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October 30, 2014, 7:46 am Advertisments

The Naked Truth

 

 

Don Pitcairn

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

 

 

October 27, 2014


Stop Signs

 

It was getting ridiculous before but now its approaching the level of insanity. With Surrey's civic election upcoming on Nov. 15, election signs have appeared en mass throughout the city at levels that are becoming dangerous. Years ago people would flaunt their political ideology and preferences by placing small signs for the party or person they favored on their front lawn. Now the small signs are rarely seen, if they are even available, with large boulevard signs being paid for by wealthy individuals or corporate donors being all the rage. At the last election, the first 4'x8' signs appeared with Dianne Watt's developer friendly Surrey First slate planting one of these monster signs at every major intersection across town. Up until then a half sheet of coreplast measuring 4'x4' was the largest signage that you would encounter. Three years later and now the three most likely mayoralty hopefuls, Linda Hepner, Doug MacCallum and Barinder Rasode (in alphabetical order) and their respective teams of councillors all utilize the full size signage with some even being placed side by side, creating a 4' tall by 16' long monstrosity. The way things are going, a dozen years from now you'll be able to watch a drive-in movie on the backs of these ever growing election signs.

In Surrey there are 7 people running for mayor (quick, name them all off the top of your head), 23 running for the position of School Trustee with 6 to be elected and 36 running for the 8 councillor seats. While it is doubtful that each and every candidate could bankroll the outlandish display of full colour printed coreplast that we are seeing almost every block, imagine if even half of those running for office put out 100 signs apiece (math is 3,300). As it is, the election signs that have been erected are blocking sight lines, creating a visual distraction at a time when distracted driving is already a problem, plus blocking driver's vision at corners and crosswalks. Previously we have been witness to the fine art of carpet bombing, where hundreds of small signs are placed one after another along road sides in an attempt to squeeze out rivals. Now this technique is being attempted with large 4' x 8' signs that are seemingly placed every block, rather than just the main intersections as before. In south Surrey, it looks like Linda Hepner's Surrey First team drove through town with a semi-truck full of signs, dropping them on both sides of the major arteries at spaced intervals. I've been informed by one of the candidates that 50 Surrey firefighters helped install them over a four day period. If you find this unsettling, imagine if 100 RCMP officers from the Surrey detachment threw their weight behind one of the pro-safety candidates? I'm not in support of those on the public payroll working as a team for their candidate of choice, especially when the politicians sign their contracts.

It is interesting to note that while Surrey puts almost no control over election signage, even then city bylaws are being ignored. Surrey First jumped the gun and began putting out their signs days before the 30 day period ahead of the election. Large signs are also banned from city street boulevards, yet if you travel on King George Blvd near Hwy. 10 you will see many of the full sized coreplast signs for Surrey First, Safe Surrey and half-sized ones for Team Surrey. In ever trendy Whistler, the eleven candidates vying for council have all agreed to not post any election signage because of its environmental footprint, amount of waste, cost and the hassel involved in erecting, maintaining and disposing of these signs. Vandalism is also an issue which has reared its ugly head here in Surrey involving racism with several Indo-Canadian's having their names spray painted out in black from their party's signs across north Surrey during a one night rampage. Surrey First defector Barinder Rasode has seen a targeted campaign against her election signs with derogatory statements spray painted on them nightly across the region (I won't repeat them here). Because the messages are the same or similar, but painted in various colours and different handwriting, dirty tricks are suspected. It appears this is the work of many people working in a concerted effort in the middle of the night to corrupt the election. If this vandalism can be traced to one of the other electoral teams, they should be kept from power because if they endorse this kind of criminal behaviour, one can only imagine what they would do if given the keys to city hall.

The strong fall windstorm last Tuesday night exposed a weakness in the rush to erect all of the new 4' x 8' signage on streets across city. The frames and supports were not strengthened to support the doubling in surface area and with 100 kmh winds, almost all of the large signs were blown apart or twisted like pretzels. This has since exposed another major flaw with allowing unlimited large signage. When the winds were at their height, pieces of plastic coreplast went flying through the air, sometimes with 2x3's or 2x4's attached. I know of a lady who swerved her car and almost lost control on the rain soaked streets when one blew into her window near the corner of 24 Ave. and the KGB. The broken and pulled apart frames are now laying on the ground on sidewalks, at the road edge or in tall grass. There are countless sharp screws and multiple nail heads sticking out from the ends of almost every piece of lumber. These pose a hazard to drivers and their vehicle tires along with being a serious threat to anyone who might inadvertently step on them. I hate to say it but a chunk of 2x4 with a bunch of nails poking out of the end makes a rather vicious weapon on the streets of Surrey. Should all this garbage not be located or recovered, it will also play havoc with the lawn mowing equipment that maintains the boulevards and sides of the road. The remnants of hurricane Ana is predicted to hit the coast here on Monday or Tuesday with heavy rains and high winds. Any of these big signs still standing or already repaired are likely to be destroyed if the forecast is correct leading to more dangerous debris.

Having run for office in South Surrey/White Rock and personally installed and maintained election signs, I would love to see them banned for many reason. First they are an eyesore and a terrrible waste of resources as not many candidates recycle them for future campaigns as I have done. Secondly they allow well funded slates to run roughshod over independent candidates, meaning that their chances of becoming elected are slim to none as they simply get overspent and overwhelmed. Dianne Watt's Surrey First spent $662,000 the last election with $42,300 on signage and printing for example.

After having to repair or replace over 50 signs because of the targeted vandalism spree against her, Barinder Rasode is now in favour of banning election signs in Surrey, except for the small lawn signs on private property and space on electronic signs available to all candidates. I believe the city should be advertising for people to get informed and vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 15, drawing residents to the candidate's personal profiles posted on the surrey.ca website. Having the candidate's political affiliations listed there would be helpful as this is currently missing for reasons unknown. If you want to vote for a team, wipe the slate clean or go for an independent, this vital information needs to be shown for all Surrey constituents to see.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 21, 2013

Poor Engineering & Bad Government Kills People

It's too bad that I was away last weekend shooting 1,000 yard target rifle in 45 mph winds at the dreaded Rattlesnake range in Kennewick, Washington. If I'd been home I would have heard the bad news earlier and got this story off my chest instead of sitting on it all week burning my ass like an itchy hemorrhoid. In case you missed it, last Monday turning heavy fall rains there were five people killed in local traffic accidents, including two who were involved in a five car crash on the Hwy. 10 hill between Hwy. 91 and 120 St. in North Delta. They were 17 year-old high school sweethearts Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler from Surrey who were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner with family when they lost control, crossed the centre line and were broad sided by an oncoming vehicle, killing both of them instantly.

The sad thing is that these tragic deaths should have never happened and the BC Liberal Government's lack of action is to blame. After a previous head-on crash at the Hwy. 10 hill two years ago on July 25, 2012 involving three vehicles that injured three people with two hurt seriously, I alerted the BC Minister of Transportation (then Blair Lekstrom) to the well known hazards of this stretch of Hwy 10 and the need for concrete median barriers to stop these dangerous spin-out crashes on this long curved hill. These should have been installed when the Alex Fraser bridge first opened way back in 1986 resulting in instantly increased traffic flow. Delta and Surrey councils were also forwarded this safety information along with local MLA's to ensure they were aware of the problem and the risks involved. Fortunately I archive letters to government and below is the context of the e-mail sent to Min. Lekstrom at the end of July in 2012 with its rather chilling final line that I have underlined for emphasis:

"Highway 10 in North Delta between Hwy. 91 and 120 St. (Scott Rd.) snakes up a steep hill with a sharp curve. There are no concrete barriers in this location to keep oncoming traffic separated, even though this is a major commuter route with heavy commercial truck traffic and high rates of speed. By comparison, the nearby Nordel Way hill in North Delta has large concrete barriers separating the two lanes in what is essentially the identical layout.

Unfortunately last Wednesday, July 25 at 7:20, a vehicle reportedly travelling eastbound on Hwy. 10 crossed the centre line in the 11900 block and struck a westbound vehicle head-on, also involving a third vehicle. This crash resulted in three people being taken to hospital, two of them with serious injuries. The highway was closed in both directions to all traffic for six hours before the eastbound lanes reopened, followed even later by the westbound lanes. Needless to say, this snarled traffic throughout the region for most of the day including much of the morning and afternoon commutes.

This major transportation route linking Delta and Surrey needs to be upgraded before more accidents like this one are allowed to happen. With the current traffic flow, vehicles in the left turn lane headed north onto 120 St. often back up far down the #10 hill, with other vehicles changing lanes on the hillside at the sharp curve. Whether this had any role in this accident that is still under investigation by Delta police remains to be seen. Regardless, heavy concrete barriers need to be installed along the middle of the roadway that is currently protected only by a solid double yellow line painted on the pavement.

I would appreciate you directing Ministry staff to look at this potentially deadly problem and decide if traffic flow and vehicle speed on this main arterial road justify the installation of these life-saving barriers. The possibility of a crash at this location like what happened last week has been on my radar for some time and I wish I had brought it to your attention before this serious accident. Hopefully steps will now be taken to protect the safety of the travelling public and ensure that this type of head-on collision never happens again at this dangerous corner."

Rather surprisingly, I received a reply back from the Minister only 15 days after sending my e-mail to their offices, likely because I was the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic. Here is the lightly edited version with the important details of that correspondence:

 

Dear Don;

Thank you for your e-mail of July 30, 2012, recommending median barriers for Highway 10 in North Delta. I shared your observations about this highway with ministry staff, and I understand local Operations Manager Ashok Bhatti contacted you to discuss your recommendation in detail. I hope you were pleased to learn that we are currently reviewing options and determining costs for adding concrete median barriers on this section of Highway 10 between the Highway 91 Interchange and Scott Road. The review will take into account engineering considerations such as sight lines and highway width and is expected to be completed in a few months. I have asked Mr. Bhatti to follow up with you to discuss our findings.

Sincerely, Blair Lekstrom, Minister.

 

You need to realize that I have a bit of history with number 10 Hwy. Years ago a family friend was seriously injured at the intersection of Scott Road and Hwy. 10 and we drove by the horrific crash scene that included his vehicle so badly mangled that we did not recognize it, especially with all four wheels snapped off. He never fully recovered and died from complications within a year of the crash. That same corner was also the site for an accident involving several students from my school that resulted in the death of a childhood friend and the serious injury of two other young men including one that suffered a life altering brain trauma. Only two miles away, three other chums all lost their lives at 136 St. when they missed a stop sign and drove in front of a full loaded semi-truck while out celebrating a 19th birthday. It is interesting to note that when the large Hwy. 10 and King George Blvd intersection was upgraded several years ago, the sweeping corner coming into this area was separated by concrete median barriers, blocking cross street access on 136 St.

The Ministry of Transportation that has authority over Hwy. 10 in North Delta reviewed the hill leading to Scott Road and I saw engineers surveying the roadway in question. Inexplicably, while they have laid the groundwork for this important safety upgrade, obviously it has not been given high priority and this project stalled for the last two years. I've had discussions with Delta Police officers who informed me that this hillside is dangerous in the rain and a guaranteed accident site when it snows from cars spinning into oncoming lanes. Now that we have had two deaths that I previously warned might happen, hopefully the Ministry of Transportation will finally find the money to complete this project and save more lives into the future. Stephanie Cadieux was the MLA for Surrey Panorama at the time of the last big crash in 2012 and Marvin Hunt has now taken her place. It is up to Mr. Hunt and the Councils of Delta and Surrey to ensure the BC government finally gets this work done before anyone else is injured or killed.

Until then, drive like I do and stay out of the left lane on this dangerous hill, no matter which direction you are travelling.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 14, 2014

Bring Back the Beaver

 



Since 1869 when Surrey was first incorporated, the beaver has played a vital role in this region. In fact, it was the forested hills and swamps with many beavers and their dams resembling the landscape in Surrey, England that lead to this namesake being given to Surrey B.C. Over the years the iconic beaver has been utilized as a logo for the city of Surrey in many forms, playing an important part in the development of the heritage of the city. A large wooden carving of a buck toothed beaver atop a rocky cairn formerly graced the front lawn of the now old city hall. Giant wooden freeway signs sandblasted from planks with a stylized beaver welcomed people to Surrey at all of the main freeway and border entrances. The Surrey coat of arms that was used with the catchy green slogan, "The City of Parks" prominently featured a beaver in its intricate design. Even the previous flag of Surrey (I actually have one) featured the beaver centered in it flanked with five stars above resembling the main city centres with the Peace Arch monument below.

Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First slate, or should I say "coalition of independents" as they like to call themselves, decided a few years back that the historic use of the beaver to represent the city of Surrey should come to an end regardless of its heritage value. Unfortunately it was quite likely that yours truly played a vital role in this decision by pointing out to them how the freeway signs had been neglected and through a lack of maintenance been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they needed repairs. With their quest and zeal to rebrand Surrey as a modern futuristic city with developer friendly policies, it was decided that a new image and motto was suddenly needed. The symbol of Surrey for over a hundred years was quickly thrown into the waste basket of history along with the environmentally respectful "The City of Parks" logo without any community consultation. What replaced it was a couple of concrete Whalley towers along with the equally bland, "the future lives here" slogan.

Sorry to say but this is right up there with White Rock's "The Silver Beach" or "The Island of White Rock" concepts trotted out a few years ago before they settled on the overused and vanilla flavoured, "The City By The Sea" slogan. The slogan that I offered free of charge was "White Rock – Bordering on Spectacular" which sums up its location and vistas rather well I believe. The new Surrey logo and slogan look like a cheap rip-off from the city of Toronto that has an image of the tall city hall building on the left side followed by the city name in capitals. Simply google search the images of each city to see how close they resemble each other while trying not to imagine that Surrey is just like TO. Lucky for Surrey First that they didn't use the outline of the Balmoral Towers in Whalley as one of the buildings to showcase where our city is going. With spending $150 million to move city hall downtown to help their developer financiers sell condos there, was it really necessary to rebrand the city with what looks like a cheap and tacky real estate ad?


Doing our part to preserve and promote the city of Surrey, my wife and I have created Surrey Shirts that features a line of pro-Surrey apparel. Prominently featured in many our designs is a beaver that pays homage to the one that was used for decades to represent our city. We have "Surrey Girl – Dam Proud of it", our "Surrey Retro" featuring the "City of Parks" slogan and plenty of other designs showcasing the formerly proud beaver. Even our Surrey Shirts corporate logo looks suspiciously like the old wooden freeway signs that used to grace the entrances to the city welcoming visitors and residents alike. We have avoided jumping on the band wagon and supporting the new Surrey First endorsed city logo and slogan, instead utilizing it for more controversial themes. The first was our notorious "The Future Dies Here" design that brought attention to Surrey's ongoing gun violence problem and homicide rate (we are Canada's 2013 murder capital in case you are not aware). More recently we got involved with the Pride flag flap, creating our colourful "The Future Lives Queer" design complete with rainbow.

There is a civic election coming next month and this will be a time to pick the leaders that we want to represent us at Surrey City Hall now that Dianne Watts is finally stepping down. Besides addressing the glaring public safety issues we have here and other topics like school overcrowding, green space destruction, social ills, secondary suites, lack of public transportation and rampant development, this is also a time to decide how we want Surrey to be viewed. Do we want to keep true to the history and heritage of the settlers and townsfolk who helped to create Surrey and retain the iconic beaver logo? How about keeping the environmentally friendly "The City of Parks" slogan that so many residents were quite proud of? Maybe I'm on the fringe and people actually like a couple of concrete monoliths with "the future lives here" attesting to the direction we are now taking? It is important to find out where the various candidates for mayor and councilor stand on this issue in order to make an informed decision on whether you should consider them on the ballot.

It's interesting to note how several of our neighbouring cities have chosen to represent themselves. Richmond uses a stylized image of the Great Blue Heron often found in its dikes and marshes with the descriptive slogan, "Island City By Nature." The Corporation of Delta with its mud flats and world famous Burns bog recently rebranded itself with a bulrush featured as the letter T in the word Delta keeping their historic, "Ours to Preserve by Heart and Hand" slogan. The two Langley's "Nothing Without Effort" and "The Place to Be" mottos may not be very catchy but at least they have some history behind them. I say that we should remember our heritage and honour the natural places of Surrey, putting the beaver logo and "The City of Parks" slogan back where they belong representing the city of Surrey and its half million residents.

While most of the signage featuring Surrey's beaver symbol have now been removed, there is one at a busy intersection close to Langley that can't be destroyed since it is cast into a tall concrete retaining wall. Overgrown by trees, shrubs and weeds, it is hard to see and could definitely use a little sprucing up. Since it is the last remnant remaining, I'm planning on visiting the site, pruning back the foliage, trimming the shrubs, pressure washing off the algae and planting some flowers. At the very least it would be nice to have at least one relic of our past preserved rather than simply erasing them from view. While some would want you to believe that, "the future lives here", it is our past that helps us to plan a prosperous future. Destroying our heritage simply to assist with trendy real estate marketing plans is a disservice to the entire community. The city belongs to the people who live here not offshore developers and it's time to bring back the beaver to the City of Parks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 06, 2014

Tears For Pamela

It has been twenty years since 16 year-old Pamela Cameron died an early death at the hands of a sexual offender who had been released from jail to once again prey on the innocent. On Saturday a flower laying ceremony in her honour was held at the Forever Garden in south Surrey next to the arena that serves as a youth memorial even though the names of the many victims over the years are not actually dedicated. While two decades is a considerable time, there were plenty of people showing raw emotion, tears and even rage, especially with the recent murder of Serena Vermeersch in Newton that appears to be eerily similar to the Cameron case. White Rock realtor Bonnie Moy who sold the Cameron's their home in south Surrey when they moved to town has been a family friend since that time and spoke to the assembled crowd. Rather than give the Coles Notes, I thought it was fitting to simply post her words here so that they would be received by a broader audience. Try not to be moved try not to be angry, and try to imagine such a terrible thing happening to someone you love.

"Hello, thank you for being here and for remembering Pamela Joy Cameron in the beautiful and very special Forever Garden created in her memory. I'm Bonnie Moy, a friend of the Camerons. Twenty years ago, on a bright sunny clear day, Pamela was raped and murdered walking home from school. We are all here only because of this terrible tragedy that took place two decades ago.

Pam was walking home from Semiahmoo Secondary School which she had recently started attending. She was just 16 years old. After some study time at the Muffin Break, she started her final walk home along 152 Street on that sunny day in the afternoon. Between 21 and 22 Avenues, she was grabbed off the street, dragged into an area of overgrown bushes, raped and murdered by a repeat offender.

The killer had served ten years for raping another woman, she survived. Let out of prison free and clear after 10 years…, within months he raped again and this time killed. He had 26 prior offences and as one community member said 20 years ago, "what's the difference between Tues. or Wed., Tues. he's in jail, we are safe, Wed. he's out, we are not save as offense number 27 is just around the corner." In 20 years we are very, very sad to acknowledge that nothing, really nothing has changed. And that is enough on that.

We want to remember our lovely Pamela who had just moved from Ontario, already had a job and great friends! The Cameron's described Pamela as feisty, a super strong throwing arm in softball, a rugby player, lively fun, kooky and a bit of a clothes hound looking for designer labels and special watches. Paul Cameron nicknamed her "the Viper" as she targeted what she wanted and went for it. Twenty years after, we still feel the pain of the softball games never played and the goals "the Viper" will never achieve.

There are those who always remember and those who were captured by Pamela's spirit. Today faithful family friends Carol and John Short, and Val Lebee are here to lay flowers for the 20th year of missing Pam. A very special welcome to RCMP Sergeant Jet Sunner, District Commander South Surrey and Sergeant Marc Serle, District Commander Newton and his family plus Special Constable Susan Caley, Community Safety Officer. Let me say a few words about Marc Serle, we call him our ANGEL. A few months before the 10th anniversary of Pam's death, Sergeant Serle came across the Forever Garden, he did not know anything about her or the garden but it captured him. The garden was rather shabby looking as he investigated (as a good officer would) what was the story behind it. At that time, the Forever Garden was maintained by volunteers and volunteers get tired and, well more tired, and things get well shabby. We the Cameron's friends were trying to figure out how to get the garden cleaned up for the tenth year anniversary of Pamela's murder when all of a sudden we saw a picture of Constable Serle cleaning up the garden with students from the Semiahmoo Secondary School (remember that was 10 years after her death and these kids wouldn't have known Pam).

We arranged to meet Marc and he not only helped to get the City of Surrey to take over the maintenance of the garden, he arranged the installation of the memorial arch to tell Pamela's story, letting all know why the park was created. The Cameron's attended the dedication of the arch and enjoyed the garden created in honour of their daughter. Marc uses the Pamela Camerson story as the corner stone to support a safer community. We love Constable Marc Serle and his huge, huge heart, we think he really is an angel! Thanks you Sgt. Jet Summer, Sgt. Marc Serle and Special Constable Susan Cayley for attending and remembering. Thank you to the City of Surrey and the Parks Board support for making the park a beautiful fall display for this 20 year remembrance, you have done a beautiful job and we will send photos to Marilyn Cameron and her family in Ontario.

As we remember Pamela, I would like to acknowledge her legacies. One of them is the program called Realty Watch. When Paul Cameron went looking for Pam on the fateful day she did not come home, he called me (the realtor who sold them into their new home) to page others to come and help find her. By that time, she had been found. This untapped resource…, realtors that can be paged to help very quickly and help find missing people… was presented to the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. By 1996, the board had formed a very unique alliance with the RCMP and when they need eyes and ears to find people or suspicious cars, realtors throughout the Lower Mainland are now notified with messages on cell phones or by email. We have over 10,000 eyes and ears available. This program has been adopted in other areas all over Canada and the US.

Then there is this very special and unique Forever Garden… this is Pamela's legacy to all youth, a place to sit and let be, and those who want to remember those lost before their time. What a wonderful legacy Pamela Joy Cameron… The Cameron family friends will put flowers in place and Carol Short will read a poem to remember and honour Pamela Joy Cameron. Thanks to all of you for attending."

I left the ceremony with a heavy heart and a knot in my stomach after realizing her killer's 25 year sentence will be up in 2020 and he will again be eligible for parole. Let's hope that this dangerous man is never released from prison and stays there till his dying day. It won't be long before the next Surrey memorial as the 20th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of 23 year-old Melanie Carpenter from a tanning salon in Fleetwood will happen exactly three months from now on Jan. 6, 2015. Just like Pamela, a paroled offender with a history of violence was believed to have been responsible for her disappearance and death but he was never charged, being found dead by suicide after an extensive manhunt.

The quote, "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" should be considered when parole boards are looking to release untreated violent offenders into Surrey or White Rock. If the police have to issue media warnings that a person is a "high risk to re offend", then we need to have a way to extend their prison sentences until they are not deemed a danger to the public. I never knew Pamela but I remember the shock waves through the community when she died and for me the memories that may have somewhat faded are now crystal clear after seeing the devastating effects of this heinous crime 20 years after the fact.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 30, 2014

Same Old Surrey 20 Years Later

 

This TNT is dedicated to the memory of Serena Vermeersch, Julie Pascall, Pamela Cameron, Melanie Carpenter and others who have been the victims of violent offenders released into Surrey.

Instead of relaxing at beach or doing yard work in the early fall sunshine last Sunday afternoon, I took the time to attend the "Rally4Change" anti-crime rally being held in Newton. This community gathering was largely due to the recent death of 17 year-old Serena Vermeersch, allegedly at the hands of a recently paroled rapist who has now been charged with her murder. Besides this rallying cry, there were plenty of other concerns voiced from those in attendance from rising crime, unsafe streets, bylaws being ignored, recovery houses proliferating, lack of police resources and response plus others. It should come as no surprise that public safety is now the number one election issue with people all voicing their fear of what is happening to their neighbourhoods. Surrey mayoralty hopefuls Barinder Rasode and Doug MacCallum were both in attendance showing their support and paying attentionto the grievances being expressed.

Notable Panorama Ridge resident Bob Campbell acted as the emcee for the gathering, reading a short statement from the Vermeersch family in which they expressed their gratitude for the community support and the need to take back the city and make streets safe so that another family would not have to be suffering the same grief. Their family friend Gizelle Salmon spoke, calling on the government to "make it safe to walk our streets" and then asking for a minute of silence to honour Serenna. Mr. Campbell then went on to ask why infrastructure and social programs are not keeping up with development in Surrey, targeting transition houses as "centres of crime." He focused on the lack of community consultation from those in city hall along with the loss of greenspace, trees and agricultural land. Bob went on to explain his own personal experience with having his car stolen in Surrey, comparing the Delta Police forces "No Call Too Small" slogan with the one he suggests for the RCMP which is "No Call At All."

The Surrey RCMP were allowed to respond with several officers working out of the District 3 Newton office taking the stage to explain that their drug squad had been targeting crack shacks and closing them down. They called for community engagement telling the overflow crowd of over 200 people that there was strength in numbers and that it was important for residents to "not only be safe, but feel safe." Rally coordinator Naida Robinson expressed concern that flying bullets and dead bodies being found in cars were becoming a frequent occurrence in Surrey. Her call for "family, safety, security" was followed by complaints of flophouses, inefficient bylaws, overcrowded schools and rampant development that all foster crime. Environmentalist turned community activist Liz Walker explained how the Surrey Remand Centre, federal and provincial parole offices, recovery houses, Welcome Home and even Newton Slots all help attract undesirables and addicts to this part of Surrey. Her statement "Eyes on the street don't beat boots on the ground" was met with strong applause. Darlene Bowyer from Surrey "Assn. for Sustainable Communities brought down the house with statements "Stop the revolving doors of justice", "High risk to reoffend must not be released", and "This is our call to action - we have had enough", calling out the provincial and federal justice minister's Suzanne Anton and Peter MacKay to not release violent criminals into Surrey.

I realize that there are many people in south Surrey and White Rock who feel isolated from the problems in Newton and Whalley but the sad reality is that the death of Serenna Vermersch is errily similar to a violent murder that rocked the Semi-pen twenty years ago. In that case on Oct. 8, 1994, 16 year-old Pamela Cameron was dragged off 152 St. into the bush near 20 Ave., sexually assaulted and strangled to death with her body buried under leaves. This brazen attack happened at four in the afternoon with ten people hearing noises but nobody calling the police to investigate. Her absence was reported half an hour after she disappeared but it wasn't until the next day that officers with a dog found her naked body, retrieving her clothes from the nearby Dairy Queen. Mitchell James Owen who had previously been convicted of rape and robbery of a woman at the Woodwards parking lot in Vancouver in 1982 plead guilty to 1st degree murder of Pamela Cameron and is suspected in the murders of four other women. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole and remains in a maximum security federal institution. Just three months later, 17 year-old Melanie Carpenter was kidnapped from her work at island Tan in Fleetwood, sexually assaulted and murdered, allegedly by another released high-risk offender who committed suicide before he could be arrested and charged for this crime.

The current parole system in Canada is creating victims in our community by allowing prisoners who are deemed a "high risk to reoffend" to move here to prey on innocents. We need to make changes to ensure that the most violent and dangerous convicts are kept incarcerated beyond their original sentences if they are believed to be a danger to the community. Warning people about these twisted individuals does nothing to improve public safety, especially months or years after they are released. Since these dangerous people cannot be followed every minute of the day to ensure parole conditions are being followed, if and when they are released they need to be fitted with the new age electronic bracelets that monitor their movements with GPS technology. In this way they can be tracked and possibly tied to parole violations or unsolved crimes, ensuring they are returned to jail where they belong. Our so-called justice system needs to refocus its attention on the protection of the rights of victims and the public instead of trying to rehabilitate those criminals whose behaviors cannot be changed.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. there will be a flower laying at the Forever Garden just east of the South Surrey Athletic Centre (14600 20 Ave.) to mark the 20 year anniversary of the passing of Pamela Cameron and other victims of violence in Surrey. This garden and its broken archway was created to honour Pamela and to ensure that the details of her untimely demise at the hands of a dangerous predator were not forgotten. If the level of violence in what is unfortunately Canada's Murder Capital of 2013 disturbs you and you wish to support efforts for a safer Surrey, then plan on attending to show your respect. Expect plenty of real estate agents to be there as the death of Ms. Cameron was the pivotal event that helped her father Paul Cameron to create Realty Watch (realtywatch.net). Originally formed to help find missing persons, Realty Watch has since grown to become a community crime prevention program operating across the Lower Mainland from Hope to Whistler with over 14,000 realtors keeping an eye out for crime.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 22, 2014

 

Silly Season Starts Safely

The six months before an election is what we often call, "silly season" when politicians and their hopefuls begin non-stop news releases, social media campaigns, attacking their rivals and getting on the campaign trail. This year's civic election in Surrey and White Rock already look like they will be barn burners, hopefully resulting in a healthy voter turnout rather than the rather abysmal returns we are becoming accustomed to seeing. While there are a myriad of causes that could be championed by those vying for public office, it would appear that this time around, safety is job one.

Since Transport Canada finally woke up after being asleep at the switch for years, railway safety has been on ongoing issue along the BNSF tracks through the Semiahmoo peninsula, especially on the White Rock waterfront. Mayor Baldwin appears to now be leading the charge for railway relocation away from the beach to an inland location, vowing the tracks can be moved in five years. While there is no one who would like to see the tracks moved than me from a purely safety perspective, it is much more likely that Wayne will be gone from White Rock long before the BNSF ever pulls up their rails. As if the millions of dollars spent replacing 20,000 railroad ties, installing continuous track and shoring up wave defenses weren't enough, the BNSF is building a massive new concrete trestle bridge across Mud Bay that is estimated to now cost $15 million. A new bridge over the Little Campbell is supposed to be installed by a gantry crane from the rails very shortly while the trestle and swing bridge at the Crescent Beach marine is also on the drawing boards for replacement. Even if the tracks could be moved here, who is to say our US neighbours would want to reposition their tracks south of the border? At least the talk about trains will hopefully quiet the ever growing complaints about increased density, concrete towers and development approval outside of the vaulted White Rock OCP.

Surrey First mayoralty hopeful Linda Hepner has also jumped on the safety bandwagon, appearing in Crescent Beach with longtime councilor and Surrey First convert Judy Villeneuve. Echoing sentiments expressed by Mayor Baldwin, Mrs. Hepner also promised that "Public safety is my number one priority", pledging to work to have the BNSF Railway rerouted off the waterfront and away from Crescent Beach where trains are interfering with passage in and out of the village. What is interesting about this is that it was Surrey First who did not put safety first, turning down the concept of building a tunnel underneath the BNSF line allowing unfettered access to Crescent Beach and the 1,200 residents who live there. The price tag for the tunnel was $4.5 million, roughly one percent of the $350-$500 million needed to relocate the BNSF tracks. While public safety seems to matter in regards to the passing trains, it was Surrey First who were in charge at City Hall during the 2013 shooting gallery when Surrey earned the dubious distinction of becoming Canada's murder capital while setting a new homicide record. Lots of money for the new city hall in Whalley but no bucks for RCMP boots on the ground was partially responsible for this debacle.

Former Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and his Surrey Safe Coalition that sounds as if might have taken its name from the notorious "Better Safe Than Surrey" t-shirt has also jumped on the safety bandwagon. With Surrey Now editor Beau Simpson who has taken a leave of absence from his newspaper job, Doug is promising that his slate will clean up the mean streets of Surrey with his get tough on crime stance and actually hire more RCMP to patrol the streets. While politicians hope that people have short memories, it was then Mayor McCallum who kicked then Councilor Dianne Watts off the Police Committee for her questioning of his authority, an act that turned around to bite him in the ass when Watts gave McCallum the boot during the next election. There are also the old accusations that McCallum attempted to muzzle the Surrey RCMP into withholding bad news about crime stats in the city at the time when it was the car-theft capital of Canada. Great way to clean up crime; turn a blind eye and pretend that it doesn't exist. Unfortunately this technique won't work well with murder which still are happening far too frequently in the big city of Surrey BC.

This weekend Councilor Barinder Rasode unveiled the worst kept secret in Surrey, that she was running for the mayor's chair after breaking away from Surrey first earlier this year. The straw that broke the camel's back for her was when Mayor Dianne Watts dumped her as the chair of the public safety and police committee. Now following in Dianne Watt's footsteps, she appears poised to take over Watt's old job, showing that history might indeed repeat itself. Rasode's twitter hashtag "One Tough Mother" signifies her focus on public safety in Surrey. Showing her broad community appeal, Barinder has recruited the support of former mayor Bob Bose, the NDP's Moe Sihota, B.C. Liberal mastermind Mark Marissen, celebrity chef Vikram Vij (mmm..., My Shanti), and my personal favorite former Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain (Gerry.., Gerry..., Gerry). No chance of Dianne Watts going down in flames as she also announced this week to no one's surprise that she will be running under the Conservative banner in south Surrey White Rock under the public safety/railway relocation mantra that is the flavor of the weak.

Speaking of Watts and safety, there is a little bump in the road that might become a problem for her in the next election. That is the serious car crash that her and then hubby Brian were involved in on April 23 2010 at the corner of 24 Ave and 128 St. in south Surrey. Many nearby residents aware of the timing of the demand light questioned the RCMP's findings that the lady who was t-boned by the Mayor's SUV was at fault. The seriously injured Shawnene Redekopp took the Watts to court for damages, claiming that Dianne was at fault along with a raft of other accusations from driving to fast to being impaired. Miraculously, this civil case was settled out of court this spring with confidentiality clauses keeping the results concealed from public eye. If this court case was settled in favour of Mrs. Rededkop, it brings validity to her claim and serious questions about the conduct of both the Mayor and the RCMP who have a rather cozy relationship. Until this messy affair over who was actually responsible is cleared up people need to consider whether Dianne should be trusted with their vote. Watch to see if the mainstream corporate media even mentions this car crash and court case.

It is safe to say that safety is going to be the main plank in many candidate's campaigns, likely deflecting criticism of past performance by the incumbents. There seems to plenty of talk on the streets for change at city hall whether it be in Surrey or White Rock. Many people are tired of developer financed politicians currying favour to their paymasters while pushing densification and bulldozer development. The cracks in the facade are starting to show as social problems are growing, neighbourhoods are breaking down and people no longer feel safe in their homes. The slates are beginning to lose their luster and many are looking for independent candidates to fill the void or at least break the grip of one-party control over municipal affairs. It is less than two months before the Nov. 15th civic election and I'm sure by the time its over you are going to be sick of hearing about safety as right now it appears to be the only game in town.

Safely yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

September 15, 2014

 

A Passion For Compassion

The Caines on the White Rock waterfront

It's amazing how a person as relaxed, empathetic and intelligent as Randy Caine can be so misconstrued, misunderstood and victimized by those in a position of power. In case you don't know him or remember the headlines, Mr. Caine is the owner of Hempyz (hempyz.com) that opened on Marine Drive across from the pier in White Rock in May of 2012 after Council failed to unanimously vote against giving him a business license (Councillors Helen Fathers and Louise Hutchinson voted in favor after rejecting dubious safety and security concerns). Hempyz also operates at two other locations in Langley; #101 - 20505 Fraser Hwy. which opened in Oct. of 2008 and their superstore at 106 - 19925 Willowbrook Dr. that started operations on Canada Day in 2010. Langley Council was even more brutish in their efforts to battle Mr. Caine with Councilor Rudy Storteboom and Mayor Fassbender playing important roles in having the Langley RCMP raid his Langley Medical Marijuana Dispensary in June of 2011. Two years later charges criminal charges were dropped and Mr. Caine received an absolute discharge after agreeing to quota violations under his Health Canada license. His statement after the court case, "If they think this was funny and I'm going to roll over and ignore it, they're in for a surprise" will be remembered this fall when he plans to run for mayor of Langley city.

Randy Caine along with his 35 year-old daughter Tara opened the Releaf Compassion Centers (releafcompassioncenters.com) in June of this year at #106 – 20505 Fraser Hwy. as an intake location in Langley that is tailored to providing people information about the legal reality of marijuana legalization, medicinal guidance, the understanding of various strains, medicinal qualities and dispensing costs. Their main focus is on harm reduction, along with providing an established brick and mortar location that serves as a safe environment for physicians, nurses and health care workers to support the sick without being concerned with harassment or arrest. The centre is completely transparent with patients being referred to them by doctors and then getting paperwork to take back to their physicians for prescriptions for medicinal marijuana. Releaf Compassion Centers don't charge for their services, not wanting to profit from the backs of the sick while providing an alternative to regular prescription medication. Instead the centre is funded by Randy as a private citizen who adamantly supports public health care in Canada instead of the for-profit model. Most so-called compassion clubs want $300-$500 for a medicinal marijuana license then charge street prices for pot from a related dispensary. Through his Langley Medicinal Marijuana Dispensary, Randy charges a dollar a gram dispensing fee on top of herb cost (done at cost recovery basis), with the prices ending up being half of what is currently being charged in Vancouver. It is the minor $1 dispensing fee that helps to finance the Releaf operations and pay for the mobile door to door delivery that is essential for sick and elderly clientele.

Tara Caine's involvement in Releaf is quite interesting when you realize that she originally did not agree with her father's pot activism and crusade for marijuana law reform. In fact, Tara didn't smoke marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes or utilize it in any of its available forms. What happened to change this was a serious back injury that occurred as a result of her occupation as a health care worker. She hurt her lower back, herniated a disk and strained muscles, ending up flat on her back in severe pain. Resorting to walking with a cane, Tara popped pain killers and anti-inflammatories from her doctor while trying acupuncture and visiting chiropractors to relieve her symptoms. As a last resort she finally listened to her dad, utilizing a vaporizer and some edibles to help wean herself off pain medication while improving her health. As a result of utilizing marijuana to help with her bad back, she also found relief from her gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This chronic digestive disease results in acid reflux problems affecting the upper stomach and esophagus. Compounding this problem, she also suffered from achalasia which weakens the esophageal muscles and nerves resulting in difficulty in swallowing, chest pain and the regurgitating of foods and liquids. Tara found that a specifically designed tincture taken orally allowed her esophageal muscles to relax and for food to drop into the stomach. She reports an 80% improvement in her condition since taking five drops of this herbal liquid four times a day with no impairment or noticeable side effects. With these experiences and her training as a health care professional, Tara Caine has now joined forces with her father to help bring medicinal marijuana to the masses including people with chronic diseases, cancer and terminal illness.

A second Releaf Compassion Center is now being planned for the Semiahmoo peninsula with the Caine's looking for location near uptown White Rock to open by Oct. 1st. They are hoping to find an appropriate spot for an office with a waiting room for rent at reasonable rates, possibly attached to an already existing naturopath office or clinic. The White Rock office will be open by appointment a couple of days a week with the Langley office available for the remaining time. Randy told me that he is looking for a landlord who is receptive of the concept of his hemp delivery system, looking for "courageous people" who are open to helping those in need. Tara will run the office while performing the duties of care worker and patient advocate with her father legally working to dispense the prescribed meds to the homes of the approved customers. With the aging demographics of White Rock, the Caines believe they will receive a receptive response from those people looking to live out the last days of their life in comfort, in their own home and out of the hospital. While there is no cure for life, with it being a sexually transmitted terminal disease after all (joke), through Releaf Compassion Centers Randy and Tara are hoping to provide people in White Rock and south Surrey with a better quality of life. If you know of a location near Johnson St. where they can set up shop or possibly have space for rent yourself, please contact them at Hempyz or Releaf at the websites previously listed above.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITOR'S NOTE - Read the Coles Notes presentation David Hutchinson & Joy Davies, medical marijuana supporters, made to White Rock Council earlie this year.

(click here)

 

 

September 08, 2014

A Better Surrey Is Just A Click Away

 

This title was meant to be misleading for there is no way that the many problems and challenges facing Surrey could easily be dealt with the simple click of a computer mouse. Often though, it is easier to take on the small challenges which when reported by residents from across the city often add up to become a large problem. An attempt was made several years ago when city hall adopted the SeeClickFix mobile phone app that was designed to make it easy for residents and business to report problems and submit service requests. It was hoped the app would simplify the reporting process, improve customer service and ensuring that city of Surrey work crews could locate and fix problems in a timely manner. While the SeeClickFix service did work, the system was found to be complicated and unwieldy, with changes to the basic programming being impossible as the system was utilized for many cities across North America.

After realizing the limitations of the off the shelf SeeClickFix platform, Surrey engineering decided that what they needed was a system tailor made for the big city of Surrey BC. The SeeClickFix contract was ended with little fanfare as computer technicians began devising a similar program that Surrey would own, control and modify. The end result was the creation of the "Surrey Request App" that can now be downloaded onto any smart phone and used to alert the City of Surrey about problems or to request services. These include animal control, graffiti, unsightly properties, transportation inquiries, building inquiries, waste collection, trees, secondary suites, sewage, traffic signals, street lights, noise complaints, parking, parks and a host of other issues. By utilizing the Surrey Request App, city hall is empowering residents and businesses to become its eyes and ears to problems across Surrey, similar to how the RCMP uses tips from its Crimestoppers program to solve crime.

The beauty of this system is that is allows users to take and attach photos of the request, showing the problem in detail allowing it to be prioritized. The Surrey Request App also automatically provides people with a GPS location map of the request that can be used to exactly pinpoint the problem in question, making it easier for work crews to locate when out in the field. The system also makes for greater accountability from city hall as it provides feedback on the status of requests and alerts as to when the problem has been rectified. This is a component of the city's "Smart Surrey" strategy that utilizes technology and innovation to improve the city's future plans, programs, services and infrastructure. While I still like the former "The City of Parks" motto, it makes you realize that the new "The Future Lives Here" slogan may be more than just a catch phrase as Surrey continues its transformation to a thriving metropolis.

Use your iPhone, Android or Blackberry smart phone to go online and download a free copy of the Surrey Request App and then keep an eye out for issues and problems as you navigate around the city. The app should only be used to report non emergency problems you locate that can also be sent from your home computer or laptop to the "Report a Problem" website at surrey.ca/city-services/667.aspx. For more pressing concerns such as downed stop signs or broken water mains, report these directly by calling 604-591-4152 and for broken traffic signals or streetlights call 604-521-4338. Outside of city hall hours, use Ecom 911 for emergencies and the Surrey RCMP non-emergency line at 604-599-0502. The city wants residents who previously downloaded the former "SeeClickFix" app to delete it from their phones as it no longer links to Surrey and therefore is useless.

As a bonus, if you download the new Surrey Request App before October 20, you can enter to win a free iPad. Since the motherboard of my iPhone 3 fried the other day, I'm hoping to be the lucky winner as I need to reinstall the Surrey Request App on my new cell phone . Technology does amazing things but when it goes wrong, you sure notice how you miss modern innovations that have become essential for communication in our new wired world.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 02, 2014


BC (Beyond Corrupt) Hydro Bully

The lights are still on in my house as I write this TNT but it is hard to say how long that will be the case. Our home is under threat of being cut off from electrical service by BC Hydro, not because we haven't paid the bill for the electricity we have used, but for our steadfast refusal to pay the exorbitant and extortionist so-called "Legacy Meter" charge. As if the forced implementation of the billion dollar smart meter program wasn't enough to force down the throats of B.C. residents, Hydro wants an additional $32.40 a month to read our old analog meter, even if they don't actually come onto the property to check the device. Needless to say, we don't want a smart meter for many reasons and refuse to pay for services that are not provided. The main issue here is the loss of personal freedom that is being destroyed by a greedy monopolistic crown corporation that ignores and tramples on people's fundamental rights. We supposedly live in a democratic society here in Canada but BC Hydro shows that in some ways it is akin to a fascist dictatorship.

My wife Sheryl has taken up the fight against BC Hydro enlisting help from friends who are also hold outs against digital smart meters. The www.BC-Freedom.com website has a treasure trove of information about legal documentation that can be forwarded to BC Hydro to help protect property rights and refuse the draconian forced implementation of the smart meters. The "Coalition to Stop Smart Meters" Facebook page and the bcsmartmeterlawsuit.ca website are also helpful in the fight against Hydro bullying. We have a stack of paperwork including notices of default, refusal of BC Hydro's alleged "Meter Choices Program", lawful claim of right for electrical code compliance, lawful claim of rights over stewardship of land and many others that have been sent by registered mail to Hydro's head office. Unfortunately it is likely that BC Hydro will ignore legal tactics of those people who are opposed to this digital invasion of privacy, concerns about EMF radiation and the danger of house fires and simply make life uncomfortable for any remaining holdouts.

You need to realize that the provincial Liberals are responsible for this debacle as they are the ones who passed the Clean Energy Act and Smart Meter and Smart Grid Regulation in the first place. These required BC Hydro to install smart meters across the province while specifically exempting their approval from BC Utilities Commission oversight. Hard to believe that the BCUC is the "independent regulatory agency of the Provincial Government" when they could be muzzled and hogtied so easily by Victoria. Because of this sleazy tactic, the Commission could not hear submissions from concerned citizens on the negative economic, safety or health impacts related to smart meters. Christy Clark's henchmen then sweetened the pot, requiring the Commission to approve charges allowing BC Hydro to collect money for the Meter Choices Program, with only the folks who did not yet have smart meters being eligible. As of April 25th, BC Hydro charges $32.40 per month for an analog meter, $22.60 set-up charge and $20 per month for a radio-off meter, plus they can charge $65 if they find an obstruction of the existing meter at a customer's premise. If you don't think that these fees are draconian and outrageous, consider that the $32.40 a month Legacy Meter charge represents 50% of my last electrical bill. Not to worry though, with upcoming BC Hydro rate increases in November and likely time of use billing in the near future, the Legacy Meter charge will be chump change soon enough.


Things are starting to heat up in the Smart Meter debate with the Province of Saskatchewan suddenly pulling the plug there on smart meter installation. It turns out they had eight fires directly linked to the new smart meters that were being put in place by SaskPower. Now 105,000 of the units supplied by the Sensus Corporation are being replaced at an estimated cost to tax-payers of $9.5 million. Here in BC, the spokesperson for BC Hydro is on record stating that while there have been fires, none of them were due to smart meter failure, blaming the flames on faulty base plates, homeowner wiring and other related defects. A week ago the Province newspaper's Mike Smythe reported on a utility pole fire in Prince George that the property owner blamed on the installation of a new smart meter that has since mysteriously gone missing. FOI request filed by the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters show there have been fires at a Sparwood post office along with Coquitlam, Langley and in Abbotsford where a newly installed smart meter allegedly began smoking before shooting off the wall. To see the extent of this type of damage, simply Google "smart meter fire" selecting the images tab, or check out the smart meter electrical fire video on Youtube at "Smart Meter Fire – Just how safe are they again? This footage of a house on fire is quite shocking to say the least.

We will see this week if BC Hydro is stupid enough to send their crews to my house in order to cut off the electricity because of our refusal to be blackmailed into paying the Legacy Meter charge. If you think blackmailed is too harsh of a term, consider they have informed us that if the power is turned off, there will be a whopping $350 reconnection fee that includes the installation of a new smart meter. Oh yeah, and we will still have to pay the $280 for the Legacy Meter paperwork that is somewhere between sham and scam before they flick the switch back on. This is just another example of how the BC government continues to gouge the electorate with ever increasing fees, fines and taxes from their state controlled monopolies. Over the next three years the Liberals expect to siphon $8.9 billion in dividends from Crown Corporations years including $1.23 billion from BC Hydro. Don't expect this rate to drop with the recent appointment of Jessica McDonald as President and CEO of BC Hydro, who formerly was deputy minister to the Premier, cabinet secretary, head of the public service and a director of ICBC, the government's other bloated cash cow.

We'll have to figure out whether to pay the ransom for the so-called Legacy (read analog) Meter, resort to going postal on any BC Hydro line crew that shows up, or go off the grid utilizing candles for light and the fireplace for heat as summer turns into fall. I'm thinking it might be worth $350 bucks to let Hydro cut off the power and then invite TV camera crews into the darkened house to show the freezer full of rotting food and us cooking with a Coleman stove. Too bad that the Canadian Mint abolished the penny as it would have been fun to push a wheelbarrow full of copper coins to BC Hydro's Corporate headquarters and dump them on the marbled front office floor in front of their startled executives. It will be interesting to find out just how many other residents of BC are now being intimidated by the threat of disconnection notices from BC Hydro for rejecting the ridiculous Lunacy…, I mean Legacy Meter charge. If they try to pull the plug here at our house, I promise you that sparks will fly.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 25, 2014


Top Shots in Connaught

DON PITCAIRN (front & centre)

 

Thirty-four years is certainly a long time in anyone's life as I realized after finally making my way back to the Connaught Range in Ottawa for the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) annual Full bore Target Rifle Championships. While I have remained passionate about my sport of choice and the pursuit of long-range marksmanship perfection, the Canadian championships have been elusive due to my constraints of education, work, marriage, children and business. It is amazing to think that the last time I shot at the Connaught ranges I was not yet of legal age to consume alcohol, even though I must admit that I'd already acquired a taste for malted beverages.

The DCRA was founded back in 1868 the year after Canada became a country and when black powder rifles were the state-of-the-art firearm for that era. This year's shoot in Ottawa was the 134th annual competition, meaning that it is likely I have a 100th Anniversary pin at home somewhere in my collection of badges, medals and trophies. During the little more than a third of a century that I've been competing, equipment and ammunition quality has improved with technology resulting in an ever shrinking bulls-eye that now measures 24" wide on the DCRA 1,000 yard target, which will soon be replaced by a new 20" size. As if that wasn't enough, some evil masochist developed a V-bull that is half of the diameter, giving the world's best a 10 inch circle at well over a half mile away to aim for. Unfortunately wind and rain (plus lightning and thunderstorms) still play havoc on the flight of a bullet, ensuring that over an eight day shoot, there are plenty of opportunities for some of the world's top marksmen to drop points.

The Connaught ranges are an all-encompassing shooting facility run by the Armed Forces where Regular Forces, Reserve Forces, RCMP, elite commando units, security details and civilians all practice firearms training. Last week the Canadian F-Class (high-powered rifles with optic sights) Championships were held along with the Canadian Black Powder Championships and next week the military weapons take over with the Canadian Service Rifle and Pistol Championships. The DCRA matches attracted international teams from Great Britain, the USA, Caribbean and Japan, with individual shooters from across the world. While there are plenty of young cadet and under-25 junior shooters, the DCRA is a magnet for the so-called "heavy-hitters", men and ladies who shoot perfect scores with great regularity, read wind from flags and mirage with ease and who fire shot after shot with precision utilizing iron sights from the prone position.

Just like the last time I was in Ottawa, I had the pleasure of sharing a room with my father Robert who is a Life-Governor of the DCRA and who's shooting success over the years has already landed him in the PEI Sports Hall of Fame. Target Rifle shooting is a life-long sport and even at age 76, he is still in regular contention while now qualifying for the senior division. After recently winning the BC Rifle Association Provincial Championships yet again, Bob finished 6th in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, making his record 45th Bisley Team that travels to England every summer to compete in the UK Championships. My shoot went very well with many "possibles" or perfect scores sprinkled with a few wind shots and dropped points that left me high in the results but without any of the hotly contended for silverware. With the calibre of shooters (pun intended) that the DCRA matches attracts, "possibles" with high V counts are needed at most ranges in order to win both matches and aggregates.

 

In the end, I finished in third place for a Bronze in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, following the Ontario brothers Des and Pat Vamplew. White Rock's Jim Paton, competing after his double silver medal win in TR shooting at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland finished at 12th place in a match he has won multiple times over in the past. In the two most highly prized competitions, American Kent Reeves won both the MacDonald Stewart Grand Aggregate and the Governor General's Prize, dropping only two points in the Grand (653-87v out of 655-131v) and a single point in the Gov's (299-41 v out of 300- 60). Jim Paton finished a very respectable 5th in this match that sees the winner chaired off the firing point on the shoulders of their teammates. The high powered British team managed to win the Canada and Commonwealth team matches that were shot with near record scores while a team from the Ontario Provincial Rifle Association cleaned up on many of the concurrent team matches on their home range.

This TNT was written at 35,000 feet above Canada while I jetted home to the Semi-pen with a rifle-toting friend of mine from Washington State. More target rifle competitions are planned for the fall on both sides of the border including 1,000 yard shooting at the dreaded Rattlesnake Range in the desert at the Tri-Cities. After that, shooting goes indoors for the winter in .22 ranges and utilizing SCATT computer simulation training systems to improve accuracy. Next on the agenda for me is joining the Canadian Palma Team for the NRA US National Championships and ICFRA World Long Range TR Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio in 2015 that I hope will be a stepping stone to being one of the two marksmen selected to represent Canada at the next Commonwealth Games being held in Brisbane, Australia in 2018. I'm hoping Jim Paton from White Rock can join me so that the two top shots from the Semi-pen can bring home some more medals to our little corner of Canada. For more info on international fullbore target rifle shooting, visit the DCRA (dcra.ca), BCRA (bcrifle.org websites.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn.

 

 

August 19, 2014

White Rock Love Locks

With the renewed interest by Transport Canada in railway safety and continued problems with trespassing on the BNSF tracks along the White Rock waterfront, it is likely only a matter of time until more fencing is erected along the Promenade. The moronic teenagers laying on the rails playing chicken with a BNSF coal train likely didn’t help the case for more fencing beside the tracks.  The Railway recently had six foot tall black chain link fencing installed at the western end of West Beach in an attempt there to persuade pedestrians from accessing the tracks on the way to the Coldicutt Ravine trail.  This is similar to the fencing now encircling the Semiahmoo Reserve land by the WAG, which is also scheduled to soon be installed along portions of East Beach.

While this heavy industrial fencing possesses a certain gulag or prison yard look and feel to it, there might be a way to soften its hard edge and possibly make it a future tourist attraction.  There is a phenomenon happening across the planet where fences, railings and other structures are adorned with what is known as “love locks.”  Couples, lovers or sweethearts adorn a select bridge, tower, fence or gate with padlocks to symbolize their love for each other.  Names or initials are usually written onto the locks with indelible felt or engraved right into the metal to ensure longevity.  The concept is to symbolize unbreakable love with the keys often being tossed into local waterways, thrown from towers or buildings, properly recycled or disposed of. 

The history of this practice is at least 100 years old and dates to a Serbian tale involving the Bridge of Love.  Legend has it that a local school mistress was scorned by her army officer fiancé who fell in love with a woman in Greece.  When she died of heartbreak, other young women in the town started writing their names and that of their loved ones on padlocks and attaching them to the railings of the bridge where the former lovers had often met.  Early this century love locks started making their reappearance in Europe in different locations and on various structures.  The 2006 book “I Want You” by Italian author Frederico Moccia is credited with the appearance of love locks on the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome.  Closer to home, love locks have begun to appear in Vancouver on the Burrard Street bridge, on a section of fence along False Creek and a lookout point along the West Coast Trail in Uculet. 

Even with its noble intentions, this phenomenon is not without its problems and controversies.  In Paris the attachment of thousands of locks to local bridges are interfering with maintenance and heritage appreciation.  On June 9th of this year, the weight of the masses of padlocks on the Pont Des Arts Bridge there led to the collapse of a portion of the parapet railing.  Councils in towns across Europe have opted to remove love locks from bridges citing concerns over the weight of the tons of metal, inability to perform routine maintenance such as painting, denting and scratches from the locks plus damage from when they are cut off.  Other jurisdictions are encouraging love locks in select locations by creating purpose built sculptures where the locks become part of the display, keeping them from becoming a nuisance while attracting tourists and their dollars.

I think it would be interesting to have a designated love lock location along the romantic White Rock waterfront where people can come to attach their personal symbol of commitment to each other.  The very first love lock on the fence at the west end of West Beach past the boat launch has now been attached (see picture) and it is hoped that plenty more will follow once the news hits social media.  In this way we can create a community focal point for amorous couples to show their public affection while also creating a mosaic of shiny colour on some otherwise dull and drab black fence panels.  Not only will this bring White Rock some free advertising and much needed publicity, it is likely to attract hordes of visitors on a year-round basis, something I’m sure the restaurants and businesses along Marine Drive would appreciate.  Whether White Rock Council supports this concept or allows the love locks to stay remains to be seen but hopefully they will see its advantages instead of blindly sending work crews out with bolt cutters to nip this idea in the bud.

While I appreciate the artistic appearance of thousands of glittering metal locks with sentimental messages attached to rather mundane chain link, there is a rather sinister long range goal to this plan.  Hopefully over time enough love locks will be attached to the BNSF’s new fence that eventually it will collapse under its own weight, freeing the beach from this obstruction that will never stop trespassers or morons from walking on the tracks, interfering with safe railway operations or putting their lives in jeopardy.  Already there is a well worn path between the fence and the blackberry bushes, allowing pedestrians to walk from Marine Drive straight down onto the rail corridor and the beach.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 12, 2014

Dave's Got My Vote



I knew it was coming but it was still wonderful news to hear White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney announce that he will be running for the position of city councilor in White Rock during the upcoming civic election in November. This will be Dave's sixth election run with three previous elections and two by-elections leaving him perilously close to gaining a seat on Council. As someone who has run for political office in the Semi-pen twice myself, going against Gordon Hogg as the BC Green Party candidate in the ultimate Godzilla vs. Bambi battle, I have the utmost of respect for anyone running for political office. There are far too many people who are apathetic about their community and unwilling to help improve it. Many more will bitch, whine and belly ache about problems in their home town without being willing to lift a finger for change. Few and far between are those folks who are willing to roll up their sleeves, get down to business and get the job done.

Mr. Chesney resurrected the White Rock Sun eight years ago, bringing a breath of fresh air to the usual sanitized corporate media as Canada's first internet newspaper. Since them he has single-handedly produced an updated batch of news on a daily basis with help from people living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who provide everything from tips to content. I was introduced to Dave by a mutual acquaintance in the Surrey Now newspaper after a writing job I had been offered with them fell through when they ran into financial problems. On the strength of the many letters to the editor I've had printed over the years (speaking of bitch, whine and belly ache) Mr. Chesney offered me an outlet for my community passion in the form of The Naked Truth. That was over five years ago and the TNT as we often call it has become somewhat of a Sunday evening ritual for me and my long suffering wife Sheryl who is used to me cuddling my computer instead of her that night.

I grew up in Delta, lived in cities across the Lower Mainland and now call Surrey my home town where I am an ardent supporter of everything the "City of Parks" has to offer. Dave grew up in North Surrey but gravitated south to the beach and beautiful weather, hanging his hat in White Rock for almost 30 years. I can tell you that he is as passionate towards the "City by the Sea" as I am for the "Big City" of Surrey BC. Dave is one of the usual group of suspects that you can often find hanging out at White Rock Council chambers on Monday night, not because he is looking for a scoop on a story but because he is keenly interested in local government and the decisions they make. Always quick to call a spade a spade and sniff out BS, Mr. Chesney's common sense attitude and ability to ask the tough questions ensures that he is well known to the Mayor and Council and the community at large. You only have to read his "Yell It Like It Is" editorial column in the WR Sun to realize that Dave is not only well-informed but passionate about issues affecting the Semi-Pen.

In White Rock you fortunately don't have the slate dominated politics that have controlled Surrey for the past nine years. That being said, the handling of the railway safety issue, questions about the tendering process and rampant development has left many asking if it is time to put some of the present councilors out to pasture and bring some new blood and ideas into city hall. Considering Dave's long tenure as the editor for the WR Sun and his take-no-prisoners personality it actually amazes me that he does not already have a seat in the bunker on Buena Vista. He'd make a thoughtful councilor and would show the same commitment to the city that he has shown with the White Rock Sun. Best of all, Mr. Chesney would not be a simple yes man blindly agreeing with fellow politicians like a trained seal. Hopefully the A-B-C (Anybody But Chesney) campaign fizzles and White Rock elects a councilor who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and think with an independent mind.

