in New West a visit again to try and get some answers.

By far the most informative guest speaker was Mike Armstrong who is running for White Rock Council. He brought along information about how the BNSF is planning another round of creosoted sleeper tie replacement across the waterfront. Several years ago it was 22,000 ties, this time the number is believed to be 5,000-6,000 ties. Research from Switzerland in 2000 by Kohler reveals that a new wooden railway tie holds 15 Kg of creosote, with 5 Kg of this B1 human carcinogen leaching out into the environment over their 20+ year service life. According to the Alberta government "Creosote-treated wood should never occur indoors and should be avoided in outdoor areas frequented by people, specially children or animals." Hmm..., like maybe down at the beach or along the White Rock promenade? Creosoted ties have been banned in Europe where concrete and steel ties are used. The latest tie installation will mean the BNSF is effectively dumping a further 25,000 Kg of carcinogenic pollution into Semiahmoo Bay. Just one more reason why you can't eat shellfish harvested from its contaminated waters.

As always, talk of railway relocation and high-speed rail from Seattle to Vancouver dominated the conversation but talk is cheap and building new railways is expensive. It is rather telling that to date, Surrey and White Rock have not been able to secure funding from the Provincial or Federal governments to study rail relocation in this region. While I would love to see the BNSF tracks ripped up and turned into a shoreline walking path like Vancouver's famed Seawall, the reality is that the railway has been here for over a hundred years and will likely be here for quite a while to come. The longer that nothing is done, the more expensive the project will become and eventually it will become financially impossible if it is not at that point already. My bet is that you are going to see even more safety fencing and blocked access to the beach every time that someone else gets hit and killed on the BNSF rail corridor, usually by the killer Amtrak. The problem as always is that industrial freight trains, silent but deadly passenger trains and crowds of people down at the waterfront simply don't mix. Hold all the rail safety meetings you want, you're not going to change that.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 17, 2018

Wrecking The Rock

Christy Fox photo

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was break me
Yeah, you wreck me
Lyrics to "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus

I must admit it really did take my breath away when I drove down North Bluff Road and turned to look at what had become of Johnston Road. Barricades with road closed signs crossed the main roadway entrance to uptown White Rock with construction crews, excavators and dump trucks all working feverishly to rip up the roadway, traffic islands and sidewalks. Taken directly from the city website the following passage gave no notice of a complete closure of Johnston Road from North Bluff to Russel Avenue: "We are striving to minimize public impact over the long term and will take this opportunity to simultaneously upgrade the critical water, sewer and street infrastructure which will help increase capacity and improve the reliability of the existing older water-mains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers to better serve this growing neighbourhood." Of course the neighbourhood they are referring to is all of the concrete towers sprouting from the ground throughout the uptown with still plenty more to come.

On Sept. 4th, there was a Johnston Road Project Update posted on the White Rock website warning of a temporary road closure to vehicle traffic the following week.
To accelerate this stage of the construction, the City of White Rock is permitting CLCS (the project’s Prime Contractor) to close vehicular traffic access on Johnston Road between North Bluff Road and Russell Avenue (see map below).
The closure starts at 5:00AM on Monday, September 10, 2018 and ends at 7:00PM on Saturday, September 15, 2018.
CLCS will increase crew attendance and activity on site to accelerate project completion.
Vehicle access will be limited to only business delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles.
Traffic Management will be in place to lead out vehicles to alternative routes. There may be some traffic delays in this area.
Transit routes will be temporarily redirected. Please check with TransLink when planning your trip to learn about changes to the transit route you take.
There was only one problem with this plan. With the glacial pace of work on this project, crews did not get the required work done in the time frame allowed. I'm surprised they did not have crews working double shifts in order to get it finished with the least amount of disruption. After all, it was the City of White Rock that allowed arborists to beginning chainsawing down trees along Johnston under the cover of dark at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. It really should come as no surprise that late last week the City announced they would extend the closure of Johnston Road for a further six days. While they brag about significant progress, it is also taking significantly longer to get this work done than anticipated. "After the current temporary road closure of Johnston Road, CLCS (Canadian Landscape and Civil Services Ltd – the project’s Prime Contractor) has made significant progress to upgrade critical water and sewer infrastructure, installing soil-cell structures for the new trees, and addressing sidewalk safety matters on Johnston Road. In order to continue making significant strides, the City of White Rock will extend the Temporary Road closure from September 15, 2018 to September 21, 2018." Significant delays, significant disruption, significant obstruction, significant inconvenience, significant loss of business for local merchants, and significant reasons to stay the hell away from uptown.