Living in south Surrey I will not be able to vote in the White Rock election, instead playing a part in the outcome of the post-Dianne Watts era. Time will tell whether the Surrey First slate's stranglehold on council will remain or if it will evaporate now that Queen Dianne has stepped down from her throne. While some folks will say that I am promoting Chesney for White Rock council because of my connection to the WR Sun, the reality is I would vote for Dave because of his personal qualities and the principles that he stands for. I like my politicians to be honest and accountable, doing what is in the best interest of the constituents rather than just the special interests that helped to fund their election campaign. If you donate money to Mr. Chesney, don't expect any special favors in return as you will likely be disappointed.

On Nov. 15, get out and make your mark, putting an X beside Dave Chesney on the ballot. If you support the WR Sun and the Semi-pen community, embrace change and help get Dave elected onto Council. White Rock is a small neighbourly community and a word of mouth campaign with people talking to their friends and neighbours is the best method for success to beat well-funded special interests. Dave has my vote, make sure to give him yours as well.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 05, 2014

Movie Star Mondays

If you look forward to Monday for the TNT in the White Rock Sun, there are a couple of young guys in their early 20's living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who you might also want to follow. They are Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, the brilliant comedic minds behind, "Movie Star Mondays" or MSM for short. Bored out of their skulls on a quiet Monday back in April, the two junior A hockey buddies decided to have some fun by recreating the scene from a movie poster, with themselves portraying the well-known Hollywood actors. Their first attempt back on April 7th was to mimic Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's "Step Brothers" movie. Both James and Ben posted these pictures side by side with the original poster as their cover photo on their Facebook pages so that people who knew them could have a good chuckle.

With the appreciative response from their circle of friends and calls for more pictures, they decided to do a different movie every week, adding to their collection. These photo shoots are done by sourcing clothing from their parent's closets and props from their homes or a quick trip to the thrift store with a maximum $10 budget. The camera person is usually a friend or one of their parents who also see the humor in what they are attempting to replicate. To date they have recreated the movies Goon, I Love You Man, Nacho Libre, Pain & Gain, Role Models, 22 Jump Street, Brokeback Mountain, Dinner for Schmucks, Dumb & Dumber, E.T., Freddy vs. Jason, The Breakup, The Notebook, Titanic, Wayne's World and The Wolf of Wall Street. This Monday's latest installment will be Wedding Crashers that starred Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. When gender-bending is required, a long-haired wig, women's clothing and some padding make the transformation complete. If you look closely at the Titanic MSM photo, you might notice the shot was taken at the Crescent Beach pier near Blackie Spit in south Surrey. The brick wall in Role Models was the side of the Ocean Cliff elementary school in Ocean Park. They do draw one line in the White Rock sand; no photo shopping is allowed.

Little did they realize that they were starting something big in the world of social media with their funny little pix. It was when a buddy Will Latchinian from the Ocean Park Pizza & Village Pub started sharing the pictures with the world on social media sites that things started to really take off. The MSM shots were loaded onto imgur.com and reddit.com websites and people from around the planet started looking at them, making comments and forwarding links to friends. To date the Imgur posting has accumulated almost half a million views. It started trending on Instagram at #moviepostermonday where it was quickly picked up by the mainstream media that follow social internet trends. In Touch Weekly magazine posted 10 of their best photos along with a story on their intouchweekly.com website. HLN TV posted their MSM photos under the headline "2 Canadian jockey pals re-create film posters" with an article about their copied creations. The two young men are hoping to one day appear on the Ellen Degeneres Show and are spreading the word through their growing following with the Twitter tag: #Ellen#TheDream.

It is hard to say how big Movie Star Monday will become or if it will just be a quick flash in the pan. You have to wonder if movie executives might realize that this is an easy way to reach a wider audience and hire these two Canadian hockey players to do their own twisted version of the actual movie poster. It is possible they might become to movie posters what Weird Al Yankovich is to parody music videos. Unfortunately their hockey careers might throw a roadblock in any plans with Dean soon heading to Flin-Flon, Manitoba to play with the Rockets while his co-conspirator Ben Vikich stays here in the Semi-Pen where he will join the local Surrey Eagles. Hopefully these two will figure out a way for Movie Star Mondays to continue for some time until they can get back together near Christmas time to create some more movie poster magic. Until then you can follow them on Facebook at Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, on Instagram at @bvikich and @deanallison, or on Twitter at @_viks9 and @deanallison21. It's amazing the power of social media and how a fun idea can suddenly become an internet sensation. Time will tell if these two local boys hit it big with MSM but I have told them to get an agent and not just for their hockey careers.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Click to see the complete collection here

 

 

July 28, 2014


What the Hell is Wrong With These People?

It has now been three weeks since the horrific night-time accident on King George Boulevard in south Surrey in front of the Timberland Motel where a Mercedes SUV packed with six teenagers and driven by a novice driver allegedly tried to pass a vehicle on the shoulder while doing double the speed limit. The SUV plowed into the back of a parked car, sending it flying into the wide grassy boulevard, mowing down a light standard in its path. At first E-Com 911 received frantic calls that there was a person trapped underneath the car that was hit with witnesses seeing hair underneath this vehicle. When emergency crews arrived, they quickly discovered it was a large dog that was dead after being crushed by the driverless car. It wasn't until later when someone heard moaning coming from the nearby blackberry bushes that they realized a person had also been hit and thrown far from the accident scene. This was Jocelyn Hallier, a barista at the nearby Holy Smoke Coffee Co. tee-pee who has served me countless cups of the Semi-pen's best coffee over the years. The dogs name was Deville, one of the nicest and best mannered German Shepherds I've ever met and being a Shepherd fan, I've known a few over the years and even owned one myself.

Jocelyn was stabilized and moved by ambulance to the nearby Translink Park N' Ride lot (the side that nobody uses) next to Hwy. 99 and airlifted by helicopter to the Royal Columbian Hospital in critical condition. I'm not going to go into the specifics of her injuries other than to say that her body was quite simply smashed by the force of the impact, either with the flying car, the falling lamp post, or both. She was kept in a drug-induced coma for days while surgeons worked to stabilize her injuries, stop the bleeding and pin broken bones. Her friends and family members and even her hairdresser dropped by to check on her condition, hold her hand and to try to make her comfortable. Al Nameth, her employer and friend at the Holy Smoke Coffee Company made the long drive many times from his home at Campbell Valley in Langley to New Westminster in order to give his support and encouragement as her battered body started the healing process. It is a great relief to report that Jocelyn has recovered sufficiently from her injuries that she was transferred last week from the Royal Columbian to Peace Arch Hospital where her medical care and rehabilitation will continue.

Here's the rub folks; in the three weeks that Jocelyn was at the Royal Columbian Hospital, not one young person from the six that were in the speeding Mercedes SUV phoned to see how she was doing. The young driver that caused such carnage needs to be singled out for not stepping up to the plate to take responsibility for their actions and Jocelyn's injuries. Not one person sent flowers, dropped by to see how she was doing or to possibly apologize for her extensive injuries. The same can be said for all of the adult parents of all the teenagers involved, not a word from a single one of them or any attempt to check on her condition. Nobody phoned the Royal Columbian Hospital for an update, nobody stopped by the Timberland Motel to make inquiries at the office and not one of these people stopped by the Holy Smoke tee-pee for a coffee and update on Jocelyn's fate. Does it not matter to all of these people that the dangerous driving which caused this crash that night seriously injured a senior lady and killed the faithful companion that she was out walking? Note I did not use the word "accident" because when you are driving in the manner that was reported by eye-witness Jazz Mattu, serious injuries or death are often the outcome. The six teenagers in the SUV should thank their lucky stars that none of them were badly hurt, especially when you consider there were only five seatbelts in the vehicle.

Does the young female driver simply not care for the pain and suffering that her actions have caused to a person old enough to be her grandmother? Do the many friends riding as passengers not feel that they have a shared responsibility for this crash for not telling their friend to slow down or possibly encouraging such erratic driving? Do all of the parents of these kids simply believe that this matter will be handled by ICBC and the courts, resolving them or their bastard children of any responsibility? Could it be that the parents lack of compassion and empathy, exemplified by their not attempting to find out the extent of Jocelyn's injuries, were passed onto the younger generation whose lack of moral compass makes them believe that life is like the video game Grand Theft Auto? It makes my blood boil to think that with this large circle of people tied to this serious crash, not one bothered to take a minute out of their important busy lives and try to find out how the injured lady who had been flown away in the "bird of prey" was doing? They probably could not imagine the impact it has had on Jocelyn's life (so glad she still has one) and the circle of friends and acquaintances who know her. They need to consider what it would have been like if their six little darlings had been standing by the side of the road and been sent flying like bowling pins in a similar so-called accident.

If the young lady driving the Mercedes, her five friends or any of their parents wish to make amends for this oversight, Jocelyn is now resting uncomfortably in room 418 in the Intensive Care Unit at Peace Arch. Please feel free to drop off a card, bring some fresh flowers and offer your condolences and apologies. While you are there, fluff her pillows, help her to eat a meal or get things out of reach from her bed. If you are feeling generous, offer to pay for the little colour TV that hangs above her bed helping to break the dreary monotony of hospital life. Better yet, bring her a new cell phone to replace the one that was broken that dreadful night along with her many bones. Maybe the parents of the driver and her passengers can pool their resources to help Jocelyn pay for some of the bills that continue to pile up while she is lying on her back in hospital. Not that Deville can ever be replaced but purebred German Shepherd puppies generally cost $1,500. People that can afford private schools and luxury vehicles shouldn't have much difficulty in passing the hat and making a donation to the cause. That is, unless they simply don't care or give a damn about the unfortunate victim badly hurt from such reckless driving.

It is likely that Jocelyn will eventually receive a substantial payout from ICBC, possibly years into the future. That being said, no amount of money can adequately compensate for this type of trauma. Even if her injuries all heal, she faces extensive painful rehabilitation and it is likely that this event will be a life-changer for her. Of course the same could be said for the young Mercedes driver who is being investigated by the RCMP for dangerous driving causing bodily harm. With being a novice driver and having so many passengers on board, it is likely that ICBC will void the policy hold the owners of the SUV responsible for any costs and monetary awards . This could run into the millions of dollars if Jocelyn does not make a full recovery and return to mobility. While the courts will decide the outcome of any future litigation, the young driver, her friends and their parents can make some restitution now by simply paying her a visit and seeing the results of several bad decisions made on the night of July 7, 2014. Remember that while we can't turn back the hands of time, it's never too late to do the right thing.

If you know any of these people outed in this TNT, get them to read this column and consider finally making much needed ammends.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 21, 2014

Beach Out of Reach

In the middle of last week my wife and I decided to go for a walk with her dog and new puppy down the 101 Steps in Crescent Heights to the shoreline, giving the new furry addition to the family a chance to visit the beach. After crossing the BNSF tracks on the elevated metal staircase at the western end of 24 Ave. we received a rather shocking surprise when we got down to the waterfront. Waiting in store for us was one of the largest tides of the year and even with no wind or waves the water was so high that there was almost no beach left on which to maneuver. Heading south towards the Crescent Rock, we did not even make it a hundred feet before the water was up against the rip-rap boulders protecting the BNSF rail bed from erosion. Turning north towards Crescent Beach was not much better, with a 4-5 foot wide ribbon of shoreline that came to a point where the only options were to climb onto the train tracks (no thanks) or to take off the shoes, roll up the pant legs and go for a dip in Boundary Bay. Realizing the futility in our outing, we went back up the stairs and walked the dogs through the neighbourhood streets instead.

The high tide we witnessed was thanks to a phenomenon that is now commonly referred to as a "supermoon" where the moon comes closer to the earth on its monthly orbit by some 50,000 Km. By definition, a new or full moon has to come to within 361,863 kilometers of our planet in order to be considered a supermoon. July 12th was the first of three supermoons that will occur this summer with the others scheduled for August 10 and September 9. Make sure you mark them on your calendar and check the WR Sun tide tables at that time if you want to witness the full effect. Also known as a "perigree" moon meaning "near Earth", our lunar neighbour appears 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than usual. On a previous full supermoon, we noticed the brightness in our backyard, being able to easily discern the colours of the various flowers in the landscape even late at night. I wasn't the only one in the family to take notice of the recent supermoon with my daughter Denise sending me a picture of a large full moon that she took with her Iphone from her vantage point in Vancouver during that time. Besides appearing markedly bigger and brighter in the sky, the other noticeable effect of these supermoons is the extra gravitational pull they exert on the world's oceans, creating the largest tides of the year.

Seeing for myself the lack of beach that exists on the Semiahmoo peninsula during a supermoon got me thinking that if warnings from scientists about the effects of global warming are indeed correct, it will not be long before the average high tide covers the usable beach front that people here use for marine recreation. It has been forecast that sea levels will rise between 0.2 and 0.4 metres by 2050 caused by melting continental ice sheets and the thermal expansion or warming ocean waters. If that is the case, the meager ribbon of beach front we did find at the base of the 101 Steps would have been completely submerged and the only way one could enjoy the shoreline would have been while swimming or in a boat. Most of the beach along White Rock already disappears during high tides with waves lapping at the rip-rap berms next to the BNSF tracks. People utilizing the more rugged and secluded Crescent Rock beach need to take into account the tide tables or else find themselves stranded jumping from jagged rock to rock or forced onto the dreaded tracks. I have seen waves driven by winter storms pummel the Crescent Beach walkway, blowing salt water and debris over the public path while damaging the smaller rip-rap shoreline defenses in place there. Over 30 years ago, a winter storm that happened with a perigree moon overwhelmed dikes along Crescent Road, flooding the then new Nico Wynd gold course with 4 feet of brackish water. In the not too distant future, it is likely that rising sea levels will make these extreme weather events much more commonplace.

All of this leads to the effects that higher water levels and damaging tides will have on the BNSF Railway along the coast of the Semi-Pen. In 2008 during severe winter storms packing gale force winds, the rail bed was heavily damaged by large waves and heavy logs being tossed against the rocks lining the corridor. A member of SmartRail decided to walk the tracks that day inspecting for washouts and damage, being worried about rail safety after seeing serious erosion at the shore near Crescent Beach. Past Kwomais Point where tides work with winds to create very large ocean waves, a portion of the rip-rap had tumbled out into the surf, allowing the waves to chew at the base of the tracks that were built a century ago on the inter-tidal section of the shoreline. A CP freight train utilizing the tracks that day came crawling around the corner and seeing the water spraying across the tracks, the engineer stopped the train and exited the locomotive, walking down the tracks to ensure that it was safe to cross and talking to the SmartRail member about the danger. In over a dozen places the waves came to within a metre of the tracks that winter and the BNSF Railway had to spend $800,000 the next year to bring in train loads of rock to (dare I say) shore up the rip-rap. I`m not too sure of the year but I remember reading in the archived copies of the Surrey Leader about a washout on the BNSF tracks where the steel rails were left hanging 4`in the air over a 60` long chasm. Of course this happened before the marked increase in rail traffic through the peninsula and the arrival of thermal coal trains and 125 car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil.

With rising sea levels estimated to cost the global economy $1-trillion a year only decades from now if nothing is done to take action on global warming, there are going to be substantial bills here to protect property and infrastructure. Vancouver has been identified in a study as one of the cities most at risk with Delta and Richmond also under increased flood threat. Closer to home, low lying levels of White Rock and Crescent Beach plus farmland along the Serpentine and Nicomekyl rivers will be under the raised likelihood of being inundated if forecasted projections about ocean water levels prove to be correct or possibly even underestimated. There are many folks in the Semi-Pen who would now like to see the BNSF Railway move to a safer inland location away from the public beaches, summer crowds, environmentally sensitive marine area plus the landslide zone along the Ocean Park bluffs. While I love the ``rails to trails`` concept, it is not likely that the railway will be interested in relocating, especially with the millions of dollars that the BNSF are currently investing in infrastructure improvements at the Mud Bay trestle and soon the Little Campbell River bridge. Should sea levels rise and the tracks come under repeated wave attack, it may prove impossible for them to continue operating along the waterfront due to economic and safety factors. While I doubt if this will ever happen in my lifetime, the power of nature can be far greater than public or political pressure. Of course the sad part will be that if this ever becomes a reality, there likely won`t be any beach here left to enjoy except at low tide.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 14, 2014


Leave It To Beaver


I'm not really sure where it started but somewhere along the way I became interested in the old City of Surrey beaver mascot. Few remember the carved beaver that used to grace the front of the former Surrey City Hall, sitting atop a stone cairn on the front lawn facing #10 Hwy. Several years ago after inquiries from city staffers lead me to the Surrey Works Yard, I located the former statue exposed to the elements and rotting on top of a shipping container in the compound. Sprouting mushrooms and clumps of grass it was beyond restoration and likely has been disposed of by now. When the "Welcome to Surrey" freeway signs featuring the beaver on top were decommissioned and replaced with the new "the future lives here" signage, I wrote the Heritage Committee to ensure that one of these was preserved, which I've recently been told has been the case. I also have a stylized version of the Surrey beaver that is used for the Surrey Shirts company logo and as I write this piece I'm wearing the Surrey "Retro" t-shirt that is my favorite with the beaver proudly displayed in green and gold.

For those who travel down the King George Boulevard (the KGB as I like to call it) by the Serpentine Fen or who shop at the Art Knapps Plantland, you may have noticed a change to the front of the store several months ago. With the new "Mud Bay Village" frontage installed, a large carved wooden beaver was mounted on top approximately three months ago. I was immediately intrigued, wanting to find out the story behind the new sculpture. I talked to the store manager who informed me that Marty Vander Zalm from WaytoGrow soil products located behind the store had commissioned the piece earlier this year. If you don't know Marty, you can check out his hilarious "dirty movies" on the WaytoGrow website at http://www.waytogrow.ca/dirty-movies . As the "rebel nephew" of former Surrey Mayor/BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm he also has five episodes of "Politics & Dirtbags" with Uncle Bill on YouTube that are worthy of a look. Obviously promoting the work of the artist, the Art Knapps manager handed me a pamphlet from the front counter for "The Stump Artist."

 

Jesse Toso is the carver who created the beaver sculpture in question and whose creations can be seen on his stumpartist.com website. At his very first carving competition in 2005 at the annual Campbell River Transformation on the Shores chain saw carving contest, he won first prize of $1,000 for the amateur division. Now running a carving studio out of a garage in Vancouver at Hastings and Clarke, Jesse had a chance encounter with an Art Knapps employee who knew that Marty was looking to commission a sculpture for the Art Knapps and grabbed his business card. Thirty years ago, Marty's brother had planted a Sequoia redwood tree at the corner of the property and after road widening on the KGB that possibly changed groundwater levels the now big tree had died. Marty had it cut down and the large trunk stored, hoping to transform it into a work of art to honor his now deceased brother. The piece was commissioned around Christmas time of last year and completed in two months, then placed in front of the Art Knapps this spring.

 


Artist Jesse Toso and his "First Breath" sculpture

The stumpartist.com website features plenty of pictures of Jesse's works over the years including his first carve of 2014 which was the Art Knapps Plantland beaver. Based on the artwork from the 1948 Canadian nickel, the website contains several pictures of the beaver piece from the original log to rough cut and completion plus a four minute high-speed video of the sculpture taking shape. If you are a Surrey history buff, an artist or sculptor, shop at Art Knapps or simply drive the KGB, this amazing video can be viewed online at http://www.stumpartist.com/beaver-2014/ Looking at the beaver over the doorway at The Mud Vay Village, you will definitely appreciate the artistry that it took to complete this piece. The Stump Artist's "First Breath" sculpture of a mother and calf Humpback whales from 2008 would look right at home in the peninsula, especially with Wyland's Whaling Wall mural and the baby Humpback that washed ashore in White Rock last year. Not bad for a woodworker who had never used a chainsaw for carving until he decided to invest $35 to enter the carving contest in Campbell River on a whim.


Photo courtesy of Surrey Archives
This got me thinking that it might be possible for Mr. Toso to replicate the beaver that once stood sentinel in front of Surrey City Hall for decades and present it to Surrey Council for use in their museum or the new city hall in Whalley. There are four pictures of it in the Surrey Archives online collection that show it in intimate detail plus I also have several close-up shots on a hard drive that can be salvaged. I'm going to see if there is any interest in this idea at City Hall and if so possibly look at having this done, collecting donations from the community for the cost that will likely be around $1,000. If you like Jesse Toso's talent and want to put him to work for you transforming a log into a work of art, he can be reached by email at jessetoso@gmail.com or by phone at 604-720-3354. Tell him that Don and Marty sent you.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 07, 2014

Pride in Surrey Alive and Well

Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne & Don Pitcairn

 

No matter where I have lived I've always taken pride in my city of residence, growing up in Delta and living across the Lower Mainland in the cities of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Langley and of course the big city of Surrey B.C. Even as a kid growing up in the then rural Sunshine Hills (aka "Rainy Ridge") in North Delta I always wanted my parents to move to Crescent Beach to be nearer the waters of Boundary Bay, the sunny weather and remarkable sunsets. It took a few years but I have now owned three different houses in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood near Crescent Park over the past dozen years that were all only a few minutes walk to the beach. For a multitude of reasons, there is no place I would rather live and I'm proud to call Surrey and the Semiahmoo peninsula home.

This weekend Surrey pride was on display front and centre for all to see and enjoy. The opening of the Surrey Night Market was held on Saturday with a variety of food providers and vendors prepping their wares for the big occasion. While nobody knew quite what to expect, it was hoped that there were would be community interest, similar to what has made the Richmond Night Market such a success. My wife Sheryl and I were on site with our Surrey Shirts apparel that began from the simple concept of me wanting a jersey with the word "SURREY" embroidered across its chest. By the time the gates opened at 6 o'clock, the lineup snaked across the Cloverdale Agriplex roadways and off into the distance. As the crowd filed in, more arrived to take their place and in no time the parking lot was full with folks waiting an hour just to get into the market. By the end of the night an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 people had visited, representing the broad ethnic mosaic of the Surrey and surrounding cities. Organizers have promised to make changes for even larger crowds expected next Friday night on July 11 when the opening ceremony and official ribbon cutting will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

With the first night of the SNM under our belts, we gathered up some stock and made our way home after midnight, catching a few winks before rising early to load up the Surrey Shirts machine and make our way to the 15th annual Surrey Pride Festival. I must admit that I have never been to the Vancouver Pride Parade or taken part in any Pride Week festivities but have known plenty of people of various sexual orientations and realize that everyone across the spectrum of society is seeking love and acceptance. To say the crowd, vendors and organizers were colourful would be a disservice to the GLBTQ community with rainbow flags, pennants and banners flying across Holland Park. Mr. Gay Canada 2014 Christopher Wee, Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne and Miss Teen Surrey Vanessa P. were in attendance sporting their various sashes along with Emperor David Cook and Empress Eric Sg.asia Divine. A veritable who's-who of politicians from all levels of Surrey government strolled by with Penny Priddy and Barinder Rasode stopping by for a combined photo-op (Mayor Dianne Watts was noticeably absent). Special kudos to the omnipresent Sergeant Dale Carr for representing the Surrey RCMP in full red serge Mountie uniform and looking very dapper while doing so.

Being invited to the Surrey Pride Festival, I could not help but become embroiled in the refusal of Surrey Council to once again not fly the rainbow Pride flag in front of Surrey city hall as is regularly done in 43 other cities across Canada. This includes the neighbouring city of New Westminister just across the Fraser River that will be holding their pride week from Aug. 8-16 including a street party on Columbia Street. While the Pride flag was allowed in the new Surrey city hall atrium along with a small display, many perceived this as an insult similar to being hidden in a closest. Surrey Shirts new "the future lives queer" t-shirt that emulates the city's logo and mocks their "the future lives here" slogan brought plenty of media attention to this flag flap. It would appear that with all of the publicity it is likely that Surrey's flag policy will be reviewed and a fourth pole possibly mounted out front of Surrey city hall, hopefully without the $200,000 price tag quoted by outgoing Mayor Watts. I would like to offer my thanks to the amazing community activist Martin Rooney for his help with everything Pride related since he moved to Surrey in 1996 and ask you to read this man's sparkling personal biography available at the following Vancouver Pride link: http://vancouverpride.ca/martin-rooney-achievement-in-sexual-health-promotionawareness-award-nominee/

In closing this column about Surrey pride, I leave you with this rather unique poem by local author Michael Zrymiak that was presented to Council in 2012 as a tribute to the city of Surrey. Containing the good, the bad and the ugly, it captures Surrey and its growing pains in a nutshell.

What is Surrey

They call it a city
A strapping, uncoordinated, ungraceful teenager
All arms and legs with unfocused mind
Soaring in every direction, bouncing upward and inward
Surging and panting, needing space and air and soil
Impatient with controls, pushing and shoving against all constraints

It is merchant, fisherman, blueberry grower, ESL student, dock worker, developer
Horse stables, ultra-light flights, sailing lessons, yoga classes, homeless shelters
Sikhs, Hindus, Chinese, Afros, Europeans old and new, west and east
Traditional and new-age families, a rainbow of colour, a cauldron of cultures
Samosas, perogies, burritos, a Starbucks on every corner next to a sushi bar
Souvlaki sampled on Crescent Beach as the setting sun paints the placid bay

Festive times abound, Chinese New Year, Dawali, Fusion, Bear Creek concerts
Galleries, libraries, theatres, Peace Arch park, eco walks in Boundary Bay
Softball City, a rodeo, polar bear swim, nude beaches partially secluded
Marijuana grow ops, street prostitutes on iPhones, corpses in back alleys
Fruit stands on country roads near industrial parks where countless trees once grew
And in the farming lowlands, evenings bring soft peaceful mists

It seeks a core heart to pump life's blood to all parts to ensure dependence
To project a posture a conventional mind can grasp, to be the city of tomorrow
It wants a towering edifice, a central plaza, a world class monument
Now Whalley, Newton, Guildford, Semiahmoo, Cloverdale, farmlands, tomorrow?
While individualism challenges bureaucracy and ideas battle inertia, the clock is ticking
This is Surrey

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Take A Lot Of Pride In Who You Are (click here)

 

 

June 30, 014

Coal Train Traffic Cut in Half

With all of the community concern and public opposition here to increased coal shipment through White Rock and along the shoreline of south Surrey, it should be welcome news that the BNSF Railway is looking at detouring some of its coal train traffic away from the Semiahmoo peninsula. The OK the PK railway news website (okthepk.com) carried a news report earlier this week detailing upcoming changes in the BNSF's train schedules that have been confirmed by BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas. If you are a train nut (meant in a nice way) and "love the smell of creosote in the morning" the Ok the PK is a great site that allows you to keep an ear to the rail.

 

Unfortunately the upcoming changes to coal train traffic are not being done because of opposition to coal train traffic here and full loaded coal trains will still head north from the U.S. into Canada carrying Powder River basin thermal coal. What the BNSF are doing is to detour the empty coal trains from the Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank east into the Fraser Valley through downtown Abbotsford to Sumas and south to Burlington in Washington State. There is construction on sections of track and several bridges south of the border on the regular route and redirecting these trains to the east allows work crews more time on the tracks without stopping for safe passage. The empty trains are also much lighter than the ones full of coal chugging north by the Peace Arch so they are better suited to the Abbotsford lines that currently only see one train a day in rail traffic.

Although Mr. Melonas confirmed that an agreement between the BNSF Railway and Southern Rail Link (SRY) that owns the tracks through Abbotsford has not yet been reached, he is confident that one will soon be signed. In fact a test run of the first empty BNSF coal train leaving Roberts Bank is scheduled for July 3rd with regularly scheduled runs of two to three of the two kilometer long trains a day beginning on July 7th which will run both day and night. This change in coal train routing is expected to last for 65 days when the construction south of the border is scheduled to be completed. While Abbotsford Council has yet to react to these upcoming changes, it is worth remembering that when White Rock called for trains carrying dangerous goods to be rerouted to the Sumas crossing, their Councillor Henry Braum said it would simply be "shifting a problem to a different jurisdiction."

It will be interesting to see how this coal train detour works out as it is unlikely that residents of downtown Abbotsford are used to the types of delays that were common throughout Langley before the Gateway overpasses were built and which still occur at Crescent Beach for long stretches of time. Because of the low train traffic in Abby, many of the level crossings do not have flashing lights or drop bars with vehicle traffic being halted only by a stop sign. While Mr. Melonas is on record saying that "safety is the number one priority" it might have been a good idea to upgrade the crossings before letting long coal trains pass through the city, even if they are only travelling at a maximum speed of 24 km/h through the downtown core and double that in rural locations. While the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association or their city hall has yet to comment on this change in rail traffic in their community, if there is any pedestrian or vehicle accident involving a BNSF coal train in the next couple of months, there will likely be hell to pay.

When this experiment is over, it might give credence to the concept of the BNSF moving dangerous goods through Sumas instead of Peace Arch. While this may not be needed at all times, it would certainly be worth considering when we experience heavy rains that increase the risk of slides onto the Semiahmoo tracks. I believe that when the BNSF tracks here are off limits to the Amtrak passenger train because of the slide threat, dangerous goods should be rerouted away from the known slide zone that is the Ocean Park bluff. The same can also be said for when we are experiencing high tides and strong storm surge which has damaged the rip-rap boulder defences in the past and once washed out the tracks leaving the rails suspended four feet in the air. With the BNSF tracks running is such a perilous place next to the ecologically sensitive waters of Boundary Bay, steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of a derailment, chemical spill, or environmental devastation. Think about that the next time you see one of those 120 tanker car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil rolling north through White Rock or spot tanker cars of deadly chlorine gas from the Canexus chemical plant in North Vancouver heading south to the US.

For those of you who have an interest in rail safety in the Rock, Councillor Grant Meyer and the Rail Task Force are holding a town hall meeting on Monday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave. at the base of the BOSA towers. If you want your chance to say your two bits worth on issues concerning railway relocation, fencing of the rail corridor, rerouting of dangerous goods, beach access, rail safety or any other topic that is train related (did I forget air horns?) this will be a prime opportunity. While White Rock bills itself as "The City By The Sea" it is also the city by the tracks and as recent events have shown, there is nothing like changes to the waterfront involving the BNSF railway to raise the hackles of the community or incur the wrath of the mayor. I hope to see you there as It would take more than a fully loaded freight train to keep me away from this important meeting. Keep an eye out for the members of SmartRail and consider joining this local rail safety group that monitors the tracks, infrastructure and freight movements while advocating for safe railway transportation through our little corner of the world.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Here is an interesting article from the TORONTO STAR pertaining to rail safety in Canada. (click here)

 

June 23, 2014

Happy Birthday


Before we get into the nuts and bolts of yet another riveting TNT, I have a little public service announcement to make to the people of the Semiahmoo peninsula who regularly follow my weekly rants and raves. On Sunday night while spending time celebrating my father Bob's 76th birthday it suddenly occurred to me that I might be having a rather special birthday of my own. Fortunately every single The Naked Truth is still archived on line and scrolling back through time I found that June 20, 2009 was the very first time I wrote a column for the White Rock Sun. While this inaugural article didn't have a title, not surprisingly its subject was the clothing-optional Crescent Rock naturist beach along the Ocean Park bluffs. Since that time there have been 260 TNT's posted for your viewing pleasure with the BNSF Railway and the shoreline of the peninsula being the most common topic. With this in mind, this special anniversary issue will deal with these two issues together as it is often hard to separate the trains from the waterfront.

The fiasco that was the fencing off of the Firminger boat launch at the west end of West beach seems to be at an end with some common sense finally being shown and the ridiculous and unnecessary gates removed. Friday's community protest in front of the gates instead turned into an impromptu celebration against brainless bureaucracy trying to fix a problem while creating others due to a lack of understanding and common sense. While it appears that Transport Canada may finally be starting to listen to the residents of White Rock, there are still plenty of problems to be addressed. The closing of all of the pedestrian crossings between the pier and boat launch only serves to increase trespassing across the entire length of the promenade, rather than decreasing it while making going to the beach an afterthought for most people. The fence along the west end of Bayview Park that they hope will stop trespassers from walking the tracks two and from the Coldicutt ravine is not needed while a public pathway linking these two would likely solve the trespassing issue.

Don Pitcairn / Coldicutt Traill rail advance slide warning wire

What is not needed and should not be tolerated is the closing off of the Coldicutt ravine trail. This historic trail is nearly as old as the railway and affords people living in West White Rock a park-like setting with which to access the waterfront. I have to point out that the landslide detector fence (LDF) that runs across the base of the Ocean Park bluffs actually goes up and over the pedestrian trail. This is also true for the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park plus several of the private staircases that hilltop homeowners have built over the years down onto the tracks. While the BNSF brass and Tranport Canada suits made plenty of noise about the dangers of trespassing in this region, as far as I can tell the last person hit by a train in this stretch of tracks was Ira Warren, better known as the hermit of White Rock who lived in the Coldicutt Ravine. He was mowed down by a passing freight train back in 1953 as he carried a piece of plywood for his shack down the tracks, likely unaware of the danger due his deafness.

Besides funneling people onto the tracks heading for White Rock, the Coldicutt ravine trail also serves as an important access point for the south facing portion of Crescent Rock beach. Just west of the trailhead is a large sandy outcropping known as Hermit's Haven where Mr. Warden would often sunbathe and skinny-dip and this spot still attracts nudists looking for a quiet place to unwind and reacquaint with nature. Even more important is how both the Coldicutt and Olympic trails allow for emergency services access to this remote and rocky shoreline. These trails also provide an emergency escape route up into White Rock for anyone who gets hurt along the shoreline, tracks, or the water. Closing off all access to the shoreline from White Rock to Kwomais Point makes as much sense as welding closed all of the pedestrian crossings from the pier to boat launch. While the BNSF Railway unfortunately may have been allowed to built a railway on the beach, they do not own the tidal areas of the beaches in the Semiahmoo peninsula and with years of allowing access, there is a legal question as to whether this constitutes an easement.

Artist rendering of rail underpass

The City of Surrey installed a metal pedestrian overpass at the 101 Steps at 24 Ave. for safety reasons and four years ago the BNSF replaced the wooden tunnel under the tracks at the 1,001 Steps at 15A Ave. in Ocean Park with a concrete one. Last year the BNSF replaced several small wooden bridges over creeks west of kwomais with large metal culverts. Instead of taking the cheap way out and attempting to block the pathway, the BNSF instead should be looking at building tunnels under the tracks at Coldicutt and Olympic trails. This system was considered back in 1978 in the Foreshore Report with tunnels being proposed for along the east and west beaches. A simple opening under the tracks at the main staircases would funnel people onto the beach and away from the tracks while improving safety for people visiting the Crescent Rock beach waterfront. San Clemente in California had the same kind of trespassing and death rates as White Rock that have now been corrected with overhead walkways, tunnel, grade crossings with lights, bells and falling arms plus a metal walkway next to the beach at the bottom of an oceanfront bluff. The city that I call "White Rock south" should become a model for us on how to coexist with an industrial railway at a marine recreational site that is used by a million people in the Fraser Valley.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 18, 2014

Gate Crasher


When I first heard about Transport Canada finally taking steps to address rail safety across the White Rock waterfront, all I could think was, "what took them so long?" The safety problems involving pedestrians, the close proximity of the promenade to the rails, people crossing in front of trains and walking down the tracks is common knowledge. The death toll over the years now stands at 19 with a further 16 serious injuries. We need to follow the lead of San Clemente which has built overhead walkways, under track tunnels and gated level crossings with lights, bells and drop arms to allow for safe access to the waterfront. I previously wrote about these safety initiatives in a TNT column on Feb. 18 earlier this year titled "White Rock South" in case you missed it. The draconian changes suddenly made to west beach that eliminated all legal access to the public marine park need to be reversed immediately as not only are they stupid, they are simply dangerous.

The west beach boat launch has been a particularly sore point for me with anybody able to drive a vehicle and boat trailer across the BNSF tracks without the proper level grade warning lights and crossing arms. I always felt that this was an accident waiting to happen and was surprised when I learned that someone at Transport Canada had actually woken up to the danger. What is laughable is how the boat launch was fenced off and locked, then suddenly opened to the public with a note stating, "CONTROLLED ACCESS CROSSING, Users Must Ensure Gate is CLOSED For Safety Reasons." While this gate should only open towards Marine Drive, it can also be moved towards the tracks opening fully into the middle of the rails. As if this was not dangerous enough, the gate does not have a spring loaded closing mechanism so it can easily be left in this position awaiting the arrival of the next BNSF freight or AmTrak passenger train. Being painted black, it is likely that the engineers would not see them, or have time to stop even if they did possibly sending the fence flying into the promenade. So much for rail safety; thanks Transport Canada.

Removing every pedestrian crossing across the entire length of west beach was idiotic. Now people will simply cross where they like by stepping over the laughably low safety railings. What should have been done was to limit the number of crossings while increasing signage, markings and installing gates that close when trains are on the tracks. I find it odd that Transport Canada is suddenly showing interest in rail safety at White Rock when for years they have ignored many serious incidents endangering trains often carrying dangerous goods. They did nothing when White Rock razed the Hump for views, removing over seventy trees on an old slump landslide site just east of the pier. They were absent when a slide site failed multiple times over three days near the Olympic Trail where I witnessed a BNSF freight train carrying nine tanker cars of poisonous chlorine gas rolling by. They did nothing to stop BNSF trains with dangerous goods from passing a slide site near the Crescent Rock while a Surrey drain pipe poured water onto the slope where a full sized cedar tree hung suspended by a broken pipe high above the tracks. They have done nothing to stop Ocean park bluff top residents ( or the City of Surrey at Kwomais Point) from cutting trees for views, including several of which have caused landslides onto the tracks when the roots rotted and destabilized the slope. They have not forced the BNSF to extend the landslide detector fence from near the 101 Steps walkway to the end of Bayview Street even though this was the last place a train was hit by a mudslide. I informed Transport Canada about all of these safety problems and they did nothing, except for place me on a "do not contact" list so that inquiries from the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic instead go through their media relations department for sanitation. Heads should roll at Transport Canada for their lack of common sense or ability to safeguard our railways and communities near the BNSF tracks in the Semi-pen.

White Rock beach is the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents and if Transport Canada thinks they can simply fence it off, they should wake up and smell the coffee. School is almost over (one way or the other) and when hot sunny weather breaks out families with children will descend on White Rock in droves as they have for generations. Until such time as the tracks can be moved to a safer inland location away from the public beaches and the landslide prone bluff, people will need access to the waterfront. Transport Canada should read the history books about what happened to the Berlin Wall, because if they try to fence off White Rock, it is likely folks will show up with beach blankets, coolers and hacksaws or gas powered chop saws to cut their own holes in the fence. There is also the legal question about access for people with disabilities plus the aspect of historical accessibility. While nothing has happened yet, there are plans to fence off the bottom of Coldicutt Ravine, which along with the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park have allowed access to the remote stretches of Crescent Rock naturist beach for decades. If these two historic trails are closed, it will mean that four km. of shoreline will effectively be off limits except for trains, while eliminating points where people can safely leave the shoreline and rail corridor in case of emergency. While we're on the topic, when will the BC government create beachfront access from the provincial Peace Arch park to the shore of Semiahmoo Bay, especially now that there are two sets of train tracks there to cross and with Beach Ave. now closed to parking?

If you wish to let Transport Canada know your thoughts about these rail safety "improvements" along the White Rock rail corridor, their email address is railsafety@tc.gc.ca or you can phone them personally at 613-998-7767. I've already informed the Transportation Safety Board of Canada Rail Division about this problem through their SECURITAS reporting program at securitas@bst-tsb.gc.ca. Our MP Russ Heibert (info@russhiebert.ca / 604-542-9496) might also want to hear what you think about the beach being fenced off right before the start of summer, let alone the gates that open to the middle of the tracks. Several Facebook pages opposed to the fencing on White Rock have been started with "Save White Rock Beach" attracting over 1600 likes and the new "Save The West Beach Boat Launch" already having 65 members. A poster attached to the boat launch fence is titled, "Rally & Petition, Beach Access For All!" and is looking to support the legal appeal of the ridiculous changes along the waterfront. Currently the rally is planned for Friday, June 20th, while I would think that the equinox and first day of summer on June 21 would be more appropriate and draw far larger crowds. The rally and petition are being promoted by local animator/consultant/advocate Pat Petrala and if you would like to help in this effort, she can be reached by email at patpet@shaw.ca or 604-536-7686. Its our beach not the BNSF's and you can help save it from brainless bureaucratic bungling.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 09, 2014

"Market" on Your Calendar – July 4, 2014

 

In a scene eerily similar to Godzilla walking through downtown Tokyo, I finally got the chance this weekend to visit the uber-successful Richmond Night Market (RNM) near the River Rock Casino. By chance this happened on the same week that it was announced that the Chinatown Night Market, which has operated for 17 years, will not be held in 2014 because of the costs associated with the set up and tear down of this tent city every night. Besides hundreds of vendor tents selling a wide array of products mainly of the imported variety, the RNM also boasts a large food court with a variety of asian culinary delights. The RNM is open from May 16 to October 13, Friday and Saturday nights from 7-12 pm and Sundays and holidays from 7-11 pm, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the Lower Mainland and Washington State. Even with the traffic jams and parking problems (hint: park at the Bridgeport Rd. Costco and walk over), the RNM has now become a tourist destination and an experience that should not be missed.

With a population now exceeding half-a-million people, it was only a matter of time before somebody realized that Surrey was missing the boat and should be holding a multi-cultural night market of its own. On May 20th, the posting below showed up on Craigslist, giving full operational details of the planned Surrey Night Market (SNM) that will be held on Friday and Saturday nights during summer weekends at the Agriplex complex on the Cloverdale Fair Grounds. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the organizers from the Surrey Board of Trade are following the tried and tested format of the RNM that will likely ensure its success and possible future expansion. There will be at least 30 market vendors, 70 food vendors, plenty of live entertainment plus plenty of free parking for the 5,000-8,000 visitors that are expected on a nightly basis from 7-11 p.m. Here are the more pertinent details from the original Craigslist ad that show what you can expect to find at the SNM along with some job openings.

Exciting Opportunities Available at the Surrey Night Market
We are pleased to announce the availability of numerous opportunities at the Surrey Night Market that will be opening in Surrey in the first weekend of July. The Surrey Night Market will be an open air summer market for local residents and small businesses to sell and consume a variety of local foods, services and goods. This night market will be a multicultural family friendly event for all the residents of Surrey and neighbouring cities.
The Surrey Night Market will have 100+ vendors from various nationalities and communities and each night the market will cater to 5,000 to 8,000 attendees. The event will also showcase a variety of local talent in performing arts and create an environment that promotes both community spirit and inclusion across the board. A stage will be set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, Fashion Shows & Displays, etc.

Location and Duration
The Surrey Night Market will be located across from Agriplex Complex, within the
Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds, at 6050 176 Street, Surrey, BC
From July 4th to August 30th (weekends only)
Fridays and Saturdays
Time: 6 pm to 11 pm

Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking for 70+ food vendors from various nationalities and cultures. Attendees should get to sample Western, Chinese, Caribbean, Arabic, Philippines, Vietnamese, Fijian, African, Pakistani, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Latin American, Korean, First Nations, Greek, and Indian cuisines and dishes.
For Example - Burgers, Hotdogs, Sandwiches, Subs, Deli Sandwiches, Soups, Fish & Chips, Salads, Wraps, Poutine, Fries, Tacos, Shushi, Japadog, Seafood, Chicken Tikkas & Pakoras, Veg Pakoras, Fish Pakoras, BBQ, Ribs, Samosas, Pranthas, Curries, Sweets, Jalebies, Chaat, Alloo Tikki, Gol Gappe, Ice Cream, Kulfi, Chhole Bhatoore, Puri, Kulche, Dosse, Idli, Sambar, Uttapam, Tea, Lassi, Pop Corn, Mini-Donuts, Cup Cakes, baker's products, Coffee, Smoothies, Slurpies, Shakes, Fresh Juice, Fresh Fruit and others.
Food Carts will also have an opportunity to participate in the night market.

Non-Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking to have 30+ merchandise, artisans and services vendors. The goal is to provide an opportunity to local artisans & craft personnel and other small businesses.
For Example: Pedicure, Menicure, Cosmetics; Handicrafts, Decorations, Artificial Jewelry; Massage Booth, Aqua Massage, Karaoke Booth; Tarot Cards & Crystal Ball, Fortune Teller - Hand Reading; Mobile Phones, Plans and Accessaries; Internet & Cable Plans offered by Rogers, Telus, Shaw, Bell; Insurance and RESP providers; Post Secondary Institutes, Training Institutes; Credit Unions, Banks.

Performance Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have a stage set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, etc. There will be no charge for performing at the event, but a refundable security deposit will be required from performers to facilitate planning for each evening.
For a nominal fee, there will be opportunities for Fashion Shows & Displays at the Surrey Night Market.

Security Services Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market has an opportunity for an experienced Security Company to provide security services at the venue. The contracted company will arrange to provide both static and mobile patrols at the venue during the event days. The security personnel will monitor the entry and exit points, oversee the direction of the parking arrangements, and also ensure the safety and security of attendees, vendors, and performers at the night market. No drugs, alcohol or smoking will be permitted at the venue at any time. For the rest of the week, adequate security arrangements will be needed at the venue to safeguard and protect the equipment of the vendors.

First Aid Tent and Service
The Surrey Night Market will have an opportunity for an agency or business to set up a First Aid tent and provide first aid services during the event.

Temporary Work Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have opportunities for temporary work in the evenings during weekends from July 2nd to August 31st. We would prefer to discuss this with any Temporary Placement Agency.

Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer opportunities will be available at the Surrey Night Market for high school graduates and post-secondary students.

For more information on this exciting community event, check out the new SNM webpage at surreynightmarket.com or visit the SNM Facebook page that already has nearly 550 likes. If you are interested in being part of this family event or possibly applying for a position at the SNM, they can be contacted directly at surreynightmarket@gmail.com or by phone at 604-805-3440. There is already a strong sense of excitement about this community event and a buzz on the streets of Surrey that will likely increase later this month with a strong multi-media promotional blitz that is planned. When the SNM opens, drop by and say hi as my wife Sheryl and I will be proudly doing our part to promote pro-Surrey culture, bring our edgy Surrey Shirts apparel and merchandise to the Agriplex.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

June 02, 2014

 


Beach Bozos

Warm weather and sunny skies make the beaches of the Semiahmoo peninsula an irresistible draw for many people from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Unfortunately along with the throngs of people who visit the shorelines of White Rock and Crescent Beach are the morons and idiots who seem to think that they can desecrate the waterfront strewing litter from one end to the other and leave their mess for others to clean up.
Over the years I have collected hundreds of bags of garbage from Crescent Rock beach, performing a yearly post-summer cleanup on the 6.5 km. stretch from Crescent Beach to White Rock, along with helping to organize the removal of debris from a 40 foot pleasure boat that washed ashore. I'm not the only person who routinely cleans this area either and know that SmartRail's Brian Lauder has litter tongs just like mine for this purpose. When visiting a natural area it is nice to find it litter free, which is why I pick up other people's garbage when camping, walking in parks or hiking in the forest. I simply do not understand the mentality of those people who knowingly trash the environment they have come to visit.

For reasons unknown, this weekend at Crescent Rock beach was particularly bad for the amount of litter left behind. My wife Sheryl took our dog for a walk south of the 101 Steps staircase and found piles of refuse left behind by late-night partiers. Fortunately it appears that these people have figured out that beer cans weigh far less than glass bottles, plus they don't break into sharp shards at the beach. In only a few hundred metres, she picked enough beers cans, wine bottles, discarded clothing plus other related litter to fill a large size garbage bag. She was so appalled by the mess that she took pictures including that of the new graffiti tag spray painted on the 120 tonne Crescent Rock boulder. As if all of the mess wasn't enough of an eyesore, Surrey's version of the White Rock boulder once again needs a fresh coat of paint to help it blend back into the environment.

The more public Crescent Beach fared no better with a young employee of mine texting a picture of an overflowing garbage can from beside the walkway calling it "awful." What the picture doesn't show is that the can is not actually full; the people were too lazy to place their crap into the can or didn't want to touch the spring loaded lid. These specialized garbage cans are a dozen feet deep and only need to be emptied infrequently but they can only work if people take the needed step of actually placing their debris into them. Leaving litter next to these cans will only attract night time visits by skunks and raccoons plus flocks of seagulls and crows the next day to shred the junk and then spread it around the beach. Not disposing of garbage properly is almost the same as littering. The same goes for the morons who bag their dog crap and when no one is looking toss it aside or leave them dangling from blackberry bushes like some weird Christmas ornament.

We need to work together to change the habits of those people who believe it is okay to leave a mess behind as someone else will clean it up. Hopefully the Surrey RCMP will have enough manpower to try and curb nighttime drinking parties at the beach that are the source of much of the garbage left behind. As far as people or families dumping their garbage beside trash bins, if you see this behavior let those responsible politely know that this is still littering. If you are walking along the beach or visiting one of our parks, help be a part of the solution and pick up and dispose of litter and garbage left behind by those with no respect for the environment, themselves, or their community. I started doing this when I was ten years-old and if a young boy can figure out that this makes the world a better place, maybe those junking the waterfront can also come to the same realization.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 26, 2014

Translink's New "Park & Pool" Lot

 

Not long after it officially opened, I was the first person to ring the alarm bell over the colossal waste of money that is the expansion lot for Translink's South Surrey Park & Ride lot (TNT - Nov. 25, 2013). Other media outlets ignored this giant white elephant until it won a coveted "Teddy" award from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, with Translink taking the prize in the local government category for the "best of the worst in government waste." Translink's brass were quick to point out that they were merely the "owners and operators" of the lot and that it was the BC government that had forked out the $4.5 million for its construction. Squabbling over who owns this mess when in the end of the day its tax payer dollars paying for an empty parking lot is ridiculous but it now looks like Translink may have another expensive headache when it comes to their field of asphalt. I'm hoping the repair bill is high enough that they win a back-to-back Teddy (fittingly a golden pig) for this ongoing debacle.

With the newly expanded park and ride lot opening in November, our wet weather concealed a serious flaw with the construction of what I now call the "Park & Pool" lot. This is not to be confused with the nearby park and pool carpool lots beside the Nicomekyl River on Elgin Rd. or north of the 99 Hwy. on 40 Ave. that actually get used by commuters. With warmer dryer weather now upon us, I couldn't help but notice the large pools of water that were sitting on the new asphalt even though it had not rained for days. Driving onto the expanded lot (there were no parked vehicles in case you were wondering) it became apparent that the water was percolating up through the asphalt in multiple locations. There is so much leakage that I had to take a dozen photographs just to capture the worst of the running water. In some spots the leaks are so bad that there is even bright green algae growing in the flowing rivulet that course across the asphalt. About the only thing that is missing is jelly frog spawn and some tadpoles but that is only because the nearby ditches flowing to the "Nic" offer better amphibian habitat.

It would appear that the engineers who designed this extravagant waste of money didn't perform proper percolation tests properly or call for enough drain rock to lift the parking lot above the water table. Either that or the contractors who did the paving accidentally used porous asphalt instead of the more conventional cheaper variety that drains water to catch basins. Usually water runs off asphalt and the only other location I have ever seen water coming up through a roadway is on either end of the George Massey tunnel on Hwy. 99 as it heads down under the Fraser River. Translink has been forwarded the pictures I took of the mini-springs and have had little to say about the situation except to say that they are awaiting the results of a report looking into this problem. It is going to be interesting to see how this problem is going to be corrected and what the final tax-payer funded repair bill will be. My guess is that as strips of asphalt will have to be cut out and removed, drains installed, repaving completed and new lines painted.

Of course the question has to be asked, why make repairs to a parking lot that nobody uses? The sad reality is that this is a public transportation lot and needs to be safe. In the winter any salt placed to stop the buildup of ice will likely wash away and the water then freeze in place. If someone were to slip on the ice, then Translink would be liable, especially if this resulted from them not making timely repairs to the leaks. With bitterly cold outflow conditions in winter as sometimes happens, the percolating water will freeze and expand, likely damaging the asphalt and exacerbating the problem. Even now the water poses a safety threat as motorcyclists are utilizing this usually empty parking lot to practice their two-wheeled driving. Who is to blame if a new motorcyclist happens to skid in one of the many wet puddles when they are expecting dry road conditions on a sunny day? If this sounds far-fetched, there were bikers using the new park and pool lot at the time I took my pictures and I warned them to stick to the dry side of the lot for their safety.

Until such time as the new park and pool lot is actually needed, Translink would be better off gating the driveway and closing it to the public. They could save the salting, sanding and snow clearing during the winter months and allow them to turn off the large overhead lights, reducing the electrical bill. It would also stop the parking lots use as an impromptu racetrack and tempting illegal dump spot. Once repairs are made to fix the obvious drainage problem, I have a solution that actually might attract some visitors to this empty expanse of asphalt. Keep the $2 daily rate for the old parking lot close to the bus loop but allow free parking on the new lot that is a quarter of a kilometer away. This will allow those cheapskates who refuse to pay this nominal fee to park free of charge instead of clogging to the streets of the Semi-pen along the bus routes. The free parking might also attract commuters who went back to driving their cars to work to get onboard the 52 window coupe.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 19, 2014


Off To The Rodeo

Well it's 40 below and I don't give a f***
Got a heater in my truck and I'm off to the rodeo
And it's allemande left allemande right
Come on ya f***in' dummy get your right step right
Get off the stage, ya god damn goof, ya know
Piss me off, ya f***in' jerk, get on my nerves

Lyrics from Gary Lee and The Showdown's "The Rodeo Song"


The May long weekend usually signals the start of camping season but it is not very often you will see me load up the 4X4 and head out into the bush. I spend enough time outside in the elements that I don't particularly like wasting time living out of a tent in the pouring rain. Not to mention the Victoria Day holiday attracts a rowdy hoard of drunken idiots to every imaginable campsite from here to Hope. I've learned from past experience that it is better to stay home, enjoy the beach if the weather allows and head off to one of the best times that Surrey has to offer, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Dating back to September 1888 when the first fair started at the Surrey Municipal Hall and grounds, it moved to its current location at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds with the rodeo being first being held in 1945. The fair and rodeo are now operated by the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association and you can learn more about then from their website at cloverdalerodeo.com. While I usually attend as a member of the general public, this weekend was my introduction to the four day marathon endured by those working this event as my wife Sheryl and I decided to take our Surrey Shirts merchandise to the fair.

One of the more interesting aspects of the fair had to be parking on the Fraser Downs racetrack. This 5/8 mile oval of hard packed wide banked gravel seemed rather inviting as I drove my buddy's Dodge hemi-powered truck onto the track. I must admit I didn't see a speed sign and probably went a little faster than the horses in the harness races that are regularly held there. It kind of reminded me of being on the old Langley Speedway in south Langley where my family regularly attended stock car races until its closing in 1984 when it became part of Campbell Valley Park. I know that nearby residents of Cloverdale would probably object but all I could think of while driving or walking on the track that it would be a fantastic place for spring car dirt track racing simply by building walled barriers to contain the cars. If you have ever been down to the Skagit Speedway in Burlington Washington to check out the sprint car racing that goes on there, you would understand exactly what I mean. The reality is that the only car racing that will likely ever happen at the Fraser Downs track will be those vendors and exhibitors heading for a good parking spot early in the morning during the fair.

The Cloverdale Fairgrounds are quite a different place when you take away the throngs of people who are in attendance during the open hours. It's a quiet world without bells, flashing lights, strange smells and loud voices when it is only the carneys from West Coast Amusement, Cloverdale Rodeo staff, security guards and the folks running concessions and retail businesses. We busied ourselves to get our canopy assembled in its assigned spot and the merchandise properly displayed and arranged. Our neighbours were the fine people from Costco selling their memberships and giving out free swag and an enterprising trio of energetic young people from Calgary selling "Artic Ice" cooling towels that performed so well they seemed to defy the laws of physics. For four days we worked up to fourteen hours in a row, meeting tens of thousands of people and selling hundreds of our pro-Surrey shirts. Needless to say, during that time there were plenty of interesting experiences and personalities who passed by our Surrey Shirts booth.

Surrey may have half a million people but it's a rather small world after all, as the song goes. Our first political personality to grace our humble store was none other than Mayor Dianne Watts herself who dropped by on the way to the first rodeo events. Unfortunately I missed her as I was busy handing out stickers to the hundreds of young people skateboarding and bike riding at the brand new covered Cloverdale Youth Park on the northeast corner of 62 Ave. and Hwy. 15 that opened last week. She was very pleasant and relaxed, even when confronted with our two more controversial designs focusing on Surrey's gun and gang violence problem. Marvelous Marvin Hunt, the man who wears two hats in Surrey as both a city councilor and MLA for South-Surrey/Panorama paid a visit to chat about the rodeo, the direction of Surrey and negotiating the complexities of Provincial politics in Victoria. Newly and truly independent Surrey councilor and mayoralty hopeful Barinder Rasode dropped by with her wonderful kids in tow, giving her support for our efforts to improve Surrey pride and tackle our crime problem. Former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and previous White Rock councilor Ken Jones stopped by to say hello on several occasions, enjoying his first time at the fair as a visitor after volunteering at the rodeo for 22 years. Current Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux and Surrey-Tynehead MLA David Hayer finished off the who's-who of Surrey's political finest that came by our prime concourse vantage spot.

On a different note, there were also other people we met linked to the darker side of Surrey. On Saturday night a very large man came to our tent inquiring about a 3X hoodie, specifically our notorious "Better Safe Than Surrey" design. He put the apparel on, checked it for fit and then asked for a mirror. Seeing himself, he suddenly looked shaken and explained how it just dawned on him it was the fifth anniversary of when he had been shot and wounded at the Legacy Showroom in Cloverdale. I knew about this unsolved gang-land shooting where Chris Whitemee, a 34 year-old father of two was gunned down as an innocent bystander in the strip bar bathroom on May 16, 2009. We agreed that it would be bad karma for someone who had been shot in Surrey to be wearing a Surrey Shirt with bullet holes on it. By strange coincidence I met another gentleman the next day working at the Sturgis North Tour Bus who when hearing this story informed me that he had been working as a doorman at the same bar on the night of the shooting and that his brother had been washing his hands in the bathroom when the other men were hit by bullets. Pushing the realm of possibility even further, one of the RCMP officers who bought a t-shirt from us ("Surreyman" in case you were wondering) was also at the bar on the night of this chaotic shooting and talked about the long-lasting emotional pain inflicted on everyone involved.

We had plenty of interaction with Surrey RCMP officers during the course of the weekend because of our location directly across from the Longhorn Saloon. The paddy wagon featured a visual of the inside of the drunk tank and the caption "Drink & Drive and You Could Spent the Night Here" showed up every afternoon at four p.m., the same time that the doors opened. With booze flowing freely, there were plenty of altercations with a parade of young men being escorted from the premises by security of cops and placed into the van being used as a portable drunk tank. In all my years of attending the Cloverdale Rodeo & Fair, I've never stepped foot in the Longhorn, avoiding the crowds, long line ups and reputation that it has gained. For many others the Longhorn is as much a part of the rodeo as bull riding, bucking broncos, lemon heaven and those little donuts. My nephew who was recently wrote about who was stabbed at a Newton house party attended the Longhorn this weekend to celebrate his 19th birthday with his Dad, Step-Mom and other family members and friends. Imagine his surprise when standing at the bar he was approached by a former acquaintance from his old neighbourhood of Newton who told him that he knew who'd stabbed him, giving the perpetrators name. Needless to say, this information plus other interesting details have been passed on to the Surrey RCMP Serious Crimes Unit and hopefully it will help them find the person responsible and to lay charges.

 

There were plenty of other notable folks that helped make the weekend fly by including the three young ladies from Surrey, England that we sold our "Surrey Girl – Damn Proud Of It" shirts to, giving them our "Surrey" personalized BC license plate bumper stickers to take back home. The wonderful couple from Naples Florida who explained they were stopping over in Vancouver to visit their daughter before continuing off to Fiji for two weeks in a nude full ship charter with cruisenude.com certainly made me smile. More than anything it was the constant parade of regular folks proud to be living in Surrey and thrilled that we were giving them the opportunity to wear apparel with the Surrey name prominently displayed on them that I will always remember. We even had four people show off their rather large Surrey tattoos on their chest, back, arm and neck. Besides gaining an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the Cloverdale Rodeo, I realized that even with half-a-million people and a large land base that Surrey really isn't that big.

After all, the place you call home never really is.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 12 2014


Watt Really Happened With The Mayor's Car Crash?

If ever there was an anti-climatic ending to a story, the out-of-court settlement reached between the Watt's and Shawnene Redekopp over their late night car crash in south Surrey on April 23, 2010 certainly takes the cake. This civil case has been delayed time and time again and was finally going to go to court on June 17 of this year. It was hoped that we would get answers to many of the questions revolving around who was ultimately responsible for this serious accident that hurt both Dianne and her husband Brian, while critically injuring Shawnene. Instead the Indo-Canadian newspaper The Voice (voiceonline.com) broke the story that this case had been settled by the parties involved, with non-disclosure agreements assuring that any skeletons in the closest stay behind closed doors.

What is known is that around 11 pm on a rainy Friday night, the Mayor's Cadillac Escalade was heading east on 24 Ave. after the Watt's left a dinner party at palatial mansion in Ocean Park. At the 24 Ave. and 128 St. intersection, the Escalade t-boned a dark Chrysler 300 sedan driven by Shawnene Redekopp, hitting it hard on the driver's side and sending it into a light standard at the corner of Crescent Park Elementary. The Watt's Cadillac spun over 180 degrees on the wet streets with heavy front end damage. The force of the impact fired the many airbags including the two side curtain air bags on the Chrysler 300 that has a 5-star side impact safety rating. The tow trucks were probably not yet at the accident scene when questions about this crash started to be raised.

When the media got wind that Dianne Watts had been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, the Surrey RCMP released that the Mayor has been in a crash and that "alcohol was not involved." Interestingly, the police would not tell reporters the location of the accident scene other than to notify them it was in south Surrey. The light at 24 Ave. is a demand light that is normally green for traffic on 128 St., meaning that drivers on 24 Ave. have to stop to activate the signal. Given the damage to the vehicles involved, it appears that the Watt's Cadillac entered the intersection going at least the posted speed limit. Another odd circumstance was the RCMP apparently reporting to media scribes that the Watt's vehicle had been t-boned in the crash, where the opposite was true. This mistruth was published by various media sources and with the exception of the Province newspaper never corrected. I should point out that from personal experience I know that the vehicle doing the broad siding has nothing to do with who has the green light. It is a simple result of who is unlucky enough to get into the intersection first.

After a lengthy investigation by the RCMP where an apparent witness was eventually found, the cops wrote a ticket against Shawnene Redekopp for running a red light and being responsible for the crash. Once she had recovered from her many serious injuries, Mrs. Redekopp filed suit against the Watts and their leasing company, claiming that it was the Cadillac that had run the normally red light on 24 Ave. Should you care to read the "statement of claims" and "statement of defence" filed in this case, local south Surrey blogger and 24 Hours columnist Laila Yuile has both posted on her website (lailayuile.com) at the following link:

http://lailayuile.com/2011/07/26/surrey-mayor-dianne-watts-named-as-defendant-in-civil-suit-relating-to-2010-car-accident/

They make for some rather interesting reading with a list of Mrs. Redekopp's 24 listed injuries and accusations that Mayor Watts was driving without due care, ran the red light, was speeding, plus driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or fatigue. Watts counter claim basically stated the opposite, making this a she said/she said court battle.

Now that this case has been settled out of the public's eye, it is likely we will never know the full details and whose version of events was actually truthful. For an official in Watts position and with the Mayor's Office spokesperson originally stating that Dianne was at the party on official Surrey business, the people of Surrey require an explanation. This car crash created serious public interest with many explanations, accusations and conspiracy theories being posted on social media. A friend of mine even had a supposed eye witness to the crash with details that I have to withhold because there is no way for me to verify them. If Dianne Watts wants to represent south Surrey in Ottawa as has been rumored, the residents of the Semi-Pen deserve to know what they are voting for. If the Mayor's version of events is true then we would like to know that is the case.

For me, it is not Mayor Watts that I am really worried about because there is a much more serious problem to consider. If Shawnene Redekopp's version of events is true, then it means that the Surrey RCMP botched the accident investigation and ticketed the wrong person, victimizing the lady with the lacerated spleen, damaged pancreas, punctured lung, broken collar bone and a host of other serious injuries. I'd like to know if either party was tested for alcohol, considering Mrs. Redekopp informed me she had been accused of drinking at the crash scene and offered to give a blood sample at the hospital. You have to wonder if being the chair of the Police Committee, the person who helped bring the E Division headquarters to Tall Timbers and the one who voted to give the RCMP a new 20-year contract in Surrey bought Mayor Watts a favor from officers attending the accident scene. If this is the case, and I certainly hope that it's not, then corruption in the force is certainly alive and well here.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 05, 2014

"Letter" Know The Truth

 

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi"

I must admit that I was surprised when I finally received a copy of the letter that the City of White Rock sent to federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt earlier this month. It itemized many of the concerns that I have had for years with the BNSF Railway, the slide prone Ocean Park bluff and the shipment of dangerous goods through this community along an ecologically sensitive corridor. This correspondence touched on the new shipment of unit trains of explosive Bakken crude oil through this region and the ground vibrations caused by long heavy coal trains. The main casual factor listed as contributing to their concerns was the steep and unstable hillside between White Rock and Crescent Beach adjacent to the BNSF tracks and its long history of mudslides and derailments. The letter was late in showing up at the desk of editor Dave Chesney as the White Rock Sun was left off the CC list that included the Vancouver Sun and Province plus the two local community newspapers. This is not the first time that City Hall has purposely left us out of the loop and if this type of selective media manipulation disturbs you, please feel free to let Mayor Baldwin and WR Council know.

While it was refreshing to know that City Hall is obviously aware of the dangers from the BNSF tracks, if the Honorable Mrs. Raitt knew what was going on at the Hump hillside between east and west beach recently, she wouldn't line the bottom of a bird cage with that letter from Mayor and council. The reason is that you can't rail on about how you are afraid of slope stability above the tracks and then not only allow but this time actually pay to clear-cut more of this hillside. The Hump was a diverse forested woodland only a few years back before first 40 and then a further 36 trees that had been marked for preservation were cut down by the BNSF. Now the City of White Rock literally mows down more of the bush and then this week hires loggers (not arborists in my books) to reduce 12 trees including Canada's Big Leaf maple to cordwood. At least this time after trying to justify the need for this work to "check for slope stability" (what a crock) they finally admitted it was to improve the views of wealthy Marine Drive residents. This is beyond hypocrisy, stupidity, or rational thought, leaving me wondering if the cutting down of trees to improve views and property values resulting in higher taxation is official White Rock policy. Could it be that the plan for a multi-level parking lot built into the Hump hill might possibly be resurrected in the near future?

What is particularly concerning with City Hall's behavior is that in 2007 after a series of mudslides onto the BNSF tracks, Transport Canada reviewed slope stability on the Ocean Park bluffs and identified three main causes of slides. These were hill-top residents draining water onto the slope, the presence of antiquated septic and drain fields plus the cutting of trees by homeowners for views. While the Hump is not the OP bluff, it shares the same geological formation and steepness, plus a history of landslides. A photo book of early White Rock sitting on the front desk at City hall shows the Hump after trees were cut down in the early 1900's with a 150 m. wide lateral slump slide just east of the pier plus several other vertical slides reaching from Marine Drive to the tracks. The sidewalk safety railings on Marine Drive had to be replaced several years ago because they were leaning towards the beach due to soil creep. There are ground motion sensors embedded in the roadway at the Hump and a section of asphalt caved in to the centerline in the early 1960's. Even with all of this evidence of the risks and a letter to the Minister of Transportation, the fools still hack and slash at the remaining trees on the Hump, ignoring the fact there is no landslide detector fence at the bottom of it, unlike most of the Ocean Park bluff.

I was coming home from Chilliwack Sunday night and drove into flooding on 16th Ave. in Hazelmere that had caused a couple of cars to leave the road. Police arrived on scene and eventually blockaded several portions of the road that had turned into rivers up to a foot deep. After several detours I finally made it home to learn from weather reports that a storm had stalled over the Rock, dumping rain unofficially measured at 8 cm in only five hours. I also heard that there was flooding at West Beach along Marine Drive which is no surprise considering it has happened at that spot before. It is this type of rainfall event that often results in mudslides onto the tracks here, with 5 cm. of precipitation in 12 hours usually being the tipping point for landslides. We will have to see on Monday morning if there was any slide activity in this region, either from the Ocean Park bluff or the Hump. Guaranteed that if White Rock Council continues to allow the clearing of trees from the Hump, as the roots rot there will likely be serious slope stability issues. Why Transport Canada does nothing to stop the tree felling on the Hump is a mystery but I will mention it to Mrs. Raitt when I contact her regarding the continued clear-cutting for views above our tracks where dangerous goods routinely roll by on the train tracks.

The lovely "Hump" should be renamed "Eagle Hill" and the forest there given the same protected status as the ravine lands in White Rock stopping all development and tree clearing. Several Douglas firs should be planted on the hillside not only for stability but to eventually serve as perching or nesting trees for eagles in the future, especially after so many stately evergreens have recently been chopped down and bald eagles forced to eat out of the dump at Burns Bog. It would seem that the only way for this to happen is to give the axe to the clear-cut council controlling White Rock and put some of these dinosaurs out to pasture in November. If not, the only tall thing left standing in White Rock will be concrete towers and the only nature to be found will be at the naturist beach. Take a walk to the end of the pier, turn around and look at what White Rock is quickly becoming. The two-tier tree policy and monster house construction is ensuring that the city is as hard and barren as the giant granite boulder on the beach that it's named after.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 28, 2014


Every Family's Worst Nightmare

I usually have an assortment of topics to write my weekly TNT column on and had a dandy concerning White Rock and their friendly neighbourhood railway before life threw a wrench onto the tracks and derailed my story. This weekend's plans and lists of chores were all tossed into the shredder when the phone rang and woke us from a deep slumber in the darkness at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning. The call was from my sister-in-law, phoning from the Emergency Department of the Royal Columbian Hospital after a ride there in a RCMP cruiser to let us know that our nephew had been seriously hurt. So began the weekend from hell that should serve as a warning to anyone living in Surrey who thinks that violence here happens only to other people.

My eighteen year-old nephew is a clean-cut regular guy who lives a quiet routine life and is apprenticing as a commercial plumber. A couple of his buddies from work invited him to a house party in Newton on Friday night with other young adults and things got out of control after midnight. He made the mistake of trying to be his usual helpful self by stepping in to stop a fight. For his small act of courage he was stabbed with a knife deep into the chest and abdomen. Fearing for his life, he ran for the door and as he grabbed his shoes was stabbed another seven times in the back and chased into the yard by four Caucasian men. There he was punched, beaten, kicked in the head while on the ground and robbed of his wallet and cell phone. He managed to get away from his attackers, collapsing into a ditch a couple of blocks away from the party. Fortunately, passersby heard his weak calls for help as he lay bleeding and phoned 911 summoning the police and ambulance.

We went to the hospital and sat with his Mom and Dad (who was the Best Man at my wedding) plus other family members while waiting for news from the surgeons who were working to repair the many stab wounds and a serious internal injury. I am happy to report that he'll likely make a full recovery from his injuries but I'm sure that the psychological trauma of being hunted by a pack of wild animals and left for dead will leave scars in his psyche larger than the ones on his skin. It turns out that Global TV had footage of the scene when he was first discovered in Newton and the Surrey RCMP then questioning people at the house party. On Saturday afternoon a reporter and TV crew dropped by his Dad's house to question him on what had happened to his son. I came by to give my support and because of my "Rootin', Tootin', Newton" t-shirt was invited to say a few words on my injured cousin's behalf. When the TV crew was done there, we then drove to the party house at 6166 133 St. where I confronted and questioned the young man who had hosted this bloody debacle, trying to get information about my cousin's attackers. You can watch the show on the Global TV website at the following link: http://globalnews.ca/video/1293864/surrey-teen-stabbed-9-times

Knowing about the code of silence in Surrey, people not wanting to "rat" out criminal scumbags, or get involved because of fear or lack of compassion, we put together some rather seriously worded posters reading "WANTED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER." These contain details of the vicious attack, using derogatory terms like "white-trash, cowards and goofs" to describe the assailants. There is also a large "$ REWARD $" printed in red to bring attention to the pay day available to anyone wanting to come forward with information about the knifing. These rather nasty looking posters have been put up around Newton and we are hoping that they will get people talking about this latest violent assault in Surrey that was witnessed by a house full of people. Already Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are buzzing about this wild party, the "Wanted" posters and talk about how the perpetrators need to be identified to the police.

The Surrey RCMP Serious Crime Unit is investigating this violent assault and we have been informed they are working on a number of promising leads. Hopefully the "Wanted" poster campaign loosens a few more tongues and people can help the police to make some timely arrests in this case. Anyone with information about our nephew's stabbing can simply phone the Surrey RCMP non-emergency reporting line at 604-599-0502 with their details for the case file number 2014-55989. For those who wish to remain anonymous, they can contact Crimestoppers, either online at solvecrime.ca or by phone at 1-800-222-8477. The bonus with Crimestoppers is that if and when these four thugs are arrested, tried and convicted for this senseless crime, the tipsters will then receive a monetary reward for helping to make the streets of Surrey safer.

I don't want to use my nephew's unfortunate experience to score political points but I must bring up Mayor Dianne Watt's comments in the Province newspaper on Sunday regarding her leaving office at the end of this term, which I read while sitting in the hospital. The question and answer section of this front page article went like this:
Q. "Public Safety has long been an issue in Surrey. Do you think Surrey is a safer place than when you became mayor? Has it shed its bad rep?"
A. "You know what? I do. I fully understand the high-profile incidents that have occurred and they're tragic, there's no doubt about that. But when you look at the community, the crime rates have come down."


This simple statement shows just how out of touch Mayor Watts is with the "Real Surrey." Instead she promotes the "Surreal Surrey" that the developers, spin doctors, corporate paid media and RCMP brass have all colluded to paint. The real Surrey, the scary Surrey, the sick Surrey, the dangerous Surrey is the one where one's life is constantly threatened with a record 25 murders here last year and the title of Canada's Murder Capital for 2013. It is the same Surrey where you don't want to go out at night, have to walk in groups for safety, stay away from dark unlit areas and carry weapons in case you're attacked.

If you think this kind of violence is random in Surrey you should know this is not the first time my nephew has been assaulted in the city where "The Future Lives Here." He made headlines almost a year ago on May 4th when himself and two friends walking down Crescent Road from the beach were swarmed and robbed of their wallets and cell phones by a larger group of youths armed with pepper spray and a machete. RCMP spokesperson Bert Paquet had this to say about the incident: "These three did nothing wrong – they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time" (translation: Surrey at night). From now on I expect my cousin will be spending his leisure time at his new home in Langley wearing his "Better Safe Than Surrey" t-shirt and staying the hell away from here until public safety improves.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 21, 2014

TNT Triple Play

Most people got to relax on the Easter long weekend but I found myself working three times as hard as normal with a trifecta of titillating subjects for your reading pleasure. Just like spring training in baseball, three strikes and you're out.

1. Hump & Grind

Hump: definition - a rounded protuberance such as a mound, hummock or mountain range
slang - the act or an imitation of having sexual intercourse

White Rock City Hall was up to its same old tricks last week with a Gradall excavation machine sporting a flail mower attachment grinding vegetation to a pulp on the Hump in the third installment of so-called "vegetation control" on the forested hillside between east and west beach. In the first instance which saw Dave Chesney doing his best impression of Tarzan five years ago to stop the unauthorized clear-cutting, Marine Drive residents paid the BNSF to reduce the scrub and invasive species where the railway promised "not a single tree will be removed." The end result was 40 trees cut down with myself collecting a one-tonne truck full of cordwood and taking it to the BNSF offices in New Westminster under the bright glare of TV camera lights. In the second phase of this clear-cut operation a year later, the 36 trees previously marked for preservation were then chopped down, affording the Top of the Rock development and others a 180 degree view of the water minus the pesky trees growing on an old 150 m. wide lateral slump landslide site just east of the pier. Scroll down into the TNT archives to the March 8, 2010 (Gone But Not Forgotten), Nov. 30 2009 (Stopping the BNSF in Their Tracks), Oct. 19, 2009 (Clear-Cut Case of Negligence) and Sept. 21, 2009 (Stumps on the Hump) for a historic overview of this ever bizarre situation in the Rock.

In the latest act of desecration, White Rock actually paid for the vegetation control, hiring a Gradall machine with railroad wheels underneath and a flail mower at the end of the boom arm to brush cut all of the plants near the sidewalk. This work included using the mower attachment to hack away at branches on the mature trees leaving many shattered ends that are now an eyesore and vector for disease, insects and rot. To make this even more idiotic, they had crews take gas-powered chop saws to the new safety railing, hacking it into pieces to allow the machine to reach further onto the Hump so they could check for slope stability without getting scratched by black berries. The old railing previously replaced as it was leaning towards the beach at angles of 15-25 degrees downhill from vertical because of soil creep. To their credit, at least this time White Rock actually came out and said that the other reason for this work was view improvement for residents along Marine Drive. Nice to see that the city is spending tax dollars to raise the property values of the rich folks on Marine for whom the need for a 12 month unobstructed view is more important than slope stability or railway safety on the BNSF tracks below. When the work is completed I will be filing an FOI to find out the total cost of this lunacy and will share the results here. A copy of the email I sent to Mayor Baldwin and company is posted on the letters page of the White Rock Sun should you care to read it to discover why the name "Hump" perfectly fits this hillside (see slang explanation above for a clue).

 

2. Defection From Surrey's Worst

Cracks are beginning to show in the highly polished teflon exterior of Surry's ruling elite (aka Surrey First) with councillor Barinder Rasode making the first high profile defection from Mayor Watt's hand-picked party laughingly refered to as a "coalition of independents." After blowing an estimated $150 million hole in the budget to build the new Surrey City Hall in Central City, or as I like to call it "downtown Whalley", Dianne didn't have enough money in the bank to pay for more cops on the streets as the bloody body count rose throughout last year to a record level, giving Surrey a black eye and even worse name from coast-to-coast. As chair of the police committee, Barinder had plenty of questions and ideas on how to deal with the increased violence tied directly to gangs and the failed war-on-drugs, especially after the bludgeoning death of much more than hockey mom Julie Paskall in Newton that is still unsolved. Watt's predictable control freak response was to publically dump Rasode from her position, basically ostracizing her from the rest of the Surrey Firsters, who with the exception of veteran councilor Judy Villeneuve, follow the Mayor obediently around City Hall somewhere between trained barking seals and Rev. Jim Jones People's Temple cult members in Jonestown, Guyana.

Councilor Rasode now sits as a truly independent councilor in Surrey, officially starting what is known in media circles as "silly season" or the approximately six months leading up to the next civic election. With Barinder exiting stage left and marvelous Marvin Hunt stepping up to the ledge in Victoria to rep Panorama/south Surrey, there are now two gaping holes in the Surrey First slate. Left to be seen is if Queen Dianne will jump ship and accept the offer of a federal riding in south Surrey/White Rock with Harper's Conservatives now that lame duck MP Russ Hiebert has secured his gold-plated pension. Adding to the fur-flying free-for-all is word that former Mayor "Cowboy"Doug McCallum (who ironically threw Watts off the police commitee before losing to her nine years ago) may toss his 10 gallon Stetson hat into the ring. It is rather sad that while Rasode and several other councilors have their eyes on the mayor's throne, none have had the chutzpa to say they will run against Watts, waiting for her to make up her mind and step aside. With Dianne earlier stating that the Mayor's term should be limited to three terms (that she has now served) and with Surrey bearing the shameful title of "Canada's Murder Capital for 2013", how much more ammunition do you need? Maybe I should take her on wearing my "Better Safe Than Surrey" or "The Future Dies Here" apparel from Surrey Shirts as I obviously have a much better idea of the serious public safety shortcomings facing this community than someone now sitting in a marble and ivory tower looking down at the peasants. Better yet, maybe Dianne will ask me to join the Surrey First cult with the hopes of shutting me up. Mmm..., pass the purple Kool-aid please.

3. White Rock Wailing Wall

In an act of utter desecration, agents from Colliers International decided it would be good advertising to drill six holes into the concrete wall of Wyland's whaling wall at the corner of Johnston Rd. and Russel Ave. and screw up (literally) one of their coreplast real estate signs to the mural directly in front of the two grey whale parents and their young calf. The mural was originally painted in 1984 as a gift to the city of White Rock from Californian marine artist Robert Wyland and Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Cloverdale Paint donated $2,000 in materials and the Ocean Beach Hotel provided accommodation for this budding artist who went on to become world-renown for his murals and the foundation that bears his name (wylandfoundation.org). The White Rock Whaling Wall was the fourth painting of a hundred done beginning in 1981 and ending in 2008 in Bejing for the start of the summer Olympics. The completed "Wyland Walls" campaign that was done to convey the urgency of marine conservation issues to the masses is one of the largest art-in-public-places projects in history, spanning five continents, 13 countries, and 79 cities around the world. The White Rock Whaling Wall is now the oldest of Wyland's life-sized murals still in existence at its original outdoor location, with seven of the original ten moved indoors, covered up or "extinct."

It's not like the folks at Colliers International didn't know the value of the 70' wide by 30' tall "The Gray Whale Family" mural to the people in White Rock as the listing feature reads, "The 'Whalling Wall' building is an iconic landmark and a staple in the community." Yeah, "staple", you really can't make this stuff up. There is a small landscaped bed directly under the large mural that would have easily accommodated a couple of posts capable of holding this sign while still giving it maximum street exposure. Instead, it looks as if the whales are about to choke on a piece of plastic flotsam drifting in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Gyre. If Colliers wanted to generate interest in the office space for lease in the HSBC building they sure got it but in an extremely negative way. They might as well have stapled a "For Sale" sign to Leonardo da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre or drilled and bolted a "Censored" sign over Michelangelo's David sculpture's hard as stone nether regions (that really is The Naked Truth). Word from editor Mr. Chesney is that the agent responsible for this listing is aware of the furor that has erupted from the good citizens of White Rock over the offending sign and will take steps to remedy the situation after the Easter weekend. The Wyland Foundation has also been alerted to the damage and we'll have to wait and see if Colliers will pay for professional repairs likely needed to White Rock's most cherished piece of artwork to make it hole..., I mean "whole" again.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 14, 2014


Alarming Times, Alarming Fines in Surrey

 

The people who live around my house must be wondering just what the hell is going on with their flamboyant neighbour and why emergency services personnel often drop by with lights a flashing. Three times over the past couple of years the firemen from Hall 12 have been summoned to the house by 911 calls over a kitchen fire, a toxic plastic smell traced to burning garbage and a defective fireplace that pumped smoke into the house instead of the chimney. As if this were not enough, the RCMP has been on scene several times for vandalism, auto theft and an assault (we live in Surrey after all). At least in these cases we had called them for help, rather than them show up uninvited or with warrant in hand. Unfortunately we have since had a visit by the RCMP concerning an incident that involved alarm tampering, alcohol abuse, public nudity and voyeurism.

While this sounds salacious and titillating, in fact it was a scene right out of the keystone cops. When our house alarm system was installed, the so-called technician managed to mount one of the door sensors backwards and with it not functioning properly, moved the unit closer to register the magnet attached to the door. Unfortunately this meant that if the door was slammed shut or blown closed by the wind, the alarm module was impacted, eventually causing it to become cracked and fall to the floor. When this happened our alarm monitoring company phoned the house to say they had received a tampering alert (even though the alarm was off and people were at home). We informed them about the problematic unit and ordered a new one online that I planned on installing myself to save the hefty service call. It turns out that I should have shelled out the $125 as it would have saved me a lot of trouble, headache and embarrassment (pronounced "em-bare-ass-meant").

So there I am with my lovely wife Sheryl late in the evening on a mid-week night, getting ready for a quick soak in our hot tub before bed. We go into the back yard closing the kitchen door behind us, not knowing that it registers yet another tampering report. As we quietly relax in the tub sharing a drink, the alarm company frantically phoned our house, both cell phones and a relative trying to contact us. Not being in the habit of bringing phones into the tub, we miss the calls which then results in the cops being dispatched. We were just about to get out of the steamy water when suddenly three dark figures carrying very bright flashlights walked into the yard and approached the gazebo. I see these strangers and in my most macho kick-your-ass voice bellowed out, "Who goes there", spilling my drink in the process. The answer quickly came back, "Surrey RCMP, is that the Pitcairns?" We told them yes and warned them that we would be right out after putting some clothes on. We quickly figured it was the damaged sensor and informed the officers that we would disable that zone until the new unit that we had already ordered was installed.

We thought this rather hilarious incident would be the end of our problems until we received a letter from the City of Surrey informing us that we had run afoul of the "Surrey Security and Fire Alarm By-Law, 1997, No. 13168." Without boring you with the dry details, you will be charged for each and every false alarm that results in either the police or fire service being dispatched to your home or business. This includes alarm testing, mechanical failure, faulty equipment, user error, atmospheric conditions, excessive vibrations and power failures. Needless to say, I felt that being held responsible for a false alarm that occurred when I was home, the alarm system not being activated and a signal sent by an improperly installed module did not sit very well with me, let along the $89 fine ($114 if not received within 14 days). I appealed this fine, sending pictures of my new door module, the proper installation done by a trained professional (me in this case) and the copy of the service contract of our new monitoring company that does not call the police for tamper alarms. I learned that a friend of mine had appealed an almost identical false alarm situation and lost, yet for reasons unknown we were let off the hook. Probably this had something to do with me promising to write a TNT column on the subject at a later date.

With the high rates of B&E and thefts in Surrey, you would think that City Hall would be encouraging residents and businesses to use alarm systems to protect their property and valuables. While I realize that false alarms are a nuisance, fines should not be levied on the first offence. How can citizens be held responsible for the failure of an electronic gadget that is beyond their control? My parents in Chilliwack had their transformer hit by a bolt of lightning triggering an alarm which in Surrey would result in a fine for what many would consider an act of God. This by-law makes as much sense as having the RCMP ticketing drivers whose vehicles break down on the side of the road. For reoccurring false alarms then fines should be in order but for first time offences, I don't understand how they can hold people accountable for circumstances totally beyond their control. With the new alarm module and reprogramming to switch alarm companies, I spent around $150 to fix the problem which is maybe why my appeal of the fine was ultimately successful.

Hopefully the City of Surrey will review this unjust bylaw that could be looked at by those with a jaundiced eye as a blatant tax grab. Properties with multiple false alarms should be the ones targeted with fines, not those who have had a first-time false alarm triggered for reasons not relating to criminal activity or fire. If you find yourself with an unwanted visit by either the Surrey Fire Service or RCMP because of a false alarm and receive a by-law fine from City Hall, appeal it using my successful bid quoting the invoice #055406. At the very least, take steps to correct the problem or replace faulty equipment and then ask for relief from these unjust fines that might make some people hesitant to have an alarm system installed in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 


April 7, 2014

Blooming Good Time to Join the Club

 

It looks like spring is definitely upon us, something we should all cherish knowing that there has been snow on the ground in Winnipeg for six months with still more in the forecast for today. Daffodils are out in force here, buds on the trees are breaking into flowers and grass is definitely on the rise with the sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly mowed grass permeating Semi-pen neighborhoods. My own garden is slowly coming into form with perennials bursting from the soil and several rhododendrons and camellias in showy full bloom. I may be pushing it but I even dragged my collection of palms out of their improvised greenhouse and took the winter coverings of towels, sheets and tarps off the banana plant groves. In no time attention will turn to the backyard vegetable patch, dahlia garden and tomato plants that will find a sheltered home in pots under the eaves of our upper deck. Local garden centres are getting noticeably busy especially on sunny days and the Ocean Park Potters store is definitely in the spirit with their road sign reading, "Spring is here, we're so excited we wet our plants!"

For those dedicated gardeners who can't get enough of horticulture, there are local clubs here specifically for those with a green thumb or at the very least dirty nails. Top of the list has to be the South Surrey Garden Club who are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. While there used to be a three-year waiting list to join, the club now has around 350 members and is very active in the community. They hold monthly meetings on the fourth Wednesday of every month (except Aug. & Dec.) at St. Mark's Anglican Church at 12953 20 Ave., in south Surrey that include a guest speaker, gardening tips and expertise, plus show and tell. Also available is a Q & A table, plant sales and access to their club library with over 600 titles. Their program committee organizes club activities that include gardening workshops, tours of member's gardens, plus their annual plant sale in May the Saturday before Mother's Day and their summer vegetable and flower show. Membership also allows you to join their online discussion group and receive a bi-monthly newsletter.

A little smaller with only 65 active members, the White Rock & District Garden Club was formed shortly after WW2 in 1947 and still soldiers on today. They meet on the second Tuesday of every month (except in July & Aug. when field trips are scheduled) at the Cranley Hall at 2141 Cranley Dr. in Surrey. At each meeting they have a judged parlour show, a guest speaker and a instructional demonstration. Workshops are held throughout the year with their floral art group teaching beginners, they supply silk flower arrangements to local care homes at Christmas and they donate to charitable groups year round. While their spring flower show has already been held last month at the Semiahmoo Mall, you can attend their upcoming Spring Plant and Bake Sale being held on Sat., April 26 at the historic Ocean Park Community Hall, 1577 128 St. in south Surrey from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Should you be looking for a gardening club that is "landed", look no further than the historic Darts Hill Garden Park (dartshill.ca), located at the NE corner of 16 Ave and 168 St. in south Surrey. Our own version of Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, Darts Hill is the result of nearly 70 years of hard work and dedication guided by Francisca and Edwin Darts who took this south facing piece of the Hazelmere hillside and turned it into an award winning orchard and then a unique garden park. Bequeathed to the city of Surrey, it contains a large number of rare and unusual plants, many in a mature state. Darts Hill also includes one of the most diverse collection of tree species in BC with some being planted over 50 years ago. The park garden is open to the general public on four open house dates that include tours and plant sales, with the Saturday Stroll series being continued since introduced last year. Darts also holds special events such as the City's Sounds of Summer and private tours. You can join in the fun either as a member or a volunteer, giving yourself more opportunities to visit the gardens. They are always looking for people to help with special events, act as guides, help with propagation or even get their hands dirty with weeding. If you go, say hello to my sister Lee-Anne who assists with propagation to help create plants for the plant sales and to add to her own amazing garden at home in Langley.

All of these garden clubs and parks are members of a larger collective, the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs (bcgardenclubs.com) formed in 1943 that is the umbrella group for nearly 190 garden clubs across the province representing over 19,000 gardeners from children to seniors. Besides acting as a unifying force, the Council speaks with one voice on issues pertaining to gardening and horticulture in the province and to governments. Its website is where you can find links to the gardening clubs across the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island as far north as 100 Mile House. I should note for those from neighbouring communities reading this column that there are also gardening clubs in North Surrey, Delta and Langley. The BCCGC holds twice annual council meetings in spring and fall, has an elected executive board, issues The Bulletin newsletter six times a year, runs a scholarship trust fund for B.C. horticulture students and supports projects like "Green Your City." Showing their importance to the horticulture community, I was recently at Kwantlen College in Newton where scholarships from the BCCGC were awarded to deserving students.

Should you care to join any or all of these gardening organizations, here is their contact information:
South Surrey Garden Club - contact David Broomhead ( membership secretary), 604-533-1142 or email at davidbroomhead@shaw.ca
White Rock Garden Club - contact Eileen Davidson, 604-538-0496
Darts Hill Garden Park – contact the society at 604-501-5050 or email at lindasw@shaw.ca
BC Council of Garden Clubs – email at info@bcgardenclubs.com

Hopefully you will find that being a member of a garden club grows on you, helping to branch out and spread roots into the community.

Now its time for me to get back to my own garden of weedin'.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 31, 2014

Bum Rip Rap For BNSF

 

A member of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee tipped me off to problems on the BNSF line at the bottom of Sunshine Hills in Delta back in 2010 where the railway placed car loads of boulders as a rip-rap defense against flooding from Cougar Creek. While the work had been authorized by Transport Canada, it was not completed in the time frame allotted, utilized twice as much rock as was allowed and worst of all, covered up to a third of the width of the creek channel alongside of the train tracks. Imagine my surprise several years later when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced they had filed charges under the federal Fisheries Act against the BNSF for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. This court case went through the usual chronic delays in the justice system and on March 7th, the BNSF plead guilty to the charge and were fined $75,000 which ironically must be paid by the date this column is posted in the White Rock Sun.

Now normally one would think that myself of all people would be applauding this verdict sending a message to U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet's railway that tampering with the environment will not be tolerated up here in Canada. Unfortunately, while the BNSF is held accountable for its limited damage to Cougar Creek that killed no actual fish, much more serious and long-term problems are allowed to continue regardless of their effect on the Chum and Coho salmon, Cut-throat trout and other aquatic life that lives in this stream. Growing up in North Delta, I spent plenty of my time exploring Cougar Creek and Burns Bog when Scottsdale Mall was still a wooded lot. The creek flowed steadily through most of the year with crystal clear water that certainly didn't kill me of any of my friends who regularly drank it during our many excursions. Now-a-days, I wouldn't let my dog drink from this stream because of the changes that I have witnessed happening in only forty years.

With never ending development in Delta and Surrey the hydrology of this waterway has altered remarkably with it now pulsating with heavy rains, much like what happens in a sewer pipe when you flush the toilet. The water quality has also gone down the drain, with the crystal clear waters of my youth being replaced by a grey silty flow. The culprit of course is the many parking lots and roadways upstream starting in Newton that divert water from where it would have previously infiltrated into the ground. Instead it is now funneled in into storm drains that greatly increase the flow rate of the stream during rainfall or snow melt followed by low water levels during summer dry spells. I have worked for over fifteen years at a development located next to Cougar Creek in Delta and have witnessed the steady degradation of this waterway and the ever increasing erosion of the riverbanks. About five years ago, the Corp. of Delta worked with the DFO to place rip-rap boulders in the stream bed to slow the forces of nature but it appears this has done little against the rushing waters that are now common. Add to this chemicals flowing from Sunshine Hills that have caused fish kills and a gasoline spill into the stream at Scott Road that I reported to the RAPP line several years ago and it is amazing that fish actually still spawn in what is now an urban stream.

Even the waterway at the bottom of North Delta next to the old Peat plant at 72 Ave and Westview Drive that was affected by the BNSF flood control measures is not what it appears. Cougar Creek originally entered Burns bog and flowed southwest eventually emptying into Boundary Bay. In the past century this original route was blocked first by the rail corridor, then the peat plant, a GVRD sewer line, Hwy. 91, and finally a second bigger sewer line. In the early 1970's, Cougar Creek and neighbouring Blake Creek were diverted into a man-made channel draining north into the Fraser River given the rather industrial title "Northeast Interceptor", also known as Davis Creek. The diversion of Cougar Creek coupled with the torrential flows coming from upland development in Delta and Surrey make the BNSF tracks susceptible to flooding and ballast rock fouling by sediments. When I visited Cougar Creek alongside the tracks it was not the ballast rock that caused me the greatest concern but the many stretches of the tracks where mud has been pushed up between the sleepers (wooden ties), likely by hydraulic pumping from the weight of the new coal trains. Flooded tracks during heavy rains was what caused the derailment of a CN coal train into Silver Creek in Burnaby last January that fouled Burnaby Lake with coal. Considering the risks of a derailment and subsequent damage to the environment that could happen at Cougar Creek, I think the addition of some rocks next to the tracks is minimal by comparison. With the Harper Conservative government's recent gutting of fish habitat protection, it is unlikely that the BNSF would now be charged for their attempts to protect the tracks against floodwaters which have been created by poor drainage planning in Delta and Surrey.

It is hypocritical to hold the BNSF accountable for damage to Cougar Creek while turning a blind eye to the waves of stormwater runoff originating from upstream developments in Delta and Surrey. The flooding of the tracks beside Westview drive should be addressed at its source by retaining or infiltrating stormwater runoff from parking lots and streets around the Scott Road corridor. Not only would this calm the fluctuating flow of Cougar Creek, it would also improve water quality by reducing sediments, salt and vehicle pollution coming from the large mall parking lots. The Cougar Creek Streamkeepers (vcn.bc.ca/cougarcr/index.html) have been doing their part to increase water infiltration by diverting drain water into raingardens beside parking lots and decommissioning drain pipes flowing directly into the creek. The $75,000 fine from the BNSF Railway is being placed into an environmental damages fund that Delta and Surrey can access to use for their projects. Now would be a good time for these cities to put up some money of their own and take the steps needed to address the ongoing and on-flowing problem of Cougar Creek flooding the BNSF tracks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 24, 2014


Monstrous Behavior You Can Bank On

 

Coast Capital Savings has a long and successful history as a financial institution in Surrey, starting out as the Surrey Credit Union, then Surrey Metro Savings and finally Coast Capital Savings as it amalgamated with smaller credit unions across the Lower Mainland. As it grew the "Credit Union" words disappeared from the name in front of their buildings to the point where you now have to look carefully to even find a mention of its credit union affiliation. Along the way, it would appear that those running the credit union began to feel that they were controlling a bank, losing interest in the shareholders who are the backbone of the credit union philosophy. Last week I received my "A Monster Ask" package containing information about the vote for the 2014 Board of Directors election along with 2014 Special Resolutions. While normally voting for boards of directors and resolutions in financial institutions is as exciting as watching paint dry, in this case it is the proverbial David vs. Goliath battle, with leaders of the credit union in mortal combat with a group of members that are taking a stand against the way the "bank" is governed.

The Coast Capital Compensation Watch (CCCW) as it is known was formed in response to hefty pay increases given to the executive directors of the Coast Capital Savings Credit Union once they had assumed control of their own raises in 2007. This resulted in the total compensation to Coast Capital directors being double that of the much larger Vancity Credit Union directors by 2011. Last year the CCCW forced a vote on this issue and in the largest voter turnout in the history of Coast Capital Savings, nearly 80% of ballots cast were in favour of credit union members establishing the amounts that would be paid to the directors. Instead of this happening, a loophole allowed the Coast Capital board to reduce their pay by a small amount and form a Task Force to study the matter though they have yet to meet and have no power to set director pay. Because of this legal slight-of-hand and delay, outraged credit union members are now forcing yet another vote and are looking to make concrete changes in the way the credit union is governed. The four new resolutions include a 12-year director term limit, disclosure of pay for top three executives including the CEO, allowing director election campaigning and to set specific pay for directors of Coast Capital at current Vancity Credit Union pay levels.

This seems relatively straight forward until you start to discover the spin that Coast Capital board is putting on the information they are sending out to their members. While you would think that voting should be a truly democratic process especially for a Credit Union, this is far from what is happening. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch group are specifically mentioned and targeted under the title of "Our success is under threat", calling them a disruptive special interest group while ignoring the 79.7% of members who voted last year to end the practice of directors setting their own pay rates. The Coast Capital board even drafted four of their own special resolutions with the same headings as the four resolutions from CCCW, putting them ahead of the member resolutions that they are so afraid of. To top off this copy-cat tactic that appears carefully crafted to confuse voters, the directors even had the audacity to post recommendations in the pamphlets on how members should cast their ballots. Of course, they want members to vote for the Coast Capital resolutions maintaining the status quo, not those put forward by credit union members looking to take control of executive spending and the democratic process. To see the obvious institutional bias, read the following statement taken directly from the Coast Capital website: "Four Special Resolutions are from individuals who want to change how your credit union is run. The other four Special Resolutions are from Coast Capital and aim to retain the good governance, good service and innovative approach to banking that you love."

Besides the slanted literature accompanying the call for members to vote like trained seals, the process that the Coast Capital board calls "democratic" is anything but with director election rules set to control who gets elected. Rather than just list the candidates for election to the Board of Directors in alphabetical order, they actually "recommend" the candidates they want to see elected under the bold blue title, "BEST OVERALL FIT" and place them first on the list. As if this isn't enough of a disgrace to the electoral process, Coast Capital has effectively placed a gag order on candidates and basically eliminated any campaigning. Candidates may only speak to individual members either by person (no couples please) or telephone (no conference calls) and are banned from using social media (no Facebook or Twitter) to either announce or promote their candidacy. They have banned candidates from participating in interviews with the media in connection with the election plus placing advertisements or statements in newspapers, websites or other media. Candidates also cannot use the assistance of others including family members, third parties or members of the media to campaign on their behalf. Though hard to believe, the actual ballot shows the board recommended candidates and what resolutions members should vote for and against! This makes it a sham election worthy of a third-world fascist regime that even North Korea's Kim Jong-Il would be proud of.

If you are a member of Coast Capital Savings or know someone who uses this financial institution, I ask you to look into this bizarre so-called election and learn the truly disturbing facts for yourself. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch website can be found at coastcapitalcompensationwatch.ca while the Votermedia Democracy Blog has valuable information on this subject at the following link, http://votermedia.blogspot.ca/2014/03/vote-for-member-democracy-coastcapital.html The "Vote Now" literature with the Wild Things monsters on front being being sent to members or available at Coast Capital branches needs to be carefully scrutinized as blatant propaganda. The Coast Capital Board apparently believes it has the power to tell people how it wants them to vote, while ignoring the 80% of credit union members who already cast ballots for change in the last election. To control excess director pay and restore member democracy at Coast Capital Savings Credit Union returning it to its grass-roots fundamentals, here is the easy way to vote:

Resolutions:
Vote AGAINST the Board's copycat resolutions (numbered 1,2,3,4,)
Vote FOR the member resolutions (numbered 5,6,7,8)
*Note: 67% approval required for approval

Directors:
Ignore the three cherry-picked candidates recommended by the Board Vote FOR Lisa Barrett, Bruce Batchelor and John Fryer

Ignore the three cherry-picked candidates recommended by the Board
Vote FOR Lisa Barrett, Bruce Batchelor and John Fryer
Note: Voting ends April 8, 2014

Just to make this official, I have not interviewed or met any of these candidates nor been asked to campaign on their behalf. What I am hoping is that these three candidates can work together to ensure that the Coast Capital Savings Board responds in future to the wishes of its members and that truly democratic director elections at BC's second largest credit union are held in the future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn
Coast Capital Savings Credit Union member

 

 

March 17, 2014

It's A Weed For God's Sake

The Tale of Two Cities

For a city that was at the forefront of alcohol smuggling into the United States during prohibition and that sits across Semiahmoo Bay from Washington State, White Rock Councils decision to ban the production and storage of medicinal marijuana leaves me wondering what they've been smoking? While this subject has been on the agenda several times this year including the public hearing during the last council meeting where it was deferred, the motion contained in an omnibus by-law was passed unanimously by all of those in attendance with Larry Robinson absent. Ironically it was the Sandpiper Pub booze baron Bill Lawrence who moved the motion without any discussion, with Mayor Baldwin seconding it after the rest of the bobble-heads sat on their hands. Adding to the evening's lunacy, Baldwin later explained the passage of this bill was important to, "keep an open mind for the health of our residents." This is at direct odds with Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg who last year issued a joint statement with the BC chapter of Canadian Cannabis Partners calling for a provincial review to ensure the availability of affordable medicinal marijuana for all British Columbians. Good-old Gordie said it best when he stated, "Cannabis has relieved the suffering of many people in our community", including those his father helped to deliver into this cruel world decades ago.

With the Federal government set to change medicinal marijuana laws beginning next month, White Rock's council has taken the step to outlaw legal and lawful medical activities that will soon be taking place across the country. The portion of the bylaw relating to marijuana states, "The commercial cultivation, growth, production, storage, or sale of medical marihuana is not permitted in any zone, whether or not carried out for medical purposes by a licensed producer under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations of Canada." What is so sad about this by-law is that with White Rock's elderly demographics, council has taken steps that will hurt the very people who are most likely to turn to marijuana to help deal with pain, disease, cancer and to ease end-of-life suffering. I know many folks in the Semi-pen who have utilized marijuana in a variety of forms to combat arthritis, alleviate multiple sclerosis, control pain, increase appetite, shrink cancer tumors, combat chemotherapy nausea, fight skin conditions and other ailments. I will never forget the all-candidates meeting in White Rock where those provincial candidates supporting the legalization of marijuana were loudly cheered by the predominantly grey-haired crowd. This isn't about getting high folks, it's about trying to stay healthy.

While White Rock was busy continuing the fine tradition of reefer madness, Richmond is forging ahead at creating a new industry within their borders that is expected to soon employ 200 people. The medicinal marijuana growing company Medijean (medijean.com) already operates in Richmond and has a license from Health Canada to grow marijuana for research and development purposes. They hope to soon receive approval for its application to produce and distribute medical marijuana across Canada. Last month, Richmond council also voted unanimously on marijuana but in a totally different way from White Rock, allowing Medijean to change its zoning from Industrial Business Park to Licensed Canada Pharmaceutical Production. There will be a public hearing at Richmond City Hall on Monday, March 17 where it is likely this matter will likely receive second and third reading. As it stands, their mayor and council is supportive of Medijean, with the company addressing many concerns and conditions regarding community safety, facility security and environmental protection. Having it located near the Richmond RCMP headquarters probably also helped gain their approval. It should be noted that Richmond actually banned marijuana production facilities in Dec. of 2013 but allowed companies to approach the city with proposals that could be authorized on an individual basis depending on their merits.

While it is highly unlikely that anyone would entertain building a marijuana production and processing facility in White Rock due to high land costs, property taxes and lease payments, with the large amount of medical related businesses already located there, is it prudent to ban a future marijuana dispensary from the City By The Sea? Hempyz was allowed to open on Marine Drive thanks to councilor Helen Fathers vote on this issue and it is one of the few businesses on the strip that continues to thrive there even during the winter months. Just across the border, Washington State has joined with Colorado to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and will be pulling in millions of dollars in new tax revenue from the plant's production and sale. There are another 20 states in the US that are also considering legalizing marijuana, gaining the medical benefits and tax windfall while reducing policing, judicial and penal costs associated with pot prohibition. Former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed recently stated at a south Surrey meeting on the decriminalization of marijuana that he expects legalization within 3-4 years regardless of who is in power in Ottawa. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has made legalization a main plank in the party's platform and even Harper's Conservatives are now talking about the decriminalization of pot.

It seems the problem with White Rock is that it is easy to put your head in the sand when you live by the beach. While Richmond is taking steps to place its community at the forefront of marijuana research and medicine production, White Rock seems to be stuck with its tried and true recipe of high property taxes, pay parking revenue, oppressive by-law enforcement, thrift stores, sushi joints and a revolving parade of restaurants on the strip. Was it really necessary to ban legal medicinal marijuana operations from White Rock regardless of their health needs and desires of its residents? You would have thought that they might have listed to well-respected former mayor and long-time MLA Gordon Hogg whose father was White Rock's first doctor and who has spent plenty of time with the aged and infirm in this community. Considering that Joy Davies, a vocal member of Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners lives in White Rock and has spoken at length on this issue, one would have hoped that they could have listened to the voice of reason and disregarded the historical hysteria centred around marijuana. Instead they have once again shown a lack of leadership and compassion, taking the easy way out instead of taking a stand.

Naturally yours,
Don Picairn

Editor's Note; March 19, 2014

Richmond City Council passed site specific zoning for biopharmaceutical company MediJean on Monday night, paving the way for them to produce up to 90,000 kg. of medical marijuana at their facility for Health Canada in what is estimated to soon be a $1 billion a year industry.

March 21, 3 p.m.

Federal court judge grants injunction allowing medical marijuana users to continue to grow their own pot after April 1.

 

March 10, 2014

Daylight Saving Crime

"Change isn't easy, it takes time." Caroline Kennedy

"Hello, Surrey RCMP? Yes, I'd like to report a crime that occurred last night. It appears that while I was sleeping someone stole an hour of my time." While I never bothered to phone 911 ECOMM with this fictitious complaint early on Sunday morning, I must admit that I certainly gave it some thought while staggering around my kitchen at 5 a.m. real time with toothpicks propping up my eyelids to keep them open. By now we are all familiar with the old refrain of "Spring forward, Fall back" which is used to remind us all to adjust our clocks, losing an hour of sleep with the onset of Daylight Saving Time (DST) now but gaining it back in Autumn when we revert to Standard Time. Most people would likely believe that DST is commonly used across the planet to increase the hours of light for during the summer months but in reality, much of the world does not utilize this chronological mechanism and many countries have never implemented it.

The modern concept of daylight saving is credited to George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand astronomer and entomologist who called for a two-hour time shift in 1895 to increase after-work hours of daylight, presumably so he would have more time to collect insects. DST was first implemented by Germany and Austria-Hungary in the spring of 1916 in an attempt to conserve fuel, followed soon after by much of Europe and in the US in 1918. Over the years DST has been adopted in various countries or states, abolished, reinstated, altered, changed, etc. so that now we have a patchwork of various times across the planet. Mix into this the multitude of time zones and what we have is a world that is seriously out of synch. Is anyone even aware that DST was actually extended for an additional month in many jurisdictions in 2005? If you take the time to research the history of DST, the most compelling question you will come to is why we are still entertaining this failed global experiment?

Daylight Saving Time is not even universally used across BC, let alone Canada. The province of Saskatchewan observes Central Time all year even though it is in the Mountain Time Zone, basically putting in on DST the entire year. Most of BC is on Pacific Standard Time and observes DST except for much of the Peace River and parts of the East Kootenay that stay on Mountain Time, meaning their clocks match time in Calgary in the winter and Vancouver during the summer. Portions of Ontario, Quebec and northern Nunavut also do not follow the DST doctrine. In the U.S., the states of Arizona and Hawaii both opted out of DST and have not used it since 1967, Arizona stays on Mountain Time because of its hot desert climate and Hawaii because of its tropical southern latitude. While DST is utilized across Europe, it is not used in Asia including Russia, China and India, most of south America, only a third of Australia and almost all of Africa, half of which has never utilized DST. u

There have been many studies trotted out about the benefits of DST including energy savings, more recreational time, health benefits and the like but over time many of these have been disproved or shown to be flawed. On the converse side, many of the negative drawbacks of DST such as increase in crime, car accidents, accidental deaths and heart attack were also overblown or at the very least overstated. By far the biggest reason to drop DST or put us into it full-time is the disruption that it causes to our lives and society. Twice a year we are subject to changes in our sleep patterns and I can tell you from personal experience that the spring time change is a curse to yours truly as I end up feeling jet-lagged for several days as my body adjusts to the new time reality. With only five hours of sleep on Saturday night, I went skiing at Whistler forgetting to bring my wallet along for the ride because of sleep deprivation and exhaustion. The other major disruption is the resetting and reprogramming of clocks and electronic devices around the globe including in modern computer systems and trying to ensure that this is done correctly, whether its resetting an alarm clock or the computer servers at Microsoft and IBM. You have to wonder how many people are late for work, lose business contracts or get fired because they miss appointments because of the twice-yearly time change?

So to hell with George V. Hudson, I have my own idea on how we can alter time forever. I say we "Set It & Forget It" (SIFI for short), putting all locations across the globe on permanent DST and simply operating on the various time zones. The only drawback is that mornings would be darker longer during the winter months but as it currently sits, most of us go to work and come home in winter when it is pitch black. At least this way, it would be light for the evening rush, hopefully cutting down on pedestrian and vehicle accidents that are much higher during that time of year. This would also help embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who announced on Saturday, "Daylight Saving Time starts this evening, turn your clocks back and change batteries in smoke alarms" likely meaning he'll be two hours late at City Hall on Monday (insert your own joke here about the smoke alarms). I'd like to write more about the positive attributes of this simple plan but I've got to scurry around the house resetting about a dozen clocks, reprogram a few electronic appliances and hopefully get my butt to bed early as I have some beauty sleep to catch up on courtesy of the dreaded DST.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 03, 2014

The $300 Rail Safety Solution

When I originally researched the "BNSF Hit List" years ago to find out the number of people who had been hit or injured on the Semiahmoo tracks one stat stood out which was the amount of these incidents that involved the AmTrak passenger train. In the five years after the AmTrak started rolling through White Rock, there were five fatal accidents resulting in a lowering of the speed limit. Even with the reduced speed, the AmTrak is still involved in a disproportionate number of accidents on the waterfront when compared to the much higher volume of BNSF freight traffic. Besides the Amtrak engines being smaller, sleeker, quieter and with smaller lights, the biggest contrast between them and the BNSF diesel locomotives is their colour schemes.

The BNSF with its bright orange, brilliant yellow and black colours always looks like a Halloween nightmare rolling down the tracks. It is hard to miss these large heavy machines and regular visitors to White Rock are quite aware of their presence alongside the promenade and the beach. The AmTrak is another story with its colour schemes of muted natural colours blending into the scenery at the waterfront. The silver and blue AmTrak locomotives blend with the clouds, ballast rock, sand banks, ocean water and clear skies. The AmTrak Cascades engine is not much better with its white, green and brown colours that morph with trees, lawns, clouds, buildings and lately even snow. With my interest in public safety and transportation, I came up with a concept to improve locomotive visibility, reduce accidents on BNSF tracks here, plus possibly save people from injury and death.

There are a lot of things that I pursue behind the scenes that few people are aware of with the exceptions of my wife Sheryl and WR Sun editor Dave Chesney but I thought in this case, folks in the Semi-Pen might want to get a glimpse of how a simple idea can initiate change. In this case, I want every train engine that rolls on rails to have the same easily identifiable and recognizable reflective colour scheme on its front end. It amazes me that railway employees have to wear hi-vis vests in the rail corridor but the trains are not similarly marked for safety. The following "Railway Safety Initiative" email has been formulated to easily explain this concept with inline photos showcasing the problem and solution. It will be sent on Monday to railway companies across North America, locomotive manufacturers, governmental transportation agencies, railway safety organizations (in every state and province), politicians of every stripe plus various news agencies. Soon after that, the same information will be sent to similar contacts in countries around the world. This is how you make your community safer, protect people's lives and create change.

If you happen to know anyone involved in railway transportation, locomotive manufacturing, public safety or politics anywhere on the globe, please send them a copy of this "Railway Safety Initiative" or email them the link to this week's TNT in the WR Sun (http://whiterocksun.com/index.php?mode=naked_truth). The internet is truly a wonderful place and the world is not as big as most people think with everyone so connected. The more this idea is spread around the planet, the greater chance it will gain traction and eventually become a safe and visible reality. Until the day the BNSF tracks here are relocated back inland away from our crowded beaches, ocean waters and slide prone bluff, railway safety needs to be of the utmost concern in White Rock and South Surrey. We need to do everything in our powers to ensure that a visit to the beach doesn't end in disaster for yet another unlucky soul. I think that $300 a train is a small price for the railways to pay for making their trains much easier for all to see.

 

Railway Safety Initiative
Proposed Locomotive Safety Color Scheme

The lack of a universal reflective safety color scheme on the front of locomotives across North America is causing countless level grade crossing accidents, pedestrian deaths and derailments. Too often, survivors of these collisions tell investigators that they did not see the train or noticed it too late. The colors painted on the front of locomotives vary widely in the railway industry and many use drab natural colors that blend in with the environment. Check out images online of the blue and silver AmTrak locomotives or the dark green used on VIA Rail engines to see how these passenger trains become virtually invisible in natural settings or urban clutter. Even brightly colored freight locomotives usually lack contrasting colors or reflective surfaces on the nose of the cab, making them less noticeable and difficult to estimate the distance and speed of these large machines.

The blue and silver of the AmTrak locomotive matches with the colours of the sky and ballast rock camouflaging these trains

Some railway companies have obviously figured out that improved visibility for their locomotives likely means less accidents both with vehicles at level crossings and pedestrians trespassing on the tracks. Chicago's Metra locomotives use a red and white upward facing chevron design on the nose of the cab plus the same color combination diagonally across the rear car for added safety. Montana Rail Link utilizes a blue and white downward facing chevron design at the front of their engines that is a stark visual contrast. Over the years, many other railway companies have painted various colored stripes diagonally across the fronts of their locomotives to help make them more noticeable. The Operation Lifesaver Inc. rail safety education website (oli.org) shows one of these locomotives with white diagonal stripes. It appears that all of these cab nose stripes surprisingly do not utilize reflective paint or vinyl sheeting for better conspicuity and low-light visibility.

The fronts of Chicago Metra commuter trains are very noticeable with high contrast red/white stripes in an upward chevron pattern

In 2008, the National Fire Protection Association updated their Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus (NFPA 1901) adding rear retroreflective vinyl striping as the new standard to reduce rear-end collisions and improve approaching driver visibility. On fire trucks you will now see at least fifty percent of the rear vertical surface covered in this bright striping placed in a chevron pattern sloping downwards away from the centerline at a 45 degree angle. The colors are alternating six inch wide stripes of reflective red and either fluorescent yellow, fluorescent yellow-green, or fluorescent orange. In human vision, the color red is the most eye catching and fluorescent yellow-green the most visible. Combining them in alternating stripes in a chevron pattern gives the maximum visibility in all lighting conditions, greatly improving job safety on busy roadways for firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The new NFPA 1901 requirements, with retroreflective vinyl stripes in contrasting colours and a downward chevron pattern.

To improve railway safety across North America, all locomotives should have the nose of their cabs covered in the same bright reflective colors, including freight locomotives, passenger train engines and even electric trolleys. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the maximum visibility reflective red with fluorescent yellow-green alternating stripes should be utilized. In order to differentiate them from fire fighting vehicles, the upward facing chevron already used on Metra locomotives should be the striping pattern for the cab nose on all locomotives. Orafol Reflective Solutions (orafol.com) produce the Reflexite V98 sheeting in 6" wide rolls and their U.S. Senior Product Support Specialist informed me it would cost less than $300 to cover the 5' 9" tall by 6' 6" wide cab nose of a modern GE locomotive. Obviously bulk pricing would lower this price substantially and smaller passenger train locomotive cabs would be even less.

Rolls of NFPA 1901 approved retroreflective vinyl striping material that are easy to install, durable and highly visible

A red octagon shape at an intersection is internationally recognized as a stop sign. The same goes for the red, yellow and green traffic control light with drivers worldwide understanding the universal significance of the three colours. Just as all train locomotives have lights and horns to alert people to the danger, they should also have the same easily recognizable bright reflective color scheme on the cab nose to increase visibility and improve rail safety. After all, railway employees always wear hi-vis vests when at work on the tracks so they can be better seen and reduce the chance of serious injury. The sides of locomotives can still be used to fly corporate colors and logos but the front of all engines should have industry standard high visibility warning colors. Not only does this safety initiative need to be implemented across North America, it should be done globally to help reduce the thousands of train/vehicle collisions and pedestrian deaths that occur every year around the world.

An older Illinois Central Railway EMD GP10 engine with front markings similar to the proposed locomotive safety colour scheme

NOTE: Please forward this important "Railway Safety Initiative" to the proper personnel within your railway company, locomotive manufacturing industry, rail safety organization, governmental transportation agency or political party for their perusal and consideration.

Safely yours,
Don Pitcairn, Transportation Critic
Green Party of BC

 

 

February 24, 2014


Exposed Groins at Crescent Beach

 

Wind and wave erosion at Crescent beach have been an issue there since this tract of lowland was first settled in 1871 by Walter Blackie for whom Blackie Spit is named. With the introduction of the Great Northern Railway tracks along the shoreline of the Semiahmoo peninsula in 1909, the Crescent Beach Development Company was formed to subdivide the property and efforts began to reduce the possibility of flooding. In 1910, construction of beach groins (or groynes) to help hold the beach in place started and by 1913 dykes were built on the beach berm to protect homes and even a hotel at what is now the Beecher Place Community Centre. Eventually these groins lined both the western and northern shorelines of Crescent Beach from the end of Maple Street to Blackie Spit.