It is best for residents and visitors alike to realize that this road closure is just phase one of a long term plan. Next up will be the stretch of Johnston Road from Russell Ave. to Thrift Ave., then Thrift to Roper Ave, and finally Roper to Buena Vista Ave. at Five Corners. Whether the City will block off all of Johnston and rip it from curb to curb as is presently being done or possibly do one side of the street and then the other allowing for some through traffic remains to be seen. My guess is if they can tear up the entire street where the proposed White Rock Gateway Feature was to have been built, it is highly likely they will allow CLCS to close off White Rock's main street to expedite the infrastructure improvements needed to service all the high-rises they have approved. What is interesting about this project is that a posting on the White Rock city website proclaimed it was scheduled to be completed "October 2018." Anyone care to place a bet on whether this work will be finished in time for the upcoming civic election on Oct. 20th? My money says Christmas time is much more likely.

The Johnston Road revitalization project is not the only White Rock beautification project experiencing significant delays that are a burden to residents and visitors alike. The Memorial Park and Pier Washroom Upgrade seems to be taking forever with this prime public area by the Pier being turned into a construction zone for the entire summer. Believe it or not, construction of Memorial Park was to begin in Fall of 2017 with the dream of having a Summer 2018 opening. Unfortunately the City decided to not include the Semiahmoo First Nation in plans for excavation along the waterfront, leading to a three month delay until a provincial archaeological permit was received weeks before Christmas 2017. Work began in January of 2018 but the construction company awarded the contract appears to be taking a very long time to get the work done, with very few people reportedly seen working on the site. To date, the widening of the lower Promenade was completed July 1st, the western portion of Memorial park was completed August 31 and the eastern portion is scheduled to be done in early 2019. An entire summer was lost on this vanity project with the bathrooms still needing their major upgrade. For a detailed look at the delays plaguing this project, visit the following link on the City website: http://www.whiterockcity.ca/477/Memorial-Park-Pier-Washroom-Upgrade

I don't believe that when White Rock Mayor Baldwin and his Coalition cohorts approved all of the major construction projects for their little City By The Sea, they paused one moment to reflect on the disruptions and inconveniences they were going to cause. You can expect the uptown area of White Rock to resemble one huge construction sight for years to come with noise, traffic disruptions, cement trucks, dump trucks and the like. Now might be a good time to proclaim the official bird of White Rock, similar to how the Nootka Rose was selected as the city flower.

I would think that the crane would be a perfect fit. No, not the robust Sandhill crane or majestic Whooping crane, the modern construction crane that can be seen towering above White Rock. Either that or the common loon.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 10, 2018

BNSF's Behaviour Simply Of-fence-sive

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
Can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in
Lyrics to "Don't Fence Me In" written by Cole Porter in 1934 and performed by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby and others.

It was only four years ago that the City of White Rock installed black chain link fencing across the waterfront in an effort to improve pedestrian safety and reduce locomotive whistling in their seaside community. They put in 230 metres of new railing and 1.5 kilometers of chain link to try and keep people, children and pets off the BNSF tracks in East and West Beach. The city paid for this work in exchange for the BNSF Railway paying for the cost of the East Beach pedestrian crossings upgrades. All of this work was done to placate Transport Canada over pedestrian safety concerns after a female jogger, 42 year-old Anita Lewis, was hit and killed by the Amtrak passenger train while crossing the rails wearing ear buds in East Beach a year before.

White Rock is not the only community in the peninsula suffering with noise pollution from the 150 dB horns on the BNSF locomotives. Crescent beach has two vehicle crossings (McBride Ave. and Beecher St.) and people living a stone's throw away from the tracks who are subjected to blaring train horns both night and day with the frequency increasing in relation to rail traffic. Since 2017 the City of Surrey had committed to paying for the design, installation and maintenance of a pedestrian fence along the BNSF rail corridor from Beecher St. to the south end of Bayview St. as part of a whistle cessation project. Portions of the fence were proposed to be installed on BNSF property after gaining their permission to do so. Not a bad deal for the Railway if you ask me, you get a free fence paid for by taxpayers, free future maintenance and the added benefit of improved track safety that would decrease illegal trespassing onto the corridor.