Groins are a rigid structure usually built perpendicular to the shoreline that acts as a hydraulic structure to interrupt wave and water flow limiting the movement of sand and sediment. The groins at Crescent Beach run from the foreshore along the beach berm and far out onto the beach to the sand flats. These groins were originally constructed of long wooden pilings and thick timber planking that were coated with toxic creosote and bolted into place. Since they were first introduced, they have seen periodic repairs and replacement, first in the 1950's and again in the 1980's according to former Surrey mayor Bob Bose who dropped by to admire my Olympic light display. Strong winter storms batter and damage these structures along with the dyke that has seen emergency repairs to thicken its protective layer of rip-rap boulders. The wooden groins at Crescent Beach are now rotten with large portions of them missing or with gaping holes that have limited their effectiveness. As the groins have crumbled, the foreshore at Crescent Beach has eroded so there is now a steep rocky shoreline between the dyke and the smooth sand flats. When the tide is in during summer months, this limits the recreational area for sunbathers and families drawn to the waterfront while making walking hazardous on the slippery rocks.

 



The damage to the groins and the subsequent erosion of the beachfront at Crescent Beach has not gone unnoticed by the City of Surrey. As far back as 1999, corporate reports involving Crescent Beach erosion protection and dyking flood control were presented to Council with recommendations for repairing the groin systems and possibly raising the level of the dyke to combat rising sea levels. Last summer tenders were put out by the city with specifications for replacing the groin system across Crescent Beach. As of last week, King Hoe Excavating has begun the $1.6 million project of replacing the old wooden groins with a new system utilizing fiber reinforced plastic components including pilings and planks that will be rot and impact resistant. This work is being completed during low tide up to seven days a week and will replace all groins on both the west and north shorelines. Because of this project, there will be limited beach access with portions of the waterfront being marked off to keep people away from the men and machines completing the work. It is hoped that this marine construction project will be finished by the end of April just in time for warm temperatures and sunny skies when the beach is a natural draw for the half-million residents of Surrey plus those living across the Fraser Valley.



With population here constantly increasing and our limited beaches getting more crowded, this might be a good time for Surrey to consider expanding other shorelines or improving ocean access. The beach just south of Crescent Beach to the 101 Steps pedestrian overpass could retain more sand if rock groins were aligned out from the base of the rip-rap boulders lining the BNSF rail corridor. Besides making more room for people in the summer, the increase in sand would likely attract sand lance and surf smelt, important feeder fish that were displaced when the railway was built on the intertidal zone a century ago. Speaking of exposed groins, Surrey could also work to improve beach conditions at Crescent Rock naturist beach, especially when they realize that the main beach at Wreck in Vancouver is man-made and built beside a large rock jetty, attracting up to 10,000 visitors a day in summer. With the BNSF twinning the tracks beside Semiahmoo Bay and no parking now allowed on Beach Road at the First Nation reserve, it is time for a pedestrian overpass like at the 101 Steps to be built next to Peace Arch Park so that people can safely access this border beach without endangering their lives crossing the tracks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 18, 2014

White Rock South


 

I always liked the White Rock Sun's slogan, "where you can vacation and be home the same day" but it turns out that there is an equally special place, "where you can vacation and think that you are at home." My wife and I had planned our winter getaway into the Los Angeles region when by coincidence I received photographs from White Rock Councilor Larry Robinson about San Clemente, a beautiful seaside community in southern California that is his home away from home. The pictures were reminiscent of White Rock with a hillside covered in stately homes with an ocean view, a long heritage pier, beautiful sandy beaches and a waterfront train track along with a public walkway at the base of an oceanfront bluff. I let Mr. Robinson know that we might try to make it to San Clemente if it coincided with plans to visit the naturist beach at San Onofre State Park with our friends who live an hour's drive away. Imagine my surprise when Larry let me know that this park was just south of San Clemente, ensuring that this city immediately went onto our travel itinerary.

While the City of White Rock has three sister cities, Imperial Beach, Calif., St. Andrews, N.B., and most recently La Conner, Wash., San Clemente is without a doubt the twin sister of White Rock. Just like our "City by the Sea", the "Spanish Village By The Sea" as San Clemente is known sports a picturesque wooden pier at the middle of its sandy beaches that is ranked by the Tripadvisor website as the number one tourist draw of the town with many excellent reviews. While not as long as White Rock's historic pier, the San Clemente pier is wider and is commonly used by locals for fishing with bait boards at frequent intervals so fishermen don't hack the pier railings while baiting hooks or cleaning fish. It also sports several amenities that White Rock council might want to consider. Near the far end of the pier they have a small snack shack that sells sweets, treats and the usual chips, hot dogs and pop along with souvenirs and works from local artists. Nearby, they also have a public washroom which is a wonderful convenience on a pier that is 700m. shorter than the one in White Rock. By far the biggest difference in the two piers was that close to shore, two former net loft buildings had been leased out by the city of San Clemente and converted into the Fisherman's restaurants, featuring fine dining on one side and bar fare on the other. We sat on the deck sucking back fresh oysters and jugs of suds while watching the sun set over the Pacific. Years ago there was a building located alongside the White Rock pier that housed a restaurant which burned down and I wonder why the city does not look at constructing something similar to help draw more tourists to the beach? The Fisherman's restaurant and bar was doing great business and had just signed a new 50 year lease with San Clemente with the rent money going into public coffers.

Just like White Rock, San Clemente features a railway running along its waterfront, which I must confess was one of the prime reasons I wanted to visit. With White Rock looking at spending a couple of million dollars to improve safety along the tracks and decrease train whistles, it was interesting to note what San Clemente was doing to keep people off the rail corridor and away from passing trains. First and foremost, the two pedestrian crossings across the tracks featured railway drop gates with flashing lights and bells along with plenty of signage about the danger. To the sides of these crossings were small sidewalks with spring loaded doorways heading away from the rails in case of anyone getting caught on the tracks when the gates closed. In other locations there were pedestrian tunnels under the rails along with an overhead walkway similar to the one at the end of the 101 Steps at the west end of 24th Ave. in Surrey near Crescent Beach. Instead of a so-called safety railing like the one beside the White Rock promenade, the corridor in San Clemente was protected by a solid wire fence with sharp points on top, making it next to impossible to climb over. I found out that most of the railway/pedestrian safety upgrades were completed last year as the Orange County Transportation Authority, the city of San Clemente and Metrolink worked cooperatively on improving safety enhancements at seven pedestrian railroad crossings along the beach. This $4.5 million construction project also included the infrastructure for a future audible warning system with stationary horns that sound like an approaching train horn localizing the noise to the railroad crossing. Seeing San Clemente, I think White Rock should consider reducing the number of pedestrian crossings along its beaches while improving safety systems at these reduced locations. They might also follow Surrey's lead from the 101 Steps and install an overhead crossing near the pier allowing people to cross the tracks regardless of the train traffic.

The idea of relocating the BNSF railway from the shoreline of White Rock and South Surrey made for headlines last year with the talk of building a waterfront walkway linking White Rock to Crescent Beach part of this concept. San Clemente also has bluffs along its waterfront with the railway at the bottom and they have constructed elevated metal walkways next to the tracks creating a lengthy public nature trail system throughout the region. While we enjoyed this trail system with a view of the Pacific, we encountered plenty of hikers, families with kids out for a stroll and literally hundreds of people jogging. Besides being a tourist draw, the ocean side trails provide a wonderful recreational spot for both young and old from San Clemente, likely improving the fitness level of their community. With many people ignoring the No Trespassing signs on the BNSF railway here and using the corridor as a walking path regardless of the risks, it made me wonder if a similar trail system could possibly be built here. It would appear that engineers in San Clemente used a simple trail where possible and the elevated metal boardwalk in areas along the bluffs where erosion and landslides were a problem. The big difference between the two bluff ecosystems is that while there hills there are covered with scrub, ours have large trees that tend to fall towards the ocean during severe windstorms or become part of the cement like mix when landslides flow down the bluffs and onto the tracks. Regardless of the challenges, if Vancouver can build a seawall around Stanley Park, Surrey and White Rock need to look at whether a waterfront nature trail across the Semiahmoo peninsula might be possible with the help of the BNSF Railway.

If you want to get away from the rain and cold next winter and yet still enjoy all the benefits of White Rock living, then book your winter vacation for San Clemente in southern California. The only real difference is they fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the Maple Leaf plus their palm trees are a little bigger than ours. Hopefully the next time Councilor Robinson and his wife head south, they can take Mayor Baldwin, the rest of White Rock Council and their spouses along for the trip so they can see what our American neighbours have been up to. While there, I'm hoping they go for a stroll on the San Clemente Trail and imagine having an oceanfront walkway like it in our own backyard. I leave you with this five star review taken from Tripadvisor that sums it up rather nicely: "This trail is beautiful! I walk this trail every Friday and Sunday and any other time I can. The people that walk, run or bike on this trail are very friendly, you will always get smiles and "good mornings" or "how is your day". The trail is pet friendly, on the weekends some sweet men put out water for the pups near the pier, and on the days they are not there the water fountain had a doggy spout. This trail is nice for kids also, you can bring your stroller or they can walk, there are plenty of little stops. For a little treat you can stop near the pier and get an ice cream cone."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

February 10, 2014


Pipeline or Rail Line, The Oil's Flowing

Lac Magantic

 

The Concern-4-All-Citizens group fighting the proposed coal export terminal at the Fraser Surrey Docks might have to expand their horizons and add another concern about rail transportation through White Rock besides the influx of Powder River Basin coal. It would appear that crude oil petroleum deliveries, similar to the one that devastated the town of Lac Magantic, Quebec, last summer are now rolling along the beaches of the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Over the past four months a member of the local railway safety group SmartRail who lives on Bayview Avenue near Crescent Beach has seen very long trains on the BNSF tracks comprised of a long line of black tanker cars. Last weekend they took pictures of such a train from their house across the street from the tracks which are now posted here in the WR Sun. While they have lived on this street over 20 years, they can never remembering seeing such odd trains or ones carrying in excess of 110 tanker cars in a single line. Besides being pulled by multiple engines, they are also being pushed by several other locomotives, with a boxcar as a buffer between them and the tankers. The tankers had dangerous good placards on them but from the distance they were not legible. Another tanker laden mixed freight train was recently catalogued with dangerous goods by the same Bayview resident and it contained many tank cars of what was identified as "crude oil petroleum" confirming this hazardous product is indeed being shipped on the BNSF lines.

Here is a portion of the letter this SmartRail member sent to members of White Rock's council and their new Rail Safey Task Force about their concerns for these tanker trains:


"If a slide occurred along the bluffs between here and White Rock while one of these trains was in motion (or any of the ones loaded with dangerous cargo), the communities of Crescent Beach, Crescent Heights, Ocean Park and White Rock could very possibly suffer a catastrophic accident not unlike the recent one in Lac Megantic. The slide detection fence (SDF) installed at the base of the bluffs would do nothing to avert this if the slide occurred while the train was passing is a very real possibility with the weight, length and frequency of trains increasing the train tremor factor. To add to this high risk situation the SDF ends a good distance before the foot of Bayview Street; requests to extend it have fallen on deaf ears (did you know that there's an empty lot next to the last house on Bayview where years ago the bank collapsed and the home slid down the hill to the tracks? That lot is now deemed uninhabitable due to the slide history of the area and has sat empty since then)."


"Considering my home is located on Bayview Street, some might criticize and call me a "NIMBY" for expressing my concerns re. the railway, adding comments such as "When you bought your house near a railway you knew what you were getting into – if you don't like it you can move. The railway was here first". To those folks I would reply "That was then and this is now – the scenario has changed dramatically in the last 25 years and it is no longer safe, or reasonable (for people or this precious bay and environs), for an industrial rail line to operate in this high density area where hundreds of thousands live and visit annually. As Councilor Robinson recently stated "This is the reason we have national rail relocation protocols." Regardless of my actual address in this area, as a resident who loves where I live and believes we are fortunate to reside in this very special place, I would be lobbying for relocation. The time is now for the stakeholders involved to make this happen before our luck runs out."



SmartRail's president Ken Jones reviewed the photos of the tanker train and with its northbound direction plus the two pusher locomotives and concluded it was likely loaded with the same very volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota involved in the Lac Megantic disaster. He further explained that railways usually transport crude oil in these tankers as a "unit train" mostly containing a single product going from one location to another. The boxcar in front of the rear locomotives is called a "buffer car" and is used to protect the expensive locomotives in the case of an accident, giving the engines a degree of separation from the line of potentially flammable tankers. White Rock councilor Larry Robinson pointed out that Bakken Field oil is already being moved via CN and CP Railways for loading on tankers in the Burrard inlet and out through Coal Harbour into the Salish Sea with future tanker ship movements estimated at 1,000 ships per year. He issued the following chilling warning: "The oil is coming, and will come, to Port Metro and Cherry Point either by train or pipeline. As I stated before the holding company that owns BNSF also purchased Union Tank Car, and tank car companies had a banner year for orders. Oil companies are not waiting. The stuff is being moved by rail regardless of process holding up pipelines."

I've posed a number of questions regarding the tanker trains rolling across the Semi-Pen to BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas and he has promised to contact me on Monday with the answers that will be posted here in a TNT update. If you wish to help the Rail Safety Task Force, they are seeking detailed information on dangerous goods going through White Rock and Crescent Beach. Simply use a pencil and paper or smart phone to record all of the dangerous goods you see on a specific train including the time, date and direction, sending the results to Councilors Grant Meyer, Al Campbell or Larry Robinson. Here are the dangerous good placard numbers for the following petroleum products often carried on railways:
Crude Oil is 1267
Fuel Oil is 1993
Gasoline is 1203
Gas, Oil, Diesel Fuel/Heating Oil is 1202
Propane/Butane is 1075


In the event of an emergency involving dangerous goods here, call CANUTEC at 613-996-6666 or *666 on a cellular phone. Rather appropriate phone numbers considering the hellish inferno of biblical proportions that incinerated 47 people in Lac Megantic.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 03, 2014

 

Train of Thought

It never ceases to amaze me the often bizarre circumstances that occur when people have the same thought processes and shared experiences. Case in point this week was White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney stumbling across a video posted on YouTube titled, "A Bunch of Idiots....Amtrak Cascade 517 @ White Rock BC Canada." It shows a slow moving Amtrak on east beach first with four young ladies running across the tracks in front of the locomotive, then four young men at the very end with one playing a game of "chicken" with the train by standing between the rails. It was filmed in July only days after 42 year-old Anita Lewis was killed at East beach while crossing the same tracks. Chesney found this footage while he was searching the internet for a folk song about the city of White Rock. Two days later, I located the same spectacularly stupid and dangerous video while updating the "BNSF Hit List" that contains the names and dates of those people killed or injured on the Semi-pen tracks. If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out online at YouTube at the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpS1L92O7GE . Make sure you watch it on a full-sized screen to really appreciate the lunacy involved.

Not yet knowing that Dave had found this video and already forwarded it to White Rock council, I emailed it to them also, thinking that their new Railway Safety Task Force might be interested in seeing it. I explained the footage, warning them that this is why having an industrial railway on the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents is a recipe for disaster that will continue to kill, injure and main people. This set off a flurry of emails back and forth between members of White Rock Council, the White Rock Sun's editor and several members of the local community rail safety group SmartRail. Much of these centred on the concept of installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on the waterfront to help ascertain the cause of the pedestrian/train collisions. This got me thinking that it might be a good idea for locomotives to have forward looking video cameras to record the corridor directly in front of moving trains. I have a dashboard mounted camera for my work truck that films all sorts of stupid incidents, dangerous driving and even accidents, which records in colour, with sound and even at night, all for $60. I then sent BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas this question, "Do BNSF freight trains have video cameras on the locomotives watching the tracks and recording the footage?"

It is a small world but a friend who was there happens to work for CN Rail and he confirmed to me that all of this company's lead engines across Canada have forward looking video capability. After this revelation, further internet sleuthing revealed that this is now the norm with both freight and passenger rail carriers across North America. The BNSF Railway has had forward facing video cameras in their lead locomotives since 2005, using them to provide information on grade-crossing and train/pedestrian accidents. The camera installation just behind the windshield next to the enginer also includes a microphone placed outside the cab to record exterior sounds such as the locomotive whistle and bell. Each camera records at least 70 hours of information and is synchronized with the locomotive event recorder, a train's version of an airplane's so-called "black box." In the event of a crash or incident involving a pedestrian, this information can be retrieved as part of the accident investigation. BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas later confirmed this information that I had already come across.

AmTrak passenger trains not only have forward facing video on their locomotives for capturing images on the right of way, it is part of what is known as their Train Communications Data. This system provides Amtrak with a host of information including fuel usage and locomotive performance monitoring with GPS location that maintains a real-time train tracking system called the National Train Activity Monitoring System. The system performs schedule adherence calculations and sends predicted arrival information to Amtrak's management systems automatically, tracking their passenger trains nationwide on a 24/7 basis. To see an example of the video that is recorded by these trains, here is a link to actual footage taken from a camera mounted on an AmTrak locomotive that hit a car in Detroit in July, 2009, unfortunately killing its five occupants at a level crossing: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=89b_1251461295. This evidence showed that while the crossing arms were down and another vehicle stopped, the car in question went around the gate and drove directly in front of the train with grave results.

This means that AmTrak should have video evidence of the pedestrian/train accident that happened in White Rock this summer and the latest incident on Saturday night involving a 75 year-old man with dementia who was struck and seriously injured by a BNSF freight train near the pier. Whether the BNSF or Amtrak will share their video or if they have compiled data from White Rock revealing problematic pedestrian crossing areas needs to be discovered as this information could be used to assist with the proposed safety upgrades along the promenade. It might also reveal the number of incidents throughout the year, the times and dates they are most frequent and the locations where dangerous pedestrian crossings are frequently occurring. I know from personal experience that the July 1st and U.S. July 4th holidays see plenty of close calls at the tracks due to the large crowds at the beach. This data might also be used to assist police forces in reducing incidents of criminal trespass on the railway corridor. Most importantly, it makes the proposed installation of CCTV's along the waterfront railway redundant as there will likely already be video evidence in the case of an accident involving a train in White Rock.

Engineers operating trains through White Rock and south Surrey should immediately report all incidents of railway vandalism, criminal trespass and interference with train operations to either the CN Police or RCMP, giving descriptions of persons involved and location so that they may be ticketed or charged, with video from the locomotives being used as evidence against them. The young man at the end of the "A Bunch of Idiots... AmTrak Cascades" video is the type of person who should be held accountable for their actions. If this moron and his friends can be identified from this YouTube video, I believe that charges should be laid to set an example that this dangerous and idiotic behaviour will not be tolerated. Better yet, If still available I'd love to have a screen grab from the Amtrak locomotive video to put this gentleman's face on the front page of the local newspapers and media outlets. Video evidence worked against Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver and with the help of the BNSF and AmTrak, it can also be put to use against those ignoring the dangers posed by trains on the White Rock and south Surrey waterfronts.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 27, 2014

Liberals Going to Pot in Surrey

I thought it was rather appropriate that the first of many town hall forums titled, "Legalization of Marijuana: An Exploration of the Issues" being run by the Liberal Party of Canada was held in south Surrey this week. With a record 25 homicides last year, the majority gang related and the title of Canada's murder capital for 2013, the city of Surrey is a prime example of how prohibition of drugs leads to lawlessness, violence and death. Moderated by former White Rock councilor and BIA president Lynne Sinclair, it featured former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed who also was the police chief for West Vancouver, drug educator and addiction counselor Mark Haden, Steve Finlay from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and other members of the Liberal Party executive. Joy Davies of BC Medical Cannabis Partners was in attendance handing out literature to the approximately 125 people who pre-registered for this event which meant it was standing-room-only for those who arrived late. Notable by his absence was Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau who now champions the decriminalization of marijuana, calling for the herb to be legalized, taxed and regulated as is happening in the US states of Colorado and Washington.

Kash Heed opened the commentary, calling the prohibition of marijuana a failure with drug dealers regulating the production, supply and delivery of pot to a receptive population including youngsters in BC who now find it easier to access cannabis than alcohol or cigarettes. He estimates that 300 people have been killed in BC who's deaths have been linked to marijuana prohibition. Because of this slaughter, Kash joined the Stop The Violence BC organization (stoptheviolencebc.org) whose coalition members include former RCMP Police Chiefs, doctors, lawyers, professors, health officials plus several Attorney Generals, former mayors of Vancouver along with ex-Premier Ujjal Dosanjh and Senator Larry Campbell. Mr. Heed informed the crowd that he expects a regulated market for marijuana across Canada in the next three to four years, regardless of who is in power in Ottawa. He pointed to the recent pot legalization in two US states and how 20 more states are actively considering following their lead. Kash showcased how marijuana laws are not uniformly applied across Canada with Halifax being the most lenient on pot possession while Saskatoon has the highest charge rate. He gave information that an estimated 60% of drug profits world-wide come from marijuana and how the country of Uruguay crushed organized crime and gang violence by legalizing drugs and controlling their production and distribution. For those worried that legalization might lead to easy access by our youth, he quoted a recent UNICEF report that Canadian teens lead the world in Cannabis use with 28% of 15-year-olds admitting to smoking pot in a study done four years ago, while conversely we were third best on the planet at keeping kids away from legal and deadly tobacco.

Mark Haden who now works for Coastal Health then took centre stage, apologizing for former lies that drug educators have told in the past revealing, "We have overemphasized the harm of drugs, we have neglected to mention the benefits of certain drugs and we have omitted mentioning the harms that drug prohibition causes…" Mr. Haden believes that public health should drive the market for marijuana and that it be regulated to control what he explained in detail in a, "paradox of prohibition" graph, where prohibition leads to violence and gang warfare, open capitalism leads to massive societal problems, but tight regulatory controls reduce consumption with resulting health improvements while freeing up police resources. Mark has several interesting PDF's posted online regarding the failed War on Drugs and should you care to educate yourself they are available by searching his name which will lead to documents on, "Harm Reduction/Drug Policy Reform, Consequences of Drug Prohibition, and Regulation of Illegal Drugs." Posted there is a letter from June of 1998 to the Secretary General of the UN from 11 Nobel Prize winners, 7 heads of state, 13 Canadian MP's and BC's Public Health Officer stating: We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself…every decade the United Nations adopts new international conventions, focused largely on criminalization and punishment. Every year, governments enact more punitive and costly drug control measures. Every day, politicians endorse harsher, new drug war strategies. What's the result? The illegal drug industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence and distorted both economic markets and moral values. These are the consequences not of drug use per se but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies. Scarce resources, better expended on health, education, and economic development are squandered on ever more expensive interdiction methods. Realistic proposals to reduce drug related crime, disease and death are abandoned in favour of rhetorical proposals to create drug free societies. Mark ended his presentation with a quote from acclaimed American professor and author Isaac Asimov, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

250 million dollars

The last of the three main speakers was Steve Finlay from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada or LEAP (www.leap.cc) who warned everyone in the room that, "I am the scary one." He described in detail how prohibition outlaws consensual transactions between two parties, unlike most crimes where one person is the perpetrator and the other a victim. Prohibition creates a black market resulting in high risks, big profits and no mechanism for dispute resolution that leads to violence and criminality. He revealed that it is estimated the world-wide trade in illegal drugs results in $500 billion in trade. Mr. Finlay then showed a picture of a room full of $100 bills confiscated from a drug lord in Mexico that totaled $250 million. To get the crowd to understand how much money $500 billion was, he said to imagine the same $250 million pile of money in every room of the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver and that you would need more than three towers with the same pile in each and every room just to hold the yearly world profits from drugs. Steve then showed how businesses fight over $250 million, using the legal alcohol industry for an example and putting advertisements for various booze companies onto a screen. He used his, "I'm the scary one" warning again, then showed how a black market fights over a $250 million market, putting up pictures from Mexico of bombed police cars on fire, people with hands tied behind their backs shot dead in the streets and bodies dismembered and decapitated in pools of blood. Mr. Finlay then went on to say that every day we wait to end drug prohibition, another 40 people will be murdered in Mexico, a country where many police and army officers have to decide between, "Plato O Ploma" for "silver or lead", meaning accept a bribe or face assassination. If you think this is an exaggeration, realize that several notoriously violent Mexican cartels have taken to the internet and social media to post videos of horrific executions where their panicked victims are tortured, mutilated, dismembered or beheaded with everything from knives to axes to chainsaws while cameras record their last moments of life.

The push for Liberals to end pot prohibition did not begin with Justin Trudeau admitting he had smoked marijuana while sitting as a Canadian Member of Parliament. In January 2012, delegates attending the Liberal Party of Canada's Policy Convention in Ottawa voted nearly 80% to support Policy Resolution 117 (http://ylc-jlc.liberal.ca/ottawa-2012-policy/ ) that was co-sponsored by the BC Liberals (LPC-BC) and the Young Liberals of Canada to:
LEGALIZE marijuana and ensure the regulation and taxation of its production, distribution, and use, while enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving.
INVEST significant resources in prevention and education programs designed to promote awareness of the health risks and consequences of marijuana use and dependency, especially amongst youth.
EXTEND amnesty to all Canadians previously convicted of simple and minimal marijuana possession, and ensure the elimination of all criminal records related thereto.
WORK with the provinces and local governments of Canada on a coordinated regulatory approach to marijuana which maintains significant federal responsibility for marijuana control while respecting provincial health jurisdiction and particular regional concerns and practices.

With two third of Canadian supporting legalization of marijuana, US states reaping large tax pot windfalls, President Obama voicing that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol, and the Federal Conservatives push towards stiffer drug sentencing (including 6 months in jail for 5 pot plants), this topic may decide which party will win the next federal election. If Kash heed is right, expect Prime Minister Harper to read the tea leaves and realize that if he wants to continue to fight the so-called War on Drugs, his government may end up being one of its final victims.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 20, 2014

We Are All C.O.P.S. Citizens On Patrol in Surrey

So how was your weekend? Did you enjoy Saturday evening dinner with members of your family? My supper along with that of at least 500 other people had to be delayed as my wife Sheryl and I travelled to Holland Park in Whalley to attend the candlelight vigil for Julie Paskall who was beaten in the parking lot of the Newton Rec Centre and then died on the last day of the year. If you live in Surrey, if the rising violent crime rate scares you, if Surrey being Canada's murder capital for 2013 offends you, then take a minute to watch the video of the event that was posted on YouTube by Surrey604 at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-0MVMWm2vg&sns=em . I believe the passing of Julie Paskall marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of the City of Surrey and how we respond to her death will dictate the future of what will soon be the largest city in British Columbia.

When I was younger I somehow managed to avoid going to funerals and celebrations of life but as the years went by several of my elders and even some of my friends have passed on and I have attended these services. Because of my community involvement, I also take the time to mark the passing of those who have strived to make a difference in this region, recently paying my respects to former Surrey councilor Gary T. Robinson and his surviving family members. There difference of night and day between a service for someone who has died of natural causes or even an accident when compared to a person who has been brutally murdered in cold blood. The fact that the killer of Mrs. Paskall has not been caught and no suspects identified only added to the misery and anger of those in attendance. The hush of the crowd, the palatable grief, the collective emotion from the masses, I really cannot do justice with mere words to try to put it into perspective. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place and the sound of people sniffling filled the plaza. It was heart wrenching to hear a very young girl standing next to us ask the lady holding her hand, "Mommy, why are you crying?" It only made her weep harder and gasp for air between long stuttering sobs. When the vigil was over, I left Holland Park with a headache and feeling like I'd just been sucker punched in the gut.

Harbs Baines, president of the Surrey Minor Jockey Association, helped to coordinate this event with plenty of help from the City of Surrey and he had kind words to say to the Paskall family, members of the hockey fraternity and Surrey residents in attendance. Mayor Dianne Watts was invited to the podium and gave a speech that was a long ways from her usual tailored political message. Obviously this incident has left her as shaken as the rest of us and Dianne's words of remorse and condolence to the Paskall family were genuine and heartfelt. Julie's husband Al then took centre stage, giving a speech to the assembled faithful, many wearing hockey uniforms as a sign of respect, that roller-coastered from hear-breaking to humorous and back again. I'm going to have to get him one of my "Surrey Strong" t-shirts for having the courage and inner strength to step forward into the public limelight in the face of such a terrible tragedy. His call to end violence and treat each other better resonated with the crowd and rather than list his words here, I ask you again to make sure you watch the vigil video. There's no point in reading my TNT, when the emotional words from Mr. Paskall about his wife of 37 years and our community are what's really important. Should you care to help the Paskall family during this obviously difficult time in their lives, VanCity Credit Unions are accepting donations marked for "Paskall Family Trust." They have branches across Surrey including two Semi-Pen locations, the Semiahmoo Branch at 1790 152 St. and the Morgan Crossing Community Branch at 15795 Croydon Drive.

Mrs. Paskall's murder was an exclamation mark on Surrey's record year for homicides and her passing on December 31st only added insult to injury. The orgy of gangland violence began in January 2013 and continued unabated throughout the year with a total of 5 bodies being found on the side of Colebrook Road, giving it the sinister nickname "Killbrook Road." RCMP Supt Bill Fordy was wrong in suggesting that it is only dangerous in Surrey if you were a gangster, as violence among those living a "high-risk' lifestyle points to a thriving drug trade in narcotics including cocaine, crack, meth and heroin. Using these powerful street drugs leads to addictions and an assortment of mental health and social issues, resulting in desperate addicts resorting to crime to feed their habit. It should come as no surprise that an innocent person was killed on our streets in such a barbaric fashion, since this has already happened with two regular folks gunned down several years back in the "Surrey Six massacre." It has been reported that Mrs. Paskall, 4 ft. 10 in. tall, 124 pound, 53 year mother of three was bludgeoned repeatedly with a rock breaking every bone in her face in what is believed to have been an attempted purse snatching. You have to ask yourself what is wrong with a person to do this to a lady who looks a lot like everybody's Mom. The scary thing is that the animal that killed Julie Paskall is still on the streets and if they can resort to this level of violence once, they can easily do it again, anywhere, to anyone.

I'm not going to rag on the Surrey RCMP or try to lay blame with them regarding this tragedy. Surrey is a big place and they have a heck of a hard job to do in this city. We need more police in order to keep up with our growing population and influx of miscreants from such places as the DTES. It is not just bodies in police cars, we need officers deployed on the streets, whether walking the beat, going undercover or patrolling on bikes in order to put pressure on the criminals amongst us. The transit loops in both Newton and Whalley are notorious for crime and rampant drug dealing of narcotics and this needs to be stopped. On the upper end of the criminal pyramid, the organized crime leaders responsible for importing or manufacturing all of the heavy drugs poisoning residents of Surrey have to be targeted. These greedy bastards are the source of much of the misery in this city and this high-rolling scum needs to be taken down by whatever means. People here need to wake up and speak up against crime in their neighborhoods and help the cops do their jobs by reporting to the RCMP, either by dialing 911, calling the non-emergency line at 604-599-0502, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222- 8477 or online at solvecrime.ca. They even have an app you can download for your smartphone to make crime or suspicious activity reporting easier.

With the large majority of people now owning cell phones, City Hall needs to encourage people here to become the eyes and ears of the police by becoming C.O.P.S., Citizens On Patrol in Surrey. It's hard for bad guys to do their dirty business if respectable members of society are pointing them out to the RCMP. While this can be done on an individual basis, the city of Sudbury in Ontario has citizen patrols with two volunteers in marked vehicles that report by radio to a third member on dispatch who then relays information to the police service which deploy officers to investigate. Their Citizens on Patrol (COP) members patrol the streets with a mandate to detect suspicious, disruptive and criminal behavior. Sudbury now has 120 volunteers working in this program, in a city only a third the size of Surrey. If we could get the same level of volunteers, imagine the impact that 360 people in roving patrols would have on crime in this city, especially if they focused on problem areas such as the area in downtown Newton where Julie Paskall was attacked? Until a COP program like the one in Sudbury can be initiated, the City of Surrey would be wise to ask its residents to all become C.O.P.S. and alert the RCMP to crimes and suspicious activities, especially those involving gangs, guns or goofs that the person who killed our big-hearted "hockey Mom."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 13, 2014

Help Save Surrey

 

 

From the title, you would think that this week's TNT is once again focusing on the gun, gang, drug and crime problem in Surrey that keeps this city in the headlines for all the wrong reasons across Canada. Instead, it relates to efforts to change the governance of Surrey from the current at large system to a ward system that was used to run this town over 50 years ago. Surrey resident Kuljinder Gill who ran for Council in the last civic elections under the moniker "Gill 22" has created the "helpsavesurrey.com" website that calls for the recreation of a ward system here plus an Audit General to inspect city finances.

Kuljinder Gill

On his site the banner, "Surrey's Future Needs Our Support" is proudly displayed along with information on Surrey's growth rate, current population and the statement, "7 councillors are not enough to address our safety and concerns." It lists shootings and murder, theft, crime and robberies, local jobs, undercutting, income for the city of Surrey, transit upgrades, dirty streets, traffic, struggling single mothers, disabled and special needs, homeless and border lines for gas as problems to be dealt with that are currently being ignored. Youth needs are listed and detailed along with needs of the city including medical facilities, recreational centres, addiction and substance abuse counseling centres, affordable housing, education and respect for professional drivers. The site also gives you the opportunity to sign a petition titled "Surrey Ward System with an Audit General" that has attracted 71 signatures to date (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/surrey-ward-system).

Kuljinder Gill's candidate profile for the 2011 civic elections is still listed on the surrey.ca website at the following link: http://www.surrey.ca/election/10054.aspx. It details many of the same concerns found on the helpsavesurrey.com website broken down into the sections, "What We Have in Surrey", "What Surrey Needs", "Youth are the Future" and "Seniors." There is also a video attached that can give you a look at "Gill 22" and insight into his perspectives. Besides running for Surrey council, Kuljinder has also had several brushes with the law that have previously been reported. A month after the last election, Gill was sentenced to 9 months in jail, followed by 18 months probation and a two year driving ban for hitting a pedestrian in Surrey while driving drunk. In this crash he lost control of his Mustang at 128 St. and 84 Ave., jumping the curb and slamming into a bench where 29-year-old Pardep Johal was sitting, breaking his foot, pubic bone and leaving a gash on his head requiring 15 staples to close. Prior to this, in 2004 Gill was found guilty of uttering threats, mischief under $5,000, assault plus breach of probation. I talked to Mr. Gill about his previous transgressions and he assures me they are part of his past and that he has learned from his prior mistakes.

In a ward system, the region is split into geographical areas similar to a riding and often named after the neighbourhoods it contains. While the mayor is elected by a city-wide vote, councilors are selected to represent the various wards. Mayor Watts is on record as opposing a ward system for Surrey which resulted in plenty of in-fighting back in the 1950's and the separation of White Rock (Ward 7) in 1957. Another reason she likely would not wish to revert to the ward system is that it favours independent candidates rather than a municipal party similar to Surrey First, the Surrey Civic Coalition (SCC) or in Vancouver, Vision and COPE. After the last election and the Surrey First sweep, we now have four councilors from south Surrey, two from Cloverdale including the Mayor, two in Guildford and one in Fleetwood. It is interesting to note that two of the city's main civic centres, Whalley and Newton, do not have politicians living in their midst, even though one is the new downtown and the other a hot bed of growing social problems.

With the sheer geographical size of the city of Surrey, getting proper representation to all of its various neighbourhoods is a challenge if not an impossibility. Do councilors insulated in south Surrey relate to the problems and concerns of the residents in Bridgeview, if they even know this place exists? While Newton and Cloverdale are only six miles apart, they are light years away when you look at the different challenges they face. I was offered to be parachuted into a federal riding in Surrey several years back but had to kindly refuse as I was unwilling to move from Crescent Heights and did not feel I could properly represent the constituents without having my feet on the ground in the riding. As massive as Surrey is and with a thousand people moving here every month, a ward system starts to look inviting and a way to give residents a local representative they can go to with their concerns. It is interesting to note that Surrey, England, the town that our Surrey was named after, uses wards to select its council members.

 

Where I live, I know that councillor Judy Villeneuve can be counted on to address local issues as she lives in nearby Crescent Beach. Ask yourself who the residents of Whalley or Newton call up when they have issues they want dealt with at city hall? From what I hear from people in these regions is that they get plenty of promises from those at city hall but very little in the way of action. Toronto uses wards as does San Francisco to give residents an elected official close to home that they can trust and who will understand their concerns. With half a million people and counting, the ward system might deserve a second look in Surrey (and in Vancouver for that matter). If this concept intrigues you and you wish to support it, Gill 22 has assured me that he will be running for a councillor position in the municipal election that will happen this year on Nov. 15th. If you want wards, then go Gill.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 06, 2014


Tsk-Tsk Force

Happy New Year to all my friends and foes from across the Semiahmoo peninsula. I hope that 2014 ushers in a quieter year after the non-stop rat-a-tat-tat violence that has plagued the city of Surrey for the past 12 months. Even the New Year's couldn't escape the bloodshed with 53 year-old Newton hockey mom Julie Paskall , bludgeoned at the Newton Arena, being taken off life support on Dec. 31st to become the record 25th murder in Surrey of 2013. People were still sipping champagne in the early morning of the first when police responding to a domestic disturbance call in city central (read Whalley) were greeted by a 19 year-old woman plummeting from the 26th floor of a high-rise to the concrete below, an incident now being invested as a possible homicide by IHIT. While reaching a new high, or low depending on whether you think the gun is half empty or half full, the worst black eye of all is that Surrey has earned the dubious title of Murder Capital of Canada for 2013 with a rate of 5 deaths per 100,000 residents, an awful distinction I warned about in a TNT two months ago.

The homicide rate in Surrey should not come as a surprise as it is a result of the increased drug trade, criminal gangs and violent crime which has gone unchecked for some time. Remember back in January after three murders when RCMP Chief Supt Fordy told us it was only dangerous in Surrey if you were a gangster? It was inevitable that the violence associated with those looking to control crack cocaine, meth and other narcotics spread to the street level as addicts struggle to fund their addiction. It was actually amazing that no other civilian was caught in the chaos until Mrs. Paskall was attacked while going to pick up her son who was referring an ice hockey game at the Newton Arena. Unfortunately it has taken her demise to galvanize people into action and demand that something finally be done about this problem. Even in the Downtown East Side and their Mari-gras laissez-faire attitude to the open drug use in the area, they do not have the level of violence in Surrey. In fact, all of Vancouver with a population much larger than Surrey recorded only six murders last year, a record low for them. In Delta, where their police force operates under a "no call too small" motto, they have a quiet community making some ask if the line between heaven and hell is indeed Scott Road.

Mayor Watts hastily convened task force on violence crime was only created in response to public pressure and the threat to her rule from the upcoming civic election on Nov. 15 of 2014. You have to wonder how our politicians and police chief could sit on their hands while watching the city spiral out of control like crap circling down a toilet bowl into the sewer. Was Bill Fordy too busy spending time at the new E Division headquarters at Green Timbers Park to not meander down the streets into Whalley to see what a cesspool it was becoming, regardless of how many concrete towers were being erected? Was Watts too pre-occupied with the new downtown city hall to read the newspapers or watch the news and hear residents repeatedly asking for help from increasing crime, prostitution and drug activity? They now have redeployed 49 officers to focus on the crack houses and drug dealers linked to violent crime in Surrey. This should have been done at the beginning of the year in order to break the cycle of violence that continued unabated right up to the final day of 2013. Sorry to say but I wonder if Anita Huberman of the Surrey BIA will have plaques made stating "Surrey – Canada's Murder Capital 2013" and present them to Watts, her Surrey First councillors and Fordy so that they can put them on their mantels. If you think this is mean or undeserved, remember that this happened on their watch, making them as much to blame for the carnage as the thugs and low-life's who contributed to this unenviable record that now slanders our city.

Friends of mine who live in Whalley told me about crack houses in their neighborhood a year ago that were allowed to go about their business without interference from the police. I guess the cops were too busy tracking down mom and pop marijuana grow-ops in Surrey instead of busting the gangsters dealing cocaine and meth. Development has displaced some undesirable people from Whalley and they are migrating south into Newton plus other regions of Surrey resulting in increased crime there. The Panorama Ridge region is now home to several notorious gang families and it should come as no surprise that there have been drive-by shootings there not to mention the bodies found on nearby Colebrook Road. Local recovery houses are increasing in number, filled with addicts who have not kicked the habit and break into neighbors houses to get money for the next hit. A friend of mine who grew up and still lives in Newton is alarmed by the steady increase in addicts, dealers and prostitutes he sees on the streets. He was a victim of violence himself, being stabbed in the back 9 years ago while being robbed for his bike not far from the Newton Arena. It hasn't gotten any better since then with the Surrey Now newspaper headline this week reading "From Bad to Worse in Newton" and the Province's first newspaper of the year boldly pronouncing, "It's Just Not Safe."

Time will tell if Mayor Watts Talk Force, err…Tsk-Tsk Force, I mean Task Force lives up to its sizeable billing and actually puts a damper on the criminal's fun or if it is just window dressing putting a bandage on a festering wound. It's about time that Watts and Fordy give up on the futile support for pot prohibition and realize that police resources are better used against narcotics while marijuana should be legalized and regulated as in Colorado and Washington State. Our judges need to close the revolving door of justice and stop releasing violence criminals like Dean Jeffrey Anderson, charged in the Nov. 24 "booze can" murder, who was the subject of an RCMP wanted alert in 2011 listing him as a violent offender that was considered armed and dangerous. Residents of Surrey need to step up to the plate and be the eyes and ears of the police, reporting suspicious activities and taking videos with their legion of cell phones. Besides putting the heat on bad guys, we also need to hold both the politicians and police feet to the fire, ensuring that positive steps are being taken to curb the problem they have allowed to get so far out of hand. Lastly, put Agent K's "Gangsters Out Blog" (gangstersout.blogspot.ca) on your computer's favourite list and follow the daily play-by-play as he exposes the underbelly of gangsterism in the city of Surrey, the province of B.C. and across Canada.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

December 30, 2013

Reflecting on Safety / Shining a Light on Waste

There's been on ongoing mystery surrounding the Elgin area of Crescent Road and who has been adorning logs, telephone poles and street signs with a wide assortment of bicycle reflectors. These come in white, yellow and red and are in a variety of sizes and shapes, stuck into cracks on wood, screwed onto posts or taped onto metal poles. The new 30 kmh signs that Surrey installed along the dangerous S-curve at the Elgin ESSO gas station also have thin wire hangers attached to them with several reflectors dangling in the wind. This puzzle was finally solved when a letter writer in one of the local newspapers recently stepped up to take credit for the rather dazzling light display. Surrey resident Jerry Steinberg admitted he was the person responsible for putting up the bicycle reflectors as a way to draw driver's attention to them. He had noticed that many people are either oblivious to the speed signs or blatantly ignoring them, driving through this windy stretch of roadway at "double or triple the limit." While he believes his reflector campaign has been unsuccessful, Jerry hopes drivers will notice when they get speeding tickets or have their cars impounded by the RCMP for excessive speeding in this go-slow-zone.

Mr. Steinberg is not the only person who has been brightening up the Crescent Road raceway this year as Surrey's Engineering Dept. decided it would be a great idea to install cats-eye reflectors to the asphalt to help with night-time driving. Rather than just glue yellow ones between the centre lines as is normally done, they also put white cats-eyes on the warning stripe at the right side of the road in both directions. While this definitely helped to illuminate the narrow lanes of Crescent Road, I don't know if it did anything to lower speeds on the notorious racetrack that has been the scene of numerous serious and fatal crashes, many involving drinking and driving plus excessive speed. When the multitudes of cats-eyes were installed, I wondered what would happen when we had our first serious snowfall and the city's fleet of snow ploughs began scraping the white stuff off the street. Well we have since had our first snow event of this winter and as I expected, many of the reflectors were torn from the roadway where they had been glued. As the snow melted last week, I saw reflectors from one end of Crescent Road to the other and thought it would be a good community project to clean them all up.

I took the large plastic tote that I usually use for moving firewood, strapped it onto a dolly and with litter tongs in hand picked up cat-eyes from either side of Crescent Road from 128 St. to the KGB. This took a couple hours of tedious work that became very difficult towards the end as the weight of the load steadily increased. When I was finished, I had collected a 100 L. sized container full of the reflectors that weighed in at 80 pounds. With five complete cats-eyes weighing a pound, I figured I'd picked up at least 400 and since many were badly damaged or with chunks missing, it is possible there are even more. This also does not include the many cats-eyes still hiding in tall grass, lost in piles of leaves, flung into the bush, ravines and streams or hidden by the piles of melting snow that were still present when I did my roadway cleanup. I also picked up litter as I went and realized that the cats-eyes accounting for around ninety percent of the garbage on the street. This problem is not only confined to Crescent Road as I have seen thousands of town off cats-eyes reflectors at the edges of the road, in gutters or strewn about in every imaginable location throughout Surrey. It makes me wonder how many truck loads are being destroyed in Surrey every year, let alone BC or Canada, and what the cost is to tax payers to purchase new ones and have them installed year after year? I found online prices for 3M road stud reflectors (aka cats-eyes) from $1.35 to $1.85 US a piece and this does not include the adhesive or installation.

Besides the obvious littering problem caused by all cats-eyes reflectors, there are many safety concerns associated with these hockey puck sized discs ending up everywhere. Along with losing the safety benefits of the roadway reflectors during the darkest and wettest part of the year, the ploughs have also damaged many more that are still attached to the asphalt, rendering them useless. Shards of sharp plastic, either from impact by the plough blades or from being run over by other vehicles were everywhere. Crescent Road is a bike route and a handful of cyclists whizzed by while I was making my rounds, risking a flat tire next to traffic. When the cats-eyes land upside down, they are basically invisible as the tar glue stuck on the bottom of them matches the asphalt of the road and it is possible these could cause a bicyclist to crash if they ran over one. The same safety problem also exists on the sidewalks where these plastic pucks tend to get thrown with the slush and snow, creating a tripping hazard for pedestrians. Compounding the problem, at night the wayward reflectors strewn about the streets are confusing to drivers as they produce a bizarre light show of white, yellow and red coming at them from every possible angle. Showing the need for keeping lane reflectors in place, there were four accidents on Crescent Road in the past few weeks; two that tore out Surrey street signs, one where a car plowed through a metal fence and hedge, plus another where a skidding car came to a stop sideways only inches away from a thick utility pole.

While constantly gluing cat-eye reflectors onto roadways after every winter seems to be the norm throughout the Lower Mainland, it is interesting to note what our neighbors to the south are doing. In Washington and Oregon State where I often travel, they grind small indents into the road surface and install the same cats-eye reflectors that we use here, making them impervious to damage from the snow ploughs. While there is some degradation of their reflectivity, mainly due to obstruction by dirt and water, they are much more reflective than one lying upside down in a ditch at the side of the road. Windy country roads in the States are fully illuminated and stay that way in the worse weather, regardless of how many times snow ploughs pass by. As an added bonus, they don't have tons of broken plastic scattered along their roadways creating a public safety hazard and litter nuisance. As you are driving through the Semi-pen, keep an eye out for broken cats-eyes (or those that are missing) and you will be surprised how many you see winking back at you from the side of the road. As for the heavy bin I now have of broken cats-eyes, I'm thinking of taking them into Surrey City Hall and presenting them to the managers of the Engineering Department while voicing my concerns that their current method of cats-eye installation is causing more problems than it solves.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 23, 2013

Christmas Wish List - 2013
If there’s one thing I love about Christmas it’s the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun the year-end TNT is always special.  Here’s the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa leaves under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, placed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.


Tommy Alto Band

A new tour bus to replace the 15 passenger death-trap van wrecked near Hope while coming home from playing in Alberta which seriously injured two of the band members.  I hear Sensible BC’s “Cannibus” is for sale for $25,000 if that helps but they might not want to drive it across the US border. 


Cliff Annable, South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

A bright shiny diamond which is what you would get if you took a chunk of coal and put it under extreme heat and pressure for a long time.  In case you missed it, Cliff went against the Surrey Board of Trade and took a firm stand against dirty US coal trains running through White Rock.


Wayne Baldwin, White Rock Mayor

A hi-hoe excavator that he can use to dig up the antiquated BNSF Railway line through White Rock and south Surrey where people keep getting killed by trains and landslides from the bluff threaten to derail tanker cars of dangerous goods into Boundary Bay


Randy Caine, Hempyz owner

Similar to how White Rock separated from Surrey back in 1957, this time it instead votes to leave Canada and join the US where it becomes part of Washington State that recently voted to legalize and regulate the recreational consumption of marijuana, while the Sensible BC pot referendum here fizzled up in smoke.


Dave Chesney, WR Sun editor

Some Fisherman’s Friends lozenges as his throat probably gets sore from all of those “Yell it Like it Is” columns in the White Rock Sun.  A special thanks from yours truly for letting the “Pitbull” loose in the Semi-Pen every week where my bark is often worse than my bite. 


Helen Fathers, WR Councillor & White Rock Farmer’s Market Manager

Not that Santa thought she was a naughty girl this year but there will be no gifts under her tree as Helen got her present a couple of weeks early when the Clark Liberals announced on Dec. 11th that BC wine, beer and spirits would soon be sold at farmer’s markets.


Bill Fordy, RCMP Chief Supt.

Bags and bags of evidence allowing him to solve and lay charges in all of the record 24 murders, many gangland related, that have plagued Surrey this year likely making it Canada’s murder capital for 2013.  Hopefully Mayor Watts new task force gets the goofs with guns off our streets.


Robert Genn, artist

A big grandfather clock so that this acclaimed Canadian landscape painter who calls Crescent Beach his home can get more time to spend with family and friends after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a short time to live. 


Russ Hiebert, MP S. Sry/WR/Cloverdale

A geologist hammer as he may find himself between a White Rock and a hard place with folks on the Semi-pen wanting the BNSF train tracks to move inland and Cloverdale residents wanting it to stay put. 


Gordon Hogg, MLA S. Sry/WR

A fine bottle of over-proof rum imported from Barbados for the long-time local politician (sorry folks, inside joke there).  Real gift would be changing White Rock’s name to “Hoggville” in recognition of his family’s service to the community and Gordon’s lop-sided election results


Anita Huberman, Surrey Board of Trade

A weathervane to know which way the wind blows after repeatedly supporting business interests opposed by many residents of Surrey including the failed Gateway Casino.  Also a lump of dirty US thermal coal shoved in her stocking for endorsing the proposed U.S. coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks.


Marvin Hunt, MLA & Surrey Councillor

A hat rack for the guy who is the new MLA for South-Surrey/Panorama while still working for free as a councillor for the City of Surrey.  We should be able to buy him a real nice one with the estimated $750,000 he saved taxpayers by not forcing an unwanted civic by-election.


Bill Lawrence, WR Councillor & Sandpiper Pub Owner

A really big shoehorn for his bar since its seating capacity was raised from 65 to 115 after being closed for two weeks in total by the BC Liquor Control Board due to overcrowding at the previous level.  Imagine the SkyTrain at rush hour, only with music, dancing, karaoke and drunks. 


Gus Melonas, BNSF Spokesperson

A new inland rail corridor through Surrey away from White Rock’s public beaches, crowds of people and the twin derailment risks posed by wave erosion and landslides along the Ocean Park bluffs.  Speaking of gifts and the BNSF, has anyone seen that caboose promised for the WR waterfront?


Larry Robinson, WR Councillor

No tongue in cheek humour here as the gift we would like Larry to get for Christmas is for his cancerous tumor to be removed and never return.  Thoughts and prayers are with you from across the Semi-Pen as we all wish for successful treatment and a speedy recovery.    


Jas Singh, God’s Little Acre

A huge helping hand with the farm for the food bank on 40th Ave. as it expands in 2014 to a whopping 60 acres, making it God’s Big Acreage.  If this gift doesn’t come, Jas will need a new bionic back to harvest the estimated half a million pounds of produce that he plans to grow for charity.


Stephanie Smith, Coal Free White Rock & Paula Williams, Communities and Coal

l-r Paula/Stephanie

These committed ladies who have worked tirelessly over the last year get to share the present that most people in the Semi-pen want, which is “No U.S. Thermal Coal” on the BNSF tracks and Port Metro Vancouver turning down the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal export terminal.


Dianne Watts, Mayor of Surrey

Saving the best for last, a trip to Vegas with $24,500 in spending money for casting the deciding vote to kill the controversial south Surrey Gateway casino project after vocal community opposition.  I bet that Surrey First would never turn this plan down, showing why I don’t waste my money on gambling.   


Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year.
Naturally yours,

vist www.surreyshirts.com
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 16, 2013

Death Knell for the Fraser River

I don't think I have ever been more disgusted with a governmental decision than the one earlier this week that should raise alarm bells and hackles with people concerned with the health and environmental sensitivity of the mighty Fraser River. I called a long-time friend today who has been a vocal advocate for the protection of the Fraser River Estuary for years and had to listen as they poured out their heart and sobbed about their fears that we were witnessing the industrialization of the world's greatest wild salmon river that is also an integral part of the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl.

Over four years ago, I broke the story about how the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facility Corporation, a company owned by a consortium of commercial airlines operating out of the Vancouver International Airport or YVR, had plans to bring tankers full of jet fuel into the south arm of the Fraser River. The TNT's are still posted online below if you care to get the details and catch up on history (Beating the Drum, Jan. 30, 2012, TNT & Tankers, Apr. 19, 2010 and Fuelling a Controversy, Oct. 12, 2009). The environmental assessment of this project was supposed to have taken 180 days but extended to over 1,000 as problems were found, the project was sent back to the drawing board and changes made.

On Tuesday, the BC Liberals announced they had issued a conditional Environmental Assessment Certificate to the VAFFC for their plans to bring tankers of jet fuel into the Fraser River, build an 80 million liter tank farm upstream from the Massey tunnel and pump fuel across Richmond in a 15 km. pipeline to YVR. Their decision came after the BC Environmental Assessment Office concluded that the project was not expected to have any, "significant adverse effects." The rational given is contained in the Reasons for Minister's Decisions document available online at the link http://tinyurl.com/lrdbod7 while the government news release is at http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2013-2017/2013ENV0093-001875.htm. Having followed this story for years and knowing much of the minute details behind the headlines, reading these links was enough to make me want to puke.

What I have learned is that this entire project is built on a foundation of lies, deception and greed, with the EAP process doing little if anything to protect the environment. While originally touted as a lack of jet fuel supply for YVR, the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project (VAFDP) is about controlling fuel delivery to the airport to get the cheapest fuel available regardless of public safety or environmental costs. While 14 delivery methods were identified, only one was considered and utilizing rail from the closest refinery at Cherry Point was strangely never even on the list even though much of the airports fuel comes from this source. The projected fuel use numbers supplied were seemingly pulled from a hat with outrageous increases considered actually plausible. In 1987 a similar jet fuel supply plan for the North Arm of the Fraser River was turned down due to the environmental threat it posed and now this even more dangerous plan and its site upstream from the Alaksen, Reifel and South Arm Marshes wildlife preserves gets passed? I'd like to know how this happens less than four months after a jet fuel spill from a tanker trunk into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley decimated aquatic life and sterilized this waterway.

This decision was not based on credible science and did not consider other jet fuel delivery methods that made more sense. The health and protection of the Fraser estuary plus the safety of the public was basically ignored by the provincial Liberals and completely forgotten by Harper's Conservatives who delegated their environmental review responsibilities to Port Metro Vancouver who are in conflict by leasing land to the VAFFC. You would think that at a Federal port with Federal wildlife preserves for Federally protected fish and migratory birds, a project involving a Federal airport, Federal navigation and shipping laws and Federal piloting authorities, that the environmental review should be done by the Federal government? Richmond and Delta's opposition to the VAFDP plus 90% public disapproval of jet fuel tankers in the Fraser meant nothing, with not one minute of public hearing time ever behind heard. The community group VAPOR (visit vaporbc.com) that formed to combat this project called the process and decision, "a betrayal of the public trust" with the result being that, "fisheries and wildlife resources of the Fraser River are no longer being protected in a precautionary manner." Because they believe this project was not reviewed properly, VAPOR is now examining legal options to challenge its governmental approval.

I would not be surprised to see this terrible precedent be the first domino to fall leading to the environmental degradation, if not wholesale destruction of the Fraser River Basin, which was recently given a "Ramsar Wetland of International Significance" designation in September of 2012. With the Canadian government gutting environmental legislation protecting habitat and giving environmental project review powers to Port Metro Vancouver, the writing is on the proverbial wall made of concrete and steel. Unless there are huge public protests, massive civil disobedience or direct terrorist action (no thanks), expect the Massey tunnel to be replaced with a billion dollar bridge allowing panamax tankers and large freighters easy access to the Fraser Docks free of charge while people in cars pay the toll. The coal terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks will be approved by PMV, regardless of public opposition, health concerns or the many, "No US Thermal Coal" lawn signs seen in the Semi-Pen. In Richmond the PMV will ignore the ALR and pave over the prime 200 acre Gilmore farms for industrial use, while in Delta, expect massive development in the estuary and on farm lands near the docks and the soon-to-open SFPR.

I really like WR Sun editor Dave Chesney's suggestion on how to proceed with environmental reviews and come to think of it, would be fantastic for one of his "good ideas." He believes that the people in charge of making decisions affecting the environment should be held accountable if disaster strikes. Imagine how high the bar would be raised if politicians had to put up their homes, properties and investments as security against clean-up costs? If a tanker of jet fuel spills and destroys a salmon run and the livelihood of the people involved in the industry, then those who felt the project was justified should have to pay. Imagine Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman who signed off on this project having to put their money where their mouths are? Good luck on that one though as it would take politicians to enact such a law and that would be as likely as having them vote to cut their pay, perks or pensions.

If lawyers can't scuttle the VAFDP or nobody lies in front of the bulldozers, it is likely this unneeded and unjustifiable project will proceed as planned but there will always be one way to show your opposition. Vote with your wallet and vow to not fly in or out of YVR whenever possible or to utilize the airlines that are VAFFC members (list to follow, not proudly posted for some reason). YVR's website boasts they want to be, "a gateway of choice and an airport British Columbia can be proud of." Not in my books considering they endorsed this evil plan and welcomed the insane decision by the EAO and the BC Liberals. YVR, you're now officially on my "Do Not Fly" list.


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

TNT Extra
As promised, here is the list of airlines that are current VAFFC members who support tankers of jet fuel in the lower Fraser River:
Air Canada, Air China, Air North, Air Transat, Alaska, US Airways, American, British Airways, Cargo Jet Canada, Continental, Delta, Lufthansa, Eva Air, Globespan, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Jazz Air, KLM, Korean Air, Northwest, Sunwing, Philippine, Singapore, Skyservice, United, Westjet and Skywest. Book your travels and vacations accordingly.

 

 

December 09, 2013


Winter Classic – Surrey Style

Fry's Corner in the 60's

 

The sudden outflow of cold dry arctic air has pushed aside any thoughts of global warming as almost all of North America was turned into a deep freeze last week. Living in the Semiahmoo peninsula, we usually enjoy some of the best weather in the Lower Mainland and I often joke it's so nice here that it is even sunny at night. No such luck this time with temperatures reaching only to zero in the day and plummeting after dark mixing with the wind chill to hit readings of -14 Celsius. It is a stark reminder that we live in the Great White North and that Canadian weather occasionally extends to our little corner of the world, giving us a shockingly cold reminder what the rest of the country goes through on a regular basis. While I'm crossing my fingers hoping that my various palm trees and banana plants survived this wintery blast, the icy temperatures are a blessing in disguise for those who wish to practice a tradition that is as Canadian as back bacon, the maple leaf and bashing Toronto. It took a few sub-zero nights but ponds and flooded farm fields became coated with a thick layer of ice, allowing outdoor skating and hockey to once again happen in this region.

When I was a kid growing up in North Delta forty years ago, arctic outflows and cold wintery weather were the norm with heavy snow and icy conditions being far more common than now. Building snow forts, igloos made from snow balls and even tunneling across the yard in snow crusted with ice happened with regularity every winter. Imagine skiing down 64th Ave. and riding skidoos around the neighbourhood! My parents had a large concrete patio on the north side of the house out of the sun and I would often flood it, building up ice several inches thick and inviting friends to come over to skate or play some ice hockey instead of the usual one we played with tennis balls and running shoes. Back then there were plenty of ponds, open excavations and flooded fields that all turned into outdoor rinks as soon as the mercury plummeted. On several occasions, it was cold for long enough that we were able to safely explore Burns Bog by skating across the many large lakes and walking across the frozen peat. The last time it was cold enough for outdoor skating here was just over four years ago and I wrote about this now rare occurrence in my Dec. 14, 2009 TNT in the WR Sun titled "Things Are Just Ducky at the Fen" (scroll way down to read it). At the time Marty Vanderzalm who runs a business beside the King George Art Knapps was holding his "Free the Ice" campaign, protesting against bureaucrats trying to stop people from skating at the Serpentine Fen.

While the chain link fencing and signs remain in place from that time, it would appear that people are not paying too much attention about this old conflict. On Saturday, there were easily 500 people skating on the frozen surface of the Serpentine Fen. Vehicles jammed the parking lot usually reserved for dog walkers and nature lovers, with cars lining both sides of the KGB. Families, young children, teenagers wearing hockey jerseys and groups of young men pretending to be NHL stars all took advantage of the opportunity brought by the unusual cold to go for a skate and work on their hockey skills. While milk jugs frozen with water had previously been used for goal posts, several hockey nets had been carried onto the ice and while I was taking pictures a truck drove up with another set, making more games of shinny possible. Under sunny blue skies, it made for a perfect day of fun and memories, giving people from here the chance to experience what many Canadians take for granted throughout the long winter months. Even darkness could not stop the action with people parking their cars facing the Fen and putting the headlights onto the ice.

While ice skating at Fry's corner (176 St. & Fraser Hwy.) is a distant memory because of the new pumping station and fallow fields, there is another flooded farmer's field with a rather familiar name that is now open to outdoor ice skating. Local farmer Jas Singh has opened God's Little Acre at 16582 40th Ave. in Surrey to public skating, having flooded part of the vegetable patch with the help of several Surrey firefighters. This farm has produced fresh produce for local food banks and soup kitchens since 2011 and Jas is hoping for donations to help fund the purchase of $7,000 worth of seeds needed for spring planting. Since its inception, Gods Little Acre has grown from three acres that produced over 60,000 pounds of potatoes for the Surrey Food Bank in its first year, to eight acres of various vegetables in 2012 distributed to food banks across Metro Vancouver. This season 34 acres were farmed with an army of volunteers harvesting 200,000 pounds of potatoes, beets, carrots, squash, pumpkins, corn and other vegetables for the less fortunate and hungry among us. In 2014, Mr. Singh plans to expand the farm to 60 acres producing half a million pounds of food and to open B.C.'s first produce bank. There were an estimated 300 skaters on the pond when I arrived on Sunday, with Christmas music playing, popcorn and hot chocolate available by donation, skate rentals by Sports Replay plus night lighting from United Rentals allowing skating Saturday and Sunday until late.

If you missed your chance on the weekend to play some outdoor hockey or to go for a skate in the sunshine, it is likely your weather window of opportunity is quickly closing. The forecast for the next couple of days is snow flurries but after that the temperatures will rise and the rain will follow later this week, washing away the sheets of natural ice until the next big chill. Likely the next time there will be outdoor skating in the Lower Mainland will be the Tim Horton's NHL Heritage Classic on March 2nd when the Vancouver Canucks face off against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place in Vancouver. Of course, considering our usual wet weather, it is very likely the retractable roof will be closed for the game. If you would like to help Jas Singh and Gods Little Acre with their "Skate & Donate" campaign, they can be followed on Facebook at GodsLittleAcreFarm or their website at godslittleacrefarm.com. The following release taken from the south Asian community event calendar at desievents.ca will give you more insight into this worthy community cause.

In 2011, God's Little Acre was a 30 acre hay field. Leaving the corporate world behind, Jas Singh took on the challenge of turning this hay field into a potato field for those in need. The first year harvest successfully yielded 62,000 lbs of potatoes, all of which went to the Surrey Food Bank. Fast forward to 2013. To help God's Little Acre Society become more self-sustainable, we have initiated the God's Little Acre Club - an on-site market that will provide club members with quality, fresh produce well below retail prices (savings of 25-50%). We are growing a full range of vegetables and import a wide variety of BC fruit as well as other produce, similar to what is available at most retail outlets.

God's Little Acre employs the following farming practices to grow healthy, vital food for our on-site market. A huge variety of vegetable grown right on our farm behind the barn! Application of trace minerals back to the soil to allow proper nutrients into our diets (for more info, see Graceful Living). Limited or no use of chemicals (currently, 5% of crops grown use chemicals but the goal is to eliminate chemicals completely). We will not be going through organic certification in order to keep prices reasonable.

We are very excited about this retail vision and its potential to help finance our societies' operations while enabling hundreds of families to share great food at reasonable prices! To join the God's Little Acre Club go to godslittleacrefarm.com/club/ and fill out the contact form and a God's Little Acre Club member will be in touch with you. If you chose to become a club member, you can also gift the goodness of fresh produce to an individual or family in need. Using the Buddy Card available with each membership, you can sign up seniors, individuals on disability, or single parents for free. If you don't have someone in your life that fits this description your Buddy Card will be passed on to a family in need through our membership matching program.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 02, 2013

Take Back the Tracks

Over the past three years of my TNT columns, I have written about railway issues in the Semi-pen a total of 22 times, possibly showing that I have a one-track mind. Many of these focused on the dangers of having the BNSF railway in its present location across a busy public beach and at the base of a slide prone bluff. Of greatest concern is the hazmat and inhalation toxic chemicals including chlorine gas that are regularly carried on this antiquated rail line, even during periods of heavy rains, strong winds and landslide activity, which I call "railway roulette." I started Surrey's United Naturists (SUN) partly as a way to bring public attention to public safety and environmental issues involving the BNSF Railway along Crescent Rock beach between White Rock and Crescent Beach. I've been a supporter of the local community rail safety group Smartrail and have endorsed their concept of relocating the railway to an inland corridor. Over the years I have sent countless emails to politicians at all four levels of government (including the GVRD) about the hazards found on our tracks, contacted transportation about dangerous practices I have seen there, plus made a detailed submission to the federal panel reviewing the Railway Safety Act. Imagine my surprise when it was announced that White Rock and Surrey mayors were co-hosting a public meeting looking into the possibility of rerouting the tracks and building a public walkway on the rail bed.

Of course I happily attended last Tuesday's meeting at the "Pink Palace" hotel ballroom that was standing room only with plenty of Surrey Firsters and all of White Rock's Council in attendance. Mayor Watts gave a short and sweet history lesson on the topic that began in 1995 with a joint US/Canada study on rail alignment which then led to the Delcan report in 2002 that identified possible realignment routes through south Surrey along with their costs. Mayor Baldwin stepped up to the microphone and then scared the hell out of most in the room by detailing a landslide derailment disaster scenario leading to the release of a cloud of chlorine gas that floats into a Crescent Beach while it is cut off by the stopped train. Following the mayor's speeches, questions were taken from the floor about the cost of this project and who would pay for it, the deaths and injuries on the BNSF tracks over the years, concerns over destroying farmland, and possibly relocating area MP Hiebert if he did not support realignment. Smartrail's Ken Jones, former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and White Rock Councilor ended the Q&A by explaining how he had endorsed realignment since 1973 and how he estimated it would cost less than $100 million to move the tracks instead of the $350 - $400 million often quoted. The meeting adjourned after half an hour, leaving the crowd to survey the many information boards set up throughout the room and to mix and mingle with both mayors making themselves available to the public.

It all sounds so easy moving the BNSF tracks to an inland location but beyond cost, there are plenty of obstacles and many unanswered questions about the repercussions such a project would have. The biggest elephant in the room is whether the BNSF would be willing to relocate the corridor in the first place. In the past five years they have spent millions of dollars replacing the rip-rap boulders, laying down new continuous weld rail and replacing over 20,000 wooden ties. They have recently begun the construction of a new trestle bridge across Mud Bay and are planning on building a new bridge over the Little Campbell River at the Semiahmoo Reserve. It is doubtful that the BNSF would want to walk away from such large capital investments unless they were properly compensated for them. The other issue associated with the BNSF here is that they own the waterfront land where the tracks now sit and would likely either want to sell the property or be allowed to possibly develop it. Of course, any relocation of the tracks on our side of the border would have to align with the rail line in Blaine, further complicating the project and turning it into an international project involving the U.S. and Canada, rather than just the cities of White Rock and Surrey. Strangely absent from the conversation or story boards was the possibility of utilizing the existing rail crossing at Sumas and an inland rail route through Washington freeing up their waterfront from the ever increasing cross-border rail traffic that has increased 1,000% in the past nine years. The same also was true for high-speed rail with no consideration being given for a corridor that will eventually become impossible if development proceeds in Surrey at its current speed.

The impact of any of the four proposed relocation routes also needs to be considered as it has been over a hundred years since the previous rail line along 176 St. was closed and moved to the shores of the Semi-pen. How many acres of prime farmland will need to be taken out of the ALR and covered in ballast rock and creosoted ties? What will the impact be on air quality for man and animals on farms near the new tracks from belching diesel locomotives and coal dust blowing from trains? How will coal dust and other particulate matter affect vegetable and berry crops, will it contaminate grass that is fed to the many dairy herds in these areas, plus what long term impacts would this have on soil and water courses? What will the impact be on rural residents from increased rail noise and vibration, similar to what many White Rock and Crescent Beach residents are currently experiencing? Already local opposition is being heard with one of the folks at the open house taking to the mike to call for no trains on prime agricultural land and the statement, "we don't want your problem." I met with Russ Hiebert on Friday at his year-end open house and while voicing support for looking at the feasibility of this project, he cautioned that as the MP for south Surrey/White Rock/Cloverdale, constituents from across the riding would have strong feelings for railway relocation or maintaining the waterfront status quo. If you were to put yourself in his shoes, you'd realize that he could find himself caught between a proverbial White Rock and a hard place on this rather complex issue.

The rail corridor from Peace Arch Park to Blackie spit also has plenty of problems that will need to be overcome should the tracks be moved. Many people including myself have envisioned constructing a public walkway where the tracks now sit, possibly connecting with the existing Delta Dike Trail creating a marathon-length trail from the border to Tsawwassen. It is uncertain if the Semiahmoo First Nations would want to create a public thoroughfare along their property, separating the reserve yet again from the waters of the bay. Another question that needs to be answered is if Metro Vancouver would want to purchase the BNSF corridor for a regional park and as part of their Greenway Vision Plan that envisions a walking trail where the tracks now sit. How to keep people safe during storms when waves crash onto the tracks eroding the rail bed, trees topple from the heavily treed hillside, or when landslides measuring up to 10 feet deep and 150 feet across fall from the Ocean Park bluff still needs to be answered along with who would pay for the ongoing maintenance and cleanup. Even if the BNSF agreed to sell the corridor and leave the three bridges and trestles intact, there is still the thorny issue of who would operate the swing bridge at the Crescent Beach marina that is presently staffed 16 hours a day, 365 days a year, allowing for both train and boat passage. While it has been envisioned creating a version of Vancouver's famed Sea Wall out of the corridor, its dangerous and unstable location and collection of antiquated train bridges only add to the complexity of changing it from rail to trail.

The creation of a pedestrian trail on the existing corridor sounds inviting but this would have a substantial environmental impact on this relatively inaccessible location. Currently, walking on the tracks is trespassing and coupled with the danger from passing trains, most people wisely avoid the corridor between White Rock and Crescent Beach. For much of the year this rugged shoreline is home to tens of thousands of shorebirds and migratory ducks utilizing it for an integral resting point as part of the Pacific Flyway. Building a shoreline walkway and inviting thousands of people and possibly their dogs to this formerly quiet area might disturb wildlife in this location. The same can be said for the many bald eagles which nest in the tall Douglas firs growing on the Ocean Park bluff and the large numbers of great blue herons that currently wade in the shallow waters. Another concept that has not yet been considered is to follow West Vancouver's lead and rehabilitate the shoreline, removing the rip-rap boulders that cause the scoured cobble beach and restoring it into a functioning marine bluff ecosystem. Folks here need to realize that the railroad was built on the inter-tidal zone and that for the past 100 years it has resulted in a decimated shoreline that no longer supports a wide variety of life including sand lance and surf smelt, small feeder fish that are at the bottom rung of the foot chain that leads to herring, salmon and orcas. If you want to see the damage that the BNSF railway has caused here, simply visit Lily Point park in Point Roberts to see what Crescent Rock Beach looked like before it was buried under rock for the railway. The difference in shoreline, wildlife and ambiance is literally a night and day difference even though it is only a few miles away across Boundary Bay.

There is one more problem with the BNSF relocation concept that could rear its ugly head. For decades naturists and nudists have utilized the rugged strip of shoreline along the tracks for nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping. With nearly a million Fraser Valley residents and with Wreck Beach in Vancouver being so busy during summer months, not to mention a long drive away, people are flocking to Crescent Rock Beach to get away from the stresses of modern life, reconnect with nature and rid themselves of pesky tan lines. While some beach areas are separated from the tracks by a screen of vegetation, many other spots are in full view of the rail corridor, likely to the surprise of passengers riding the AmTrak along the waterfront. I doubt if anyone has considered how a public walking trail would work alongside a nude beach that is getting noticeably busier every year? At Wreck, the WBPS (Wreck Beach Preservation Society) has fought a lengthy battle to keep the GVRD from building an access road at the base of the bluff and while it is likely that nudists/naturists here would love to see the noisy dirty freight trains go, they likely would not appreciate an influx of tacky textiled tourists. It could be that the final result might be like in Whistler where at Lost Lake, a dock that is clothing-optional floats in full view of the public trail raising a few eyebrows from the many passing hikers not aware of the local customs.

The discussion on the merits and possibility of railway relocation has only just begun and public discourse and feedback is being sought out for this project. You can read the "Re-imaging the Corridor" Rail Traffic Safety report that is posted on the City of Surrey website and look at the various photos, charts and maps that were on display at the first public meeting. You are invited to share your thoughts on rail safety and answer the Re-imaging the Corridor survey on the City of Surrey's CitySpeaks website at the following link: https://www.cityspeaks.ca/S.aspx?s=122&r=Cv34YWirYkuuYAqr4.rK1g&a=182&fromdetect=1
I've already given them my two cents worth including that until such time that the tracks are moved, there are several things that need to be done to improve both public and rail safety in this region.
- Institute a precipitation threshold that would close the BNSF tracks during periods of heavy rain when slides from the bluff can be expected. Utilizing a simple backyard rain gauge, I've noted that 2" of rain in 24 hours historically leads to mudslides onto the rail corridor.
- When the BNSF tracks are closed to the AmTrak passenger train due to slide activity, the tracks should also be off-limits to dangerous goods and inhalation hazardous chemicals such as chlorine gas which could instead be routed inland through the Sumas crossing in Abbotsford.
- If City of Surrey engineers find unsafe bluff slope conditions threatening safe rail transportation they should be able to contact BNSF or Transport Canada and have the tracks closed until the threat is dealt with. In the past I have been warned by Surrey staff to stay away from areas where more slides were expected and watched as trains carrying tankers of chemicals rolled by below.
As to whether the tracks will ever be relocated inland and a waterfront walkway built around the Semiahmoo peninsula, only time will tell. If you believe as Mayor Watts does when she said that a nature trail on the current rail bed would be, "something the community will treasure forever", then become involved, take the survey, give your thoughts and become part of the process.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 25, 2013

Expanded lot adds hundreds of new spaces to South Surrey Park and Ride


November 12, 2013
New parking spaces help customers move around the region


NEW WESTMINSTER

Starting today, 367 new parking stalls at the South Surrey Park and Ride are now available to customers. Located on the west side of King George Boulevard, the new stalls combine with the existing parking lot for a total of 840 parking stalls available to park and ride customers.
The BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure funded construction of the new expanded lot which TransLink operates. A time-lapse video of the construction of the new lot is available online.
"Government invested $4.5 million to expand this important Park and Ride because transit infrastructure supports this growing community," said Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt. "The extra parking spaces will allow more people to use transit."
"The expanded parking lot will supply much-needed parking in South Surrey and provide commuters with more transportation options," says TransLink's Chief Operating Officer, Doug Kelsey. "We encourage our customers to use Park and Ride facilities and carpool programs to more easily connect to the regional transit network."
The entire Park and Ride facility at South Surrey now features five motorcycle spots, 17 accessible stalls and 10 kiss-and-ride stalls. The lot is open all week, but overnight parking is prohibited.
As of Monday, November 4, 2013 parking at the South Surrey Park and Ride costs $2/day or $40/month. These new fees are in line with TransLink's Park and Ride Policy and contribute to the operating, maintenance and capital costs of the facility. Impark will collect payment for the facility.
Carpool spaces are available via the TransLink website to customers with a valid South Surrey Park and Ride Carpool Parking Pass.

I wish I could operate my business without worrying about capital outlay, the needs of my customers, or the operating costs associated with expansion. I must admit the parking lot is very well constructed with smooth asphalt, good signage, bright lighting and healthy landscaping. There is only one problem; nobody uses it! This new lot has been open for three weeks and I have yet to see one person bother to take the $4.5 million lot for a test drive. Check it out for yourself, use it as an impromptu racetrack like I did and marvel at this vast empty expanse of asphalt. If you are tired of rush hour traffic or stop and go traffic, cruising through the new "Pay & Ride" lot should get your blood flowing either from adrenaline as you slalom around the speed bumps or from realizing what a huge waste of money this project really was.

There are two fundamental reasons why the Park & Ride expansion was flawed from the start. The first is that with the commencement of pay parking, many transit users have altered their behavior and are catching the bus from home, driving to work, or parking somewhere else. It is not uncommon to see much of the back rows of the old lot now sitting empty during the busy parts of the day. If the existing lot is empty now, imagine how many spaces will be available when Impark jacks the rates to $3 a day to match the other Translink lots in Surrey, as they have already warned they had the power to do. The other problem with the beautiful empty new lot is the fact that the closest parking stall to the bus loop is 250 metres away (0.25 km as measured on my Jeep's odometer). From the far end of the deserted asphalt, it is 350 metres and you can't take a short cut across the KGB because engineers figured out people would do this and installed a high security fence. I'm surprised that Translink doesn't have a shuttle bus to bring people from the far lot to the bus loop, instead of forcing potential customers to walk a minimum distance of half a kilometer in total to ever utilize this space.

I used to meet my employees at the Park & Ride, with one coming in on the bus and the other utilizing it for parking while working. With the new $2 a day rate, the person with the car has now taken to parking at an undisclosed location on a quiet residential street somewhere in south Surrey. At first he parked with all of the other folks who are suddenly lining both sides of the KGB south of Crescent Road. While Translink collects their daily parking fees, the city of Surrey has got into the action and is now ticketing vehicles parked in this legal parking area. What they are nailing people for is parking within 3 metres of a driveway, a ticket that will cost you $30 if paid within 7 days or $45 if paid after that. I know this because my co-worker picked up one of these tickets after steering clear of a fire hydrant and the no parking areas. We have seen plenty of other cars with these tickets stuck under their wipers and expect this to continue until Surrey puts up no parking signs forcing vehicles back to the Park & Ride lot. The other person profiting off this change is barista Al Nameth from Holy Smoke coffee at the tee-pee who is telling people to spend the two bucks they save on parking on a cup of his organic hand-roasted java. Needless to say, his business has improved nicely since November 12th and at least you get your money's worth.

There is another huge oversight involving the south Surrey Park & Ride that puts pedestrian and commuters at risk. You would think that the engineers who design such places would possibly consider that some people might actually walk to the loop and catch a bus from there. There are no sidewalks leading to the parking lot from the Elgin area and yet I frequently see people walking along the shoulder of the KGB heading to and from Crescent Road. What makes this even more dangerous is that there is no crosswalk for pedestrians crossing the KGB at the parking lot entrance. You cannot push a button and wait for the walking man sign to cross as there is none. Instead people jog across traffic when the light changes, dodging vehicles who do not expect them. The nearby Park & Pool lot by the Nicomekyl bailey bridge also still offers free parking and folks are now parking there for the day and making their way across the KGB in the dark, often crossing at the corner where the street lighting is not that bright. I believe it is only a matter of time with the increased pedestrian traffic and the long winter nights that someone is going to get run over and killed because of this serious flaw.

As if the money spent building this white elephant are not enough, it requires upkeep and maintenance to keep it operational. There are 28 street lights located throughout the new parking lot which burn brightly from dawn to dusk, creating hydro bills on par with a large grow-op. With the cold weather, rock salt has been spread all around the lot and I am sure that if it snows that Translink will have a contractor clear the entire lot at great expense, then apply more salt. It is only a matter of time before illegal dumpers start targeting this area as it was not long ago that I drove into the old Park & Ride lot and found a mountain of debris including a cracked hot tub shell in one of the main driveways, obviously dumped on purpose by someone too cheap to take it to the landfill or transfer station. Considering that my employee had his vehicle stolen and destroyed from the Park & Ride lot earlier in the year, it is surprising that Translink would not have installed close circuit cameras to deter theft and provide customers with some security, especially the many women who park there early in the morning or late at night.

Until parking numbers warrant the new south Surrey Park & Ride lot actually being used, there is no sense in keeping it open and paying for lighting and maintenance that is not required. Translink should gate this area off until such time as the old lot becomes full (if ever) and save the money they are currently spending on upkeep and maintenance. They could also have saved reduced costs by not painting numbers on every single one of the 840 spots as the pay booths require your vehicle licience plate number, not the stall number. Think about this multi-million dollar boondoggle the next time that Translink cries poverty and tries to come up with new revenue sources (read taxes) to feed its already bloated bureaucracy.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 18, 2013


Reefer-end-dumb

Sensible BC volunteers were out in force this weekend with the political styled "Cannibus" dropping in on the Cloverdale Public Market giving people there the opportunity to sign the petition to hold a referendum next year supporting the decriminalization of marijuana in BC. With Canadian provinces having jurisdiction over policing and the administration of justice, Sensible BC is proposing an amendment to the Police Act so that both the RCMP and municipal police forces will be instructed not to spend time, money or resources on cases involving the simple possession of cannabis. Their "Sensible Policing Act" would decriminalize the possession of cannabis in BC while leaving the rest of the current laws concerning cannabis in place. If you think that this is a bold innovative step, consider that the residents of Washington and Colorado states voted this year to legalize the growing and sale of marijuana and will be regulating its production and distribution while taxing and controlling its sale for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Sensible BC's grass-roots campaign to have a referendum on decriminalizing cannabis in our province has to clear some high hurdles before it can proceed. Just like the successful anti-HST referendum spear-headed by former premier Bill Vanderzalm, they need to collect 10 percent of the registered voters from every one of the 85 electoral districts in B.C. This means that they will require signatures from over 400,000 people spread across the province, with all signatures being gathered in a 90 day period. The signature campaign began in September and has less than a month to go with the final date for signature submissions on December 9, 2013. Recently Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen admitted in an interview that the referendum process is "extremely challenging" and that they were well short of the numbers required. While signatures are now being submitted in ever greater numbers, they will need exponential returns and an increase in the legion of canvassers and the locations where they can be found. Information about Sensible BC and joining in this historic referendum is posted on their website at sensiblebc.ca or on their Facebook page, "Join the Campaign for a Marijuana Referendum" which now has over 69,000 likes.

At Crescent Beach on Saturday, several Sensible BC canvassers including my converted activist wife Sheryl were on hand braving the winds and cold temperatures to gather more signatures in their referendum campaign. At the table was Ocean Park resident David Hutchinson who I had met earlier in the year at a political protest over changes to medical marijuana access regulations that was held in front of our MP Russ Hiebert's office. Mr. Hutchinson was recently featured in local newspaper stories concerning his family's unfortunate incidences of cancer. David's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and passed away in Peace Arch Hospital in December of 2009. To compound this tragedy, two weeks before his wife died his then 16 year-old daughter Beth was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given 8 to 14 months to live. After a total of five brain surgeries and courses of chemotherapy and radiation, Mr. Hutchinson turned to medicinal cannabis to help combat Beth's disease. He found research showing that the THC in cannabis releases dopamine in the brain causing cancer to consume itself while cutting off the blood flow to the tumor. Beth's neuro-oncologist reviewed the research and prescribed her medical marijuana that took six months of waiting before Health Canada issued her a license for this natural herbal medicine.

Beth Hutchinson

Unfortunately Beth's health eventually took a turn for the worst four years after her initial diagnosis and she passed away on October 25th at a Ladner hospice. She has posted YouTube videos related to her condition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I8kAizfqB4 ) under the title BethsBrain along with maintaining a Facebook page (Beths Brain "An Unusual Case") about her life and dealing with cancer. Before her death, Beth wrote the following letter that she hoped would one day be read at a cannabis conference. It has been forwarded to lawyer John Conroy (johnconroy.com), Queens Counsel from Abbotsford who supports patient access to medicine and who may use this letter as evidence as he leads a constitutional challenge on proposed Medical Marijuana Access Regulations changes put forth by the Harper Conservative government.

Cannabis
I'd really rather not have to make this video as I've always been quiet about my condition, however I wish to voice my outrage at Health Canada before I have no voice at all. No one in 3 years has ever suspected I have had 4 Grade IV Glioblastomas and 4 brain surgeries to remove them. I often joke that I've had more surgeries in the past few years than I've been to the dentist. My experience with Western medication and conventional treatment has had some ups but many downs. It was when I was told at 17 years old that there was nothing more that could be done in order to treat my cancer that my father took the initiative to start researching other options. It was on April 20th 2011 that he announced to me at dinner that he thought I should consider taking cannabis. Since 4/20 is an infamous day in the cannabis community I naturally thought he was kidding. When he showed me the research that was going on internationally I felt for the first time in a while some hope.
It took a long time for Health Canada to process my paperwork. I had been given a lifespan of 6 months and Health Canada took far longer than that. If it had not been for compassionate clubs in Vancouver I'd have been without medication completely. I was also surprised to not receive an actual health Canada ID card along with my documents. I phoned to find out why this was and was told that it was because they'd recently not been able to make enough cards for everyone needing cannabis. As drivers licenses, compassionate cards, care cards, and many other forms of ID are being made every day I was not pleased with this answer. Upon telling them that I was aware that they had not printed these cards for two years I was finally told that the two passport style photos I'd sent in were in fact purely for identification reasons. It made me feel like a criminal. A criminal for seeking a cure for cancer.
I frequently find myself in an interesting place when the topic of cannabis arises. Many people are uninformed and misled like I was a few years ago. They assume that cannabis can kill you, yet don't realize that there is nothing on record of someone dying because of a pot overdose. They believe it is addicting but don't realize that only 9% of people get addicted, the same percentage as people getting addicted to Starbucks. They also think it turns people into trouble makers or dangerous people. I take high amounts of cannabis daily and the only thing I'm a danger to is cake. People also tell me that it must have been dangerous for it to be criminalized in the first place. The initial reason was that it was such a profitable crop that it was threatening the lumber industry. Even George Washington grew hemp. I've also been faced with people telling me that pot addicts can't become successful people. I had a 4.0 GPA, was in 2 school shows and helped direct a third, worked 2 jobs and got into UBC and UVic all while taking cannabis. Not to mention that some of the most famous musicians of the past and present frequently partook in smoking pot. The illusion that marijuana is a dangerous, harmful substance needs to be shattered. Even if you don't like cannabis, the facts are there. As logical people we need to ask ourselves why substances like nicotine and alcohol that frequently lead to violence and death are legal when cannabis is not.
Whether you agree that cannabis is more beneficial than harmful or not one thing that I hope can be agreed upon is that medication should not be denied to sick people. The cost for me to take a medicinal plant that helps with my sleep, anxiety, nausea, headaches, appetite, and pain will rocket from $300 a month to $3000 for no logical reasons. By April next year we may not be able to afford my medication. If Health Canada is allowed to make these changes I may be denied the medication that is helping me more than anything I've taken provided by a pharmaceutical company. Something is wrong within our health system and government and as a nation we need to speak out against it. I may be someone who has a terminal disease, but it is our government that is truly sick.
Beth Hutchinson

I would like to thank Beth's father David for letting me post this letter from his daughter and to share it with the residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula including many locals who personally knew this energetic and talented 20 year-young lady. Hopefully it will make you reflect on our draconian marijuana laws, prohibition of pot and the use of cannabis for medical treatment. Sensible BC is actively seeking more canvasses for this region and the referendum campaign needs signatures for it to be successful. In closing, I would like to add the final Facebook message that Beth posted the day before her passing: Thanks to all those who have helped me with both my major bucket list and help me achieve what I thought was impossible. Thank you to those who have sent pajamas, gingerbread houses, and the little things that make life worth living as well!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

CannabisFacts.ca provides essential information for an informed debat aabout cannabis policy in Canada

CannabisFacts.ca

 

 

November 12, 2013

Lest They Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

"In Flanders Fields", war poem written during WW1 by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae

Remembrance Day holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many Canadians as we show our respect to members of our armed forces, veterans and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice whether in times of war or peace. I have known a great many veterans over the years who fought in battles from World War 2 to Afghanistan and was always spellbound by the tales they had brought back home with them. A customer of mine fought in Korea, a US Marine Sergeant buddy did three tours in Vietnam and a young friend I know from the rifle range is currently a member of the 3PPCLI regiment. My parents are both veterans having served in the RCAF where even during peacetime, death was never that far away. My father has told me about near mid-air collisions in jet fighters, performing a "dead-stick" landing instead of ejecting, the loss of many buddies in crashes and the time an officer and Chaplain came to his room to collect his personal effects when he was mistaken for another pilot who was killed. Anyone who puts on a uniform to defend their country and its freedoms deserves the utmost of respect and it is our duty to ensure that those injured in service after being put in harm's way are properly taken care of.

Tensions were running high this year as Remembrance Day celebrations focused attention on the ongoing battle between veterans and the Conservative government over the New Veteran's Charter that was enacted in 2006 and the way that our injured soldiers are compensated. The charter replaced a pension for life system with a lump-sum one-time payment that critics, including retired general Rick Hillier who was commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, says does not look after veterans over a long period of time. Adding to the resentment are several recent cases where soldiers injured in Afghanistan were medically discharged just before completing the 10 years needed to qualify for a military pension (federal politicians qualify for their gold-plated pensions after only 6 years in office by comparison). Canada's Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has voiced concern that the Charter is not protecting our most seriously disabled soldiers who don't qualify for pensions when they turn 65, with many veterans likely to be destitute during their retirement years. A recent news story about the government not helping to fund burials for impoverished or destitute veterans has many questioning their priorities and commitment to our former soldiers. Rubbing more salt in the wound, the Conservatives have also announced cost-cutting plans to close Veteran's Affairs offices country-wide, resulting in a protest on Saturday in Sydney Nova Scotia that attracted 2,000 poppy wearing people.

There may not be enough money to fund Veteran's Affairs or properly look after injured soldiers, but there's plenty of cash to throw away on government advertising. Over the past month we have been barraged with countless Remembrance Day television ads courtesy of our federal government, inviting us to visit the Veterans Affairs Canada website at www.veterans.gc.ca for Remembrance Day information. While it is a great site with plenty of history, you have to wonder what the budget was for all those slick commercials and how many veterans this money could have benefited. The same can be said for the $28 million that the Conservatives decided to spend this year celebrating the War of 1812 and loyalist's victory over advancing American Forces on Nov. 11, 1813 that prevented the capture of Montreal. Harper is so dedicated to this jingoistic pursuit that after attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial in Ottawa, he presided over the War of 1812 celebration at the Chrysler Farm near Morrison Ontario to mark the 200th year anniversary of what is often referred to as, "the battle that saved Canada." Why we need to spend so much taxpayer money saber-rattling over a war with our American neighbors two centuries ago that nobody really gives a damn about needs to be questioned.
On the way home last week I noticed a small white sign posted at the end of a neighbor's driveway that read, "Fight for our Wounded Veterans – CKNW.com. I had heard CKNW's Jon McComb editorializing on 980 AM about the failings of the Veteran's Charter and on online petition that had been started to show support for our troops and veterans. The following is taken directly from their website: Canada's soldiers. They fought in Bosnia. They fought in Afghanistan. And now they're fighting against their own government. I'm Jon McComb and Canada's veterans ombudsman says the Veterans Charter is failing some of the most severely wounded and disabled soldiers. He wants the Harper Government to address these "urgent shortcomings". With Remembrance Day right around the corner, you can help fight for our wounded veterans. See below for links to our online petition and Facebook page. Obviously I'm not the only one who isn't impressed with the Conservative government's treatment of our injured soldiers as the petition now has 12,630 signatures and the CKNW Facebook page has over 1 ,000 likes. A related petition on the change.org website titled "Government of Canada: Our wounded veterans deserve life-long support" has garnered an amazing 47,550 signatures.

Closer to home White Rock Council (invitation to the cenotaph), the City of Surrey (saluting veterans and Canadian forces), S. Surrey/White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg (freedom is never free…, thank you to those who fight to defend ours) and local Surdel MLA's (to those who fought for our Freedom and those who continue to defend it…., thank you) all had quarter page colour advertisements in the local fish wrap. Not to be left out, local MP Russ Hiebert had his own ad (honour the bravery of our men and women in uniform) featuring a large "Lest We Forget" over the shadowy silhouette of a saluting soldier. The irony is that many Canadian veterans feel all-but-forgotten by Harper's federal government and are appalled that after coming home from war, they have to battle with the Conservatives for respect and proper funding. Considering that it is likely all 308 members of parliament across Canada from the various political parties took out the same type of ad, possibly in several newspapers or on-line publications, I would love to know what the total budget for this public relations exercise was. Instead of telling our soldiers that we support them, how about actually showing them and putting proper funding in place to ensure quality of life for our damaged or disabled veterans into their golden years.

Remembrance Day may now be over but fighting for dignity and respect for our disabled veterans will continue until changes are made in the New Veterans Charter. The Harper government has announced it plans to appeal a BC court ruling for a class-action lawsuit involving veterans of the Afghanistan war who allege that eliminating the life-long disability pension violates their Canadian Charter Rights. If you wore a poppy last week then take the time to get involved in this fight and sign the CKNW petition, email or phone your local MP supporting our troops and contact the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Hon. Julian Fantino to voice your concerns. You might also want to remind Mr. Fantino about the quote posted on "The Minister" section of the Veteran Affairs website: "We owe a tremendous debt to those who have served the interests of our country, in preserving our freedoms, ensuring our prosperity and securing our future. They warrant our support and assistance and we are committed to delivering for them." — The Honourable Julian Fantino. Something tells me he might have forgotten about this statement soon after arriving in Ottawa.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 04, 2013

Canada's Murder Capital for 2013

From the very start of this year when gangsters started dropping like flies in Surrey I was very concerned about the murders plaguing the city. It seemed that every time I opened my computer or picked up an old-fashioned newspaper that the headlines were screaming about yet another homicide in Surrey. The rather macabre killing or dumping of four people on Colebrook Road only added to my angst, especially after finding out that two people had been shot there only hours after I drove down this quiet rural roadway and told my co-worker that the police should have the area under surveillance. The $80,000 spent by City Hall on placing video cameras on Colebrook along the bottom of Panorama Ridge has stopped the bloodletting in this area but this does not mean that the problem has gone away. In the past week alone a man was gunned down in his car in Fleetwood in the early morning and on Halloween day, a woman's body was found in Hi-Knoll Park near 192nd St. located in the eastern section of none other than the infamous Colebrook Road. Between the potholes, lack of shoulders, deep ditches, absence of street lighting and bodies used for speedbumps, it's got my vote for the BCAA "Worst Roads" campaign (vote at bcaa.com/worstroads). It is not surprise that many people in Surrey are now referring to it as "Killbrook" Road and avoiding it like the plague, especially at night when it often turns deadly.

With two months left to go in the year Surrey has already recorded 20 homicides, a staggering number for a city whose population eclipsed the half-million mark this summer. By comparison, the City of Vancouver recently had its fifth murder of the year and their population is 630,000 people, which also includes the rough-n-tumble Down Town East Side and plenty of well-established organized crime groups that are armed to the teeth. It's hard to imagine that the suburb of Surrey has a murder count four times that of the city of Vancouver to date for this year. The 4 homicides per 100,000 residents put it in the running to win the dubious title of Canada's murder capital of the year for 2013. Winnipeg won the murder capital numbers game in 2012 with a record 35 homicides for its 715,000 residents, a title it unfortunately has held 16 times since 1981. It's rather tragic that my wife Sheryl moved from Winnipeg to Surrey partly to get away from the violence in urban Manitoba. In 2011, Edmonton took the title after 47 people were killed there, numbers that have dropped dramatically since that time. Thunder Bay was the top dog in 2010 with a homicide rate of 4.2 per 100,000, just above the current rate that we have in Surrey with two months still to go till the end of the year. A little closer to home, in 2008 and 2009 the bible belt of Abbotsford became Canada's murder capital when it was caught up in a gang turf war involving the UN and Red Scorpion gangs, turning this around completely by recording no homicides in 2011.

When Surrey Shirts created the controversial, "Better Safe Than Surrey" design featuring 6 bullet holes and "the future dies here" that altered the new city logo turning it into a hand gun, it was not meant to cast Surrey in a dim light. The cross-Canada news reports about the ongoing violence here unfortunately imprint the problem on the minds of Canadians coast to coast far more than any simple T-shirt. This apparel with its anti-gun/anti-gang images was created to bring attention to this problem and to stir community conversation about how it could best be addressed and conquered. It should be noted that they were first drafted back in the summer of 2012, long before the current rash of shootings, stabbings and bodies littering the sides of quiet dark roads in Surrey. We have a gang problem here, we have a drug problem on our streets, we have illegal handguns flooding north from the States, and we have young people with no morals or remorse who think nothing of shooting people down in cold blood. These factors along with challenging economic times, lack of education and employment opportunities coupled with cultural differences and social pressures all combine to create the ongoing violence we have been witnessing. I'm glad that Halloween is now over as every time I heard load bangs I caught myself listening to the noise trying to decide if it was fireworks or gun shots. A friend of mine who lives in Newton said it sounded like a war zone after dark last week stretching into the wee hours of the morning as Halloween and Diwali celebrations morphed into one.

Lost in all the headlines about the many murders that have happened in 2013 is the lack of stories concerning charges laid in Surrey homicides. While police have filed several charges in cases going back over the past few years, there has only been one person charged with homicide for a death in Surrey in 2013, leaving 19 cases still under investigation. With the formation of IHIT and the E Division headquarters being in Surrey, you would think we would see more people arrested and held responsible for the most heinous of crimes. Unfortunately modern police work is not like on CSI where murders are investigated and culprits charged all in the space of an hour. The Surrey Six shooting suspects who are currently in court were arrested years after the gangland massacre with it only recently making its way to court. I'm sure the RCMP have plenty of leads and even suspects in many of these 2013 cases but they need evidence that will likely lead to a prosecution. In killings involving gang members, the perpetrator could be any one of many enemies, or even a person unknown to the victim who had been assigned or contracted for the murder, making the possibility of a conviction extremely remote. With the police, knowing whose responsible is one thing, being able to prove it is quite another.

Let's hope that 2013 is an anomaly and that the next few months are quiet and do not added to the carnage we have already witnessed in Surrey. The Surrey First council has to make decreasing the murder rate here a top priority and begin focusing its efforts to stop kids from becoming involved in gangs. Community leaders, social workers, teachers, church and temple elders, the police and parents all need to work together to tackle this problem that continues to give the City of Surrey a bad name. It saddens me when I tell people from across Canada that I live in Surrey and they respond with, "You mean where all the shootings happen?" While Surrey will eventually surpass Vancouver in population size, it has a lot of growing up to do in order to call itself a world-class city, including putting a stop to the senseless slaughter of its citizens. Every death on the streets only adds to the black eye that Surrey has because of the seemingly non-stop killings we are witnessing this year. Surrey's "the future lives here" slogan will mean nothing if we become known as Canada's murder capital, something that I'm crossing my fingers won't happen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE From Surrey RCMP November 04 12 noon

Police warning sex trade workers after body found at Surrey park

IHIT is now warning other sex trade workers, after Lisa Ann Zielke's body was found at Hi-Knoll Park nearby where several pieces of furniture had been disposed of. RCMP believe the furniture dumped in Hi-Knoll Park maay have been dumped close to the time the body of LISA ANN ZIELKE was dumped in the park. IHIT is also issuing a warning for sex trader workers in Surrey to operate with extra vigilance.

If you recognize this furniture and have any knowledge of who may have dumped it off, please contact the IHIT Tipline at 1-877-551-4448

 

 

October 28, 2013

Surrey's Getting SASSY

def. Sassy: Lively, bold, and full of spirit, cheeky. Possessing the attitude of someone endowed with an ungodly amount of cool.

Supporting youth in our community, especially considering all of the social and economic pressures they face in our modern fast paced world, is essential in welcoming them to become contributing members of society. With this thought in mind, you may want to consider attending the third annual 2013 SASSY Awards (Service Above Self Surrey Youth) billed as "a celebration of youth achievement" being held on Friday night, Nov. 1 at the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts just up the street from Surrey City Hall. I can guarantee you that with the talented musical talent that has been booked for this evening, you'll be thoroughly entertained by the up-and-comers who will take the stage.

The SASSY Awards honour Surrey and White Rock youth aged 16 to 21 who are making a difference in our community by demonstrating the ideal of "service above self." They are sponsored by the Semiahmoo Rotary Club in partnership with the City of Surrey, the Surrey School District #36, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, along with the White Rock and Central City Rotary Clubs. Six awards will be presented in the categories of Against-the-Odds, Athletic and Sportsmanship, Community Service, Environmental Leadership, Performing and Visual Arts, plus Youth Leadership with all award nominees having a chance to win a vacation courtesy of White Rock Travel and G Adventures. Each Award recipient receives a stylized SASSY Award trophy, a $1,000 bursary and $500 to donate to the registered charity of their choice.

This year's awards show has attracted some incredible young talent from the community including the twin sister act of Alanna & Brianne from White Rock (winners of White Rock Sun's Diamond in the Rock 2013), the VIDOS (winners in the Surrey YouthFest Battle of the Bands 2013) and Stolen (runners up in the Surrey YouthFest Battle of the Bands 2013) who will open the evening's festivities. The featured headline group of the night will see the return of FRESHH Hip Hop Dance Crew who were previous runners-up in Canada's Got Talent, Canadian National Hip Hop champions for several years running and who are past gold and bronze world medalists at Hip Hop International in Las Vegas. You might have seen them before when this group had the honor of performing at the Closing Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The emcees for this gala are Nat and Drew, the morning crew of the Virgin radio 95.3 FM station with a special salute to the local Tommy Alto Band who were involved in a serious automobile crash near Hope this summer that critically injured two members.

Proceeds from the SASSY Awards go toward youth related projects by local Interact and Rotarary Clubs, furthering the theme of "youth helping youth." Tickets for the Friday Nov. 1st SASSY Awards Show are $15 for students (under 21) and $25 for adults, available online at http://bit.ly/H68kcM or in bulk at grouptickets@sassyawards.ca (be advised that they are going fast). The Bell Centre for the Performing Arts is located at 6250 - 144th Street in Surrey with doors opening at 7:00 pm with the show starting at 8 o'clock. For more information on this SASSY Awards, check them out online at www.sassyawards.ca, on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/SassyAwards or contact Bill Brooks at bbrooks@sassyawards.ca / 604-250-5013. All of the listed bands can be found on their websites, FaceBook page or performing on YouTube should you want to check them out. Support Surrey and White Rock youth by attending this amazing show and I hope to see you there. I'll likely be the tallest guy in the place, proudly wearing a black "Surrey" jersey and matching SRY hat if you care to meet.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 21, 2013

The Curse of Colebrook ( there's an app for that)

Dark and early on Thursday morning I was driving westbound on the notorious Colebrook Road west of the KGB in Surrey, using it as a shortcut to a jobsite I have in nearby Panorama Ridge. With thick fog and no street lights, it made for extremely limited visibility in the inky blackness. I commented to my co-worker beside me that it would be very difficult to see the interchange ahead where Colebrook Road crosses the CN/CP railway at 131A St. and how we wouldn't want to end up on the tracks by mistake. In mid-January I attended an accident scene at the very same spot where a freight train had hit a car that had become stuck on the tracks at night, seriously damaging it and pushing it half a kilometer down the rails. Fortunately there were no injuries as the driver had already made his escape and the engineers were only shaken up. There was no change of this happening to us for as we approached the crossing a coal train approached turning on its triple high-beam lights as the crossing's red warning lights started flashing and the and gates closed across the road.

Colebrook Road crosses the tracks at the same spot that is also the intersection for 131A St. which is a small rural side road leading to several quiet farms. To the side of the beam of my headlights, I noticed a dark SUV parked backwards facing traffic on the wrong side of the road. Besides the strange parking job, something did not look quite right with this vehicle and I soon realized that the three tires I could see from my vantage point were completely flat. I quickly ran through a variety of explanations as to how this could have happened; had the vehicle been stolen and dumped, had it been vandalized and the tires slashed, had it been involved in an accident or had the tires been shot out gangland style? With the coal train still rolling by, I exited my work truck and cautiously walked towards the vehicle after telling my co-worker to call 911 if anything sinister happened. As I got closer I noticed the outline of a person sitting in the driver's seat with their head slumped forward. For a moment I feared the worst until they sat back, opened the vehicle door and stepped out into the gloom to meet me.

I asked the young man if he was okay and what had happened to flatten three of the four wheels on the Chevy Trail Blazer. He informed me that just as I had been talking about in the foggy darkness, he had missed the corner while driving on Colebrook Road and had crashed onto the tracks with the steel rails ripping apart the rubber and damaging several of the aluminum rims. The SUV became stuck in the loose ballast rock that surrounds the wooden ties and hi-centered on the rails. The driver told me that he had only been able to back out of harm's way with help of the four-wheel-drive, saying that that without it he would have had no choice but to abandon the Blazer on the active train tracks where it would have been struck by the passing train. The time between the accident and the train arriving was only three minutes, giving little time to contact the police or CN operations in order to stop rail traffic. I told the man to thank his lucky stars and to make sure he bought a lottery ticket as it seemed that this was his lucky day. He thanked me for my concern, said that he had a great excuse for why he was going to be late for work and went back to using his cell phone to find the number for a tow truck, which was what he was doing when I first walked up.

An hour later after finishing our work in Panorama Ridge, we once again travelled on Colebrook Road and stopped to check out the damage in the light of day, take some pictures of the wreck and inspect the crash scene. There were plenty of fresh scratches on the metal railway tracks plus rubber marks where the driver had managed to back off the corridor and drive his badly damaged vehicle to a safe spot on nearby 131A St. From police road-marking spray paint, older skid marks, other scratches on the rails showing rust and tire marks in the gravel, it appears that this corner has been the scene of multiple accidents where vehicles have missed the corner and drove onto the tracks. With no street lights at the crossing and little warning signage, it is very easy for drivers to miss the turn or drive too fast through the chicane across the rail corridor. In fact, there is only one yellow and black chevron turn arrow sign in each direction and they are beat up and bent, making them less visible in dark and foggy conditions. As I have said in the past, bad engineering causes accidents and crashes at this corner should come as no surprise. After the car/train crash on Colebrook last January at this location you would have thought that safety signage at this corner would have been reviewed and improved. Instead, nothing was done and we could have easily had another crash in the same spot which also threatens a derailment on the busy rail line leading to Deltaport and Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank.

Having travelled last weekend through Washington State, I was impressed by the road markings and signage on their streets and highways which differ remarkably from ours. Signage there is clear and easy to read, properly located in relation to driving hazards and relatively uniform across the state. On dangerous intersections with plenty of truck traffic, they even use different sizes of stop signs likely relative to the history of previous crashes. I saw stop signs three feet across at one T-intersection at the bottom of a steep hill, four foot wide stop signs used at the intersection of two major truck routes and even a large stop sign with imbedded flashing red digital lights around the perimeter of the red octagon at a blind corner. I could only wonder what had happened to warrant such special signs but I can tell you with certainty that you will not see this done in this province. That could possibly change, especially in the City of Surrey if people here take the opportunity to utilize a new problem reporting system available for smart cellular phones called the Mobile Citizen Service Request App.

Available from the City of Surrey website at the following link (https://www.surrey.ca/city-services/12082.aspx) it allows you to download the SeeClickFix app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. You can use this app to notify the city about needed repairs or to request service to city infrastructure by following the basic format below listed on the surrey.ca website:
take a picture of your issue and send it to us,
show the issue location with the smartphone's built-in GPS,
pinpoint the location with the drag-and-drop map marker,
select from list of issues — no typing required,
view your submitted requests and get their status,
view other requests in the area, and
stay up-to-date with issue status updates
Citizens with cell phones can become the eyes and ears for City Hall, fixing problems as they arise and asking for changes that will make Surrey safer. Simply download the SeeClickFix app and let city workers know how to make necessary improvements as you become aware of them. Working together, we can alert them to deficiencies which cause automobile crashes, lowering our accident rate, ICBC rates and MSP premiums. Think about that every time you hear a siren or watch emergency services workers heading to yet another accident scene in the big city of Surrey BC.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

October 14, 2013

Another Day - Another Death


 You have to wonder why we pay all the taxes that we do and yet wait for months for governments to respond to simple requests.  I recently wrote about having “Ocean Park ” placed in the empty portion of the highway sign at the Hwy. 99/King George Blvd off-ramp.  This does not require a new sign or any alterations other than a few dollars in reflective vinyl sheeting and yet the Ministry of Highways cannot manage to complete this sensible request.  Even our elected MLA’s Hogg and Hunt seem to have little power to persuade the bloated bureaucrats to get off their fat asses and make this basic change.  Much more concerning is the city of Surrey’s failure to fully upgrade the signage on Crescent Road to improve public safety and lower the fatality rate on the Semi-Pen’s most dangerous road.  While I do not yet know the exact date, around three weeks ago another vehicle failed to negotiate one of the tight corners of Crescent Road, crossing through the oncoming lane and plowing into trees above a ravine just west of 144 St. near King George Blvd. 


A couple of small white metal crosses with red reflective ends now mark the spot where 29 year-old Johnny Bear (nickname maybe?) met his untimely demise.  When I first noticed the crash site, it was littered with broken car parts including pieces of a shattered aluminum tire rim.  Shortly after, a small cross was erected with the debris piled around it, likely as a warning to others to slow down on south Surrey’s infamous racetrack.  Now a larger cross has been erected and moved closer to a big cedar tree that had a traffic control sign showing “SLOW” attached to it years ago after another fatal accident in the exact same spot.  This most recent crash happened in the 30 kmh zone between 144 St. and Elgin road that is an anomaly for a main arterial road.  Fortunately it happened at the first curve and not the next one where the ESSO gas station and several fuel pumps sit unprotected from traffic except for a small asphalt curb.  While Crescent Road has changed little in decades, the amount of traffic it receives, the speed of late night drivers and the rate of serious crashes requires that safety upgrades need to be done before more lives are lost.


I completed a detailed safety report regarding Crescent Road back in June, forwarding it to the Surrey Engineering Department plus mayor and council and presenting it in person to the Safety & Infrastructure Committee at City Hall.  This was after a close call of my own earlier this year where an oncoming driver swerved fully into my lane on Crescent Road near 132 St., forcing me off the road to avoid a nasty head-on collision.  While many of the recommendations I suggested have been instituted, there are others which have been ignored.  To date the upgrades include turn ahead and 40 kmh warning signs on many corners, chevron turn signs at the deadly 13300 block corner, installation of cat-eye reflectors along this dangerous roadway, cutting back of trees blocking speed signs and extra 30 kmh signs between Elgin Road and 144 St. to make this speed limit legally enforceable.  While the city saw fit to post the extra speed signs so that motorists could be ticketed, they ignored the idea of yellow diamond warning signs with “30 Kmh Ahead” on them before the low speed zone or to use fluorescent yellow “SLOW” signs below the 30 Kmh regulatory sign framed with a black and white sunburst to help attract driver’s attention.  Also the newly posted chevron turning arrow signs near the 144 St. crash site were not properly aligned with the roadway to make them visible to approaching drivers.  Had these simple changes been made, it is likely that Johnny Bear would have slowed down, negotiated the curve and made it safely home.  Instead we have yet another roadside memorial on Crescent Road and a young life cut far too short.  This is a prime example of how bad engineering can contribute to accidents just as much as poor driving and excessive speed.


If Surrey wants to make Crescent Road safer and stop the carnage there, here are the remaining recommendations left from my report.  If you frequently drive down Crescent Road, take note of the safety improvements and the areas where signage changes would likely lower both the speed of traffic and the fatality rate.  If this terrible waste of life pisses you off as much as it does myself, then get on the phone or send an email to your local politicians asking that something finally be done about this ongoing problem.  If they can spend $80,000 to install cameras on Colebrook Road after four dead bodies were discovered there earlier this year, Surrey can cough up a few more dollars to properly alert drivers to the hazards they face on Crescent Road and possibly save some lives in the future.


30 Kmh Ahead Warning Signs. 
The 30 Kmh zone between 144 St. and Elgin Road needs to have signs alerting motorists to the 30 Kmh zone ahead.  These have a white and black 30 Kmh speed limit sign with an arrow on top, surrounded by a yellow and black sunburst to attract motorist’s attention to the danger.  Delta has them, Langley has them, even Washington State has them, why not Surrey?


Windy Road Ahead/Speed Kills Signage.  At either end of Crescent Road near 128 St. and 140 St., “Slippery Road” signs featuring a skidding car should be posted alerting motorists to the danger.  Because of the history of bad high-speed crashes and fatalities, additional “Speed Kills” signs should be posted below these in order to help slow drivers down.  These would send a serious message to all drivers to the dangers on Crescent Road.
Curve Ahead and Windy Road Signage.   These new signs are a welcome improvement but the square yellow 40 Kmh signs below them should be highlighted with a white and black diamond sunburst to attract attention to the danger.  This was done near KGB near 8 Ave. after a single fatal accident there several years ago and should be for copied for all of the deadly corners of Crescent Road.  Once again, this is standard operational procedure for Delta and Langley at high accident locations.


Cat-Eye Reflectors.  The recent replacement of cat-eye reflectors to the surface of Crescent Road was a big improvement for night driving but unfortunately the first time it snows it is likely the plows will rip off most of these optical safety devices as has happened in the past.  If possible, slight grooving in the roadway and having the reflectors sunk into the asphalt would be preferable to help illuminate the roadway during the dark winter months when many of the serious crashes happen


Turning Chevrons Signs.  While 3 large “Turning Chevron” signs have been posted on the deadly curve in the 13300 block, they need to be properly placed in order to be viewed by oncoming traffic.  An additional series of them are also needed at the other dangerous curve in the 13480 block just west of Elgin Park that was the scene of two serious crashes last winter alone involving four vehicles and eight people that has been the scene of previous fatal accidents.


Lighted Speed Signs.  Surrey promised to install lighted radar signs showing motorists their speed at several locations on Crescent Road but these have failed to materialize to date.  Langley has used these with great success to lower speed and fatalities on 72 Ave. east of 200th St. and in the ravines on 56 Ave. from 232 St. to 248 St. that regularly saw serious accidents and ongoing deaths.


Additional 50 Kmh Signage. 
Extra speed signage on Crescent Road would likely help to lower traffic speed.  “Strictly Enforced” signs below might also help to alert motorists to the dangers of racing on Crescent Rd.  The straightaway between the 13300 and 13480 block crash corners also could use 50 Kmh. signs in both directions.   Regular police enforcement of speed on Crescent Road should also be instituted outside of the 30 Kmh zone that most drivers simply ignore.


Lawn Protectors and Road Edge Rocks.  Many residents of Crescent Road have protected their lawns with concrete blocks or jagged rocks and even boulders in several locations which are much larger than allowed.  These must be moved the required distance from the asphalt instead of sitting directly next to the roadway as prohibited by Surrey by-laws as these can shred tires or damage suspensions leading to a loss of control and crashes as has happened in the past.
Improved Road Drainage.  Water runs across Crescent Road in three of the high-crash corners, likely contributing to hydroplaning in wet weather and loss of control.  If possible, shoulders should be graded to keep run-off from roadway at the three corners located at 14390, 13490 and 13285 Crescent Rd.


If you have information about the latest Crescent Road fatal crash, the time and date that it happened, the name of the person who died, or contact information for their next of kin, I would appreciate you contact me through the WR Sun editor.  Hopefully they can help to persuade the City of Surrey to take all necessary steps to make Crescent Road as safe as possible.  One more roadside memorial is too many and I’m just happy I didn’t end up with my own marker there earlier this year.  One last thing; to the driver who didn’t even stop to see if I was all right after forcing me off the road, slow the hell down before you kill someone which might also include yourself a-hole.      
Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn
 

 

October 07, 2013

The Silk Road Leads To White Rock. Or Does It?


I suspect that many of us are unfortunately becoming accustomed to opening our morning paper or clicking on the White Rock Sun website and reading stories about murder and mayhem in the big city of Surrey B.C. Another drive-by shooting, targeted gangland hits, bodies found dumped on the side of country roads, car crashes, hit and runs, SkyTrain assaults; the list goes on and on as monotonous as a skipping record. While south Surrey has seen some of this wild-west mentality with a murder earlier this year at the upscale "More-Gun X-ing", White Rock has managed to keep a relatively low profile except for a woman who was shot in the leg during a suspected grow-rip there several years back. With its affluent, well-educated and elderly population, the "City by the Sea" often seems miles away from its neighbor which surrounds it on three sides. That reputation may have taken a serious beating this week when White Rock was identified by the FBI as the location of an international murder-for-hire conspiracy in a plot likely to one day become a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

This story goes back to Feb. 2011 when the Silk Road Anonymous Marketplace underground website was first launched, creating a black market on the deep web offering products and services from a wide variety of illegal drugs and narcotics to computer hacking services and contract killings. Created by 29 year old Ross William Ulbricht, aka "Dread Pirate Roberts", the site operated out of a San Francisco internet café as a "Tor hidden service" technology with multiple levels of encrypted security systems allowing online users to use it anonymously without their computer url's being identified or communications monitored. Payments were made in bitcoin currency, cryptographic money used on the internet for money laundering and hidden transactions. In its short time online, Silk Road is alleged to have facilitated $1.2 billion in sales from almost a million users in 10 different countries, generating $80 million in commissions, earning SR the nickname, "the Amazon.com of illegal drugs." Needless to say, Silk Road quickly became known across the world (I first heard about it over a year ago) and attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, the DEA and the FBI. On Oct. 2, Silk Road's founder was arrested and charged with a variety of offences and the website's domain and servers were seized.



Besides the various drug, computer hacking and money laundering offences that Mr. Ulbricht or Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) has been charged with in two different affidavits, it is also alleged that he resorted to violence to protect his illegal empire. Charges filed in Maryland District Court detail how an undercover agent was able to gain DPR's trust through a $27,000 cocaine deal brokered on the Silk Road site. The agent was later approached about the possibility of beating a former Silk Road employee who had stolen the bitcoin currency from multiple users of the site. In a later message from DPR, prosecutors say that the plan was changed from torture to murder in order to keep the target from acting as an informant against Silk Road. Ulbricht allegedly paid the agent $40,000 before the targeted killing with a final $40,000 being received after staged photos were sent to him showing the employee apparently being murdered. In a rather chilling message received from Ulbricht by the agent, DPR laments, "I'm pissed that I had to kill him but what's done is done. I just can't believe he was so stupid…, I just wish people had some integrity."