Unfortunately the Railway is a business and they are obviously shrewd about bilking local governments out of tax-payer dollars, for example the half-million bucks White Rock shells out to the BNSF for lease payments on the parking lots at their beach. When approached by Surrey about the city putting a secure safety fence on their land along Crescent Beach, the BNSF proposed a yearly lease payment reportedly to be $250,000. From Crescent Beach Property Owners Association minutes it was revealed that in February of this year the BNSF Railway decided to stand firm with their lease requirement but would be willing to negotiate the amount of the lease. The lease price was then dropped by 10% to $225,000 per year, a still staggering figure considering the Railway would directly benefit from its construction and long-term pedestrian safety improvement.

Fortunately it seems those in Surrey City Hall were not wanting to follow White Rock's lead of perpetual payments to the BNSF and decided to instead install the fence on the City's side of the rail corridor property line parallel to Bayview Street. The issue with this concept was that while it would help towards their whistle cessation plan that has already been 10 years in the making, the construction of this 6 foot tall fence would mean a loss of the highly prized public parking spots along Bayview Street. Residents on the street voiced concerns about difficulties in exiting their steep driveways on this narrow road and the loss of turn about areas on a road that does not terminate in a cul-de-sac. I know that these public parking areas are also used frequently by naturists with mobility issues who cannot climb the 190 steps of the Christopherson staircase at the west end of 24 Ave. to access Crescent Rock Beach.

It now appears that with the BNSF's refusal to waive the annual lease payment from Surrey and local resident's opposition to the loss of parking areas on Bayview that the Crescent Beach rail corridor fencing plan has been shelved. A friend with his ear to the rails in Crescent Beach has informed me that it will soon be announced that this ambitious safety plan will not be moving forward as was hoped. We should find out more this week when the CBPOA holds its AGM on Wed. at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Beecher Place. What really pisses me off about this whole fence episode is that it was on a section of BNSF tracks in Crescent Beach where 39 year-old Henry Kools was hit and killed by the Amtrak in 2000. He was walking on the rails wearing ear buds in similar circumstances to the woman hit on the tracks in White Rock in 2013 that saw level pedestrian crossings and fences installed there.

Maybe Transport Canada needs to consider this information and force the BNSF Railway to pay for the fence along Bayview Street that the City of Surrey would have gladly built them for free if they were not so damn greedy. Billionaire Warren Buffet who owns Berkshire Hathaway which controls the BNSF, formed The Giving Pledge in 2010 as a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. For the world's third richest man valued at $84 billion who turned 88 just over a week ago, how about doing something for the community of Crescent Beach, like making it safer and a whole lot quieter by paying for your own pedestrian fence and turning off the air horns on your locomotives.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 04, 2018


Gunning for Mayor

It was five years when I created t-shirt designs for Surrey Shirts focusing attention on gang violence here involving guns. One was directly aimed at the Surrey Six massacre, with the slogan "Better Safe Than Surrey" surrounded by six bullet holes. The other targeted the City of Surrey and the criminal lifestyle here involving illegal handguns used by gangsters where the new Surrey logo featuring Whalley high-rises was altered to look like a Glock 9 mm handgun and the city slogan "the future lives here" changed to "the future dies here." City Hall's response to these t-shirt designs that constituted freedom of expression was to file a "cease and desist" order against Surrey Shirts for using parody to focus attention on the gun violence in Surrey. I guess it was easier for them to try and shut down Surrey Shirts than deal with the gang problem plaguing BC's second largest city. In the end the city backed down, Surrey Shirts went viral, it continues to sell Surrey merchandise and apparel and unfortunately gun and gang violence is still alive and well with people continuing to be shot dead on our streets. For those keeping count, Surrey saw 59 shootings in Surrey during 2017, 61 in 2016 and 88 in 2015.

With civic elections happening this fall, it suddenly seems to be fashionable to call for a ban on all handguns within the city of Surrey in order to stop gang violence. Surrey First Councillor Tom Gill who is now running for mayor had this to say about how to stem gang violence. “We have a gang problem in Surrey that’s devastating families. We owe it to those families to make changes. A handgun ban is part of that. This is an opportunity to take away the tools of the trade.”
Surrey First councillor Dave Woods who is a former RCMP officer abruptly quit the Surrey First slate over the handgun ban proposed by Gill stating "Gangsters haven't registered their guns." Adding to the Surrey gun control hysteria over something that is actually Federal jurisdiction, former Mayor Doug McCallum who is running for his old seat back is suggesting that handgun owners move out of Surrey stating “People who want to have registered handguns should use them in rural areas, not in big cities.”