Documents filed in the southern district of New York detail Mr. Ulbricht's involvement in another contract killing scheme that extended to the Canadian side of the border. The target was a Silk Road user named "FriendlyChemist" in White Rock who had somehow hacked information on Silk Road customers and their transactions who was attempting to extort DPR for $500,000 to pay drug debts owed to another SR user codenamed "RedandWhite that later accepted a $150,000 contract for murdering this married father of three children. The following is the sworn testimony taken directly from the New York court documents giving an inside look at the details to this murderous scheme in the Rock:

a. Beginning on March 13, 2013, a Silk Road vendor known as "FriendlyChemist" began sending threats to DPR through Silk Road's private message system. In these messages, Friendlychemist stated that he had a long list of real names and addresses of Silk Road vendors and customers that he had obtained from hacking into the Computer of another, larger Silk Road vendor. Friendlychemist threatened to publish the information on the Internet unless DPR gave him $500‚000‚ which Friendlychemist indicated he needed to pay off his narcotics suppliers.

b. In one message to DPR dated March 14, 2013, Friendlychemist elaborated on the consequences for Silk Road if he followed through on this threat: "What do u . . . think will happen if thousands of usernames‚ ordr amounts‚ addresses get leaked? All those people will leave sr [Silk Road] and be scared to use it again. those vendors will all be busted and all there customers will be exposed too and never go back to sr."

c. On March 15, 2013, Friendlychemist provided DPR a sample of the usernames‚ addresses‚ and order information he intended to leak. Also, as proof that he had obtained the data from the vendor whose Computer he claimed to have hacked‚ Friendlychemist supplied the vendor's username and password on Silk Road so that DPR could verify it.

d. On March 20, 2013, DPR wrote to FriendlyChemist stating: "Have your suppliers contact me here so I can work something out with them."

e. On March 25, 2013, a Silk Road user named "redandwhite" contacted DPR, stating: "I was asked to contact you. We are the people friendlychemist owes money to. What did you want to talk to us about?"

f. On March 26, 2013, DPR wrote to redandwhite stating‚ "Just to be clear‚ I do not owe him any money. I'm not entirely sure what the best action to take is‚ but I wanted to be in communication with you to see if we can come to a conclusion that works for everyone. Friendlychemist aside‚ we should talk about how we can do business. Obviously you have access to illicit substances in quantity, and are having issues with bad distributors. If you don't already sell here on Silk Road‚ I'd like you to consider becoming a vendor."

g. Later on March 26, 2013, redandwhite responded: "If you can get Friendlychemist to meet up with us, or pay us his debt then I'm sure I would be able to get people in our group to give this online side of the business a try."

h. On March 27, 2013, DPR wrote back: "In my eyes, Friendlychemist is a liability and I wouldn't mind if he was executed . . . . I'm not sure how much you already know about the guy, but I have the following info and am waiting on getting his address." DPR provided a name for Friendlychemist and stated that he lived in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada‚ with "Wife + 3 kids." DPR added: "Let me know if it would be helpful to have his full address."

i. Meanwhi1e‚ after not hearing anything back from DPR since March 20, 2013, Friendlychemist sent a message to DPR on March 29, 2013, stating: "u leave me no choice i want 500k usd withn 72hrs or i am going to post all the info i have. . . . i hate to do this but i need the money or im going to release it all. over 5000 user details and about 2 dozen vender identities. wats it going to be?"

j. Several hours later on March 29, 2013, DPR sent a message to "redandwhite‚" stating that "Friend1yChemist" is "causing me problems," and adding: "I would like to put a bounty on his head if it's not too much trouble for you. What would be an adequate amount to motivate you to find him? Necessities like this do happen from time to time for a person in my position."

k. After redandwhite asked DPR what sort of problem Friendlychemist was causing him‚ DPR responded‚ in a message dated March 30, 2013: "[H]e is threatening to expose the identities of thousands of my clients that he was able to acquire . . . . [T]his kind of behavior is unforgivable to me. Especially here on Silk Road, anonymity is sacrosanct." As to the murder-for-hire job he was soliciting‚ DPR commented that "[i]t doesn't have to be clean."

l. Later that same day‚ redandwhite sent DPR a message quoting him a price of S150,000 to S300,000 "depending on how you want it done" —"clean" or "non-clean."

m. On March 31, 2013, DPR responded: "Don't want to be a pain here‚ but the price seems high. Not long ago‚ I had a clean hit done for 80k. Are the prices you quoted the best you can do? I would like this done asap as he is talking about releasing the info on Monday."

n. Through further messages exchanged on March 31, 2013, DPR and redandwhite agreed upon a price of 1,670 Bitcoins - approximately $l50,000 - for the job. In DPR's message confirming the deal‚ DPR included a transaction record reflecting the transfer of 1,670 Bitcoins to a certain Bitcoin address.

o. Several hours later on March 31, 2013, redandwhite wrote back: "I received the payment. . . . We know where he is. He'll be grabbed tonight. I'll update you."

p. Approximately 24 hours later, redandwhite updated DPR, stating: "Your problem has been taken care of. . . . Rest easy though‚ because he won't be blackmailing anyone again. Ever."

q. Subsequent messages reflect that, at DPR's request‚ redandwhite sent DPR a picture of the victim after the job was done, with random numbers written on a piece of paper next to the victim that DPR had supplied. On April 5, 2013, DPR wrote redandwhite: "I've received the picture and deleted it. Thank you again for your swift action."



It should be noted that these same documents outlining the murder-for-hire plot in White Rock acknowledge the FBI contacted the RCMP who had no record of there being any Canadian resident with the real name for FriendlyChemist that DPR gave to RedandWhite as the target for the contract killing. While there have been 18 homicides in Surrey already in 2013, there were no murders in White Rock on or about March 31, 2013 when this event supposedly happened and no persons are missing. In fact, it has been well over a decade since the last homicide in the Rock, a record we would like to keep intact. Whether this alleged murder-for-hire was an elaborate fabrication by law enforcement authorities from south of the border still needs to be revealed. Until then, if you happen to know any shady characters who go by the internet user names of "FriendlyChemist" or "RedandWhite", or can provide any background information about this bizarre caper, my guess is that the White Rock RCMP would be more than happy to hear from you.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

September 30, 2013


Safety Training in White Rock

 

In the "City by the Sea" the recipe for disaster is quite simple. Take the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents, line it with a public promenade and put an industrial railway through the middle of it. The surprise is not that people get hit by trains down at the beach, but how few get mowed down, seriously injured or killed. Mrs. Anita Lewis who became the latest statistic on July 14th is now the 19th person killed on the train tracks along the Boundary Bay waterfront since the tracks were relocated from an inland route through Surrey over a hundred years ago. Add to this the 10 other people who have been struck and seriously injured and you have what I call the "BNSF Hit List." White Rock's Mayor Baldwin is on record saying that he "will resist" rail fencing and other safety measures that he feels are basically a knee-jerk reaction by Transport Canada and the BNSF to yet another train/pedestrian accident at the beach. I'm of the opposite mind-set, believing that not enough is being done to alert pedestrians to the deadly threat that trains, especially the Amtrak Cascades passenger train, pose to people who must cross the tracks to access the shoreline or even the promenade through East beach.

The editor of the White Rock Sun, Dave Chesney has been wondering for years what happened to the signal arms that previously were located at the end of the pier, which disappeared years ago. I know that he has repeatedly asked both the city of White Rock and the BNSF Railway, who had authorized their removal but has never received an answer to his questioning. While this busy pedestrian crossing is marked with the same railway signs and lights you would see at a rural street crossing, there is little to alert people to the need to "Stop, Look & Listen", the safety slogan used by CN and CP. When mile long coal trains come lumbering along, pedestrians routinely will cross the tracks in front of the train rather than waiting for the five to ten minutes for these 125 car monsters to roll on by. Mr. Chesney has even told me about what he calls the, "running of the strollers" where mothers hurry to push their kids in strollers across the tracks before the trains pass, wondering how long it will be before one of these children get dumped onto the rails. When eleven-year-old White Rock Elementary student Leif Everson was killed by a train near the railway station/museum building in 1997, safety railings were erected along the length of the promenade to limit pedestrian/train collisions. With the ever increasing population of the Fraser Valley, people wearing head phones, talking on texting on cell phones or generally walking around oblivious to the dangers of crossing the tracks, more needs to be done to save people from themselves.

I went to the promenade this weekend to review the train safety mechanisms in place and was surprised and disturbed by what I found. At the west end of West beach, there is a boat ramp where cars can simply drive across the tracks that have no flashing lights, warning bells or signal arms. While there is plenty of signage proclaiming "No Parking", there is little to point to the train danger, not even stop signs for vehicles crossing the tracks. Heading east towards the washroom building, there are 10 gaps in the double safety railing allowing people to cross, albeit with "DANGER – Trespassing on Railway Property is Illegal" signs threatening legal action posted nearby. While warnings about the trains could have been painted on the walkway, instead there is a crude yellow dog with a crossed out circle around it, signaling they are more worried about dogs on the promenade. Between the washrooms and the pier the safety railing is continuous until it reaches the main pier crossing, funneling the majority of pedestrians into this large crossing where the promenade goes from the north to south side of the tracks at the entrance to the historic White Rock pier. The lack of proper pedestrian warning signs or signal arms at this location is beyond belief considering the foot traffic in this location and it is asinine for White Rock, the BNSF and Transport Canada to not improve this dangerous situation. They do however have one of the yellow "No Dogs" signs painted to the bricks at this spot as I guess they don't want Fido to get flattened by a train.

 

At East beach from the Semiahmoo Reserve lands to Eagle Hill (call it the Hump if you still want), there are four pedestrian crossings marked with railway crossing X signs plus a sign stating, "NOTICE – Trains Do Not Sound Whistle" along with the times of night. It was the last of these crossings across the street from the Sandpiper Pub where the latest accident occurred. Just beyond this are twelve parking spots with no safety railing allowing people to walk back and forth freely across the tracks. This corner of East beach is becoming a favourite haunt of windsurfers and kite boarders, especially since Feral Boardsports sent up their rental shop and all kinds of gear is dragged across the tracks in this location. Further down at the Semiahmoo First Nations, the large parking lot near the WAG has been fenced with high chain link and there are three gates, with only one being unlocked and that only during the daytime. A very large sign is posted above the passageway reading:
WARNING – By Going Through These Gates
- There is a potential danger of injury or death
- You are trespassing on the BNSF Railway lands.
- You are entering at your own risk
- Semiahmoo First Nations will not accept any liability for injury to property, person or loss of life once a person exists Semiahmoo Park.
Something tells me we should put the Semiahmoo First Nations in charge of railway safety and proper pedestrian signage for all along the White Rock waterfront. Their message reads loud and clear and is obvious and impossible to miss.

As the Green Party of BC Transportation critic and a rather well known community safety advocate, here is my list of recommendations to the City of White Rock, the BNSF Railway and Transport Canada on safety improvements along the promenade which would reduce the likelihood of pedestrian/train accidents in the future:
- At the west end of West beach heading to Crescent and the east end of East beach heading towards the border, large signs should be posted on either side of the tracks warning about the danger from trains to help reduce the rail corridor's use as an extension of the promenade.
- The West beach boat launch needs flashing red lights and bells to warn drivers to the danger from oncoming trains plus stop signs on either side of the tracks.
- The ten crossings at the west side of West beach should be reduced to a manageable level of three or four with these pedestrian crossings being signed with railway crossing signs similar to East beach
- The main pier crossing where the promenade also changes sides of the track should be fenced off to restrict pedestrian traffic to the crossing and signal arms with flashing lights need to be installed on either side of the corridor.
- Bold brightly coloured signs stating, "DANGER – Stop, Look & Listen For Trains" should be posted on both sides and for both directions of all pedestrian and vehicle traffic crossings.
- A bright yellow/orange stripe of curb paint should be applied to the pavement across the entrance to all track crossings with the words, "STOP – LOOK – LISTEN" written in black for each direction.
- Red flashing lights with electronic bells when trains are approaching should be installed at all pedestrian crossings along the promenade.
- Safety railing needs to be installed near Feral Boardsports so people in this area use the signed pedestrian crossing rather than just stepping from the parking lot onto the tracks.
- A bar of steel needs to welded on the top of the existing promenade safety railings to that people will not sit on them, something that now happens while trains are passing by only feet away.
While I realize that whistles are a contentious issue, I believe that adjustments need to be made to them as well. Rather than have an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for whistling, dusk to dawn would be more effective as the trains could adjust to the seasons just as pedestrians do. When Anita Lewis was hit during the summer it was still light out and yet the train did not whistle upon entering White Rock. Folks also need to realize that since 1975, the bulk of the pedestrian/train accidents that have occurred in White Rock have involved the sleek AmTrak passenger train which is much smaller and quieter than the BNSF freight trains. There is also the issue of the AmTrak's serene green white and brown colour scheme versus the BNSF locomotive's garish orange, yellow and black. With its quieter horn, smaller headlights and scheduled runs, I think that the Amtrak should always whistle when nearing either end of the White Rock beaches plus at the main pier crossing to alert pedestrians to its passing.

Of course, there is another way to ensure that pedestrian/train accidents are eliminated from the White Rock waterfront and that is to relocate the BSNF Railway back inland to a safer inland route likely near 184 St. When you look at the money that has been poured into this short stretch of track over the past five years including rip-rap boulder erosion control, 20,000 new creosote ties, continuous weld rails, landslide debris cleanup plus the new Little Campbell and Serpentine bridges, these millions of dollars would have gone a long way to build a new track through Surrey as proposed by SmartRail, a local community rail safety group. With the fierce rain and wind storms this weekend, I wonder how long it will be before we see trees falling onto the tracks and mudslides pouring from the Ocean Park bluffs, all which threaten to derail passing trains on this ocean railway. Train traffic through White Rock is only going to increase, especially if the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export plan is rubber stamped by Port Metro Vancouver, and growing populations in Surrey and surrounding municipalities ensure that the beaches of White Rock will only get busier. All of the safety precautions in the world cannot stop stupidity or that one moment of indiscretion which leads to tragic consequences. White Rock is a seaside city and it is high time that they stop getting railroaded into the $400,000 annual ransom payment to the BNSF for the parking lot lease and work to get the locomotives off the waterfront. The other option is more trains, more noise, more diesel smoke, more coal dust, and more deaths. The only positive is that with all this, the beaches, pier and promenade may not be so crowded in the summer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 23, 2013

20 Years of Cleaning Up Canada

 

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup that is an initiative sponsored by the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which runs from September 21-29 this year. There are 19 sites on the Semiahmoo peninsula waterfront from Peace Arch Park at the border, across Semiahmoo bay and White Rock beach, along the rugged Crescent Rock beach, through Crescent Beach/Blackie Spit, the Nicomekl and Serpentine rivers and Mud Bay. While some of these areas are being cleaned by private groups, there are still many areas that are looking for public volunteers to join in the effort. You can get information on how to get involved in the clean up by visiting www.shorelinecleanup.ca and clicking on the link to find a cleanup in this region. With many people choosing to live here so they can be close to the water, it is not surprising that this event attracts such a large amount of participants.

While the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up occurs every fall, I don't wait for this one organized event to pick up litter debris and flotsam from the shores of the Semi-pen. When I'm planning on visiting the waterfront, I often take along a garbage bag and even have litter tongs which assist in picking up garbage or reaching into blackberry bushes to grab litter without getting scraped by thorns. It never fails to amaze me how many people visit the ocean and litter on the beach, often leaving alcoholic beverage containers, coffee cups or small garbage bags full of dog poop that have been picked up, tossed aside and left to rot. The city of Surrey used to have signs reading, "Pack Out What You Pack IN" at access points to the beach but many of these have disappeared over the years and should be re posted to alert the idiots amongst us for the need to not litter on the waterfront. Smokers enjoying the fresh air down at the beach don't seem to realize that their cigarette butts and packaging constitute one of the largest sources of litter that is found along beaches across Canada. A small sealable container or even a sandwich bag to hold cigarette butts should be part of the beach bag contents for any smoker, instead of using the sand as an ash tray.

In the spring and fall I take it upon myself to clean the 6.5 km. of Crescent Rock beach shoreline at the base of the Ocean Park bluffs from Crescent Beach to White Rock, with the assistance of a few selected friends. I would not recommend this adventure for the faint of heart as the terrain is extremely rough and treacherous. Removing the debris from this relatively remote and hard to access area is difficult and I enlist the help of the BNSF Railway to remove bags of debris that are left near the tracks for pick up and disposal. In the early spring, most of the garbage collected along Crescent Rock is flotsam that has been deposited from waves, wind and current, including plenty of commercial fishing gear, rope and floats. Landslides onto the tracks during the rainy season often bring buried debris dumped decades ago from houses at the top of the bluffs with old tires, household appliances and even a kitchen sink being found and removed. The fall cleanup often involves litter that has been left at the shoreline or which has drifted in from the popular public White Rock beaches. From Kwomais Point to West Beach in White Rock, you will find plenty of plastic water bottles and their small screw tops, broken flip-flop sandals and kid's beach tools including plastic pails, rakes, shovels and molds that have drifted away during the summer months.

To give you an idea of the size of the litter problem on our waterways and the amount of debris collected, in 2012 the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup attracted 57,442 volunteers who descended on 1,815 different locations, cleaning 3,102 km. of shoreline which filled 12,895 garbage bags full of debris, weighing a staggering 136,036 Kg. This garbage is tracked and itemized, giving a detailed picture of the problem so that sources of litter can be identified and hopefully controlled before being released into the environment. Taken from the Vancouver Aquarium website, here is the detailed numbers for the top twelve items collected during last year's cleanup.


Canada's Dirty Dozen List For 2012
2012 Rank

Number of Items Collected
1
Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters 416,955
2
Food Wrappers/Containers 98,835
3
Bags (Plastic) 69,790
4
Caps, Lids 69,725
5
Beverage Bottles (plastic) 2 liters or less 38,202
6
Beverage Cans 37,210
7
Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons 34,458
8
Straws, Stirrers 32,338
9
Beverage Bottles (glass) 29,198
10
Bags (paper) 28,315

Hopefully these numbers will make people think twice about refuse control and littering on our beaches, along with considering helping to control this environmental problem. There is nothing worse than going for a walk along the beach and seeing it covered with garbage. Remember the "pack it in, pack it out" slogan, don't take glass bottles to the beach, bring a container for cigarette butts and ensure that you take your garbage plus any other litter you find along your travels. The more people who help to reduce this problem, the cleaner our beaches will be and hopefully the ignorant pigs among us might possibly change their ways if the shorelines are pristine and spotless. If you see people littering or leaving garbage behind at the beach, take the opportunity to educate them about this issue, inviting them to take part in the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, instead of being part of the problem.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 16, 2013


Itching to go Swimming

 

With the final days of summer upon us, I have taken to spending as much quality time as I possibly could relaxing in the sun's rays down at Crescent Rock beach just south of Crescent Beach. Last week there were plenty of evenings where the sun was a brilliant yellow ball and the water flat like glass without a breath of wind, allowing sunbathing until the very end of the day. It was so hot in fact that swimming offered a refreshing cool down and many of the other people who were there took frequent dips into the waters of Boundary Bay. One of the beach regulars who lives in the Ocean Park area regularly swims in the ocean there and I was surprised that she was staying high and dry up on the shore. When I went to talk to her, she informed me that several weeks ago during the hottest part of the summer she had contacted "swimmers itch" and showed me the measles like rash that still persisted on much of her skin. Taken from the Health Link BC website, here are the Coles Notes versions of everything you need to know about swimmers itch and how to best avoid it.

Cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch is a temporary itchy rash caused by small worm-like parasites called schistosomes that spend their life cycle as parasites in the bodies of water snails and in the blood stream of aquatic mammals, ducks or other waterfowl. During their life cycle, schistosome larvae leave their snail host and swim near the surface of the water, looking for bird and mammal hosts. These larvae might mistakenly get on your skin if you are swimming or wading in water, with the small parasites burrowing under your skin. They fortunately cannot survive in humans and will die almost immediately with a resulting allergic reaction to these tiny larvae causing swimmer's itch. These parasites can be found in many lakes, ponds, and coastal waters in British Columbia usually in the warm summer months. Wind near the shoreline can push the tiny larvae to the edges of lakes where they float near the surface. The swimmers itch around Crescent Beach is a result of a species of an invasive snail from the Atlantic coast that is found in the eel grass beds there.

There is no sure way to avoid swimmer's itch entirely unless you stay away from lakes, ponds, or beaches but there are certain precautions you can take to reduce your risk of exposure. Make sure you speak to locals, health officials or parks representatives about the water condition before going for a swim. Check for warning signs at public beaches, lakes and picnic areas that state swimmer's itch may be present and avoid areas with lots of weed growth that can harbor snails and larvae around plants. Using a pier or dock to enter the water may help reduce your risk of exposure as there tend to be more larvae near the shore. Applying waterproof sunscreen before bathing may help reduce the number of larvae from penetrating your skin. Most importantly, dry yourself off with a towel as soon as you come out of the water and if possible, have a shower and dry off right away. Showering will not remove any larvae that have already burrowed under your skin and swimmer's itch cannot be spread from person to person. Young children who wade and splash in shallow areas of lakes and ponds may be at higher risk of contacting the schistosome larvae because they constantly are in and out of the water, usually play close to shore where the parasites tend to be and have more sensitive skin than adults.

Swimmer's itch symptoms can range from a mild irritation to a very severe, itchy red rash. Scratching can cause severe pain and swelling, or allow your skin to become infected. The severity of symptoms will depend on how many larvae get into your skin, how sensitive you are to them. As you start to dry off and the larvae begin to burrow into your skin, you may feel a slight tingling sensation. Small pin-sized red spots will appear, which grow into larger red rashes within several hours. As these red spots increase in size, the tingling feeling becomes a strong itch. A rash may appear within 12 hours after infection that may last from 2 to 5 days and symptoms persisting as long as two weeks. Repeat infections are usually worse because people become more sensitive to the larvae and develop stronger allergic responses with subsequent exposures. If you discover that you are suffering from swimmers itch, there are a number of steps you can take that may reduce some of the itchiness. Common treatments and advice include avoiding scratching, applying calamine lotion and using antihistamines. Taking shallow lukewarm baths with 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the water, applying cool compresses or having colloidal oatmeal baths are recommended homeopathic remedies. While not serious, if swimmer's itch leads to a skin infection from too much scratching, you should see your local health care provider.

I hope that this TNT does not scare people away from the beach or leave them afraid to go into the water. Knowledge about this problem and the easy steps that can be taken to avoid it should allow most people to "ditch the itch." It was interesting to note that the lady at Crescent Rock beach had been swimming that day with several of her friends but she was the only person who was affected. There is scientific evidence that hot, sunny, calm days make exposure to the lovely parasite which causes swimmers itch much more likely. Of course, who but the most fearless Polar Bear enthusiast would want to go swimming when it is cold, cloudy and windy? I'll take my chances with the itch, enjoying the best of the west coast lifestyle that the Semiahmoo peninsula can offer which means going for the occasional dip in the waters of Boundary Bay.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 09, 2013


Signs of Decay

The next time you are taking the King George Blvd. exit south into the peninsula from Hwy. 99, take note of the large freeway sign on the off-ramp pointing the way to White Rock (straight ahead arrow), Crescent Beach (right hand arrow) and the bottom portion of this sign that is mysteriously blank. Before the off-ramp changes that occurred years ago when the original park-n-ride lot was first built, the bottom portion of the sign previously pointed the way to Cloverdale. It has always amused me that the Ministry of Highways who have jurisdiction over them would simply cover up the old lettering with a reflective piece of green vinyl and not bother to use this existing sign to possibly help drivers, visitors and tourists to find their way through south Surrey. Now originally I thought that since the first two sections pointed to the main beaches here, it would be entertaining to have the words "Crescent Rock Naturist Beach (with a right facing arrow) cut from reflective white sign vinyl and attach it myself, utilizing my work truck, high-vis safety vest and some orange cones to make the installation look official. The cost of such a publicity stunt would be approximately $20, utilizing the same local sign company that has recently decked out several of my company vehicles. I must confess, in the past I've been known to spend my own money on signs just to make a political point or raise public awareness about an important issue.

Fortunately my commitment to civic duty overcame my quirky sense of humor and I decided that, while it would be far less fun, having the words "Ocean Park" installed in this blank spot would be much more appropriate. This was a rather easy decision to make as on the far side of the antiquated bailey bridge as you head south is a rather dilapidated sign that has "White Rock, Canada - USA Bdy, Crescent Beach" and even "Ocean Park" (imagine that) written on it. With my various contacts throughout the Ministry of Highways where I have previously lobbied for median cable barriers on Hwy. 99, helped to initiate the investigation into the Serpentine River bridge guardrail failure and called for concrete barriers to be installed on the "Nic" and "Serp" river bridges, I figured that getting them to stick a few bucks worth of vinyl lettering on an already existing sign would be an easy task. After all, while this was not a glaring public safety problem, it was a simple request and a project that certainly wouldn't break their yearly budget. To add a little weight to this proposal, I solicited and received the approval from the Ocean Park Business Association who agreed to my idea and gave me their blessing to get this job done. I figured that being the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic and WR Sun columnist couldn't hurt my chances either.

Back in April, I sent an email out to the Transportation Ministry staffers along with area MLA's and the head of the Surrey Engineering Dept. requesting this change and attaching a photo of the blank highway sign. I also brought it to their attention that there were several other rotten old wooden signs located on both sides of the Nicomekyl River bailey bridge on the KGB in dire need of replacement. This was just prior to the BC Provincial election and it was not surprising that the politicians did not respond to this correspondence but I believed it would illicit some response from the Ministry, which was not the case. Feeling that I had let the OPBA down, I followed this up with another email in August, asking the new Surrey-Panorama MLA "Marvelous" Marvin Hunt and long-time Surrey-WR MLA "Good-ol" Gordon Hogg if they could help with this proposal. I titled the correspondence "Ocean Park" or "Nude Beach" to get their attention and of course heard back immediately from Mr. Hogg, even getting into some rather hilarious banter on what other wording we possibly be posted (sorry folks, sworn to secrecy but please let your imaginations run wild). Here's the rub as this TNT now turns from nice to nasty; this quick and easy fix should have been done years ago when the off-ramp was moved and once it was brought to the Highway Department's attention, it could have been changed in only a few days. I'm now at the point where I'm ready to have my sign guy cut the vinyl lettering and stick them up myself. Since "Ocean Park" and "Nude Beach" have the same number of letters the cost is the same, which leaves me with an interesting dilemma. I'm not sure whether I want to go with the "Ocean Park" to finally correct this glaring oversight or put up the "Nude Beach" for some cheap laughs and to rub their noses in it. Either way, I'm pretty sure that I'll get my twenty bucks worth.



The highway signs coming off Hwy. 99 are like welcome mats inviting you home or bringing newcomers into our wonderful community. Unfortunately the roadway signage at the KGB on both sides of the Nicomekyl bridge are an absolute disgrace to the taxpayers who live in the Semiahmoo peninsula. Made of plywood, they are decades old with the edges on them rotting away and large holes plainly visible. Speaking of visibility, they are so ancient that reflective vinyl was not used on the background, making them useless at night. Is this how we want to welcome people into south Surrey and White Rock? While the City of Surrey recently replaced a "White Rock, Crescent Beach, Ocean Park" sign on Crescent Road near 128th St. (likely after my original email about community signage involving Ocean Park), our Ministry of Transportation seems to think that the old signs on the KGB match with the bailey bridge, which sounds much like the PNE wooden roller coaster when you drive over it. It's bad enough that the Province of BC downloaded highway's maintenance onto the City of Surrey years back but at least they could spend a few bucks and spruce up the entrance way signs so that it does not look quite so ghetto. Amazingly while the one sign points towards Seattle, it says nothing about White Rock or south Surrey which seems rather odd. Check out the pictures for yourself and when you see what I'm talking about, phone or email the Ministry of Highways, Mainroad or our MLA's to get something done about these antiquated eyesores.

Since I've got the kid gloves off, it's time to also take a swing at Surrey over a long-simmering beef I've had with them. When the lovely "the future lives here" signs were installed several years ago (scroll down into the TNT archives for info on this fiasco), I informed everyone at City Hall from the Heritage Committee to Mayor Watts that the historic wooden Surrey freeway signs (with the iconic beaver on top) should be salvaged, with restored ones placed in front of the Archives and Museum buildings in downtown Cloverdale. While I have repeatedly asked about the fate of these signs, no one has the guts to actually come out and admit that they were all thrown in the dump. The worst part is that I considered removing and refurbishing one of these signs myself to ensure that it would be retained as part of our civic history, never considering that they would be destroyed. To make matters worse, I was in Cloverdale over the summer and saw the sorry excuse for the sign that currently sits in front of the Surrey Archives building. While I realize they store relics from the past there, it would appear that this faded sign is older than the building that previously was Surrey's City Hall during the previous century. Note to the members of Surrey First; how about creating a replica "Welcome to Surrey" freeway sign with the iconic beaver in forest green, sunburst yellow and bright white to replace the ones that were destroyed? Simply carve the word "Archives" in the space under Surrey and you have an appropriate heritage sign for this location. If you are going to stick residents with a modern sign featuring the new Surrey logo and slogan, at least have the common sense to write, "the past lives here" on any new sign for in front of the Archives building.

Signs do more than point the way from one part of town to the other or give information about various civic facilities. They say a lot about the community and need to be properly maintained in order to keep up appearances, protect property values and attract investment. I know there are many businesses in Ocean Park that would love to have their corner of the Semi-Pen given the credit it is due by adding their name to the KGB exit from Hwy. 99. The rotting derelicts on either side of the Nicomekyl bailey bridge are a disgrace and if the Ministry of Transportation won't replace them, the Cities of Surrey and White Rock should buck up and do it themselves. As for the Surrey Archives building, there is a chance to make up for past mistakes and recreate one of the former "Welcome to Surrey" freeway signs with the iconic beaver for the middle of historic Cloverdale. As for that blank spot on the KGB off-ramp sign at Hwy. 99, keep an eye on it when returning to the Semi-pen as one way or the other, I can promise you that it won't be staying empty for very much longer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 03, 2013


White Rock's Top Shot

Jim Paton being chaired after one of his Queen's Prize wins in Bisley UK

 

You would think that when a resident of the Semiahmoo peninsula wins a major Canadian championship that their efforts and accolades would be splashed across the sports page of all of the local newspapers. Unfortunately this is not the case when the sport is full-bore rifle shooting, utilizing a .308 calibre rifle with iron sights to consistently deliver accurate bulls-eye's at ranges from 300 to 900 metres. The competition was the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association's (DCRA) 2013 Canadian Fullbore Championship held at the Connaught Ranges at Ottawa in mid-August. This major international shoot that has been held since 1891 (except for during the two great wars) attracts individuals and teams from across the globe including many from B.C. While I was unable to attend due to business and family commitments, White Rock's Jim Paton again showed why he is one of the most recognized and feared marksmen on the planet.

For the fourth time in his illustrious shooting career, Mr. Paton took home the gold medal in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, beating out all competitors from across the Great White North. He also won the prestigious Aggregate for the 21st Century featuring the combined scores of 24 different ranges against all competitors. To top even this, Jim won his third gold cross winning the first place prize in the MacDonald Stewart Grand Aggregate which is the most hotly contested award. About the only major aggregate that he didn't win was the Governor General's Prize (that he has already won a record 5 times) in which he finished a very respectable third, taking home the bronze medal. I could go on and on with the various other aggregate and individual awards that Mr. Paton also won at this year's Canadian target rifle matches including detailed scores but they are all available on the DCRA web page (dcra.org) under their results tab. Besides a tip of the hat from me, Jim deserves the respect and admiration of south Surrey and White Rock residents for his amazing accomplishments.

Regular readers of this column know of my lifetime association with shooting sports and may remember my first mention of Jim Paton back on August 7, 2012, with the article titled "Semi-Pen Shooters on Target." Simply scroll down if you wish to know more about long range target rifle shooting which includes the British Columbia Rifle Association (bcrifle.org) that regularly utilizes the General Volkes range in Chilliwack for competitions. For those looking for international competition, the UK NRA holds yearly matches in Bisley England, the US has their Spirit of America matches and every four years, the world long range matches are held in various continents along with the storied Palma Match team shoot putting country against country. If you have the time and money, you can travel to target rifle destinations across the globe with friends of mine having visited South Africa and Barbados for team shooting this year to name a few. While TR shooting is no longer an Olympic sport due to asinine political reasons, it still plays an important part in the Commonwealth Games which brings us back to White Rock's Jim Paton.

The next Commonwealth Games will be held July 23 – August 3, 2014 in Glasgow Scotland and for the fourth time Mr. Paton will be representing Canada along with Ontario's Des Vamplew, another well-known heavyweight in shooting circles. While Jim's trophy cases are stuffed with many outstanding awards from his years as a top marksman, it is likely the gold and silver Commonwealth medals that he has previously won for Canada that are the most cherished. You have to qualify for the Canadian team by shooting your way onto it and it is no surprise that Jim is going to represent out country in Scotland. While I am not a gambling man, my money would be on him as he is very mentally strong and uses a meticulous and analytical approach to the game which makes him so hard to beat on the range. You may have the best rifle, the most accurate ammo and be in the best possible physical shape, but unless you have keen mental discipline and ability to deal with stress, you will never reach the upper echelon in the target rifle world as Mr. Paton has done time and time again. Shooting fullbore target rifle alongside Jim Paton is as challenging as shooting a round of golf with Tiger Woods and with likely similar results.

If you would like to try your hand at target rifle shooting, a great local place to start would be the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club (sfgc.ca) at 1284 184 St. in the Hazelmere Valley that has smaller .22 rimfire rifles you can use. The BCRA also has an under 25 team to attract young shooters to the sport including rentals of .308 rifles and equipment along with knowledge and expertise. As luck would have it, the team coordinator is Jim Paton's wonderful wife Anna who can be reached for more information at anna.paton@telus.net. With aging demographics, rifle associations are now looking to attract younger people to the sport who are tired of video games and want to try their hand at real marksmanship. Target rifle shooting is a life-long sport, something I have been doing competitively myself for almost 40 years. Jim Paton is even older than me and he cannot keep on representing Canada forever so we need fresh faces to fill his very big shoes. To show how even seniors can enjoy the sport, my father Bob Pitcairn has just qualified for his record 44th Canadian Bisley Team that will travel to England next year for the UK NRA Championships. He finished in 14th place on the 18 person team, not bad for a guy who is 75 years young and still shooting perfect scores and winning matches.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 26, 2013

Pirates of the Peninsula

Q. What's a pirate's favourite letter?
A. You'd think it was R (arr!) but they love the C (sea).
Note: This joke is best told in your best drunken pirate drawl.

 

Earlier this week I had an experience down at the Crescent Beach Marina which certainly was a wake-up-call for yours truly. Near sunset I was down at Crescent Rock beach with my wife walking her dog when my friend Robin passed by on his boat far offshore just as the sun was setting. I knew it was him as he'd invited me to go out for a ride earlier that day, a request I had to unfortunately turn down due to a late work schedule. After climbing the 190 stairs of the so-called "101 Steps" staircase and making our way home, I thought it would be fun to pay him a surprise visit since we had not seen each other for a while due to our busy schedules. I grabbed a couple of wobbly-pops before heading out the door thinking it would be fun to toast the end of the summer and find out what he had been up to during the last month.

When I arrived at the marina, Robin had already pulled his boat from the water and was busy securing it for the ride home back to White Rock. The smile on his face got even wider when I presented him with an ice cold beer in an insulated cozy to boot. His buddy who had made the trip joined in the celebration, pulling a bottle of brew from his own cooler to join in the celebrations. I should note that when we are on the water, having a few bevies is the norm over the couple of hours that we are usually at sea but Capt. Robin is a responsible skipper and does not partake in the festivities. We gave each other hearty cheers and were standing around the back of the boat giving details of our summer exploits, adventures and related debauchery as three men suddenly free from female supervision often do. Our comradery and laughter did not go unnoticed though as a man dressed in dark clothes casually approached us out of the night. It was only when he was a couple of steps away that I noticed the semi-automatic handgun he was carrying on his hip.

The sudden shock at seeing a man packing a pistol subsided only slightly when I realized that he was an RCMP officer and we were likely to find ourselves in trouble with the law. Rather surprisingly the man either did not notice our drinks in hand or decided to ignore them, asking us nicely if any of us could open the electronic gate on the driveway to let some police cruisers onto the property. Robin's friend went with the constable to open the gate while we quickly stashed the open cans of brew, thankful that we had apparently dodged a bullet sort of speak. A couple of squad cars drove by, making their way down to the dock where a power boat was being pulled from the water surrounded by a group of young men. Behind them came a rather industrial looking boat bristling with antennae and sporting a pair of powerful outboard motors. While a trio of old farts talking about their glory days had somehow flown under the radar, the boys at the ramp had attracted the attention of the police with it being followed to shore by the RCMP patrol boat.

The White Rock police detachment recently warned that they are continuing to focus on road safety, releasing they had charged 55 impaired drivers during the two months of summer. What many people don't realize is that the RCMP now has a dedicated marine enforcement unit which patrols the waters around Boundary Bay. Talking to a couple of the officers while they investigated suspected impaired boating by the young bucks at the dock, we found out that besides drunken skippers they were also on the look out for smugglers running drugs, guns and people across the US/Canada border plus any other nefarious activities they might come across. What they don't patrol for is fishing violations or illegal shellfish harvesting that are still under the control of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or DFO. Adding to their enforcement powers, police boats from Washington State and BC can cross the border and make arrests under the new Integrated Cross Border Law Enforcement Operations Act recently passed by the Conservative government. Small crews composed of US and Canadian police officers now go back and forth across the marine border, making arrests subject to the laws of the country they are in. The days of making a run for the border to evade police boats has effectively been ended.

Watching the young men at the dock being interrogated, the trailered boat dropped off in the parking lot, the truck being towed away and the drunken sailors taken away by taxi and cop car, the seriousness of impaired boating became very apparent. I can only imagine the costs associated with paying for towing and storage, ICBC fines and higher insurance rates plus looming legal bills for the skipper who had obviously decided to join the party on board. Let this be a warning to all of those on the high seas that they'd better keep clean and sober, with the RCMP cruising the local waters looking for those breaking the law. As for my buddy Robin and his merry group of rum-running Peninsula pirates, we will continue to ensure that the Captain is sober and that his mates get a ride home or are more than legal to drive after our epic voyages around Semiahmoo Bay. That being said, the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones flag we have been known to fly on our trips had been quietly retired as we know you never want to poke a bear, or taunt the bulls for that matter.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 19, 2013


Texada Time Warp

While I may have taken time off from my regular work for summer vacation, there is no rest for the wicked when it comes to this TNT column. Last week's offering was typed on an I-Phone in Half-Moon Bay near Sechelt after I found out there was no Internet connection at my friend's rather remote cabin. This week is little different as this piece is once again being written on my so-called Smart Phone as my wife and I are stuck in a massive ferry line up in Langdale after the Queen of Coquitlam broke down. Dedication is using extra large thumbs to hunt and peck type on a very small touch screen keyboard. I hope you all appreciate the extra effort that has Sheryl laughing at my situation as we sun tan on the side of the road waiting for traffic to finally move.

As part of our Sunshine Coast summer holiday that included stops in many coastal towns, the final destination after three BC Ferry rides was the largest of the Gulf Islands, the 50 mile long Texada Island in the Salish Sea just north of Nanaimo and west of Powell River. Long known for its quirky inhabitants that has included rum runners, American draft dodgers, hippies and pot growers, the island is also a mining Mecca with iron, copper, silver and gold being extracted over the years. Crushed rock, aggregate and limestone used to make cement are the more recent industrial targets with Lafarge Canada Ltd. and Lehigh Northwest Cement Ltd. that operate cement facilities in the Lower Mainland holding many mining claims on Texada. Lafarge also owns Texada Quarrying Ltd. which will soon be linked to the Semi-pen if the BNSF Railway and Fraser Surrey Docks get their way.

This Texada Island waterfront location is already used by Hillsborough Resources Ltd. for its Quinsam coal mine operations near Campbell River on Vancouver Island. If Port Metro Vancouver okay's the coal export terminal plans for the Fraser Surrey Docks, US coal will be moved through White Rock and Crescent Beach on the BNSF tracks, off-loaded next to the Fraser River and then barged to Texada where it will be put onto ocean-going ships taking this thermal coal to Asia. While there is plenty of opposition to this plan in Washington State and communities in the Lower Mainland for various health and environmental reasons, the opinion of Texada Is. residents has until now gone unreported.

During the three days we spent on Texada, I had plenty of opportunity to talk to a variety of people from a wide cross section of society on their thoughts regarding the plan to barge coal from Surrey to their island at levels 20 times the level that is currently exported. While mining has been an important economic generator on the island, almost all residents feel that the promised 25 new jobs were trumped by environmental concerns including coal dust into the Sabine channel, global warming concerns and sea level rise. Even heavy duty equipment operator Gord whose work truck sported a "TEXADA" licence plate, questioned how coal could be safely delivered to the quarry during winter storms with high winds. While work on the Fraser Surrey Docks is on hold pending PMV approval, he informed me that Lafarge has been busy at the Texada quarry getting it ready to handle the expected influx of American Powder River Basin coal.

Texada Island is used as a crossing point for both the natural gas pipeline and undersea electrical cables that supply Vancouver Island, making it a tempting location for a liquefied natural gas plant. Plans back in 2007 to build a LNG export terminal were quickly scuttled by stiff local opposition to the dangers involved, lead by the "Texada Forever - LNG Never" campaign. While island residents don't appear to support the influx of US coal, there does not seem to be any united effort to stop it. The prevailing thought among Texada residents is that Port Metro Vancouver approval of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export terminal proposal is a done deal unless the "townies" can stop it.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE

Powell River latest community to oppose coal shipments Metro Vancouver, New West and White Rock are also saying no!

POWELL RIVER (NEWS1130) – There are more concerns over coal shipments from BC to Asia.

The people of Powell River are the latest to question the potential health and environmental hazards.

The American coal is transferred from train to barges on the Fraser, before being shipped from Texada Island.

Environmentalist CaroleAnn Leishman says a weekend meeting was designed to share her concerns with others.

“To have open barges of coal being transported up the channel through three provincial parks, stockpiling coal on Texada which is a stone’s throw across the water from us, it’s definitely going to impact our area.

She says people were shocked by what they learned.

They’re eager to discuss ways to prevent the shipments.

In case you missed it, please listen to our recent interview on CKNW, on the Jill Bennett Show. You can find it on their Audio Vault dated August 18. Choose the 7:00 am option and then scroll the grey bar to approximately 48 minutes in.
http://www.cknw.com/audio-vault/

 

August 12, 2013

Trouble Brewing Up On Avenue A

That's Horse Crap!

I don't know when it happened but Panorama Ridge is now part of South Surrey. Some put the border at #10 Hwy., others as far north as 64 Ave., which is likely due to property values similar to the Semi-pen. I know that for the WR Sun, Panorama Ridge is part of our sphere of influence and with gangland shootings, parks being bulldozed for roadways, bodies dumped on Colebrook Rd. and coal dust from passing trains, it has already seen plenty of attention from yours truly. While I am a big fan of the ridge and its spectacular views of, you guessed it - the Semiahmoo Peninsula, there is a problem with this neighbourhood that is really crappy. That is the presence of stables and isolated hobby farms with plenty of horses that get ridden throughout the region. Unlike people who take their dogs for walks and clean up the do-do (scientific term for excrement) from even the smallest chihuahua, the cowboys and mainly cowgirls that use the Ridge like a range don't other to clean up after their 1,500 to 2,000 pound pets.

If you think that this is a small problem and that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, consider the following; horses produce about eight piles a day and 50 lbs of droppings a day. That means one horse creates about nine tons of manure per year multiplied by the number of animals calling Panorama Ridge home which likely numbers in the hundreds. Riders take their mounts for walks around residential areas, without a thought for cleaning up after their big farm animals. To make matters worse, they don't stick to the roadways but instead meander along the boulevard lawns in front of palatial estates. This leaves deep hoof prints in manicured turf along with mounds of manure for homeowners to deal with. The only bonus is the free organic topsoil that mowers chop into the lawn which unfortunately leaves the machine smelling like a horses ass.

As funny as this might sound, it appears that horses are somewhat like dogs in that when one horse poops in a spot, they all want to leave their mark as well. This can be a major inconvenience if the target happens to be in front of your driveway. Customers of mine who live on the main McClelland Rd. that snakes across the ridge constantly have large piles of horse crap deposited in their driveway. This means that when they come home they drive through the feces, filling the tire treads and tracking it up the driveway and into their garage. To make matters worse, the next time the vehicle is driven the tires spray the manure throughout the wheel wells. If you can imagine your house and car smelling like a barn then you can understand why some folks on the Ridge are not impressed. Nothing like having that new car smell or that of an expensive leather interior replaced by the scent of a horse's butt.

Last week I was in the Chilliwack valley miles away from the nearest house or farm when I saw a sign asking horse owners to, "scoop their poop". It seems odd to me to have people clean up after their animals in the middle of the forest while tons of manure are likely dropped throughout Panorama Ridge on a weekly basis. Would it not be possible for riders to carry a bag attached to their saddles along with tools to clean up the copious calling cards their beasts leave behind? I'm surprised the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers association have not made an issue of this and sought relief in the way of a by-law from Surrey city hall.

All of this brings us to the City of White Rock and the RCMP's decision to have an officer in red serge on horse back along with a police dog patrol the crime-ridden sand flats and shoreline. While there is no doubt that this is surely a hit with the tourists, I question the use of police resources along with asking about who cleans up after the horse named Justice and his canine companion Yukon? Does the officer remove the waste from the beach or is it left for the tide to flush out like a toilet bowl into the bay? Considering the high E-Coli readings at many of the Lower Mainland beaches and lack of rain this summer, I'd like to know what if anything is being done to combat this problem? While Feral board sports is doing rather well with rentals on East beach, I wonder how long it will be before some entrepreneur offers horse rentals at the beach with stables on the reserve land? If it can happen in Panorama Ridge, then WR beach may be next with the RCMP leading the Calvary charge. If there really is "Justice" in this world, this wont be allowed to happen.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 


Aug. 6, 2013

Backyard Habitat

When my wife and I moved into our matrimonial home at Crescent Park in South Surrey, it was an overgrown jungle with very little open space and hundreds of large shrubs. While the house was quite well maintained, the yard likely scared many potential buyers away as the landscaping would need plenty of work and lots of money in order to correct years of overplanting and neglect. When I began work on the property, the first job was to hack back and reduce many of the trees and shrubs crowding the house and overhanging the roof. Unfortunately some trees that had been planted too close to the building needed to be removed and while I appreciate the role that trees play in our environment, this was needed to protect the foundation and keep rodents and raccoons from tearing at the roof or nesting in the attic.

I have since replanted many trees on our quarter acre property along with hundreds of shrubs and perennials, many that were rescued either from the dump, various job sites I've worked on, or development sites that were waiting for the bulldozers to flatten and clear. We still have plenty of large trees on our lot as do our neighbors, creating a bit of an urban forest in our little corner of the world. There is a tall scraggly oak in our backyard which takes up room, blocks light, is usually infested with a variety of insects and which sheds leaves for much of the year. While I thought it would make some really great firewood, my wife Sheryl decided that it should stay as it provided habitat for many of the birds and animals which visited our property. Rather reluctantly, I put the chainsaw away (yes, I do own one and am familiar with its use) giving in to her feminine charms and being aware of the adage, "happy wife, happy life."

That being said, I decided to take note of what lowly animals would bother to visit this sad excuse for a tree. What I have witnessed is a large menagerie of critters which think that this bug-infested oak tree is the greatest thing since sliced bread! We have three varieties of squirrels that frequent this tree, especially in the fall when it is full of acorns, much to the delight of our little dog that spends countless hours looking up at them. There are a wide variety of song birds which visit, everything from English Sparrows to Golden Finches, Robins, Evening Grosbeaks, Stellar Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees and the like. This spring, we had Band tailed Pigeons, large 15" long birds feeding on the fresh new shoots at the very top of this tree. While I'm an avid outdoorsman and spend plenty of time outside, this was the first time I have ever seen this particular species of bird that is now adapting to life away from the forest. Needless to say I know look at the oak tree quite differently and it is definitely off the chopping block.

The neighbor's trees are also a prime example of how residential yards can become prime habitat for wildlife. The folks two doors away have a very large and majestic Douglas fir tree that is sometimes used by passing Bald Eagles to rest and likely survey easy pickings from the surrounding yards. The two tall Western Red cedars on our property have attracted both Grey and Screech owls over the years, likely feeding on and helping to control south Surrey's rather large rat population. A nearby birch tree whose top is slowly dying from a borer beetle draws in three varieties of woodpeckers that hammer away at the dead wood feasting on the bugs inside. In the lot directly behind our house, small falcons known as Merlins or pigeon hawks took up residence this year in an old crow's nest and had four young, resulting in aerial combat all summer as they zoomed around chasing startled robins that often flew to us for protection. If you are a bird watcher or ornithologist as they are known, you wouldn't have to leave our backyard as it can often put on quite the feathered air show.

All of this talk about trees, habitat and wildlife brings us to the city of White Rock which might consider the possibility of actually planting trees, especially when ones are cut down that impact the animals which use them. Case in point is the four Douglas fir trees that were toppled on Victoria St. a few months ago that would have become a public danger when the roots were cut for a nearby development. These trees were used as a roost for bald eagles and they were chopped down without considering the impact on these majestic birds, their value to the community or that of the tourists which visit the city by the sea. It is high time that White Rock show environmental leadership as West Vancouver has done and place some civic importance on trees before the hillsides facing Semiahmoo Bay are clear-cut and the eagles have no place to go. Getting rid of their two-tier tree policy that is based on neighbourhoods and property values and having one policy for all tax-paying residents would also be an asset.

Since most cities have a two for one replacement policy for large trees, I'd suggest that for the Victoria Dr. debacle, White Rock should plant eight Douglas fir trees on its various road end properties. Outlawing so-called "vegetation control" that saw the "Eagle Hill" (formerly known by its fornication name - the Hump) chopped down several years by the BNSF would also help create more habitat and the Railway might also consider planting a few larger trees on this slide-prone hillside to help stabilize the slope. Even a few of the locust trees along the promenade could be replaced with fir trees so that in time they could be used by eagles and a host of other species. I know of a commercial nursery that has 20 foot tall Douglas firs for sale at $200 should City Hall be interested in giving nature in White Rock a little "re-leaf." For those residents who complain that a single tree can somehow destroy a 180 degree view, it would be no worse than the telephone poles, overhead wires or monster houses that are being built for blocking sightlines. As a bonus, you might get to enjoy the company of eagles in your own backyard, instead of having to resort to the Hancock Wildlife Foundation's various eagle cams (visit hancockwildlife.org), including the White Rock one that is actually located in Surrey.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 29, 2013

Crop Dusting on "Coalbrook" Road

It might be safe to say that I have a one-track-mind with this week's "TNT" as it is now the third week in a row where the topic of discussion is railway related. This certainly wasn't planned as I had a wonderful piece ready concerning urban wildlife in the Semiahmoo peninsula that I thought would be of interest but then I made the mistake of heading home on the infamous Colebrook Road along the base of Panorama Ridge in Surrey on Thursday evening. If you thought that Colebrook was only dangerous because of the gang shootings and dumped bodies that have piled up there this year, think again. If you drive along this quiet agricultural road on either side of 152 St. from 125 A to 168th, lead is something you should be concerned about (no, I don't mean from bullets) along with mercury, arsenic, other heavy metals plus polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs contained in coal dust being released from passing coal trains.

If you are a news junkie or keep your eyes on the local newspapers, you likely heard last week about the issue of a CP coal train filmed spewing coal dust as it crossed Hwy. 99 in Delta. This video was shot a few months ago and is now posted on YouTube for your viewing pleasure at "Coal Dust! CP ES44AC 8924 at Delta, BC + more (13-05-19)." This video has sparked concerns from environmentalists and conservationists about the proposal to allow a coal post at the Fraser Surrey Docks and how it appears the glue-like surfactant applied to the top of the open coal cars is doing little to retain dust during transport. CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg has assured the public that their company takes this matter seriously and that since the release of this video, CP has increased the volume of sealant sprayed on the coal cars both at the mines and halfway to the coast along with adding monitoring crews to address the problem. Marko Dekovic, Port Metro Vancouver's manager of government affairs is on record stating that, "This appears to be an anomalous event." I am here to say that this is complete hogwash and that I have seen plenty of coal dust recently blowing off passing trains and have a picture and video to prove it.

The first time I saw coal dust spewing from a train was on the same Hwy. 99 overpass in Delta where the posted YouTube video was taken. This spring I drove my work truck underneath the bridge and the cars had large black swirls of dust billowing from the top of the train, so much so that it looked as it had a smouldering fire on board. To give you an idea of how heavy the coal dust was, my passengers and I quickly rolled up our open windows and pulled our shirts over our mouth and nose to avoid inhaling it. A month ago I was driving west on Colebrook Road in Surrey between 152 St. and the King George Blvd. railway overpass and a CP coal train heading west was releasing enormous amonts of coal dust into the air, not to mention clouds of diesel exhaust from an apparently defective locomotive. Thankfully the wind was blowing from the south taking the clouds of soot and smoke away from the convertible I was driving so I didn't have to choke on it. The cloud was so thick that it almost blocked out the setting sun, creating a disturbingly beautiful dark orangey-red artificial sunset. My latest experience was on Thursday July 25, again on Colebrook Road in Surrey, and what I saw there literally took my breath away.

Finishing work in Panorama Ridge, we took the 125 A "cheater" road down from Panorama Ridge onto the flats, turning east onto Colebrook road that runs adjacent to the CN/CP Railway main line. A CP freight train loaded with coal cars was heading in the opposite direction and we quickly realized that this train was releasing coal dust in such large quantities that it looked like there was a low black cloud drifting across the road in front of us. To make matters worse, a lone bicyclist was also travelling east at that time heading into the dark dust storm blowing from the train. I stopped my truck, rolled up the windows and jumped out to take pictures and video of the black sooty mess. The bicyclist rode off into the waiting malestrom, waving his hands in front of him to no effect as the rear of the train passed. After recording this disturbing event, I caught up to the bicyclist and stopped him to chat about his experience. He said that his eyes were burning from the coal dust and that he had needed to take a drink to wash the dust from the back of his throat. I'm hoping there are no serious health effects from this experience as I was exposed to this dust cloud almost as badly as the unlucky bicyclist. This is not an isolated event as I found out that Bob Campbell, past president of the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association, had the same biking experience on Colebrook that left him with burning eyes and irritated lungs.

To make matters worse, the tracks along Colebrook Road are lined with farms on both sides, including many blueberry farms that are now being harvested. Just back from where I took my picture and video was a field with approximatley 40 people picking blueberries for market. They would have been exposed to the same cloud of coal dust that I photographed, along with the crop that they were working on. Considering that there are 4 coal trains on the BNSF line and a conservative estimate of 10 trains a day on the CN/CP line, it is possible that these unfortunate folks are getting dusted with coal on a continuous basis throughout the day. The same goes for the crop they are picking that has not been washed by rains or irrigation in nearly a month during this summer dry spell. It is likely that the fruit contains a fine film of coal dust carrying whatever toxins were dug up in the mines that it came from. I used to purchase blue berries from a family owned farm on Colebrook Road and have previously picked blackberries from near the BNSF tracks in Crescent Beach. I can guarantee you that I will not be eating fruit from anywhere beside a train track carrying coal in the future after seeing the dust storm from this latest dirty train. With the hundreds of acres of blueberries planted by the train tracks through Panorama Ridge and Cloverdale, make sure you wash them well or you might end up eating blackberries instead. Unfortunately this is not exactly the type of publicity that the upcoming Cloverdale Blueberry Festival on August 10th needs.

For those in the Semiahmoo peninsula that are concerned about the health and environmental effects associated with the planned increase in coal traffic through this region and the proposed coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks, there is an upcoming meeting this week that you may want to attend. The information for this latest of coal related event in White Rock is listed below and it will feature Dr. Frank James who is the Health Officer for San Juan County, Washington State. I'm planning on attending to learn what effect the coal dust exposure may have had on me besides the coughing and wheezing that I have ben experiencing ever since getting dusted courtesy of CP Rail. Keep an eye on YouTube as I'm hoping to have my Colebrook Road video posted under "CP Coal Dust Train Surrey - July 25, 2013" once I can work out the bugs with my so-called Smart Phone. If you think that a picture is worth a thousand words, just wait until the latest video featuring coal dust from a train blackening the sky on its way to a Lower Mainland coal port is made public. It should be interesting to hear the railway and port executives try to explain this latest coal dust "anomaly."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Hi

This afternoon I was driving down Colebrook Road at about 2:30 and had to stop for a passing train. It was a CP train and the coal dust that was blowing off the top actually limited visibility on Colebrook Road. It seems that it is not only the US coal trains that are not being sealed properly but this is also happening with Canadian coal trains. I read Don's article with interest (and a degree of skepticism) but having seen the dust blowing off the train I saw today it is clear that there's a real issue that needs to be dealt with seriously

 

 

July 22, 2013

Still Swinging On The "Nic"

There are many different businesses operating in the Semiahmoo Peninsula and various jobsites with a special charm all their own, but there is one location that offers unparalleled views of both sunrises and sunsets on the water, a birds-eye view of nature on land, sea and in the air, plus a front row seat to see both boats and trains. This is none other than the manned swing bridge over the  Nicomekl River next to the Crescent Beach Marina that has been in place for more than a century, allowing boats to pass through this choke point on the river and for BNSF Railway trains to continue to their far-flung destinations. There is a small cubicle attached to the side of the tracks that shelters the workers who control whether the railway bridge is open to rail or marine traffic. For those with a fascination for trains, it is known as "bridge 127.6" and the operators can be reached by phone for eye-witness reports on everything from sea conditions to the operational status of the tracks.

While the railway bridge over the Little Campbell River has been attracting much attention as of late including that of White Rock Mayor Baldwin because of corrosion and maintenance safety issues, the swing bridge at South Surrey's marina should also be on the radar for Mayor Watts and her council. This is not because of fist sized holes like at the Little Campbell, even though I must say that the Nicomekyl swing bridge that was built in 1904 could use a little sprucing up and definitely some new paint to keep the salt water and rust at bay. At issue on the Nicomekyl is the BNSF employees who man the bridge on two shifts from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., allowing large boats and yaughts to make their way safely under the trestle bridge and letting BNSF freight and AmTrak passenger trains roll by. It is quite possible that we may soon see the end of an era with these jobs eliminated through automation.

Last week, both the District of North Vancouver and Port Metro Vancouver expressed their concern regarding plans announced by CN to remove the staff who operate the Second narrows rail lift bridge that is located under the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge. On top of this, two other movable span bridges at New Westminster and Lulu Island are also part of this scheme that will see all three bridges monitored by camera from a centralized location and open and closed as needed. With railway safety on many people's minds after the incination of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, changes such as this where human eyes and brains are removed from a situation and replaced with remotely operated cameras are sure to raise safety concerns. While CN has boated that, "The centralized system will streamline our operations while continuing to follow the marine navigation rules and maintain safety", Port Metro knows nothing of the risk assessment reportedly completed for this project or if Transport Canada has already signed off on CN's plans.