It is almost comical after years of gun violence and nothing being done to stop it that it suddenly becomes a political hot potato for those seeking to be elected to Surrey Council. Handguns have been restricted in Canada since 1937 and if you want to purchase and shoot one you have to take government firearms safety courses, clear extensive police background checks, belong to a gun club that is certified for their use plus follow safe transport and storage laws. Most pistol shooters I know have a locked secure room in their house with a heavy gun safe bolted to the wall and floor plus an alarm for their home. Guns and ammo are stored separately and when hand guns are taken to and from ranges they are locked securely with ammo in a separate locked container. Legally registered law-abiding firearms owners follow all of the rules in order to own and use handguns in a safe and controlled manner.

The criminal element in Surrey including entrenched gang members do not give a damn about our silly laws and carry illegal handguns with impunity, killing rivals and innocent civilians on an all too regular basis. Google search "shooting in Surrey" and you receive 12,500,000 results, many which are media accounts of gangland murders in Surrey going back for years. Gangs that make their money by smuggling and selling drugs can easily acquire hand guns from criminals in the USA. The four land crossings we have into the Lower Mainland from Washington State allow for a constant flow of weapons from America into Canada, with gang members arming themselves for protection. Border agents I have talked to admit that intercepting hand guns is a difficult job, especially with many pistols being dismantled and the parts then hidden in multiple vehicles. Gangsters also have friends and acquaintances who are not under police scrutiny legally purchase guns and then sell them into the black market. Lastly the theft of hand guns from legal owners is a third source of guns that too often end up in the hands of gangsters. You should note that all of this is criminal activity giving gang members access to illegal guns.

The only way to combat gun violence in Surrey is to focus police resources on those people involved with gangs. Seeing how neighboring Delta does not seem to have this problem makes me wonder if a more pro-active local police force would be better equipped to deal with this problem than the RCMP. Our judiciary needs to stop plea-bargaining away gun charges and I believe that identified gang members caught with illegal firearms should be given heavy prison sentences plus serve consecutive sentences for gun crimes. For all the years that Surrey First has done nothing to stop our gun crime epidemic, it is hypocritical for Tom Gill to target legitimate firearms owners as a way to combat Surrey's gang violence problem. Former mayor wanting to be mayor again Doug MacCallum should have gang members banished from living in Surrey, instead of wanting legitimate hand gun owners to move out of town. Better yet, maybe its time for "Cowboy Doug" to saddle up his horse and mosey on to greener pastures.

Targeting firearms enthusiasts may be politically expedient but it does nothing to control the growth of gangs, the spread of illegal guns on our streets and the violence we are enduring. It is actually political pandering and using a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem to take the focus away from their own failings. Everyone also needs to realize that firearms legislation is Federal jurisdiction, not a local civic issue. I think that the 208 shootings in Surrey over the past three years show that Surrey First is actually "Surrey's Worst" when it comes to curbing gun violence in our town. If Tom Gill wants to put the cross-hairs on anyone, he should look a little closer to home as far too often it is young Indo-Canadian males who are the ones either getting shot or caught for pulling the trigger in Surrey. Instead of calling out legitimate shooters over their legal sport, politicians hoping to be the new mayor should target the gangs creating the violence on our streets.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 27, 2018

Skimboarding Getting Kayotics

Earlier this summer I was down on Semiahmoo Bay checking out some remote shoreline that I hadn't explored in years. I followed a narrow trail through the blackberries and undergrowth leading to the water. Only metres from where I emerged onto the beach, I found a stash of strange ramps and tubes hidden in the bush and cable locked to a thick tree. While most people would have wondered what this odd collection of plywood and polyethylene pipe was all about, I immediately realized that they were ramps and obstacles for skimboarding. With its long flat sand beach and abundant tidal pools, White Rock is a perfect place for skimboarding and obviously someone was taking this relatively old past time to a new level. Unfortunately there was no one there that day but with the tide out it was easy to imagine the spot being a skimboarding mecca.

Fast forward to this week when I dropped in on my buddy Lesen, a world famous artist I've known for years with a flair for street art, extreme graffiti and a love for anything that rides on rails. There in his carport was a ramp and rail system similar to what I had earlier seen tucked away down at the beach. The only difference was that instead of the regular combination of lumber, plywood and plastic pipes, he had painted the entire surface of the ramp in psychedelic colours in a pattern that only a mad artist could have imagined. Lesen told me they were being dressed for a local skimboarding group and that he was doing another piece the following day. I told him about seeing the various skimboarding aparatus tucked into the beach bush and he confirmed they were from the same people. Intrigued, I dropped by again a few days later and a second ramp was also expertly spray painted, this time with a setting sun theme complete with silhouettes of palm trees, a beach hut on stilts, and the website address Kayotics.com, home of Kayotics Skimboards & Lifestyles.

Kayotics Skimboards was the brainchild of founder John Minns back in 2001 on the shores of Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen. As with most kids back then, he fashioned his own skimboard from a piece of plywood with some varnish and sand sprinkled on top. The first run of 50 boards was made in a small shed and sold to friends in the flatland skimboarding community for use in local tidal pools. They changed sport forever one night when on the way home from a party found a 10 foot piece of PVC pipe at a construction site. The next day they drove it to the beach, stuck it in the sand and had Minns take the first test run. John ran at the rail straight on, hopped his board from the water into the air to hit the pipe and with arms waving rode the entire length of the rail, landing cleanly in the water on the other side. Since that time, pipes have led to rails, ramps, tables and other apparatus resulting in complex tricks similar to what goes on in a snowboarding park but at the beach instead. Videos of their tricks, exploits and travels spread through social media have allowed Team Kayotics to become well known to a growing world-wide audience and sell their boards and apparel internationally. Here is a link to one of their YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch-yFmsTa-Y

While the original skimboards were glorified pieces of half inch thick plywood, Kayotics have taken skimboard construction to a whole new level. All are designed in Vancouver with modern construction methods being used and refined for over 10 years. They use pressure moulding systems with laminated cross-band plys of wood to create perfect shapes with lots of flex that still hold their form. Taking a page from skateboard and wakeboard manufacturing Kayotic boards have a blended 3-stage rocker making for a clean ride, maximum pop and smooth transition on and off rails. The top and bottom of their boards are dressed in high-pressure laminate sheets that resist dents and damage from apparatus. The sides are coated with marine grade polyeurathane to ensure that water stays out and the wood layers are protected from the elements. To stop heel bruising and improve traction, the top surface of their skimboards is covered with adhesive backed EVA foam for a great grip with soft cushion. You can check out these beautiful modern boards at http://www.kayotics.com/skimboards/ where half of this year's models have already sold out.

Spreading the upgraded sport of skimboarding to the masses, Kayotics runs skimboarding camps during the summer in White Rock, Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen and Spanish Banks in Vancouver. In the past decade they have taught thousands of Lower Mainland kids the art of flatland skimboarding. They teach ages 6-13 about board maintenance, safety riding with more involved lessons on riding rails and performing advanced tricks. When camps are not available, Kayotics has group lessons where you can learn flatland skimboarding with a small group of friends or associates. Kaytonics also offers private lessons with one-on-one instruction for those not comfortable with the group setting or who want personal teaching. Even better you can book a 3 hour skimboard party for groups of 10 or more with several Team Kaotics instructors which would make for a great birthday at the beach in the sunshine trying out this fun sport that is rapidly growing in popularity.

To learn more about Kayotics Skimboards & Lifestyles please visit their website at Kayotitcs.com and check out the following social media sights for a full appreciation of how far skimboarding has advanced and evolved from its humble beginnings.
https://www.facebook.com/kayoticsskimboarding/
https://www.instagram.com/kayoticsskimboards/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbuLU4HgMq0

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 20, 2018


Smogust

 

The weather forecast for White Rock on Sunday was sunny with highs of 26 C, a UV index of 6.0 or high and sunset at 8:21 PST. The rest of the week calls for sunny and hot with clear conditions overnight. Now I don't know what planet weathermen live on these days but I think its time that they get a dose of reality and possibly open the window for a first hand look at eye-witness weather. The smoke that never really left is back in force from forest fires near Harrison, across BC, down in Washington State and even Vancouver island adding to the pall. The thick haze of smoke has delayed dawn, made the weather appear cloudy, and dramatically dropped UV values and daytime temperatures, clearing the beaches of sun-worshippers. While the sun did not actually set on Sunday evening, I can tell you that the faint red orb in the sky finally disappeared at 5:55 P.M. when it vanished into the smoke nearly 2.5 hours before it was supposed to go down.