Both the Second Narrows and Fraser River see much greater levels of marine and train traffic than the  Nicomekl River and it would be surprising if the BNSF are not looking at automating the swing bridge by the marina as well. This would remove a human presence from the mouth of the Nicomekyl, with railway and marine safety being controlled by electronic equipment from a centralized command centre. Getting rid of the eyes and ears on the track might sound wonderful from an economic standpoint, taking many highly paid railway personnel off of these important structures, but you have to wonder what surprises our good friend Murphy might have in store for them. Equipment failure, power outages, heavy fog, vandalism, trespassing and bridge impacts are events that could likely throw a curve-ball into CN's plans to safely replace the men and women who have performed this important job since 1904. I guess they have never heard of the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

With all of the possible negative safety repercussions that could conceiveably happen by removing people from the Nicomekyl swing bridge and automating the systems, there is one change that will likely be welcomed by boaters. Currently if you want to leave or enter the Crescent Beach Marina, the swing bridge will not be opened during the night, effectively stopping all large boat traffic. If this bridge was automated, there would be no reason for it to not operate on a 24 hour basis, allowing boaters to come and go as they please. This would eliminate people racing up the dredged channel past Crescent Beach trying to make the 11 p.m. curfew or having to anchor beyond the train bridge and waiting till morning to reach the dock. This bonus may sound appealing, but it can only happen if any automated system is proven safe and fool proof. With the size and length of the trains now crossing on the BNSF tracks and the frequent shipping of hazardous goods and bulk petroleum products, the safety of trains crossing the mouth of the Nicomekyl River should be paramount, not the money the Railway might save by axing a few jobs.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 15, 2013


Disaster Training

The runaway train carrying tankers of crude oil that derailed in Lac-Megantic Quebec on July 6th, incinerating the centre of this sleepy little town and killing an estimated 50 people, should serve as a warning to the residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula as to the inherent dangers associated with rail traffic. It certainly has got the attention of White Rock's Mayor Baldwin who is suddenly making plenty of noise about the state of the steel railway bridge over the Little Campbell River near the Semiahmoo First Nations reserve. While the deplorable condition of this nearly century old structure has been known for some time, a recent YOUTUBE video showing rust holes and rot in the structure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ms7o15wUh2g) is now attracting plenty of public attention. Not surprisingly, the BNSF Railway has announced it will now repair or replace damaged bracing and bearings along with having a plan for a new $1.3 bridge. Unfortunately this dilapidated structure is not the only safety problem facing the BNSF Railway as it moves commodities along the shoreline of south Surrey and White Rock.

When I first moved into south Surrey over a decade ago, I became very concerned with the state of the BNSF Railway's infrastructure. The rails at that time were the old segmented variety and many of the rail ends were pounded flat and fractured. A friend of mine who helps maintain CN tracks came down for a visit and was shocked at the lack of track maintenance that was being performed at that time. I joined up with members of SmartRail, a community rail safety group located here in the Semi-Pen, to bring media and public attention to the problems we were seeing on the BNSF tracks. Since that time the BNSF has replaced the old track with stronger continuous weld rails, installed 20,000 new wooden sleeper ties, regraded drainage ditches and shored up the rip-rap boulder wave defences. When this work was first being completed it was believed it was because of community safety concerns, including those expressed to the Railway Safety Commission in submissions by both SmartRail and Surrey's United Naturists. Now many are left wondering if it was instead done to support the heavy coal trains that we are now seeing on an ever more frequent basis rolling along the waterfront of Boundary Bay.

Even with the safety improvements, there are still plenty of potentially deadly safety problems with running an industrial rail line through this region. By far the most serious concern is the geological instability of the Ocean park bluffs between White Rock's west beach and the end of Bayview Ave. in Crescent Beach. This marine bluff is composed of glacial till laid down in stratified layers of sand, gravel and alluvial clay. During periods of extreme precipitation as we often get here in the fall and winter rainy season, this material becomes saturated and then slides down onto the tracks. Over the years I have inspected dozens of landslides that have impacted the BNSF railway corridor. While most people think of a mudslide as being a simple slurry of dirty, slides off the bluff often carry hundred foot evergreens roots and all onto the tracks. The largest slide on record was one that was 150 feet wide by 10 feet deep on the tracks. In 1984 the city of Surrey engineering department recorded 64 mudslides onto the BNSF corridor in only two weeks during heavy rains. I have personally seen dozens of slides including one that hit a train near Crescent Beach that was stopped for an even larger one down the tracks. There have even been two occasions over the years where freight trains have been stuck near Ocean Park because of landslides on either ends of the tracks. People cutting trees for views or draining water onto the face of the bluff contribute to the slide threat faced by passing freight trains with heavy vibrations known as "train tremors" often initiating slide action that can be seen in a YOUTUBE video of a derailment of a BNSF train in Everett Washington (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VZkSCEqJlQ).

Besides coal, forest products and mixed freight, the BNSF carries a variety of toxic and flammable materials along White Rock's beaches. Dangerous goods including tanker cars of inhalation hazardous chemicals including chlorine, ammonia and sulphur dioxide gas often roll by from the Canexus chemical plant in North Vancouver to markets in the US. The chlorine gas was considered such a serious terrorist target during the 2010 Winter Olympics that the plant was closed for a month for "routine maintenance" and the tankers of chlorine gas moved to Washington state where they were held under armed marine guard until the festivities had concluded. It was chlorine gas that was responsible for the largest evacuation in Canadian history in 1979 when a ruptured tanker car of chlorine forced the evacuation of a quarter million residents from the town of Mississauga in Ontario for five days. Besides poison gas, the BNSF regularly ships large quantities of gasoline and diesel fuel from the Cherry Point refinery near Blaine to service the Lower Mainland market. Other dangerous goods such as caustic soda, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid complete the witches brew of chemicals and petrochemicals that move through this region, with most people oblivious to the danger or the damage to the environment should a derailment and/or fire happen here. While using rail is one of the most safest and environmental responsible way to ship large quantities of goods, it is not without risks should something go seriously off track as happened in Lac-Megantic.

What really scares me about the BNSF Railway is the manner in which they deal with landslides here from the Ocean Park bluff. After a mudslide buries the tracks, they close the line to the AmTrak passenger train as per American Railway Safety regulations for either 24 or 48 hours, giving the hillside above the tracks time to drain. The same cannot be said for freight trains which are often given the green light to travel tracks soon after the tree and mud are removed from the tracks. After a rather large landslide several winters ago, myself and White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney climbed a staircase up the bluff to examine what had possibly caused this event. We found a large bowl that had failed, leaving a large overhanging chunk of ground, behind which was a large crack in the ground 15 feet away, pointing to the possibility of more slide activity. Several Surrey engineers were on site taking measurements and they warned that it was unstable and could let go at any time. When returning to the tracks, we witnessed a BNSF train heading south carrying 9 tanker cars of chlorine gas, each capable of carrying 60 tonnes each. That night, the cornice did fail, once again burying the tracks in even more landslide debris. After this mess was cleaned up, the hillside collapsed for the third time, fortunately without hitting a passing train. This practice that I call "railway roulette" must be stopped for if it is too dangerous for the Amtrak passenger train, then it is certainly too dangerous for hazardous chemicals, flammable petroleum or toxic gas to be shipped here while the slide threat still exists.

The fiery deaths of 50 people in Quebec is shocking as it happens from one singular event, but most people do not realize that White Rock has its own bloody history associated with the Great Northern/BNSF Railway tracks. I spent plenty of time in the Surrey archives researching the list of train accidents over the years and found out that there have already been 18 deaths and 10 serious injuries on the line over the years. You can review this list that is posted on the safety section of the SUN website at http://www.crescentrockbeach.org/HTM/Safety.htm. Many of these involved people that were distracted, listening to music on headphones, or who were hard of hearing. When you mix industrial freight and passenger rail traffic with the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents, it is a recipe for disaster as surely as leaving as loaded freight train unattended with no brakes on a hill above a town. While the tragic result may not be as explosive, eventually the body count of people killed by trains on the White Rock waterfront will surpass that of Lac-Megantic as long as the tracks remain in their current waterfront location. Instead of allowing this, the concept of relocating the BNSF Railway tracks to a safer inland location away from crowds at the beach crowds and the slide prone Ocean Park bluff needs to be explored.

UPDATE 7 a.m.

Surrey Fire Chief LEN GARRIS on the Phillip Till show on CKNW this morning in response to rail safety through our area said "I think looking at the statistics for rail safety (2006) I would say the rail companies have a very good safety record. Low on my list of concerns of products shipped through our area are coal and oil as those two products are far less combustible than chlorine and propane that are shipped through our area."

 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 08, 2013

 

Surrey Strong

As if the twelve murders in Surrey this year, four bodies dumped on Colebrook Rd. plus five other shootings weren't enough to give people across Canada a negative image of the City of Surrey, we now have a couple of "self-radicalized" home grown terrorists making front page news across North America. Surrey residents John Stuart Nuttal (38 years) and his girlfriend Amanda Korody (29 years) are accused by the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) of planning to bomb the Canada Day celebrations at the Legislature buildings in Victoria. Their alleged weapon of choice were three pressure cooker bombs packed with shrapnel, similar to the improvised explosive devices used to bomb the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April that killed 3 people and injured 264 others with many badly maimed. Fortunately the RCMP had been tipped off to this pair's odd behaviour by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and had been investigating them as part of "Operation Souvenir", ensuring that the IEDs were not operational. Nuttall and Korody have been charged with, "conspiring to place an explosive in or against a place of public use, a government or public facility, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group."

On Canada Day my wife Sheryl and myself attended the Canada Day celebrations in Cloverdale featuring a bevy of musical entertainment including Crystal Shawanda, Sloan and Platinum Blonde to name a few of the bands. In a rather strange twist of fate, I was wearing Surrey Shirts latest design, the bold "Surrey Strong" muscle T-shirt. The artwork is tied to the Boston Marathon bombing with its message similar to the "Boston Strong" that became a community rallying cry after the explosions that rocked the finish line of arguably the world's most famous road race. The red and white font used in the Surrey Strong is the same lettering that has been used by the Boston Red Sox baseball team s since 1933. This shirt design marks the City of Surrey breaking the half million resident mark, which utilizing Stats Canada census figures happened on June 5th, 2013. At no time during the creation of this design that was first considered just after the fateful April 15th day in Boston, was the possibility of a terrorist bombing in Surrey ever considered. I realize that the city has issues and an obvious gun and gang violence problem but to think that Surrey could be a target for such radical attacks seemed a distant impossibility. With the revelations about the Victoria Canada Day bombing plot, you have to wonder if the celebrations in Cloverdale were ever considered by the two alleged Surrey terrorists as a possible target?

I have been going to the Canada Day celebrations at Cloverdale for decades and have always appreciated this free musical event, the tens of thousands of smiling faces in the red and white crowd, and the opportunity to celebrate Canada's birthday knowing there were fireworks waiting when it was over. This year I noticed plenty of security changes to the event site that I believed might be directly linked to the Boston bombing and increased security threat at large public gatherings. I noticed security cameras located on either corner of the stage, plus a black "Mobile Command Centre" van parked at the rear of the field featuring a large pole with two security cameras mounted on it. The van belonged to ITC security and plenty of their employees were present and highly visible throughout the site. The RCMP also had a heavy presence including many members patrolling on bikes plus even some officers dressed in their historic red serge uniforms. There were city of Surrey signs posted at all entrances to the park warning that due to security concerns people entering the grounds were subject to search of their belongings. While I was wearing a media pass around my neck, I was still approached on several occasions to have a look inside the backpack I was wearing. Fortunately the most dangerous things in my possession were a bottle of tap water plus several Surrey Girl shirts. It was reassuring to know that the security forces were keeping an eye on the crowd and trying to stop trouble, especially after hearing about the brawl involving 100 drunken youths at the Langley Canada Day celebrations causing the cancellation of the fireworks.

While it is obvious that terrorism can happen anywhere, it is unfortunate that it had to originate here in Surrey but it is not the first time that this problem has surfaced in this region. In Canada's worst case of mass murder, Air India Flight 182 was blown up by a bomb on June 23, 1985 while the Boeing 747 was flying over the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland. The bomb that brought down this plane was constructed on Vancouver Island and loaded onto the plane at the Vancouver Airport, killing 329 people, with 268 of them being Canadian. On the same day, another bomb that was part of the same Sihk militant conspiracy exploded in Tokyo's Narita airport killing two baggage handlers and injuring four others. Its intended target was Air India Flight 301 that was carrying 177 people on board. In the LAX Los Angeles Airport bombing plot, al qaeda linked terrorist Ahmed Ressan was arrested by a sharp-eyed custom agent entering Port Angeles Washington on a Ferry from Victoria. In his possession was 120 pounds of various explosives including a nitroglycerin based compound that had been created in a Vancouver hotel room. His target was the New Years party for the Millenium 2000 celebrations that likely would have killed or injured scores of people had the plan not been thwarted. In 1982, the group Direct Action, better known as the Squamish Five, brought 550 kg of dynamite from Vancouver to Litton Industries in Toronto in an attempt to blow up vital components of the U.S. Cruise missile program with the explosion injuring 10 people.

Unfortunately it is impossible to completely secure public festivals and keep them immune from terrorist attacks. While I must commend- the ITC security team and the RCMP personnel for their work on Canada Day in Cloverdale, there were plenty of holes in the security apparatus, none of which I care to detail here. We do not have security cameras on every street corner as exists in much of the UK after bombings and terrorist actions there and we cannot afford police on every block. In crowded public areas and celebrations, especially those like Canada Day where terrorists can get more bang for their buck (literally), it is up to the public to keep an eye on their surroundings, watching for those who are intent on harming people to make a political statement. The catch word being used to describe this is "vigilant", which is defined as "keenly watchful to detect danger; wary." You need not shy away from public events, big crowds or public transit but become highly aware of your surroundings and those people around you realizing that the possibility of a terrorist threat is very small. By working together, we can keep Surrey safe and make Surrey strong, hopefully avoiding the possibility of terrorist action from those who wish to do us harm. I hate to admit but while many people scoffed at Councillor Al Campbell's idea a year ago of putting security cameras on the pier and promenade in White Rock, after this latest bombing plot the concept has suddenly gained instant credibility.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 01, 2013


Lord of the Flies

 

I trust that everybody enjoyed the long weekend, especially with Canada Day falling on a Monday, giving most people a three day break from work. While my newspaper was not delivered today there were other workers not so lucky who had to put in their customary eight hours, regardless of whether Monday was a stat holiday or not. I had just rolled out of bed and was making a strong pot of organic Holy Smoke coffee when I heard the garbage truck on the next street over. If you remember in the not too distant past, when there was a holiday there would be no pick up and the day would simply be bumped to one day later in the week. Unfortunately with Surrey's introduction of the three large totes and the automatic garbage truck that only uses a driver, skipping pickup day, whether on a stat holiday or not, is no longer the case. I managed to get my compost and recycling cans to the curb in time with robe flapping in the breeze likely giving the neighbours a good show if anyone had been there to witness it.

The reason why I say that my neighbours were not home is because it was obvious from their refuse containers that they had left out for the long weekend. With pickup on Monday, why would anyone put their garbage cans out on a Friday which was the case?. Judging from the many vacant spots at the park-n-ride lot on Friday morning, it is safe to say that many people booked themselves a four-day long weekend, meaning they would need to put their carts to the curb mid-week for pickup. Some resourceful people, realizing the safety implications of alerting thieves to their schedules, enlisted the help of their neighbours unlucky enough to be staying in town to roll out their totes on pickup day, and also roll them back in when they had been dumped. When I went out after breakfast to collect my bins I watched a husband and wife from down the street work as a team to bring in four different sets of garbage cans from surrounding houses. Kind of makes you wonder what Surrey was thinking when they went to holiday waste pickup, especially when you factor in the time-and-a-half labour rates? I'd love to know why the fixed dump day system is not in use with the new trucks, especially when you take into consideration the problems on long weekends?

With only every two week pick up for both garbage and recycling, you certainly wouldn't want to miss your day as then it would be almost a month between dumps. Can you even try to imagine the smell from one of the large grey garbage cans after sitting for a month, especially if they have been in the sun which is often the case as they won't fit in many people's garages? Its certainly rude enough after two weeks, especially if you have things like dirty diapers sitting in the trash. At least the brilliant minds in the Engineering Department figured out that organic compost collection should be done on a weekly basis to encourage recycling and also reduce odours. When the totes were first dropped off and began use last fall, smell wasn't that big of an issue with our cold weather and heavy rains. This weekend with near record temperatures and lots of sunshine certainly showed some stinky flaws with Surrey's new collection system plus another problem that is really bugging me.

Besides the big grey toters, Surrey also dropped off small green compost bins for under the kitchen sink that could be used to move waste from the cooking area to the grey toter with the green lid. As I exposed in a previous TNT, while the air holes on the lids precluded even fruit flies from getting in, it did not sit flush with the green can, allowing flies to have a smorgasbord at their disposal. Unless you dumped your food scraps after every meal and rinsed the residue, you would have a nice bug collection that would be released every time you started cooking. Now that it is hot, the same problem is happening on a much larger scale with the large grey compost totes. Not only have fruit flies moved in by the millions, larger house flies have also proved the Surrey saying that, "we don't divide, we multiply." Throw in some prawn and crab shells along with some left-over pieces of steak early in the week and you have a recipe for a disgusting disaster by collection day. The last time I dared open the compost toter, there was plenty of what looked like grains of rice stuck to the walls, which upon further inspection were hundreds, if not thousands, of wriggling fly maggots. After seeing that rather rude-spectacle I'll be swearing off rice for a while.

With no room beside our vehicles in the garage, and the side of the house stacked with cord wood, we keep out three grey totes in a nice cubbyhole near our front door. Unfortunately now that means if you come over for a visit, you must endure the lovely smell of garbage, rotting food and clouds of flies. Thankfully these totes sit in a shaded location otherwise it is likely that the stench and bug collection would be even worse. With the hot spell we are experiencing, we've had our doors and windows open and have noticed a large increase in the number of flies in the house, far above anything we have ever experienced before. While Surrey may go on about the benefits of their new solid waste collection system and how it is diverting waste from the landfills, it is definitely without its drawbacks. We are now ensuring to hose down both the garbage and organics totes when they are dumped to help reduce the odour problem plus layer yard waste on top of food waste to keep the flies to a minimum. Unfortunately unless all of my neighbours are doing this, which is unlikely since most were away this weekend, I think we might be having to buy a few more bug screens for the house before the end of the summer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 24, 2013

What The Cluck?

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get to Surrey of course.

Oh sure, I just had to resort to a chicken crossing the road joke to get this latest installment of The Naked Truth rolling. I sure hope this doesn't ruffle any feathers at Surrey City Hall as I beak off and possibly end up with egg on my face. Seriously though, with all poultry metaphors aside, the issue of allowing chickens in residential yards in Surrey is once again going to be making its way before Council. This is after the city's Agricultural Advisory Committee recently endorsed a pilot project for small lot flocks of chickens. Currently you need to have at least a one acre lot and then are allowed to keep only 12 chickens.

This initiative was spear-headed by south Surrey's Kate McMaster who ran a fowl (cheap pun intended) of Surrey's by-laws by keeping chickens on her quarter acre property. In response, she formed "Surrey Backyard Chickens" on Facebook that already has 208 likes on the social media site and started a local chapter of CLUCK, the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub. If you think she is alone in wanting to raise chickens, consider that Ms. McMaster claims there are 20 illegal coops in her neighbourhood, with Surrey's Bylaw Enforcement having 41 complaints of backyard chickens with 20 calls already this year. In Vancouver which allowed four hens in their backyards since 2010, they have 100 people registered to raise poultry along with plenty of others likely doing it under the radar. Personally I am aware of three chicken coops on larger lots in south Surrey that are all under an acre in size. I also know of one rather brazen community figure who also used to keep chickens on a small lot in the Crescent Heights subdivision, with that person being non other than myself.

I didn't get into raising chickens as a way to flout Surrey's by-law, a girlfriend of mine at the time living in Milner in Langley had a large rural yard and at least a dozen chickens in her flock. These were not your run of the mill white or brown laying hens but exotic looking Asian birds that laid eggs varying from speckled brown to blue, green and even a light pinkish hue. My two then young daughters were fascinated by my friend's mini-farm and took great delight in parading around with chickens tucked under their arms. When they started pressuring me to allow them to bring home a couple of their feathered pets it was difficult for me to say no, especially after tasting their eggs! We had an unusable portion of our pie-shaped yard under a large spruce tree and I went to work fencing it off, building a chicken coop, placing netting over top and purchasing the various feeding and watering stations we would need. While the chickens were free, I remember spending over $300 on materials for the enclosure, which would have bought a lot of eggs including the free-run organic eggs available at the store.

The couple of chickens we took home brought an amazing amount of joy to not only my two children but kids from around the neighbourhood who would flock to our house to see the birds plus help with collecting their eggs. Releasing the chickens into the yard was always an interesting time as they would search around the garden looking for bugs and weeds to eat while scratching at the soil in and around my plants. We fed them the organic store bought chicken feed, supplementing their diet with a steady supply of fresh kitchen waste we knew they would find palatable. There was very little smell associated with raising them and I did use their manure as an organic top-dressing for various garden plants that required a rich nitrogen source. Because we had hens and not roosters, there was no tell-tale "cock-a-doodle-do" sound that you would expect at first light but instead just a quiet clucking noise except for the times when they were alarmed. While four neighbouring properties all bordered on the coop, nobody complained to me about the chickens or reported them to the by-laws department. While I was concerned about adding to south Surrey's rat problem, I never saw any sign of rat activity around the enclosure and took steps to ensure that there was no excess food or feed left to attract them. My daughter's pet chickens eventually stopped producing and lived out their natural lives in our backyard.

If Surrey votes to allow backyard hens for urban properties, there are some basic things you need to know about raising chickens. You only want hens, not roosters and because chickens are hard to sex will need to buy what is known as pullets that are 4-6 weeks old. Don't worry, hens develop eggs without roosters, producing them regardless of whether they have been fertilized. You have to collect fresh eggs daily so that your chickens don't get broody and want to sit on the nest lowering productivity. Expect 4-6 eggs per week from a healthy chicken, which should continue output anywhere from six months to five years. There are many varieties of chickens that have different characteristics and requirements making some research by yourself into the breed that suits your needs a necessary step. Urban predators including raccoons, possum, hawks and even eagles have been known to target chickens so their enclosure must be well-built and able with withstand these animals. Birds can be purchased online from Craigslist or from the weekly auction at Fraser Valley Auctions on 56 Ave. near the Langley Airport that has been selling farm animals for 25 years. Plan in advance to find a veterinarian who specializes in birds, their diseases and medical treatments.

This is not the first time that the issue of allowing chickens on small residential properties here has been raised with Surrey resident Touraj Ghanbar-zadeh trying to interest Council in the merits of allowing poultry back in 2010 without success. Hopefully this time around with Vancouver and other Lower Mainland cities already allowing backyard chickens the members of Surrey First will give this concept their approval. You can help by liking Surrey Backyard Farmers, joining CLUCK and taking the time to contact members of Council and Mayor Dianne Watts individually to express your support, hen-pecking them not to chicken-out when it comes time to vote on this issue.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Check out Surrey Backyard Chickens Facebook here

 

 

June 17, 2013

Too Much Monkey Business on the Semiahmoo Peninsula

The Banana Belt

With both myself and my wife Sheryl being born in friendly Manitoba (me in Portage la Prairie, her in Winterpeg), we really appreciate living in B.C.'s "banana belt", especially when talking to relatives still living back east during the winter months. In my 45 plus years of living in the Lower Mainland, I've seen a steady increase in temperatures here with winter becoming less about ice and snow and more about clouds and rain. As a kid, I can remember ski-dooing in Delta and Surrey, skating at Fry's Corner (176 St. & Fraser Hwy.) and creating backyard skating rinks occasionally. Those days appear long gone with this so-called winter forcing me to scrape frost from my truck's windows twice this year. As the temperature has slowly risen, our ability to grow tropical plants has also steadily increased so that varieties which would have been unthinkable 30 years ago are now commonly sold in garden centres throughout the region.

While Ontario brags of having Canada's banana belt in a region south of a line which runs approximately from Grand Bend to Toronto, it cannot hold a candle to BC's banana belt which includes the southern Gulf Islands and Victoria. On the periphery of this climatic zone are corners of the Lower Mainland including Steveston in Richmond, Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta, plus south Surrey and of course White Rock that are protected by Vancouver Island's rain shadow, ensuring warmer temperatures, less precipitation and more sunshine. This might explain why almost all of the Lower Mainland's meteorologists and TV weather personalities call the Semiahmoo peninsula their home. Hardy Chinese windmill palms started finding their way into landscaping plan lists about 30 years ago and some of these are now as tall as a two-story house. Tsawwassen even uses palm trees in their centre boulevard on 56 St. that runs south towards Point Roberts giving it a Californian feel. As exotic as a palm tree may look, it doesn't have the tropical lushness that can be achieved with a banana plant I should know as I've got them by the bunches.

The most common winter hardy banana species commonly grown here is the Japanese fibre banana (Musa basjoo). With proper care, well-grown plants can shoot up to 7 metres tall with broad yellow-green paddle shaped leaves 2.5 metres in length, making for a rather stunning display. Once a shoot is planted, it will usually grow for three years, pushing up new shoots called pups that can be transplanted or left to form a grove. When mature, the banana plant will produce a giant terminal bud in the shape of a foot-long green acorn that seemingly will appear overnight as it will be concealed by leaves. Inside this reproductive pod are layers of large golden specialized leaves called bracts which will lift up and then drop off, revealing rows flowers and miniature bananas. To ensure good growth, dig a large deep hole when planting and fill it with organic topsoil and compost. If you want massive plants, water every time using a five-gallon bucket of water with a handful of 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer. These plants usually flower in the late fall and the fruit never fully develops but even if it did they are inedible, with the foliage being used in its native Japan to wrap food before it is cooked.

There is a ever-widening grove in the middle of my front yard that frames the house in the summer plus another smaller clump in the backyard which gives our patio a jungle look while also fanning in front of our upstairs bedroom window. These can be purchased from Coconut Grove in Langley, Harris Nurseries in Ladner or sometimes from more local garden centres and occasionally even at the big-box chains. David Hunters in Newton at 72nd Ave. and 152 St. has a large grove in front of their business that do rather well even though little is done to offer them winter protection. If you are lucky, you can pick up a pup from a friend or neighbour who is looking to thin out their grove. Unguarded they will generally freeze to the ground and have to begin growing back from that level, stunting their height. If you want two story plants, in the fall place a deep mat of grass clippings around the trunks for warmth followed by a thick layer of large leaves to a depth of 1.5 feet, topped with shredded leaves to hold in place. Cut off the long leaves and wrap the thick stems with foam or plastic insulation (bubble wrap works well too), then cover with some old sheets and finally wrap again with tarps, preferable green ones which blend into the surroundings. I place empty black nursery pots on top to keep rain out and hold tarps in place plus tie string around them to stop winter winds from ripping the tarps away.

Last fall the largest of our banana trees flowered as expected with the fruit never reaching maturity. When freezing temperatures threatened, I cut the stalk level with the ground knowing this plant would not regrow. Imagine my surprise when I was sitting on the patio last week enjoying some sunny weather and I noticed that one of our other backyard bonanzas was already starting to flower! Because of this, it is likely that fruit will actually have time to develope this year into 15 cm. long bananas. Even more shocking was that the front yard grove also had a flowering plant, something which I have never seen in the seven years that I have grown banana plants here. Whether this was because of the layers of wrappings that I installed in the fall, the lack of below zero Celsius temperatures this winter, or the result of global warming is unclear. What I do know is that I will soon be adding to my collection of five different varieties of palms and variety of colourful tropical cana lillies. Next on the horticultural list is to include Meyers lemons, key limes and even an orange tree to my tropical paradise, something my neighbour has recently done. Heck, at the rate we're going, we might even have pineapples and coconut trees next, which is a good thing because we do like drinking pina coladas while relaxing on the patio or soaking in the hot tub.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 10, 2013


"Oh the noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!
There's one thing I hate, all the NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!"

Dr. Seuss's Grinch complaining about all the noise the Whos make.

I can certainly relate to the big green guy from Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch stole Christmas" and his thunderous disapproval of noise that his raucous neighbours the Whos make. In fact, one of the reasons I moved to the Semiahmoo peninsula was to get away from noise from traffic, transportation and industry, especially since I spend most of my days with ear plugs crammed deep into my aural canals. When I'm relaxing at home, puttering around in the garden, chilling on the patio or sunbathing at the beach, I prefer the peaceful solitude of silence. Lord knows, you certainly pay enough to be fortunate enough to live in such an idyllic part of the Lower Mainland and it is one of the reasons why property values in the Semi-pen are so high. Unfortunately the sound of silence is being broken more and more frequently by jet airliners and BNSF locomotives as they increase their commercial transportation activities here regardless of the disruption they are causing and without any consequences to their finances or operations.

I grew up in Sunshine Hills in Delta, which is now under the new YVR inbound flight path created several years ago, making this neighbourhood unlivable by my standards. I also resided in Richmond for several years, getting to watch a continuous line of planes flying into the airport only blocks from my house. My father was a pilot who flew for CP Air/Canadian Air Lines so it is not like I'm anti-plane or afraid to fly, I just don't want to listen to the whine of jet engines above my head on a constant basis. Needless to say, I was one of the first persons to realize that something had changed dramatically back in the spring of 2007 when Nav Canada altered flight paths for YVR without any public or governmental notification. This resulted in commercial jets strafing neighbourhoods in White Rock and south Surrey, including the public beaches. The public uproar about this draconian change resulted in the formation of SCAANS (south Surrey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise) along with the Surrey Airspace Task Force that I was a part of. When this protracted fight against the Orwellian Nav Canada came to its final conclusion, the GRIZZ STAR flight path was moved to the centre of Boundary Bay and it was promised that flights would be directed away from the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Unfortunately it would appear that new air traffic controllers at the Nav Canada brain centre in Newton have not been educated about keeping jets away from south Surrey. While they did not promise to make it a no-fly zone, their controllers were to instruct incoming pilots to keep towards the centre of Boundary Bay, even when on visual and not GPS approach. It is getting more and more common to see large commercial jets now flying over Ocean Park at all times of the day, something which is fairly constant if you happen to live in the formerly quiet hamlet of Crescent Beach that now resembles Burkeville in Richmond at the end of the main runway. These over-flights can be seen on YVR's Webtrak (http://webtrak.bksv.com/yvr) which gives an on screen review of the flights in the GVRD airspace. This is not a case of people moving next to the airport or a rifle range and then complaining about the noise; it was a change in Nav Canada's operations that brought commercial jets to this formerly quiet region. When I go to the beach, I would like to look up and see soaring bald eagles, ungainly blue herons and even the lowly seagull, instead of watching Boeing 747's and Airbus A-320's. As the BC Green Party Transportation Critic, if we keep seeing overflights for no other reason than the pilots wanting to give their passengers a look at the nudists sun tanning on Crescent Rock Beach, I'll have to go make some noise at the Nav Canada offices and invite our federal Conservative MP Russ Hiebert to come along for moral support.

As if this was not enough, the BNSF Railway that runs across the waterfront of the Semi-pen has been seeing a slow but steady increase in train traffic. With this comes the increased noise from the diesel locomotives, the grinding of brakes and wheels on the rails and of course, the high-decible blasts of the air horns compliments of the train engineers. White Rock has become ground zero for train whistling in this region with American engineers seeming to take great glee in horning the hell out of the city, especially late at night. I was even told about one train that recently went the entire distance from east to west beach with the horn on full blast. Whether this was for a safety reasons, a mechanical malfunction, or simply a malicious action remains unknown. Even on the tracks between White Rock and Crescent Beach that are deserted and hard to access have "whistle stop" signs on each and every curve to alert anyone stupid enough to be walking on the rails to the threat of an approaching train. This ensures more horn blasts as the trains pass through Ocean Park, not to mention Crescent Beach with its two level road crossings there. Add to this the ground vibrations from the heavy coal trains we are now seeing plus plans to open a coal transfer facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks and this explains why we are now seeing long-term residents who have lived near the tracks for years now listing their homes and moving to greener and quieter pastures.

You have to wonder when White Rock City Hall will begin pressuring the BNSF Railway to reduce the air horning on the waterfront, especially from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. when people are trying to sleep? In New Westminster, which suffers from having trains from the BNSF, CN, Canadian Pacific and Southern Railway on their tracks and in several train yards, residents are waiting for the Canadian Transportation Agency to rule on an application to ban late-night whistling in their tiny waterfront city. Last year Surrey banned railway companies from blasting their horns at a number of crossings along Panorama Ridge and they are in the process of rerouting Colebrook road to the north side of the tracks to eliminate the main crossing in that region. Part of the reason for this project was because a study revealed that train traffic on these tracks will increase from 18 trains a day currently to 38 by the year 2021. With a doubling of the Amtrak passenger trains and plans to ship an additional 4 million tonnes of US coal per year on the BNSF tracks, we can expect to see a ever increasing amount of train traffic here and I'm going to be the whistle-blower, letting everyone know that unless steps are taken to ban unnecessary or late night horning, this problem will continue to grow to the point that nerves will be frayed beyond the breaking point and property values will plummet.

People here are rightly concerned about the effects of pollution, whether it be coal dust from open topped rail cars, diesel particulate in exhaust from locomotives and jet engines, or the global effect of green house gas release from commercial and industrial transportation. What we need to realize is that noise pollution is also a threat that has long-term pervasive effects on those who are subjected to it. Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the chief medial health officer for the Fraser Health Authority confirmed that train noise could be a health concern while attending a town-hall meeting in New Westminister last week, calling for a public health assessment before the Fraser Surrey Docks coal port is approved by Port Metro Vancouver. While he did not have anything to say about Nav Canada and their commercial airliners above the Semi-pen airspace again, if you are bothered by the jet noise, contact them by email at service@navcanada.ca giving the particulars about the disturbance, making sure you copy MP Russ Hiebert so he knows of your concerns at info@russhiebert.ca. For information about a specific plane, check out the YVR WebTrak site that allows you to watch flight paths, receive data on the plane type, height and speed, plus decibel readings from nearby noise monitoring terminals.

 

 

June 03, 2013


The 1-2 Punch

Surrey Board of Trade's ANITA HUBERMAN

When Ross Buchannan was added as a columnist for the White Rock Sun there was nobody more thrilled than myself. I knew about Ross's writing skills, in-depth analysis and penchant for digging up information on hot topics of community interest and felt he would be a perfect fit for editor Dave Chesney's online newspaper. I hope you caught his latest Loose Cannon offering, "Our Dirty Little Secret" published on May 31st concerning the Surrey Board of Trade's (SBOT) decision to endorse coal train traffic through White Rock/South Surrey and the expansion of the Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD). If not, you might want to read his column on this important issue facing our community and the negative long-term effects, both locally and globally that this project brings with it. While I had planned on writing about Nav Canada and ongoing over-flights above south Surrey and Crescent Beach (more on that soon), Ross implored me to give the SBOT and the proposed coal port the attention they deserve. Because of the importance of this issue to our community and those from around the Pacific Northwest including our American neighbours to the south, I'm compelled to try this 1-2 punch, hoping for a knockout or at least a TKO.

While it may be still early in 2013, the SBOT's CEO Anita Huberman has earned herself the lofty position of being the first person to make my dreaded Christmas gift list at the end of the year. You can bet that her present from me will be a White Rock boulder sized piece of coal to put in her stocking or possibly stuff somewhere else. It amazes me how the SBOT could ignore the health risks of having uncovered coal trains rumbling through White Rock and Crescent Beach that are the main marine recreational areas for almost a million Fraser Valley residents. Mrs. Huberman needs to realize that these long heavy trains are already having a serious negative affect on the neighbourhoods here even before this proposed expansion takes effect. A vibrational study done in White Rock by UBC found that ground shaking from BNSF coal trains are above the level of human comfort. Hydraulic pumping from the heavy coal cars is causing water and mud to rise into the rock ballast in locations from the border to New West, raising the possibility of rail failure and derailment. Extra train traffic is adding to the whistle noise, especially from night-time trains when onshore winds push the sound into hillside neighbourhoods where residents are trying to sleep. Accessing the waterfront is becoming more difficult with 125 car coal trains creeping along, blocking the tracks and inciting risky pedestrian crossings in front of these lengthy trains. Increasing coal train traffic will mean a tunnel will be needed on Crescent Road, costing Surrey residents $5 million to build and ensuring that pay parking comes to Crescent Beach. Its for these reasons and many more that the South Surrey/White Rock Chamber of Commerce decided to oppose more coal trains, taking a stand with our neighbours to the south that do not want any part of this filthy business.

The picture doesn't get any rosier when you start looking at the impacts to the Fraser River and communities surrounding the Fraser Surrey Docks. While the FSD are making plans to have dust suppression systems, you only have to look to Tsawwassen to see how coal dust infiltration has plagued this neighbourhood since Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank opened. The same problem also occurs in Panorama Ridge where coal dust from CN, CP and now BNSF trains blows up the hill from the Colebrook siding to pollute the air and foul sundecks, patio furniture and vehicles. More trains and the dumping of coal cars at the FSD along with the loading of this material will be noisy and likely be done 24 hours a day, making noise pollution to neighbourhoods near the docks as much of a problem as the coal dust. While the effects of coal dust contamination on the Fraser River are unknown, it is interesting to realize that Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert have recently been accused of damaging the marine environment of Hecate Strait by dumping coal into the ocean and not properly containing dust and run-off (http://www.thenorthernview.com/breaking_news/209346311.html). The barges that will tow the coal to Texada Island for loading on a slow boat to China will not be covered and subjected to strong winds in the Salish Sea, adding to the coal dust problem there not to mention the threat of a marine accident. In order to facilitate the loading of coal in the Fraser River onto large bulk carriers, the George Massey tunnel must be replaced with a bridge that will likely cost BC residents a billion dollars, tax money spent so that Australian Macquarie Group who owns the FSD can profit at our expense.

To think that Anita Huberman and the SBOT feel that these major environmental and health dangers are worth 50 jobs, only half of which will be in Surrey, shows how out-of-touch the board is with reality and the rising tide of opposition on the street to turning the Lower Mainland into the largest coal exporting region on the west coast of North America. A recent online poll in a local newspaper asked, "Does economic benefit trump environmental concerns when it comes to a new coal-export terminal in Surrey?", with 70 percent of respondents answering, "No." It really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the SBOT is making misguided decisions considering their recent history. People need to remember that the SBOT also supported the proposed south Surrey Gateway casino that was the subject of major public backlash resulting in marathon council meetings and a tied vote that was broken when Dianne Watts wisely voted to reject the project. Anita Huberman also raised eyebrows when she spoke out against the proposed US border fee, an initiative that would have likely helped to stem the tide of people shopping in Washington State and helped to support local businesses in Surrey. With this latest decision, you have to wonder how long it will be before members of the SBOT start calling for heads to roll or resigning in mass to voice their disapproval of the Board's questionable decisions.

With the difference of opinion between the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade on coal trains, it would be refreshing to find out where the City of Surrey sits on this important matter other than firmly on the fence. It is time that Mayor Watts and her Surrey First Council make a decision on where they stand on this issue that will have serious impacts on Surrey residents from both local health and environmental effects along with adding to the global climate crisis. Are they going to side with Anita Huberman and the 25 Surrey jobs that would come from this project or realize that coal trains equal climate change? City Hall has seen fit to put the run to adult theatres, massage parlours and peep shows but will they support a really dirty business like coal at the Fraser Surrey Docks? They made the right decision on trumping the casino project but will they simply roll the dice on coal port expansion, letting Port Metro Vancouver make the decision for them without showing their cards? That's plenty of questions which Watts & Co. need to answer well before Port Metro Vancouver makes its final decision on the FSD coal port expansion project.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

May 28, 2013

Where Eagles Dare

 

I've been to plenty of Council meetings at City Hall over the past five years but I must admit, the speech and picture/video montage by White Rock resident Sandy McNamee calling for the preservation of four large fir trees as a Bald Eagle roosting site on a road-end near Victoria St. was one for the ages. A packed house was waiting for her presentation and received one filled with incredible detail, passionate narrative and amazing photographs and videos of multiple eagles using this stand of trees as a perch where they rest and keep a watchful eye on Semiahmoo Bay. This was a last desperate attempt to stop the cutting down of this important stand of trees that was threatened by an adjacent development that would likely damage roots during excavation and construction, rendering the trees unstable and likely to topple over in high winds. The raw emotion of the night was plainly visible with tears flowing freely as people realized what was at stake if a viable solution or alternative plan could not be found.

Unfortunately the old firs were located next to the property line and after careful exploratory excavation was done by the nearby land owner, it was determined that many of the large roots would be damaged and the city ordered the trees to be removed as they posed a risk to public safety. Arborists quickly moved in and the four trees were felled in rapid succession and the branches and wood removed from the city land under the watchful eyes of several eagles that soared overhead eyeing the destruction. A century ago the White Rock hillside was covered with large evergreens that were cut down to build the original homesteads along with providing wood for local markets. Since that time secondary growth trees have matured on the slope but as houses get bigger and the remaining land smaller, many of these are now feeling the chop of the chainsaw or the bite of the bulldozer when development proceeds, leading to the loss of valuable eagle habitat. Without resting or nesting trees for them to use, our bald eagles will soon become a memory at the shores of White Rock.

Rather than stand idly by while the last of these tall eagle roosting trees are turned into cordwood, maybe it's time for the City of White Rock to start taking proactive measures to not only protect trees providing eagle habitat but also take steps to create spaces for these large raptors. While it appears that views in White Rock must be unobstructed by foliage allowing for a 180 degree panorama, having a few large stately trees that are a gathering point for wildlife certainly would not negatively affect property values. In fact, breaking up the skyline with a few well placed specimens or small stands of trees would create a more natural appearance while promoting eagles and other creatures to take up residence. I used to live in Brookswood in Langley with a view of Anderson Creek and towering cedar trees five feet in diameter. While beautiful and serene, the highlight was watching bald eagles use our yard as an aerial corridor to enter the ravine system in search of salmon and trout. Many times we would be in our back yard with eagles flying by only metres above and if you think these majestic birds look big from a distance, you should see them up close and personal, especially when they have spawning salmon dangling from their talons.

In my years of landscaping I have planted thousands of trees including Douglas firs, Western red cedars and my favorite, the Sequoia or California redwood that you can see in south Surrey's Redwood Park. It is amazing how fast conifers grow and there are many that are now 80-100 feet tall with trunks so thick that I cannot put my arms around them. As an environmental legacy project, I believe that now would be the perfect time for the city of White Rock to show some leadership by identifying areas of the hillside where the planting of large evergreens would one day benefit soaring raptors that utilize the natural updrafts on the hill. By planting trees away from the property lines on the various road-ends, they would ensure that future development would not damage the roots allowing them to grow unmolested. Even on west and east beach, a couple of large evergreens would break up the monotony of the many locust trees that line the promenade, without interfering with anyone's views. Ten to fifteen metre specimens are available for sale and can be supplied and planting by companies that specialize in large trees, or for a more cost-effective solution, small saplings can be planted that will grow at least a metre in height every year.

I'm sure that famed south Surrey eagle biologist David Hancock and his Hancock Wildlife Foundation (www.hancockwildlife.org) that is known around the world for its eagle cams would be more than willing to lend their considerable expertise to the cause. I know that Mr. Hancock has talked about the possibility of adding a nesting pole or bracing to trees on the Hump hillside as a way to encourage more eagle activity in the "City by the Sea." Instead of allowing defacto clear-cutting of trees on the Hump as has happened in the past, why not consider actually planting trees there for future eagle habitat and protecting them by classifying this steep hillside as ravine lands so it remains untouched? Of course this means that in a hundred years someone might have to look out their window on Marine Drive to see a stately fir tree with eagles rearing their young. The alternative is an empty sky where the only eagles remaining are those stamped into the concrete sidewalk along the Hump, an area that Mrs. McNamee would like to see renamed "Eagle Hill" instead of a word that is slang for fornication. Just like the trees on Victoria Street, if we do not take steps to restore raptor habitat in White Rock, our eagles will certainly be screwed.

Naturally yours, Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 21, 2013


Railing Against Poison and Pollution

 

It was a tough week for the BNSF Railway in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, with bad news coming their way from both White Rock and Crescent Beach. This all started when I drove down Marine Drive into West beach and noticed something glaringly different about the parkland near the tracks. Running a commercial gardening company and having previously worked decades ago as a salesman for Western Weed Control that spayed train tracks, it was glaringly apparent that the rail corridor through White Rock had been sprayed with herbicide. By the orangish-yellow colour of the dead grass, it had obviously been treated with Roundup or a related product containing the chemical Glyphosate.

A two metre wide strip of lawn had been sprayed north of the tracks from the end of Bayview Park to the boat launch and closer to the pier grass had also been treated on the water side around an area with park benches. Further inspection revealed that blackberries all along the Promenade had been sprayed including decorative pampas grass and blackberries in East beach. Roundup is a non-selective herbicide meaning that it will effectively kill most vegetation it contacts, translocating down into the roots to ensure plants do not come back. While the BNSF does have a "Vegetation Control Program" that was advertised several years ago in newspapers, they failed to post signage about when the spraying had been done, the chemical used or the application strength as is required. Their spokesperson Gus Melonas had this to say about the White Rock spraying, "The sprayer was accidentlally left on the on position as we went through the area (vegetaiton control program) We are looking into this matter and discussing further with the city." The date given for this spraying was early Sunday morning on April 28th.

When the BNSF became aware that they had inadvertantly sprayed parkland lawns next to the tracks and promenade, they should have roped off the areas in question and posted the appropriate warning signage. Because of this inaction, people were exposed to Roundup and I saw people walking there dogs on the dead grass, girls walking barefoot in the same area and a man sitting down on a bench pulling off his boots before stepping onto the dead turf. At the end of west beach, there were "ghost footprints", where the herbicide has been carried from the treated zone onto healthy lawn towards Marine Drive. While a quick fix would now be to power rake the dead grass and reseed, the powers that be instead want to pave the sprayed portion of Bayview park. I believe this is a ill-conceived idea as it will reduce the already small amount of greenspace at the waterfront and invite people to walk from the end of the promenade to the terminus of the safety railing, likely increasing trespassing on the busy BNSF tracks by people using it as a nature path.

 

On Thursday night, the Wilderness Committee was in Crescent Beach, holding a "Community Meeting on Coal" that attracted a large crowd of local residents concerned about increasing coal train traffic. Plans are afoot to bring millions of tonnes of U.S. Powder River Basin thermal coal here for shipment to Asia for use in their electrical generating plants. The proposed new coal loading facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River will export 4 million tonnes of coal per year with plans to expand it to 8 million tonnes utilizing barges to move the black rock to a deep water port on Texada Island. You can expect this to change to large bulk carriers if the George Massey tunnel is replaced, allowing larger ships into the south arm of the Fraser River. With Jimmy Pattison's Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank moving 33 million tonnes a year, Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver being expanded and the Fraser Surrey Docks likely to be rubber-stamped by the unelected Port Metro Vancouver, these facilities could ship up to 59 million tonnes of coal per year. This would make the Lower Mainland the largest exporter of this dirtiest of fossil fuels in North America, with most of it rumbling along tracks at the bottom of Panorama Ridge or through White Rock.

While most of the local opposition to increased coal train traffic focused on coal dust release, health effects and respiratory disease, ground vibrations and property value decrease plus blocked road and beach access, there were plenty of dire warnings about the green house gases (GHG) related to this industry. BC, Washington and Oregon have a globally green reputation on leadership in clean energy and environmental policy but we are turning a blind eye to the shipment of fossil fuels out of Cascadia. In a report released this week by the Sightline Institue (www.sightline.org) that focuses on "smart solutions for a sustainable Northwest", they detail the total Northwest fossil fuel exports and their global contribution to GHG's. Currently there are 16 new energy exporting projects being planned for the region including 5 new coal terminals, 2 expansions of coal terminals, 3 new oil pipelines and 6 new natural gas pipelines, with 11 of these being located in BC. If all of these fossil fuel energy projects were given the green light, they would collectively produce an estimated 760 million tonnes of CO2 annually, 12 times the total amount currently emitted by the province of BC.

If you want to join the fight to stop White Rock from becoming a coal town and to put the brakes on global climate change, make your feelings known to politicians at all levels and consider joining any or all of the following organizations listed below plus write the Board of Metro Vancouver (see Wilderness Committee website) about stopping coal port expansion. If you need any more evidence to the effect that climate change will have on the planet and future generations, consider the following stories that made headlines over the past week:
- The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that global concentrations of CO2 reached a milestone 400 parts per million, a reading not seen in 3 million years.
- An internation study released in the Journal Science revealed that Canada's Arctic plays a lead role in stoking global sea level rise, with glaciers adding an average 40 billion tonnes of meltwater per year into the world's oceans.
- UBC research study published in Nature reports that as oceans grow warmer due to climate change, iconic B.C. fish species such as salmon and eulichan are being forced from their normal habitat as they seek cooler waters or are displaced by warm-water species.
- A monster 2 km. wide EF5 tornado tears a 23 km. long path of destruction through Moore, Oklahoma, flattening everything in its path, levelling two schools and killing 24 people, eclipsing the damage from the massive 1999 "Good Friday" tornado that previously struck the same portion of the state.

The Wilderness Committee (Coal Free BC) - www.wildernesscommittee.org
Power Past Coal (No Coal Exports) - www.powerpastcoal.org
Coal Export Action (No Coal Northwest) - www.coalexportaction.org
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change - www.VTACC.org
CO2Now - www.co2now.org
350.org - www.350.org

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 13, 2013

Clearly Funny Money

The south Surrey Gateway Casino application attracted plenty of community and media interest before it was ultimately rejected, with Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts casting the deciding "nay" vote after several marathon Surrey council meetings. There were plenty of arguments on both sides as to how this project would be a boon to the local economy, or a community blight that would bring with it a host of social and criminal ills. One of the major concerns was that the proposed casino would attract gangsters and organized crime looking to launder drug money by magically turning it into casino winnings. Anytime you have a cash-rich environment you also attract thieves looking to rip off the house, either at the gaming tables, with guns in hand, or by passing off counterfeit currency. With the new $100, $50 and $20 Canadian polymer bank notes now in circulation and the $10 and $5 bills due out later this year, you would think that with these hard to duplicate bills, counterfeiting would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately that is no longer the case with many of the "window-pane" $100 bills discovered to be fakes over the weekend at several Lower Mainland casinos.

I learned of this problem facing Canada's money supply from a confidential informant and due to the sensitivity of this topic, I cannot reveal which betting establishments were affected or give details that would likely reveal them as the source of the information. What I can tell you is that the counterfeit $100 bills were laminated onto plastic, giving them the same feel and look as the new polymer bank notes including the clear window that many people count on as the main identifying safety feature. Here is a list of the details that were not quite right on the fakes that led to the counterfeit $100 bills being uncovered as worthless:
- the laminated plastic is thicker than the authentic polymer bills.
- the tan and brown colours are slightly lighter than in the original.
- the top of the East Block Parliament tower hologram located at the bottom of the clear window is missing.
- the 100's at the bottom of Sir Robert Borden's portrait in the window hologram are missing or backwards.
- the brail dots at the top of the bill are absent and the plastic is smooth to the touch.
- the clear maple leaf secondary window is rough to the touch on the back of the bill.
- a thin clear plastic strip is visible on the top of the bills.
- three different serial numbers are used, EKD 7647222, EKD 7647227 and EKD 7647229.

It was not that long ago that many businesses would not accept the old paper $50 and $100 dollar bills due to the large number of counterfeits floating around, most produced with new colour computer printers and digital scanners. I remember the first time I saw several of these fake paper hundreds about 15 years ago that had been given to a customer at a Royal Bank. My neighbour's friend, who was a real estate agent in West Vancouver, had withdrawn five $100 bills and was given three by a teller that were counterfeit. In the light of my friend's living room, it was impossible to notice the subtle differences between the real bills and the bogus ones. It was only under a bright fluorescent light that the lack of security features found on the real bills became noticeable. Considering that the man who had the bills was a multi-millionaire with a hefty bank account, he did not have any problem returning the counterfeit bills to the red-faced staff of his local bank. Since that time I have seen plenty of smaller denominations that have been faked, especially the purple $10's and even the blue $5 dollar notes. I even had one rather hilarious incident where a Tim Horton's employee tried to give me a counterfeit $5 for change that I would not accept, with her blind to the obvious problems on this poor quality counterfeit.

Unfortunately it now appears that we will once again have to start checking each and every bill we receive to ensure that the money is real and not made in somebody's basement or by an organized criminal syndicate. The following information is taken from the Bank of Canada website that can be found online at http://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/bank-note-series/polymers if you want to see pictures of the security features with these descriptions.
1. Raised Ink. Feel the raised ink on the large number, the shoulders of the large portrait and the words "Bank of Canada" and "Banque du Canada."
2. Large Window. Look for transparency through the large window containing a metallic portrait and building.
3. Metallic Portrait. Look at the details in the metallic portrait in the large window. It matches the large portrait.
4. Metallic Building. Look at the details in the metallic building in the large window. Tilt the note to see sharp colour changes in the building.5. Small Numbers. Look at the numbers in and around the large window that match the value of the note. Some of the numbers appear in reverse.
6. Transparent Text. Look at the word "Canada" in the large window. It is transparent and feels slightly raised.
7. Maple Leaf Border. Look at the maple leaves that border the large window. Some of the leaves cross into the window.
8. Frosted Maple Leaf Window. Look at the small frosted maple leaf window to see that it has a transparent outline and hidden numbers seen backlit by a bright light.
9. Flip. Flip the note to see the features in the large window repeated in the same colours and detail on the other side.

Nearly 45,000 counterfeit Canadian bank notes were passed in 2012, totalling $1.6 million. This is a dramatic reduction of 92% from the peak counterfeiting year of 2004, when there were 470 fake bills for every one million legitimate ones. As far as I can tell, this is the first time that a counterfeit polymer bank note has been passed in Canada and I'm sure that the RCMP will be taking this matter seriously and likely using casino security camera footage to attempt to find the person or person's responsible. Hopefully the police will release pictures of the fake polymer bills so that the Canadian public will know what details to look for and also realize that they need to keep an eye on their cash once again. Too many of us have been lulled into a false sense of security about these hard to counterfeit bills, utilizing a quick check of colour and the transparent windows to ensure they are real. Until we know how widespread this problem is and get to see the quality of the fake bills, Canadians will have to become better acquainted with the host of security features in the new bills that separate them from the counterfeit ones. The unfortunate effect may be that once again, you will find local retails no longer accepting large denomination Canadian banknotes.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 06, 2013

Surrey Strong

 

You had to wonder how high the body count was going to get in Surrey before the RCMP finally decided to take a stand on the ongoing tit for rat-a-tat-tat-tat gun violence that had been plaguing this city, not just in 2013, but for years including the Surrey Six Massacre back in 2007. From that year until 2012, BC saw 136 gang-related homicides in the province, not counting the wave of murders recently seen this year in Surrey. It figures that it would take a high-profile daytime execution in south Surrey for something to finally be done about this problem since this is where Mayor Watts and Council do their weekend shopping. Not that the surveillance cameras installed on Colebrook Road after four bodies were dumped there was ignoring the issue but you had to wonder how this would help the murder rate that has you 24 times more likely to be gunned down in Surrey than the Greater Toronto Area on a per capita basis. If Surrey City Hall didn't like Surrey Shirts (www.surreyshirts.com) anti-gang violence, "The Future Dies Here" or "Better Safe Than Surrey" T-shirts, something tells me they won't like the one on the drawing board that reads, "Surrey - Canada's Murder Capital" with a chalk outline of a body on a sidewalk. Hopefully we can stop the hit-parade on our streets and keep this future headline from becoming fact.

My March 18 TNT titled "Colebrook in the Cross-hairs" (scroll down if you missed it) took aim at the growing gang and gun violence problem that has been allowed to explode in Surrey. Since that time we have had two more murders plus three targeted shootings in Whalley over the past month where the victims were shot in the legs. I guess that dead men don't pay their drug debts but dealers who walk with a limp can still make money selling crack and meth. The amazing this about all of this violence since the start of 2013 is that not one person had been charged with any of the murders and shootings! Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that the Surrey RCMP, IHIT and CFSEU (BC's anti-gang unit) have plenty of leads and likely know who is involved but need evidence to ensure that charges stick. It was great to hear Chief Supt. Bill Fordy finally stand up and voice that the latest shooting in the Morgan Crossing area was "disgusting" and "unacceptable" instead of babbling on how Surrey is generally safe unless you are a gangster as he did in early January when the body count stood at only three. For myself the shooting of anybody in Surrey, whether known to police or not or if considered a gangster or innocent victim makes no difference. As far as I'm concerned, only goofs carry guns and if you were raised in Surrey you know these are fighting words.

Chief Fordy has asked local businesses and city residents to "Stand beside us" against gangsters, telling people that own restaurants, bars and gyms to turn away those involved in organized crime. One problem though, how do you identify someone as being a known gangster unless they have been outed in public? A good friend of mine has a shaved head, large beard, thick arms, is covered with tatoos and drives a "pimped-out" vehicle. Most people look at him and think gangster but in fact he's a local artist with no criminal affiliation, a heart of gold, and some rather amazing talent. If a business owner correctly identifies a gang-banger and has them kicked out of their business, who is to say this will not invite retaliation. Take away the Gucci sunglasses and Armani suits and Jonathan Bacon looked more like a stock broker than someone with the handle "notorious" tied to his name. Its the police's job to identify these wiseguys and to make life difficult for them and it appears that the Surrey RCMP are finally going to take a page from Delta and Abbotsford's playbook and begin hounding these jerks and hopefully making arrests that result in lengthy jail sentences from our appointed judges.

The CFSEU now has their own website (http://www.cfseu.bc.ca/) and they have recently released a nine-page newsletter to help parents, educators and those who work with young people to help identify when someone is at risk of going into a criminal lifestyle or joining a gang. It makes for a very interesting read into the world of gangs and the police agents tasked at breaking up their criminal enterprises and is a must read for anyone with children going to school in Surrey (download from www.bc-anti-gang.com). Another great place to find information about our gang problem is at the Gangsters Out blog (http://gangstersout.blogspot.ca/) where "Agent K" dispenses a running commentary about murders, arrests and convictions of known gang affiliates. Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun keeps her finger on the pulse of organized crime in BC, writing stories for the newspaper and posting on her crime beat blog (http://blogs.vancouversun.com/author/bolankim/). Local Surrey writer and columnist for the 24 Hours Laila Yuile likes to stick her nose into the underhanded dealings of the underworld in her "No Strings Attached" blog (http://lailayuile.com/) that also focuses on politics in BC, not that the two are ever related. The more you watch the headlines, visit these places on the internet, or even drop by the CFSEU headquarters like I recently did, you become aware of the scope of the problem we are facing and how we all need to fight back collectively against it.

What we need in Surrey is a multi-faceted approach to dealing with our gang problem, one that includes the various police organizations, politicians at all levels of government, leaders of churches and temples, teachers and educators, and most importantly, the citizens of this city. This program needs to have a name synonymous with Surrey, its long history and the no-nonsense people who live here. In Boston, the mantra "Boston Strong" became the rallying cry after the murderous terrorist attack that targeted the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I'm proposing that the name for the combined community effort to clean up Surrey, end our gun violence problem and root out gangsters be called "Surrey Strong." Just like the premise behind Surrey Shirts, the concept is to invoke civic pride asking citizens to do their part to help police do their job and stop the shootings that are giving this town a bad name from coast-to-coast in Canada. Surrey will be half-a-million people strong next month and the power of its people to accomplish great things when given the proper civic motivation cannot be overlooked. I'd like to see ads in bus shelters, local newspapers, at our high schools and on the Surrey.ca website campaigning for "Surrey Strong" and asking everyone to work collectively to end the gang violence problem and anonymously report gang crime to www.bccrimestoppers.com or by calling toll-free at 1-800-222-8477.