I can remember long ago when B.C. meant "Before Christ" before it became synonymous with the province of British Columbia. Over time and with over-taxation, it then was tied to the term "Bring Cash" that is a well known saying from anybody visiting from other parts of Canada. With the Provincial Liberals turning a blind eye to duffel bags of cash being carried into casinos and real estate being purchased with offshore money from dubious sources, BC then became equated to "Beyond Corrupt." Now that we are into the second record wildfire season with no end in sight, I think that the moniker BC now stands for "Burnt Crisp." Currently there are 546 forest fires burning in the Province with almost 600,000 hectares being charred so far with the cost of fighting these fires already over $250 million. It is no surprise that the fire danger rating has risen to high or extreme in nearly every corner of BC including here in the Semi-Pen, with the B.C. government recently declaring a province-wide state of emergency to help deal with the fire threat.

On the west coast of Vancouver Island around the surfing tourist mecca of Tofino, there is a persistent weather pattern in August known as "Fogust" when the marine fog rolls in and seems to linger most of the day. Here in the Lower Mainland, I think we now need to call the ever present wildfire smoke "Smogust" since the meteorologists seem to ignore this condition that blocks out the sun. When we flew back to Vancouver this summer, there was a noticeable brown line in the atmosphere when we descended about Whistler headed into Vancouver. Since that time, forest fires have doubled and greatly increased in intensity, with the Richmond bog fire and the scrap car barge that burned in the Fraser River near the Pattullo Bridge only adding to the air quality problem. It is not like this is new since last year 1,300 forest fires ravaged the province burning more than 12 million hectares, costing $564 million to control. With little rain in the forecast you can expect the present two week window for the state of emergency to be extended, realizing it lasted for a record 10 weeks in 2017.

It is not like hot summer weather is a phenomenon isolated only to the province of BC. When we visited England in July temperatures were in the high thirties with the newspaper headlines screaming "Friday Furnace" the day after I suffered heat stroke. We currently have family visiting from Winnipeg where the summer has been unusually hot again with temperatures of 37-39 Celcius with a humidex reading of 44-45 degrees. A friend of mine named Larry is currently in town from Prince George that currently resembles Hell with all the fire and smoke there that has turned his car a light grey from the ash that is stuck to it. I contacted my buddy Chris in Corona, California to ask him if the wildfires there were having an impact on where he lived and he quickly sent me pictures of the sun being blotted out by smoke and of a plume of red fire retardant being dropped from a plane onto a local hillside that was ablaze. When I texted back to ask where and when he had taken the pictures, he told me they were from his back yard only minutes before. With heavy smoke and ash falling from the sky, he told me that coming down to sit by the pool was out of the question with a layer of ash covering his house and yard. Hopefully the fires will be stopped before they roll into his neighbourhood that is tinder dry from years of continual drought.

Because of the smoke from all the fires there is an Air Quality Advisory in effect for much of BC including the Lower Mainland. Here is the warning issued on Sunday by the BC Ministry of the Environment for this region:
AIR QUALITY ADVISORY IN EFFECT
Metro Vancouver is continuing an Air Quality Advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter due to smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia and the western United States. Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to occur over the next few days. Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes.
Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (µm) or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size. Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider. As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution. For more information on current air quality visit www.bcairquality.ca.

Don't expect much of a reprieve from the heat the next few days as yet another heatwave is expected to roll through with daytime temperatures of 32 expected. We may get a break from the smoke later this week with cooler temperatures forecast and actual rain expected next weekend but that is still a long ways off. With our parched forests and pine beetle killed trees still standing on laying on the ground in many areas, expect uncontrolled wildfires to burn until the weather finally cools and rain returns to to finally extinguish them in the fall. With what appears to be two record fire seasons in a row, it looks like this may be the new normal so expect more "Smogust" in the future with hazy conditions for your summer vacation. On the bright side, at least you can leave the sunblock at home and not be worried about getting a burn with the smoke blocking out the sun.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

August 13, 2018


Red Light Runners Beware

You probably heard the news released last week from the BC NDP government that they are increasing the number of red light cameras that are operational in the province. In total there will be 140 of these devices installed in 26 communities across BC as part of the Intersection Safety Camera Program. Last year there were 350,000 crashes in BC, an all time high, with 60 percent of these occurring in intersections.
Site selection for red light camera installation is based on the frequency, severity and type of crash based on data compiled by ICBC. The majority of the cameras are at intersections in the Lower Mainland, with the others on Vancouver Island and in cities in the Interior. Signs are posted on roadways before each intersection, informing drivers that the red light cameras are in use. A ticket will be issued against the owner of a vehicle only if there is clear photographic evidence that their vehicle entered an intersection on a red light.

While red light cameras are nothing new, they will now run 24 hours a day instead of the 6 hours per day that they were previously operational. Quick math should tell you this will generate four times the tickets and resulting fine revenue. What most people do not realize is that many of these cameras in the most crash-prone intersections have been recording speeds of vehicles that get photographed with no speeding infraction ticket being issued. You can expect that to change in the near future with the number and location of the speed-activated cameras likely to be announced sometime this fall. Imagine the double whammy a driver will get when he runs a red light while speeding. There is no word yet on whether vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit by 40 Kmh will be tracked down and impounded for excessive speed as is currently the case if you are caught by the police.

You can find a map showing the locations for all of the intersection safety cameras on the ICBC website at https://www.icbc.com/road-safety/community/Pages/Red-light-cameras.aspx. There is not much to worry about here in the Semiahmoo peninsula as only one intersection, that at 152 St. and King George Blvd. was deemed dangerous enough to warrant a red light camera. I could think of a few more spots that could use one of these devices but this location likely has the highest traffic volume of any local intersection and I have already attended three horrible crashes at this corner just after they occurred. The next closest locations to home are Scott Rd. and #10 Hwy. plus 152 St. and #10 Hwy. There are no cameras at the gigantic KGB and #10 intersection but King George has the highest concentrations of red light cameras in Surrey at 10 in total. The Nordell Way/88 Ave. connector with its extreme rush hour traffic flow comes in second with 8 red light cameras from the Alex Fraser bridge to Fraser Hwy. In total there are 39 red light cameras in Surrey now taking pictures of red light runners 24/7/365. Make sure you smile and that the cameras get your best side!

There will be those people who complain that this is nothing but a cash grab and a different version of photo radar. Sorry to say that I am not one of these people as the more tickets we hand out to people who flagrantly disregard the rules of the road the better. Hopefully this will slow people down and help put out the dumpster fire still smouldering away at the ICBC headquarters. What I witness driving on an almost non-stop basis is people speeding, not signalling turns or lane changes, running red lights, talking or texting on phones, blah, blah, blah. The biggest issue I see is that there is almost no traffic law enforcement (except for speeders at the bottom of hills) so people drive with impunity, getting away with their stupidity. Put me in an unmarked police car and I doubt if I could drive a block without pulling over someone who deserved a traffic ticket. I had to laugh this weekend when I came upon a car on the freeway with only one working brake light, so I changed lanes to avoid them, getting behind yet another vehicle that also had only one functional brake light. No wonder there are so many crashes in #1 Hwy. in the Fraser Valley these days with cars like this on the road.

Unfortunately with only one red light camera up and running in the Semi-pen, people here can continue to drive around here ignoring something as simple as when traffic lights turn red. I would suggest everyone be careful at the 152 St. and 16 Ave intersection (Johnston Rd. and North Bluff Rd. for those from White Rock) as I was a witness for a young woman who was t-boned there by somebody who ran a red light there last year. If you decide to drive into the heart of Surrey, Burnaby or Vancouver that have many of these cameras, you had best keep in mind that running red lights will cost you a $167 ticket plus have future affects on your insurance rates. Somebody has to pay for the mess that the previous Liberal government left us with and I hope it is the bad drivers and not just tax-payers who get stuck with the bill.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

August 06, 2018

Shooting Stops in Surrey

As promised this TNT is being written aboard a Westjet 767 high above the Atlantic somewhere between Iceland and Greenland as we make our way home to Surrey, BC from Surrey, England. The 149th NRA UK matches at Bisley are now over and while they always end with a bang, this year was one for the record books with the weather taking center stage in the fullbore rifle competition. For the week when most of the main matches were fired, England and much of Europe were stuck in the middle of a major heat wave with temperature records being broken and health warnings issued to the masses to stay indoors and out of the sun. Unfortunately the only weather that stops competition at the Bisley ranges is lightning so the marksmen still had to shoot their .308 rifles laying in the full sun while wearing thick leather jackets. This led to yours truly suffering from the effects of heat stroke on Thursday that lingered for several days.

When I wrote my last TNT, I mentioned that someone from South Surrey was currently leading the Grand Aggregate that contains the scores of most of the matches fired. I have to admit that it was not me jockeying for top shot but another well known Canadian rifleman. White Rock's loss is Surrey's gain as Jim Paton and his wife Anna recently pulled up roots in the Rock and moved into Country Woods subdivision in the Semi-Pen. Attending his 36th Bisley Prize meeting in a row, Jim dropped very few points "going clean" as they say, shooting many "possibles" or perfect scores. He even won the dreaded 1,000 yard Corporation match outright with an amazng 50-8v, meaning that all of his shots hit the 24 inch bullseye with 8 of the 10 rounds being in the middle of that. When the gunsmoke had cleared after a week of competition, Jim tied with Britain's Jim Corbett having the identical score of 742 points but finishing in second place only two centre v-bulls behind (102
to 100). For this efforts Jim Paton was awarded the Silver Cross and won a total of 9 different matches and aggregates, taking home a large haul of trophies to the Canadian Pavilion where we were staying.

While the Grand Aggregate at Bisley is highly prized, the Queen's Prize match is possible more coveted with the winner being chaired from the firing point on the shoulders of their teammates. It is fired in three stages, Q1 being 7 rounds shot at 300, 500 and 600 yards. The top 300 competitors then make the second stage and Q2 is shot the next day, this time with 10 rounds at 3, 5 & 6. The top 100 make the Q3 or Queen's Final, the Q1 scores are dropped and they go "over the hill" to the Stickledown long range where 15 rounds are then fired on the final day of competition at both 900 and 1,000 yards. Stickledown is well known for treacherous and difficult winds but this year with the extreme heat and a large cold front moving in, the winds reached speeds of 15-25 miles per hour with frequent strength and direction changes. In the middle of a raging sandstorm, Britain's David Luckman, a former Queens and Grand Aggregate winner, prevailed taking Her Majesty's Prize by somehow firing a 68 out of 75 at the last 1,000 yard range. In all 5 Canadians made the Queen's Final including myself, with 24 year-old Catherine Choquette from Ottawa finishing as the top Canuck in 10th place.

With all target rifle shooting complete, it was time for the party to begin with the Queen's Prize winner David Luckman being put in a chair with rails under it and carried from the 1,000 yard firing point with a military brass band leading the way. At the NRA offices, prize presentations were held with amazing silverware, some almost 150 years old awarded to the match and aggregate winners. From there Mr. Luckman was carried from clubhouse to clubhouse around the Bisley Camp all evening long as is tradition there. At the Canadian Pavillion he was taken inside chair and all where he grabbed a white Calgary Stetson cowboy hat off the Buffalo head mounted high above the fireplace plus a cigarette dangling from its mouth. After a few drinks it was outside to fire the 4 foot naval cannon five times plus a smaller cannon made from used brass ammo cartridges. The final stop was the Surrey Rifle Association clubhouse for a raucous sing-along party that included six previous Queen's Prize winners including our Jim Paton hitting the stage to belt out a song together. We left at 3 a.m. and heard the bar finally closed long after dawn.

 

I hope it does not take another 38 years for me to return to Bisley as my wife Sheryl and I really enjoyed our time, the experiences and friendships we found there. Not to mention, I would think by that time my shooting days would likely be over if I'm lucky enough to actually live that long. I should mention that Team Canada came within a point of beating Britain for the historic Kolapore short range team match with many countries cheering on the upstart Canadians against the always strong English team. I would like to thank the many members of Team Canada for their support and comradery, with a special tip of my hat to the three other BC shooters plus team Commandant Dave Adams from Mission plus team Adjutant Peter Dobell from Chilliwack who unfortunately could not make the trip to Bisley due to a last minute medical concern.

I leave you with a picture I took from the cabin of our plane high above the coast of Greenland with its massive ice sheet flowing to the coast and calving off icebergs into the North Atlantic Ocean. It was quite the sight to see but I must admit that the sheer number and size of lakes and rivers plainly visible on the top of the giant glacier was of grave concern, especially with the extreme heat we endured during our stay in England. This should give you something to think about when you're spending time along our beaches during high tide.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 23, 2018

This Surrey Shooting Scores a Bulls-eye

 

Perish the thought that I have anything to do with the constant shootings and gangland murders that have plagued Surrey for years. I'm in the other mother Surrey..., Surrey, England that is, near the town of Woking at the NRA UK Fullbore Rifle Championships being held at the historic Bisley Range. I am a member of the 22 person strong Canadian Rifle Team sent here by the Domininon of Canada Rifle Association (dcra.org) th