The Semi-Pen community never ceases to amaze me and I could not believe it when during the all-candidates meeting held at the Star-of-the-Sea, the largely grey-haired crowd reacted in thunderous applause with the concept of legalizing marijuana beyond its medicinal use sanctioned by Health Canada. With the recent decriminalization of the demon weed in both Washington State and Colorado, you have to wonder why BC did not take the lead in repealing pot prohibition? I've been told that the lucrative sales of BC Bud return 80% of the profits gained by organized crime in this province, money that is reinvested in cocaine, crack, meth, designer drugs and of course heroin. It is these drugs and the addictions they cause that are responsible for many of our social ills and high property crime rates along with gun battles over turf and control. If BC wants a legacy fund to pay off its huge provincial debt, why not take the pot profits from the gangs and instead build a new agricultural commodity that can be taxed and properly regulated? As far as paying for the war on gangs, taking the bad guys toys and investments under the Proceeds of Crime legislation should be considered as it is the lure of easy money and plenty of bling that attracts many to the gangster lifestyle in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 29, 2013

Buy-Election

With the Provincial election well underway and candidate lawn signs sprouting like mushrooms across the Semiahmoo Peninsula, I'm fighting the urge to use this podium to take pot-shots at my rivals or advance my political agenda. That certainly wouldn't be fair and to be quite honest, I'm rather fond of people who step forward and throw themselves into the public spotlight to do their civic duty. I find negative commentary and advertising to be a complete turn-off and certainly wouldn't want to wallow into that sordid cesspool. After all, the high road is usually less travelled and the view is often spectacular as long as you are on the lookout for pot holes and sharp corners that could cause a stunning fall from grace.

That being said, this TNT edition is going to focus on elections, in particular how this provincial election might impact future municipal ones in Surrey and nearby cities. With civic politics often being used as a stepping stone to higher office, both mayors and councillors often look to run in either provincial or federal elections. Unfortunately this usually means that the candidate, if successfully elected, will resign from their previously held position at City Hall, necessitating a by-election. We saw an unfortunate version of this last year where in White Rock, long-time councillor Mary Wade-Anderson passed away, forcing a by-election in the city by the sea. With a population of 19,000 and a land base measuring only 5 acres, this exercise in democracy resulted in Bill Lawrence being elected at a cost for this smallest of cities that was a rather large $32,000. That is chicken feed when compared to municipalities with a large land base and numerous residents where by-elections come with a hefty price tag.

In Surrey, Councillor Marvin Hunt has decided to run for the BC Liberals in the Surrey Panorama riding after star candidate Suhk Dhaliwal had to withdraw due to troubles with the tax man. I'm actually a rather big fan of Mr. Hunt, having dealt with him on a variety of occasions on topics ranging from Nav Canada to solid waste at Metro Vancouver and many transportation safety issues. The problem is that if Mr. Hunt is successful in getting elected to the legislature in Victoria, it means he will suddenly find himself in two political jobs. While he has offered to stay on until the next civic election and donate his Surrey paycheck to charity, it is likely he will be asked to resign by members of Surrey First forcing a by-election before the set Nov 2014 civic election date. The cost associated with a by-election in Surrey has been estimated at between $500,000 to $800,000, depending on whose numbers you trust. This problem is not contained only to Surrey with three councillors in Delta running to become the new MLA with a by-election price tag of $180,000. Langley's Mayor Peter Fassbender is running in Surrey-Fleetwood with the Langley City by-election cost pegged at $40,000. Further out in the valley, two councillors are running in Abbotsford with a $300,000-$350,000 by-election price estimate. Adding the higher numbers and you get, $1,370,000 for only four Lower Mainland cities!

This exercise in democracy might be worthwhile were it not for the fact that municipal elections generally attract a low voter turnout and by-elections are notorious for being all but ignored by the electorate. The last White Rock by-election in 2011 attracted a record low 15% voter turnout, beating out the previous low of 16% for the 2009 by-election that resulted from Councillor James Coleridge's election win being nullified by a judge. Instead of holding a by-election at great cost and dubious result, I'd like to suggest a much more economical and democratically sound solution. Once the civic election results are verified and the Mayor and Council chosen, the next person in line becomes the official "Candidate in Waiting (CW)." In the case of a councillor being unable to fulfill their duties, the CW steps forward to assume their position. This is similar to the Miss America content where a winner is crowned but a replacement is chosen should they resign or be stripped of their title (as has happened in the past - see Vanessa Williams). Not that I'm a homer, but for the last White Rock civic election the Candidate in Waiting would have been none other than Dave Chesney, the editor of the White Rock Sun. For Surrey, their CW is former Mayor and long-time Councillor Bob Bose who was looking rather spry when I visited him several weeks ago at his Ocean Park home.

This same concept could also be expanded to avoid a by-election for position of city mayor. It was widely believed that Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts was considering running for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party and if selected would have also initiated a by-election. There are two situations that could be used to avoid a costly by-election in this case rather than waste between a half to three-quarters of a million taxpayers dollars. First would be for the elected councillors to simply take turns as acting Mayor, something that already happens on a monthly basis while the Mayor is out of town on business or taking a vacation from the pressures of public office, with the CW being moved into Council. Another idea would be to place the councillor who received the most votes in the civic election into the Mayor's chair while then promoting the Candidate in Waiting to replace them. Either way, with civic elections attracting on average only a third of the electorate and by-elections half of that, I believe that we would be better served by the results from a full-blown election. In order to keep the Candidate in Waiting informed and interested in the political process, they could even be paid a modest stipend for every time they appeared at a Council meeting. In the end, this would likely be much cheaper than paying vast sums of money to hold by-elections that few show any real interest in.

For those of you that this is an affront to the democratic principles and that these by-elections should be held regardless of the cost, consider what happens in the bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States of America. Voters there elect a person for President and if for any reason they are unable to complete the term, the Vice-President steps in to take his place. We have seen this following presidential assassinations such as John F. Kennedy and resignations including Richard Nixon. In fact, the American Government has a presidential line of succession that includes fifteen people starting with the V.P., Speaker of the House, President of the Senate and then the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Defence. If the government of the U.S. can select their Commander-in-Chief from a pre-ordained list, I see no reason why we should not be able to use the results of a previous election to fill vacancies at the municipal level. In fact, this same rational might also be considered to fill power vacuums at both the Provincial and Federal levels should MLA's or MP's not be able to complete their full terms. It certainly beats adding to the massive debt that is being accumulated in both BC and Ottawa that eventually will have to be paid for by future generations.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

There are a number of Councillors seeking a Provincial seat, here is the breakdown of the cost of a by-election in the various districts affected.
Approximate by-election costs
Delta- $180,000
Councillors Sylvia Bishop and Scott Hamilton are running as an NDP and Liberal respectively in Delta-North
Councillor Bruce McDonald is running as a Liberal in Delta-South
Surrey- $500,000 to 750,000
Councillor Marvin Hunt is running as a Liberal in Surrey-Panorama
Abbotsford- $300,00 to $350,000
Councillor Moe Gill is running as an Independent in Abbotsford-West
Councillor Simon Gibson is running as a Liberal in Abbotsford-Mission
Langley- $40,000
Mayor Peter Fassbender is running as a Liberal in Surrey-Fleetwood

 

 

April 22, 2013


Putting the "Capital" in Coast Capital

My affiliation with the current day Coast Capital Savings goes way back in time beginning over a quarter century ago when I first started banking with them. At that time I was a member of the Surrey Credit Union and I maintained several of their self-owned properties for many years along with getting my first mortgage from this institution. Getting larger and opening more branches, they changed the name to Surrey Metro Savings, ditching the credit union name while positioning themselves for more expansion into areas outside Surrey. In June of 2002, SMS was bought out by the larger Coast Capital Savings that was originally formed from the amalgamation of Pacific Coast Savings Credit Union and Richmond Savings Credit Union. In its current form, Coast Capital Savings, headquartered in Surrey, has assets of $11.8 billion and over 500,000 members with 1,900 employees.

I found myself standing in the teller's lineup at the Morgan Heights/Grandview Crossing branch last week, looking around for the paper banking slips that have now been eliminated. By chance I happened to glance over at the reception desk where there was a small stack of blue brochures with the title, "Board of Directors Update & Special Resolution." Now reading banking financial and operational highlights for me is right up there with with watching paint dry but the "Special Resolution" portion caught my interest and I resolved to read about what was so special at Coast Capital. What I learned is that south Surrey resident Phil Embley, himself a Coast Capital member, had forced a special resolution regarding the pay for the Credit Union's directors and that a vote on this issue was currently taking place. What was interesting was that while advertisements and message flashed by on the many television boards throughout the branch, there was nothing to note that this vote was taking place or that there was only one day left to place your ballot. It was only by chance that I noticed the resolution containing information from both Coast Capital and Mr. Embley about this conflict.

In the provided booklet, Coast Capital lays out their case for their director compensation framework which decides their financial remuneration. It turns out that back in 2007 the directors were given the power to decide their own pay in order to attract qualified directors. Through various flow charts graphs they explain how the directors pay relates to other Credit Unions, admitting that director compensation has increased but that it is related to increases in Coast Capital's size and complexity. While Phil Embley was allowed to include his own member's statement regarding the special resolution in the brochure, it came with a bold disclaimer stating,"Coast Capital advises our members that some of the facts alleged in the statement are inaccurate and misleading." Mr. Embley had previously worked to defeat a special resolution at Westminster Savings Credit Union that would have allowed directors to control their own pay, which received a 70% against vote. Under the Financial Institution Act, Mr. Embley worked to get 300 Coast Capital members to sign his petition even though he was barred from standing at Credit Union doors and not allowed to protest on their property. Utilizing paid advertising and media attention, he got the needed signatures in 20 days forcing the resolution. Mr. Embley has advised me that while he has asked three times for an explanation about the alleged inaccurate and misleading facts in his statement, he has not received a reply from the board of directors on what he considers to be character assassination.

The following is the statement that was printed regarding the special resolution and the voting that closed last week. Results will be presented on April 30 at the 2013 Coast Capital AGM at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, 7311, Westminster Hwy, in Richmond, BC.

Why you should Vote "Yes" to the Special Resolution:
Our Directors decide their own pay. Can you do that where you work? 500% increases for Directors!!
in 2007, Coast Capital Directors recommended a change for the Rules to allow Directors to determine their own remuneration. Directors have since increased their pay by as much as 500%. If 66% of voting members vote YES, our members will be back in control. Please tell other members.
In 2011 Vancity paid their Chairman $60,700 while our Chairman paid himself $164,140. At Vancity members approve Director Remuneration. Our Directors pay themselves and their pay is higher than any cooperative Board in Canada - by a significant amount.
Vancity's Board Remuneration in 2011 - $366,382. Coast Capital (smaller than Vancity) paid $750,517, almost 100% more! Other large BC credit unions, Westminster Savings - $245,299, Interior Savings - $175,000.
When Directors set their own remuneration they venture into an area with an obvious conflict of interest. It is plainly self-dealing and Directors have a fiduciary duty requiring them to put the interest of the members before their own interests. In handling such a conflict one would expect every Director to be extremely cautious but ours have authorized huge differences between what they pay themselves and what Directors of other cooperatives are paid.
Voting YES will eliminate some of the problem but we also need to elect Directors that understand (and will abide by) cooperative principles. Traditionally, the Directors of cooperatives view their serves as, at least in part, community service but our Directors compare themselves to the Directors of small public companies.
They pay themselves more than Directors of some public companies and crown corporations. The amounts are not the only concern. The guidelines under which the Directors earn their pay are unusual and designed to benefit Directors rather than the members. One example - Directors collect at $1,020 meeting fee by phoning in - that's right they don't have to be at the meeting. We have asked, but the Directors won't disclose how often this happens.
Serving as a director of Coast Capital should be an honour, not a way to earn excessive pay. Every dollar paid for remuneration is a dollar that is not available for employee salaries or member services.

To assist in spreading the word about the Coast Capital's director pay and this special resolution vote, a website was created titled www.coastcapitalcompensationwatch.com. It features a highly detailed and explanatory Home page, a Welcome page with facts and comparison, along with many other pages containing information about this issue and the vote that many people, including myself, heard nothing about. There is also a Facebook page regarding this issue titled Coast Capital Compensation Watch that has 359 likes and allows for posted comments. This is not the only problem plaguing Surrey's largest credit union as four directors were recently acclaimed to another three year term after their Nominations Committee somehow failed to recommend any of the 26 candidates that expressed an interest in the job, eliminating the need for a democratic election. Only adding to the questions being asked about the direction the Credit Union is taking, it was revealed last week that they recently utilized temporary foreign workers, something that the Royal Bank of Canada has been taken to task on. When a Credit Union starts acting like a big bank, you have to start wondering whether they have lost sight of their historical mandate which is to "serve people, not profits." I'm thinking that maybe they are using "Where The Wild Things Are" creatures in their new ads because we have indeed created a monster.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Editors Note / Update

COAST CAPITAL MEMBERS OBTAIN CONTROL OF BOARD REMUNERATION WITH 79.7% VOTE

Here is a link to a story about this historic vote and its implications in the Van Sun:
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Coast+Capital+credit+union+members+overwhelmingly+vote+review+board/8324325/story.html

 

 

 

April 15, 2013

On Guard For Murphy

I'm so glad to be sitting here in one piece being able to write this week's TNT from the comfort of my own home instead of from a hospital bed at the Peace Arch Hospital. Anyone who has read this column for some time will know of my interest in public safety and transportation. This comes from a variety of sources, my Mom's terrible family history where her father and two of her siblings died in car accidents, the many serious and/or fatal crashes I have attended over the years, plus my own experiences of accidents and near-misses that have happened in my many miles of driving. While my desire to make streets safer for everyone is focused on saving lives, it is also from a well ingrained sense of self-preservation, especially for roadways that I drive on a frequent basis. On Feb. 19, I wrote a piece in the WR Sun titled "Crescent Road Carnage", detailing problems with this raceway in south Surrey and its history of high-speed crashes and death. The powers that be took note with myself being invited to appear before Surrey's Transportation and Infrastructure committee plus the RCMP performing radar checks 14 times in March resulting in 210 speeding tickets being issued.

Just to show you that Murphy has a sick sense of humour, I was visiting a client last Monday night and left for home from a residence near Crescent Park that is only a half-mile away. It had just gotten dark and I headed west on Crescent Road from 132 St., driving at or near the posted 50 Kmh limit in my Jeep YJ. At the last set of corners near the Chevron station at 128 St., a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed lost control on the S bend and crossed fully into my lane. If I had not reacted quickly to this threat or had simply applied the brakes, we would have collided in a full head-on crash. Instead I violently yanked the steering wheel to the right, blasting the horn while doing so, then slammed on the brakes with both feet as I corrected the skid and got my hand away from where the air bag would deploy on impact (a friend of mine recently had his thumb nearly torn off by an airbag, something to think about). The vehicle flashed by only inches away while I screeched to the side of the road where the engine stalled since I had no time to step on the clutch or grab the gear shift. The driver who had forced me off the road regained control of his vehicle, got back in his own lane and sped off into the night. I sat at the side of Crescent thanking my guardian angel and the new rims and tires I had bought from RT Tires this winter (Thanks Ish, there's your plug!) that no doubt allowed me to avoid what would have been a very bad accident. Between the adrenaline rush, mental images of this near-miss and thoughts about my own mortality, I hardly slept a wink that night. Needless to say, I will make sure that Surrey completes many of the safety upgrades I have identified on this notoriously dangerous road.

A friend of mine in Tsawwassen was not so lucky on Feb. 18 when her Nissan 370Z convertible sports car lost control on the Steveston Hwy. overpass in Richmond above Hwy. 99 just before the Geroge Massey tunnel. The vehicle jumped the curb and smashed into the guardrail with some rather unexpected results. The steel guardrail she hit popped from the concrete posts that held it in place, allowing the vehicle to slam squarely into one of these solid pillars. The concrete post broke from the bridge deck, toppling over where it was left hanging by a single piece of rebar. It pulled another section of steel railing with it that was left dangling down into traffic. The end result was that there was 20 feet of overpass with no railing and my friends car left sitting at the edge of the bridge, dangerously close to falling 20 feet onto the highway below. The piece of steel railing that did fall landed in the southbound bus lane along with one of the front wheels torn from the car. This all happened at 2 p.m. and the wreckage was not removed and repaired until 7:30 that night, snarling evening rush-hour traffic throughout the region. My friend was taken to hospital suffering from minor injuries and shock and when she saw photos of the accident scene burst into tears, realizing how close she had come to possibly going off the bridge, an accident that likely would have killed her had the vehicle landed on its soft cloth roof.

Several years ago I raised the alarm about the Serpentine River bridge guardrail failure that caused the death of a 21-year-old woman who drowned in her car after this important safety feature failed. This led to a lengthy investigation and the final release of a Ministry of Tranportation report that identified brittle aluminum support posts and faulty design as being the culprit in this tragety. Because of this, the old aluminum guardrails on the Serpentine and Nicomekyl river bridges have now been protected with heavy concrete curbing to keep vehicles from smashing through and ending up in the water. This same style of guardrail is also being identified on highways across BC and when necessary and if the bridge design will handle the increased weight, concrete curbs have also been promised for them as well. New parapet concrete guardrails like what have now been constructed on the Serpentine bridge northbound that was expanded for the bus lane on Hwy. 99 are heavily rebared to the bridge deck and are strong enough to keep even large vehicles on the decking. Unfortunately the same concrete post and steel railing system that was used on Steveston Highway is also present at many overpasses along Hwy. 99 from the Ladner Trunk Rd. interchange in Delta all the way to 8th Ave. in south Surrey. Comments left by a person named Ken on a CTV news report about this accident should serve as a warning: That is old style guardrail, it was replaced with new safer barrier, known as "690mm". You can tell from the slots at the bottom, "690" has holes in the middle. The old stuff did not stay connected during many impacts and is not safe. It should be replaced.

I decided to go have a look at one of these antiquated guardrails for myself and went down to the King George Boulevard overpass that was built in 1964 which I knew used this identical safety system as that on the Steveston Hwy. The galvanized steel railings are strong and sturdy but are held in place on either end by three small steel tabs attached to the concrete, two on the top rail and one on the bottom that are then bolted to the railings. While the railings appear corrosion free, the tabs are not zinc coated and are thick with rust from water and winter salt spray.

Looking at the pictures of the Steveston Hwy. crash, it appears that either the bolts snapped or the tabs broke, leaving the relatively intact steel railing to leave the bridge deck. As for the concrete posts, they contain six cubic feet of reinforced concrete, weighing an estimated 900 lbs. Several of the heavy posts are positioned at expansion joints and large gaps underneath them have been filled with a silicon-like putty that does litle to prevent moisture and salt from entering where it likely is eating away at the steel rods connecting them to the bridge. I have to question their strength after a 3,300 lb two-seater convertible was able to knock two sections of railing and a heavy concrete post off the decking. Besides the obvious danger of a vehicle sailing onto the highway below, imagine what would happen should you be hit one of the steel railings, a torn off car tire, or a 900 pound block of falling concrete, especially while travelling at highway speed?

I've alerted the Ministry of Highways to my concerns and asked them to retain the portions of the damaged guardrail from the Steveston Hwy. overpass for further engineering inspection and analysis. Richmond Mayor Brodie and Council plus the three MLA's for that region also received a copy of the email so they are aware of this serious safety issue. If there have been previous problems with this design and the railings disconnect during impact as suggested by Ken on the comment forum of CTV, then they need to design ways to solve this problem or replace them as soon as possible. I was thinking that two strands of steel cable running through the railings and in front of the concrete posts on both the top and bottom would not only strengthen this safety system but likely keep the components from falling onto traffic below in case of impact. This cheap quick fix would also not add much extra weight to the bridge deck, something that is a consideration if heavy concrete curbing were to be installed instead. At some point in time, many of the smaller bridges across the Lower Mainland that were built 50 years ago will have to be replaced. If it turns out that these guardrails will not stop even a small car from popping the railings from their concrete supports, then it is likely that this will need to be done sooner than later. To do nothing only invites Murphy to play his games, likely meaning it will be me in my heavy work truck who gets to test the strength of these suspect guardrails here in south Surrey.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 08, 2013


The Arts, Jack Layton and Half Moon Bay (aka Semiahmoo)

My once a week "The Naked Truth" column in the White Rock Sun gives me the opportunity to flex my creative writing muscles while making a statement about a variety of topics involving the Semiahmoo Peninsula. On Saturday evening, I got to rub shoulders with a woman who has a pedigree of writing accomplishments that essentially make her one of Canada's literary royalty. At Centennial Park, the Semiahmoo Arts "Catalyst for Change: Art in Action!" continued their literary series, "Readings by the Salish Sea." The keynote speaker for this event was non other than noted Canadian author and poet Penn Kemp. The following is a list of her accomplishments taken from the Quatto Books website: Heralded by The Writers' Union as "a one-woman literary industry," activist, performer, and playwright Penn Kemp is the League of Canadian Poets' 2012 honorary Life Member and inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of London, Ontario (2010-12). She has received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for contributions to Canadian arts and culture. Penn has published 25 books of poetry and drama, and has had six plays and ten CDs of Sound Opera produced. Penn currently edits poetry for Pendas Productions and hosts her Lit-on-Air program, "Gathering Voices".

(local NDP candidate Susan Keeping Penn Kemp and Susan McCaslin

Mrs. Kemp used this night for the inaugural West Coast book launch for her new book, "Jack Layton: Art in Action" that begins the cross-country tour for this ambitious project and National Poetry Month in Canada. The NDP's late leader Jack Layton was her brother-in-law and Penn collected and assembled anecdotes and viewpoints from people across Canada about how Mr. Layton had inspired Canadians from all walks of life to work towards creating a better world. Indeed, the theme of the night was "Can one person make a difference? Can a small group affect change", questions that WR Sun editor Dave Chesney and I know can both be answered with a resounding, "yes." The "Jack Layton: Art in Action" book contains a total of 105 different stories printed on 300 pages chosen from all of those who made their contributions about Jack Layton's involvement in Canadian arts and culture. It can be purchased at leading retail book stores or direct online from Quattro books for $24.95 at the following link: http://www.quattrobooks.ca/books/jack-layton-art-in-action/ If you missed the book launch and wish to meet Penn Kemp in person, she will be at the Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main St. Vancouver on Wed., Apr. 10 from 3-5 p.m. and at the Lillloett Room of the Irving Barber Learning Centre, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver on Thurs., April 11th.

The evening began with music from Chris Thornley from Blues for the Bank and several of his musician friends providing some soulful blues to set the mood. Barbara Cooper, the very fashionable President of the Semiahmoo Arts (www.semiahmooarts.com) opened the festivities, thanking the Writers Union of Canada, the BC Arts Council and the BC Provincial Government for helping to make this special night possible. South Surrey - White Rock NDP candidate Susan Keeping then took the podium to say a few words about the arts, social justice, poverty law, and of course to give her thoughts on Jack Layton before introducing Penn Kemp as the key-note speaker. Other local advocates also got their turn to address the aproximately 100 people in attendance. These included south Surrey author and poet Heidi Greco, wordsmith Virginia Gillespie who helped to inspire the "Eagle's Nest Labyrinth" in Kwomais Point Park, and Mike Svob from Artists for an Oil-Free Coast that are part of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. A hi-light for me was poet Susan McCaslin who started the Han Shan Poetry Project to support a group of residents known as WOLF (Watchers of Langley Forests) who fought successfully against Langley council's plan to develop McLellan Park Forest.

More than anything, the night really did belong to Jack with various readings and personal reflections on his life stirring up strong emotions amonst NDP party faithful and others in attendance from across the political spectrum. Next to Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox, Jack Layton is probably most well-known Canadian who succumbed to the ravages of cancer. Who can forget his last press conference on July 25, 2011 when Mr. Layton, his face looking dangerously gaunt and with a hoarse lowered voice, announced that he had cancer and was stepping down temporarily as NDP leader to undergo treatment. Unfortunately his disease did not respond as hoped to treatment and on August 22 that same year Jack died at his home in Toronto, being given a state funeral as the Leader of the Official Opposition. Regardless of your political beliefs or affiliations, if you have never read Jack Layton's last letter to Canadians, you should take a few minutes to consider the wisdom and words of a great man dying far too young. It starts with a "Dear friends" introduction, followed by "A few additional Thoughts", and then "To the members of my party, To the members of our parliamentary caucus, To my fellow Quebecers, To young Canadians" and ends with, "And finally, to all Canadians." Rather than posting the full copy here, this required reading can be found on many internet sites by searching, "Jack Layton's last letter."

The final paragraph of Jack's farewell letter is short and sweet with words to live by: "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. All my very best, Jack Layton."

Naturally yours.
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 01, 2013


April Fool's BC Liberals - The Jokes on You

Pitcairn & The Zalm

Happy Easter everybody, I hope your long week-end went well especially with the amazing sunny and warm weather that put an abrupt end to winter on the west coast. Normally I write my latest installment of the TNT on Sunday night, delaying it a day for long weekends, but not this time as it isn't every year that April Fools Day falls on a Monday. For this special occasion, I dedicate this column to the B.C. Liberal Party and the federal Conservative Party as the hated HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) is finally repealed and replaced once again by the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and the federal GST (Goods and Services Tax) in BC on April 1. The big question still remaining to be answered is why the transition back to the previous tax regime took so much time? It has been 19 months since the HST was defeated in the Province-wide referendum and finally it is being scrapped. By comparison, it only took two months to shove this tax down the throats of BC residents with it being passed in the legislature on April 29, 2010 and put into effect on July 1st, 2010.

This column has been a long time coming with various offerings from myself through the years on this subject in the pages of the WR Sun including Aug. 29, 2011 - "Yes!!!", June 20, 2011 - "Vote no to the HST, err..., I mean Yes", July 5, 2010 - "Making Dollars and Cents of the HST", May 10, 2010 - "Tax the Tax", April 12, 2010 - "HST, GST, PST You & Me", and April 5, 2010 - "HST Tax and the 4-H Club." The beauty of electronic community newspapers such as the White Rock Sun is having access to a growing archive, allowing you to scroll down and review years worth of stories with the roll of a mouse or push of a button. You might want to check up on some of these dates for a historical perspective on this fight that began when the HST was first introduced by the then Gordon Campbell BC Liberal government shortly after they were re-elected. This major miscalculation has seriously damaged the Liberals credibility and hung around them during their entire last term which is likely to lead to their being turfed from office during the upcoming Provincial election.

Hats off to former premier Bill Vanderzalm, Chris Delaney and Bill Tielman who collectively with an army of loyal "Fight HST" volunteers forced a referendum on the implementation of the hated HST leading to its demise. This exercise should stand as a warning to any future governments who decide to unilaterally impose regressive tax changes on constituents without first consulting them. This is democracy 101, whereby elected politicians actually represent their constituents instead of sticking it to them after voted into power. I realize this sounds like a novel approach with many politicians simply blindly following the party mantra and being censured if they step out of line. In fact, it would be a refreshing change in BC where the so-called "free-enterprise" party, in this case the Liberals, simply siphon tax dollars towards their business friends in what resembles corporate communism, or the NDP that rewards their union bosses with rich public contracts. Either way, it appears that running up record debt is now how both of the ruling parties now conduct their affairs, so for those interested in balanced budgets, not slight of hand accounting tricks and snake-oil salesmanship, it truly limits your options on election day.

When the HST was implemented, many of my customers were suddenly hit with an increase of 7% to their bills, as previously we were PST exempt. I lost 20% of my customer base as they looked for other alternatives rather than absorb the increase in price due solely to the new tax regime. I'm sure the people who I have retained will be looking forward to a sudden 7% decrease on their bills in the month of April and beyond. Obviously I will not be increasing my prices to try and profit from the decrease in taxation but the same cannot be said for other large businesses. When the HST was brought in, the PST rate on booze went from 10% to 7%, so the BCLC raised their booze prices 3% across the board ensuring the government would still rake in the same amount of cash. While going from the HST back to the PST/GST will not alter the 12 tax cost, I noticed BCLC employees changing prices on all of their merchandise on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, I did not notice the costs of beer, wine or spirits being reduced. It has been reported that with cellular phone bills suddenly dropping by 7% that Telus is jacking up their rates to keep people's bills the same as before. If this is true, it shows a need for much more competition in the cell phone market, with Canadians already paying one of the highest rates in the world.

On April 1st, the joke is certainly on the BC Liberal Party and Steven Harpers Conservatives who were equally to blame for this fiasco that ignored the democratic process. For real payback for this debacle, you don't have to wait for long as the Provincial election is just over a month away. You can forget the non-stop scandals plaguing a government well beyond its best-before-date, the performance of its unelected Premier, or the constant barrage of election propaganda masquerading as enlightening government advertising. Instead, every time you see one of those TV commercials featuring falling dominos that suddenly stop when they hit the BC Liberal tile, remember that it is likely the Liberals will be falling like dominos when they finally get to face the wrath of the voting public. There are many folks who will not hold their nose when they vote as this won't stop you from throwing up. People are now looking at different parties, attempting to break the status quo of the past. Don't be surprised to see strong independent candidates and a few BC Green Party members standing in the legislature in the near future. The only question left to be answered is not whether the Liberals will find themselves in opposition, but if they will be decimated like the former Social Credit that also went into an election reeking of scandal.

What it truly fascinating about all of this is that Bill Vanderzalm, who championed against the HST, was the former Socred leader who resigned in disgrace in the spring of 1991 following revelations about the sale of the Fantasy Garden's complex. Rita Johnston took over from him as Canada's first female premier, losing her seat in the Oct. 1991 election that saw the Social Credit decimated at the polls, getting only 7 seats and falling to third place in party standings leading to its eventual destruction. Could the same thing happen this year? Only time will tell it is wise to remember philosopher George Santayana's often used quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Unless there is a miraculous change of course for Christy Clark's BC Liberals, they could end up being history.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 24, 2013


Slash and Burn - Surrey Style



After spending most of the day swinging a 10 pound maul or splitting axe and chopping wood for next winter, I thought it would be rather ironic to write about clear-cutting in Surrey. No, not the usual run-of-the-mill bulldozer development turning green space into human breeding grounds that we have become accustomed to here. I'm talking about cutting down old-growth forests containing 900 year old Western Red cedars, BC's Provincial tree. Don't worry, this isn't happening here because we already did that across Surrey a century ago, with the trees in our parks mere saplings compared to what was previously standing. This latest old-growth clear-cutting happened in the Upper Walbran Valley on the west side of Vancouver Island, about a kilometre from Castle Grove that is home to the "Castle Giant", a Western Red cedar five metres in diameter and considered to be one of the widest trees in Canada. The Surrey connection is that the logging of this ancient tract of forest was done by the Teal Jones Group whose head offices are in this city on the banks of the mighty Fraser River. By the way, I should note that the logs my arborist friend provided me were dangerous dead-stands recently removed from a residential property in south Surrey. No live trees were killed or injured in the making of this column and best of all, the wood is already dried, cured and delivered free of charge.

If Wahlbran Valley and Upper Carmanah Valley ring a bell, it is because they have been the at the centre of protests regarding forestry practices and the cutting of old-growth forests on Vancouver island for years. Located just north of Port Renfrew, it is adjacent to the Pacific Spirit Park and the world-famous West Coast Trail. This ancient temperate rainforest contains complex biodiversity, holding almost twice as much biomass as is found in tropical rainforests. It is internationally renown for some of the biggest trees on the planet including the Carmanah Giant, a 95 metre Sitka Spruce and 1,000 year old Western Red cedars. Following environmental protests in the early 1990's, the lower half of the Walbran Valley and the Upper Carmanah Valley were added to the existing Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park in 1995, totalling 16,450 hectares in size. More headline-grabbing public protests followed in 2003, punctuated with the arrest and imprisonment of 74-year-old environmentalist and grand-mother Betty Krawczyk for contempt of court. Recent protests ended in the fall of 2012 when it was reported that the Teal Jones Group would not be logging the Castle Grove region forests and the BC government expressed interest in formally protecting old-growth stands.

Unfortunately it was recently revealed by Torrance Coste, a member of the Wilderness Committee, that Surrey's Teal Jones Group has been busy extracting old-growth wood from this rainforest during the winter. Coste drove into the Walbran Valley earlier this month, taking along a student movie crew from New York that wanted to film the giant trees that grow there. What they found instead was a newly razed "field of stumps", some with growth rings dating back 900 years which should give a black-eye to BC's logging practices. It was not like this was an unknown or illegal logging operation as the BC Ministry of Forests acknowledged that Teal-Jones had all of the necessary permits and environmental plans in place before proceeding with their old-growth harvest. This logging took place in a special management zone consisting of 2,600 hectares next to the east side of the Walbran protected forest. The clear cuts were allowed to a maximum of 5 hectares, with selectively logged cut blocks no larger than 40 hectares in size. There is no word as to where these logs have been taken, whether they will be processed at saw mills in BC, or if the customers realize they are accepting old-growth wood taken from coastal rain forests. As BC Auditor General John Doyle recently expressed, "On Crown land there should be better opportunities to have old growth preserved. We just don't see any proactive old-growth or conservation strategies in BC."

The Teal Jones Group is a family run operation with deep roots in the forest industry here in BC. The original owner Jack Jones founded the company in New Westminster over 60 years ago as a one-man cedar roofing mill after he returned from serving in World War 2. The company moved in March of 1962 (the same month I was born I might add) and opened the Teal Mill in Surrey at its present location next to Barnston Island. Now owned by sons Tom and Dick Jones, the Teal Jones Group is the largest privately held forest products company on the West coast of Canada. They have expanded to cities and towns across BC and even have planer facilities in Sumas, Washington. They are a well-known Surrey business, operating the $30 million dollar J.S. Sawmill on the former Teal Mill site and employing 1,200 people throughout the Province who help extract coastal forest resources at their many locations. Their website boasts that they are, "Dedicated to responsible forest management" with owner Dick Jones saying, "We're just getting started!" when commenting about the steady growth of the company. Cutting down old growth rainforest is not what I consider responsible and they should be more concerned about preserving old-growth than the steady growth of their balance sheet. Just as fish customers are looking for sustainable seafood, it is time that old-growth wood be looked on with the same environmental distain now reserved for ivory, rhino horn, or sharks fin.

It is surprising and unsettling that with all the protests for protecting old growth forest on the coast of BC that the Provincial Government has been dragging its heels while companies continue to harvest ancient trees from ecologically important rain forests. You would think that companies such as Surrey's Teal Jones that champion sustainability and conservation of natural resources would realize the importance of preserving our old forests, rather than seeing them only as easily harvestable trees with high profit margins. While the Teal Jones Group has reportedly planted nearly 9 million tree seedlings since 2004, they cannot promise to, "provide future generations with a continuous supply of natural resources" as their website boldly states. When biodiversity is gone, it is forever and our children should not have to wait another 900 years to be able to experience the grandeur and majesty of being in the presence of some of the biggest organisms on the planet that live in our own back yards. Think about this when you go for a walk in any of our city parks, taking note of the large stumps that serve as are reminder to previous old-growth logging operations that occurred right here in Surrey only a century ago.



For more information on preserving old-growth forests in BC, visit the following links:
http://wildernesscommittee.org/
http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/

Read and see more pictures of the devastation (Click Here)



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 18, 2013

Colebrook In The Cross-hairs



Oh....shoot me dead….put a bullet in my head
I am cravin' a nice magnum piece of lead

Take my body and kick it to the side of Colebrook Road
Where my spirit rests amongst the used condoms and toads

Lying here in this puddle….I think I hear a train,
But it could be the massive damage caused by the bullet in my brain

Yes, sir….shoot me dead and take me to Colebrook Road.

Poem by Stompin Tom Cannard posted on Kim Bolan's "The Real Scoop" blog, Vancouver Sun

In the continuing saga involving Surrey's notorious Colebrook Road, I was working in Panorama Ridge on Tuesday, March 12, finishing up on our jobsite at close to 6 p.m. We often take the little known 125A St. cheater route down onto the western end of Colebrook Road, using it as a shortcut to avoid traffic on #10 Hwy. and the KGB while enjoying the countryside and farms. As we drove by the corner of 125A St. and Colebrook, I had two things to say to my long-suffering employee sitting beside me who gets to listen to my rants on a daily basis. First I told him that Surrey needed to change the "No Exit" sign to "Dead End" because of the two cases where bodies had been dumped there earlier this year. As we rounded the corner, I then remarked that if I was the Chief of Police for Surrey, I'd have an unmarked cop car sitting hidden on railway property from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. to keep an eye on things, as I expected even more bodies to be dumped at this same rural location.

Imagine my disgust when on Wednesday morning when I heard that another two more bodies had been discovered by a police car at 2 a.m. at the exact corner that I felt should have been under surveillance! While routine patrols of Colebrook Road had reportedly been stepped up, which is why police found the latest two bodies, did no one think it might have been worthwhile to monitor this out-of-the-way spot especially late at night in the witching hours? Doing this would have likely solved a double murder, while sending a firm message to criminals and assassins that police were laying in wait and watching their every move. Now this latest killing is under investigation with Mayor Watts suddenly promising some street lighting and possible installation of cameras to magically solve this ongoing problem. At least she visited the latest crime scene while on her way to work at City Hall on Wednesday morning, hopefully showing her very real concern (as I would like to believe) and not just performing a publicity stunt to calm rattled nerves. I'm left wondering if Supt. Bill Fordy still believes it is "generally safe in Surrey" as he stated in January after the first three murders this year?

I question what good more street lighting and video cameras will do especially now that these measures have been publically announced? Besides making folks on the Ridge feel a little safer about living next to Surrey's dump (both sides of Colebrook Road), do they think anyone will be dropping off more victims if they know they are under video surveillance? In fact, dumping of all kinds of debris including everything from grow-op dirt to stolen cars has been an ongoing problem along Colebrook Road for decades. Last year Surrey announced they were putting up hidden cameras to monitor frequent illegal dumping sites including many well-known and often used locations on Colebrook Road. While this was brought in with much fanfare, they have since been withdrawn from use because of unspecified problems with the units. A few high definition video cameras posted at either end of Colebrook road could record licience plates that could then be matched to crimes or possibly catch killers dumping bodies into the ditch. Of course, I'm sure if this ever resulted in charges, they would likely be thrown out of court by one of our judges for violating the criminal's Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.



As it sits we now have ten murders in ten weeks in Surrey to start the year, all unsolved to date might I add, most likely due to lead poisoning if the RCMP would ever reveal the causes of death. To put this in perspective, Winnipeg that won the dubious prize of Canada's murder capital last year had a homicide rate of just over 5 deaths per 100,000 people. To match this rather horrific statistic, Surrey with a population that hits half-a-million people this summer will only need 15 more murders in the next nine and a half months! I'm crossing my trigger fingers that this doesn't happen but unless there is a serious change in attitude with the criminal element that reside here, it wouldn't surprise me. Compare that with Vancouver, pop. 605,000, which has only had one homicide in 2013 or Metro Toronto that sits at 5 deaths year-to-date, even though their population is 5.5 million or 11 times that of Surrey. By my math, this means that the likelihood of being shot to death in Surrey is presently 22 times greater than in Toronto. Stats like this make me sick to my stomach and afraid to go out at night, especially for a midnight drive along Colebrook Road.

I was talking to Delta Councillor Bruce MacDonald this week concerning Surrey's gang problem and murder rate, asking him why this wasn't the case in their neighbouring municipality. First off he told me that Delta has a much higher rate of police to resident ratio, something that they pay heavily for with having their own police force but also gets results. He then told me that in Delta they have a program where if gangsters visit bars or restaurants that the owners can phone and their cops will remove them for being a threat to the public. After all, who wants to be sitting on the Delta side of Scott Road, sipping a bellini at the Cactus Club and get caught in the cross-fire of a gangland hit originating out of Surrey? Apparently this same program is also in effect in New Westminster and Abbotsford, the later which ran the gang-bangers out of town, going from Canada's murder capital in 2009 with 11 homicides to zero in 2012. Also, I learned that Delta cops pressure and harass any known gang affiliates, calling them on their cell phones, parking in front of their houses, knocking on their doors, pulling over their visitors and other techniques that make doing business in Delta very difficult. Bruce informed me that the RCMP do not adhere to these policies which is why he feels that the gang problem is now magnified within Surrey borders with criminal elements moving here from other jurisdictions. Listening to Councillor MacDonald , I got the feeling that the place between heaven and hell is not purgatory..., its Scott Road.

Because of all of the deaths over the past two months and resulting media furor, my wife Sheryl and myself have recently decided that Surrey Shirts controversial "The Future Dies Here" and "Better Safe Than Surrey" anti-gun/anti-violence T-shirts will be retired once the current stock has been sold out. We believe that this deadly serious public safety issue has been given the public exposure that it needed and are hoping constructive steps will now be taken by City Hall, the RCMP, IHIT, CSFEU BC and members of the community to aggressively deal with this problem. We hate the shootings plaguing the city of Surrey and abhor the killings, whether it be so-called bad guys or innocent victims. My Surrey will always be "The City of Parks" not the city of punks, and we would like to actually see "the future live here" for all of its residents. Upcoming Surrey Shirts designs on our surreyshirts.com website will concentrate on spreading our pro-Surrey message, making people proud to live here in the Big City and hopefully change our image and reputation of being a haven for gang crime and gun violence. Until then, cosmetic changes like getting rid of the name Whalley or bringing in a new city logo and slogan will only be putting lipstick on a pig. Surrey doesn't need a facelift, it needs to be cleaned up starting with an enema to get rid of the A-holes carrying guns on our streets.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 11, 2013


Driven to Distraction


You may have recently heard that the BC Association of Police Chiefs are asking for more powers to combat distracted driving, including higher fines, confiscating cell phones and even seizing vehicles of repeat offenders. Currently there are no jurisdictions in North America that give the police the right to confiscate people's personal property, their cell phones, for this heinous crime that was completely legal in BC prior to Jan. 1st, 2010. Before we consider giving the police this Orwellian power, I think that they need to consider the danger that distracted driving poses to their officers and those who get in the way of speeding cruisers. Watching an episode of COPS this weekend (Bad Boys..., Bad Boys..., Whacha Gonna Do?), with the cameraman filming the interior of a police car engaged in a pursuit and the role the onboard computer played, made for some rather revealing viewing.

If the Police Chiefs like Surrey Supt. Bill Fordy think that drivers using cell phones are bad, they need to consider the difficulties that face officers when driving police cruisers, watching for suspects or targeted vehicles and attempting to read and analyze data from their onboard computers. Last month the jury in the Ashley Guiboche coroner's inquest made several recommendations they hope will prevent accidents like the one which killed the 18-year-old girl after she was hit by an RCMP cruiser on King George Blvd. in Whalley two years ago. In this case, Ashley was attempting to cross the KGB near the King George Skytrain station when she was struck by Constable Albert Luk who was speeding and looking for a stolen car without his emergency lights or sirens activated. While there were many factors that caused this accident, calls for an audible text message system in the RCMP cruiser onboard computers and having senior officers ride with rookies for one year instead of three months point to how distracting it is driving with a laptop attached to your dashboard.

The Ashley Guiboche death is not the only fatality involving an cop car in Surrey and possible distracted driving relating to the use of onboard computers. On Nov. 12, 2012, the RCMP lost one of their own when Const. Adrian Oliver, 28 collided with a transport truck at the corner of 148 St. and 64 Ave. in his unmarked police cruiser. According to early investigation results, he was driving above the posted speed limit moments before he was killed in the crash last month, reportedly looking for a stolen truck while driving without the cruiser's emergency lights and sirens activated. While it remains to be seen what role the use of the onboard computer may have had in this accident, it is definitely worth considering. I recently had an experience only a couple of miles away from this corner, driving up behind a marked RCMP cruiser stopped for a red light at the corner of the KGB and #10 Hwy. When the light turned green the patrol car did not move until after a lengthy delay I decided it was time to horn the driver. I could plainly see the officer typing on his laptop computer oblivious to the light changing and fortunately he sped away instead of giving me a traffic ticket for being a jerk. A tough job gets a lot harder when you overload people with data and technology, then ask them to perform a difficult task at high speeds under pressure.

My father who piloted 747s for a living before retiring nearly 15 years ago had some rather interesting commentary regarding distractions in emergency situations. He told me that in the cockpit of commercial airliners, when serious problems arise the captain and first officer assume different roles. One will fly the plane, while the other will deal with the various lights, warning bells and instruments for the aircraft's various systems. History has proven that if this is not done, the pilots become overwhelmed, distracted by problems and make mistakes that increases the chances of the plane crashing. He also had a recent experience utilizing a computerized shooting simulator that showed when he went from concentrating on targeting mode to the act of pulling the trigger, this simple change of thought resulted in the laser-guided group expanding. The human brain is designed to focus best on the matter at hand, which is why paying full attention to the complex task of driving a vehicle is required at all times. While we demonize cell-phone users, a friend of mine and his buddy were almost killed several years ago when a lady changing a CD in her car ran a stop sign and T-boned them.

My folks also recently purchased a Lincoln Navigator SUV which has so many bells and whistles that they have taken to calling it "Christine" after Stephen King's chilling novel and John Carpenter's movie about a possessed 1958 red Plymouth Fury. Besides headlights that turn into the direction of a corner, something I wish all cars had, it has an automatic crash avoidance braking system that makes you want to sing Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel." Being a "Navigator" it comes equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system combining Global Positioning System (GPS) technology with 3-D mapping that provides turn-by-turn navigation. This system provides continuously updated directions, information on weather, traffic delays and alternate route suggestions, local gas prices and everything from movie listings to sport scores. There is one feature that it lacks which is the ability for the driver to input information into the GPS system at a speed above 3 Kmh, or a slow walking speed. Now why would the Ford engineers put this in their top-end SUV but not in Crown Victorian cop cars?

Just like Delta Police Officers who were warned by their brass several years ago not to use their onboard vehicle computers when backing up because of a rash of parking lot fender benders, it makes sense to deactivate cop car computer screens when in the reverse mode. It might also be wise to do the same thing once the vehicle reaches a pre-determined speed in order to improve public safety and that of the members who often have to race when responding to calls. Even better would be to have two police officers per car as was done in the past, with one to drive and the other to utilize the vehicle computer plus navigate. This is what happens with rookie officers when they are trained by senior members and something that also occurs in off-road racing that utilizes a professional driver and skilled navigator who relays information on upcoming road conditions. We ask a lot of our peace officers but expecting them to be different from the rest of humanity and immune from distractions while driving puts everyone's safety at risk, whether it is Joe Public or Joe Friday.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 04, 2013

The Tin Foil Hat Club



Def: A "tin foil hat" is headgear made from aluminium foil to shield the brain from electromagnetic fields to prevent mind-control or brain-washing. Wearing a tin foil hat against these threats sterotypically brands people as having paranoia, persecutory delusions and belief in conspiracy theories.

I must admit that while I am open to many ideas and concepts, I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist and generally don't think of myself as paranoid, even if everyone is out to get me. I realize that it is indeed a small world with strange coincidences and occurrences, some that boggle the mind and are seemingly unexplainable to the rational man. Over the years I have had bizarre meetings and circumstances that happened and rather than be concerned about the realm of impossibilities, you simply accept them as part of the usual fabric of life in a rather small world. My favourite had to be the time I was travelling from Mexico through Toronto, where I didn't know a single soul, and ended up on the same flight as my Dad who was headed home from Ottawa via the big smoke. The shocked look in his eyes when this big tall black man, me after three weeks on the beach in Cancun, grabbed him in a big hug in the airport lobby was priceless. Neither of us knew about the other's travel plans and there are multiple flights out of TO every day, so the odds of this chance meeting were infinitesimal. It worked out well for me though, as I didn't have a ride arranged from the YVR airport and he ended up being my personal chauffeur.

This brings me to last week's denial of service cyber attacks on both the White Rock Sun and Surrey Shirts websites. I woke up on Wednesday morning to find out that the website for Surrey Shirts (www.surreyshirts.com) had suddenly exceeded its bandwidth capacity within the server. While this happened several weeks ago when the website went viral after front page media stories concerning a cease and desist order from Surrey City Hall, it seemed odd that the site would crash again without a big news story helping to push it over a cliff. It took our web master the the tech support people from the server company a day and a half to sort out the problem and return it to public view. Imagine my surprise when I learned that on Thursday the White Rock Sun was also taken down in a malicious cyber attack which kept it from reporting the news for a day, much to the chagrin of Publisher Dave Chesney and embarrassment of the large internet company that powers up the supposedly hacker-proof servers it is carried on.

Now its quite conceivable that these two events were completely random and happened out of chance rather than by design. After all, is the White Rock Sun big enough and critical enough of anyone in power that they would attempt to sabotage its message and the stories and columns that appear on it? The same can easily be said for Surrey Shirts, whose line of pro-Surrey designs also features several anti-gun/gang violence messages that recently incurred the wrath of SRY CTY Hall. Would a couple of edgy T-shirts be capable of agitating someone enough so that they would consider launching a cyber attack against someone, especially on anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day? Could it be that this was indeed the case and the date was selected on purpose in order to send a blatant message? Needless to say, this isn't the type of thing I lose sleep about as I'm not at all concerned about pathetic little parasites who lack any moral fibre and I do have other hobbies beyond creative writing.

Now while I'm not afraid for my personal safety or concerned about my public persona I have had three highly placed people in the past two weeks warn me to be careful and that my rambling writings and trendy T-shirts could make me a target. What is frightening is that these came from quite rational and well-respected people all active in the community. It left me wondering what they knew and exactly how far down the rabbit hole actually went? I figured I'd take the red pill and find out (Matrix movie reference, not drugs), asking them for the rational behind the warnings I had received. What I've been told is that politicos from various levels of government are actively attempting to alter internet content and place controls on websites and bloggers that are not toeing the official party doctrine. One of my columnist friends informed me that their site is constantly under attack from hostile forces and while they often use proxy servers to do their dirty work, several times IP trackers have traced the origins back to government computer servers.

Besides viral and spam attacks, I've also been informed that if you've been been a thorn under government's saddle to expect hack attacks through friends emails that are sent to you. In a rather chilling indictment from a well-known and respected reporter friend, a member of an email group was hacked and the perpetrators then sent a virus containing email out to the targeted group that even went so far as to mimic the senders style of writing. Fortunately they were on guard for this type of trickery and the email was queried and authenticated before being inadvertently opened. It is believed that questions the group were asking regarding connections between a large commercial construction company and government contracts were to blame for the unwanted clandestine attention. In fact, I've been told its now considered the oldest trick in the book and next to the Chinese, one of the most favoured attack and conquer strategy's available to all levels of political parties in B.C.

Could it be true that young member branches of seasoned political parties are attempting to attract an array of techies and computer geeks out of their parents basements, bringing with them an arsenal of dirty tricks including spam attacks, network viruses and cutting edge hacking techniques? I've been informed that groups of these nerds have coordinated complaints to social internet giant Facebook, getting them to remove links to news stories as spam or offensive comments. The same questionable techniques have also been used to manipulate internet search giant Google to remove entire links and cached versions of news items of a sensitive political nature. If someone tells you that once something is on the internet that it is there forever they're wrong as you don't have to look very far to see political stories involving the rich and powerful being cleansed or altered on a regular basis. This is especially true for media outlets that pander to the political elite and who profit from government advertising revenue, making them vulnerable to pressure and undue influence.

This all leads me to wonder about the present political turmoil in Victoria concerning a leaked Liberal document that showed Christy Clark's government planning to woo ethnic votes utilizing provincial resources. The NDP reportedly stated this document that was sent to private Liberal email accounts had been leaked to them. I'm now wondering if it came from one of the recipients or if it was obtained from hacking into the email accounts of the people involved?
If this is the case, I would think that the method that this information was obtained would be even more of a bombshell than the governments misguided and racist intentions. If the NDP had directed such a hack attack, then it would definitely be the case of the pot calling the kettle black and quite possibly a criminal matter worth investigating. Either way, author George Bernard Shaw's quote, "Never wrestle with pigs. You'll both get dirty and pigs like it", rings all too true.

My little cadre of tin foil hat wearers will be watching for future attempts to control media, squelch dissent, punish those questioning authority and manipulate political history. The fact that this kind of behaviour is apparently occurring points to how unscrupulous and immoral those clinging to or seeking to gain power can actually be. It only goes to show why many folks are so disillusioned with the political process that they don't vote and have such great levels of distain for our elected leaders. To anyone who is backing these kinds of under-handed tactics, realize that doing so is a direct assault on the democratic process and the personal freedom of those you are supposed to serve. Scum, vermin, low-lifes, bottom-feeders and even goofs (that's a fighting word in SRY in case you don't know) are all labels that are too good for these kinds of people, no matter their social status, financial wealth or political ranking.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

February 25, 2013

Surreyously Out of Touch



Having attended plenty of political protests in my time, some of them as a single agent provocateur like when I placed several simple pieces of tape over Russ Hiebert's office sign turning the S's into dollar symbols, I had to again visit our hard-working MP's offices this week to see what all the fuss was about. I knew there was trouble when I saw local pro-pot-activist Randy Caine's "Bud-Mobile" with its inconspicuous "HEMPYZ" licience plate that is usually found near his Marine Drive store in White Rock.



On Tues. Feb. 21st, medicinal marijuana supporters were in attendance at Russ's hideout, protesting Steven Harper's Conservative government's proposal to decentralize the Federal Medicinal Marijuana Access Regulation program (MMAR) to the Provinces. At stake is the plan to phase out the personal production right of over 26,000 people across Canada to grow marijuana for themselves or others (designated growers) through Health Canada's marijuana medical-access program. Of this number, there are 11,486 who hold production licences in the province of B.C., including several that I know personally who use this medicinal herb not for its high but to combat arthritis, chronic pain, chemotherapy nausea and multiple sclerosis or MS.

The MMAR PPL/DPL Coalition Against Repeal as they are known has many concerns about this pending change in drug policy that was announced on Dec. 12, 2012. Health Canada is accepting submissions for amendments to their regulations only until Feb. 28, 2013. While the Medicinal Marijuana Access Program (MMAP) has been in place for a dozen years, there is still no drug ID number allowing health plans to cover medication costs. Patients can currently get their meds cheaply through a licenced designated grower but this will not be allowed as of Apr. 1 (April Fools Day - no joke), 2014. Instead patients will have to purchase their pot from industrialized commercial grower cartels at a price dictated by Health Canada that many expect to rise exponentially in the future.

The purpose of this pro-medicinal marijuana coalition is to prevent some or all of the new regulations from becoming law, to maintain the status quo as it currently stands on fair and reasonable access and to file a class action lawsuit for damages if changes become law. The protestors at Mr. Hiebert's office dropped off several letters for him to read (he was away at the time) along with some glossy brochures explaining the group's position and their proposed solutions to the problems that they see coming. If you would like more detailed and specific legal information on this broad topic, simply reach the following groups:
BC Cannabis Partners Campaign email: bccannabispartners@gmail.com
MMAR Coalition Against Repeal email: coalitionagainstrepeal@gmail.com
MMAR Coalition Against Repeal website: www.mmarcoalitionagainstrepeal.com

While Mr. Hiebert and other Conservative MP's were feeling the heat and attracting media attention over the planned changes to Health Canada, the City of Surrey have recently make their own changes to its bylaws concerning medicinal marijuana production here in response to the MMARs. On Dec. 17, 2012, only one day after the MMAR changes were first announced, Surrey Council instructed their staff to prepare amendments to the Surrey Zoning By-law to restrict the commercial cultivation, production, delivery and sale of medical marijuana to a particular zone within the city. They chose C-8B, known to insiders as the "nasty zone" that regulates adult entertainment stores, adult theatres, second-hand stores, pawnshops, body rub parlours, escort services and (of course) marijuana dispensaries.

Their stated rational was, "To pre-empt the establishment of commercial medical marijuana production facilities in Surrey." If someone wanted to establish a licensed operation, the property would need to proceed through a full rezoning process including public hearings. Can you imagine the type of security you would need if everyone in Surrey knew where your medicinal marijuana growing facility was located? A confidential informant of mine recently told me that organized criminal gangs have gone high-tech, searching for grow-ops to raid in Surrey using expensive thermal imagery equipment. Obviously this amendment that is contained in Corporate Report R014 dated Jan. 28, 2013 which is available on the surrey.ca website was designed to preclude any medicinal marijuana production in the city of Surrey, even if it was completely legal and legitimate.

It is rather sad that sick people and those in wheelchairs had to protest in front of Russ Hiebert's south Surrey offices in pouring rain and bitter cold because they are afraid of losing their medication. Washington State just south of the big city of Surrey has recently voted to legalize the possession of marijuana, ending decades of reefer madness and the disastrous war on drugs. As the City of Surrey takes steps to eradicate the evil weed with their FSET teams, the RCMP Green Team and overzealous zoning bylaws, other jurisdictions are moving in the opposite directions in tune with public demands. Meanwhile the profits that organized crime groups derive from illegal drugs including marijuana fuel the purchase of guns and the gang wars on our streets of Surrey where seven young men have already been killed since the beginning of the year.


The funny thing about all of this is that there is only one piece of property in Surrey currently zoned C-8B where the land owner could set up a medical marijuana grow-op without going before Council. It is located at 13535 King George Blvd. in Whalley just north of 108 Ave. near the new City Centre. The owner? None other than the City of Surrey! Hopefully Mayor Watts has a green thumb and can use it to raise a bumper crop of bud that will help the sick and dying in Surrey who count on access to medicinal marijuana to ease their pain and suffering. Surrey goes green.

 

February 19, 2013

Crescent Road Carnage



A belated happy Valentine's Day to everyone who now loves Mondays because of The Naked Truth, or still want to shoot the whole day down for that matter. Unfortunately for some, Valentine's Day is always a downer and I don't mean just the single people or forgotten housewives who didn't get flowers or chocolates. I've been watching over the meat-grinder that most people know as Crescent Road for some years now and am quite familiar with its dangerous corners, crash scenes and several roadside memorials. Three more crashes over the last two months have only heightened my awareness of the speed-related accidents on this 50 kmh speed limit road. On Feb. 13th I saw a car pulled over onto the lawn beside the utility pole that killed 21-year-old Anthony Blackburn several years back, with new flowers and several red metallic balloons now attached to it. I stopped and finally got to meet Tony's parents, paying their respects a day early so as to not ruin Valentine's Day even more than it already has been for them since losing their son that fateful day.

I was at that crash scene several years ago when his friend's red Honda Civic was still nosed into a nearby cedar hedge. The car had spun out sideways, hitting the pole on the door where Tony sat in the passenger's seat and killing him instantly. Its amazing how tragedy's like this impact you, even when you do not know the persons involved. Meeting the Blackburn's and talking about the accident, events leading up to the crash, the deadly combination of drinking driving and speed was sobering to say the least. It was the same when I met the family of the young lady who drowned in the Serpentine River after the guard rails on the bridge failed due to brittle posts and faulty design a couple of years ago. Because of that crash I pushed for the Ministry of Transportation to examine the guard rail components in detail, pieces of which I pulled from the muck myself. Because of this and the extensive report that was issued, the Serpentine and Nicomekyl River bridges on Hwy. 99 now have large concrete curbing to keep cars on the freeway. Its time for me to turn my attention to the Crescent Road Raceway and finally take some steps to address the ongoing carnage on it.

Including Tony, I know of five people who have died on Crescent Rd. and it would not surprise me if the number was double that or more over the years. There was a black compact that ended up on its roof near some boulders in the 13200 block about five years ago, killing one person in the car while injuring the other. Down closer to Elgin Park, there is a roadside memorial with a blue and white sign that is regularly tended by an elderly gentleman who I have seen several times dropping off flowers for his son who was killed there while trying to help a stranded motorists.

I was at the high-speed crash several weeks ago in the 13400 block involving a Jaguar sedan, a Ford Escape and a small Mazda that seriously injured a young woman, requiring the jaws of life and the Medi-vac helicopter to be used. Neighbours on the scene told me two cars had also ended up on their roofs in their front yard over the years, fortunately without anyone getting killed.

Amazingly, not fifty feet from the Jag crash site, some pushed over chain link fence brought my attention to another accident that happened at midnight a month earlier that sheared off a power pole. A little further up the street at Signman Signs, two people died some years ago after hitting a concrete wall.

As if this was not enough, and trust me it already was, on Friday afternoon while driving home near Crescent Park a tow-truck was just removing a car after it smashed through a fence and into some thick trees near 128 St., injuring the female driver.

Crescent Road from King George to 128th St. is about 2.5 miles in length with no stop signs, traffic light, chicanes, traffic circles or speed bumps to slow traffic. If you like to drive fast, ignoring the 50 kmh posted speed limit, this stretch of road is a tempting place to step on the gas. Unfortunately it is not the freeway and the curves are deceptive, plus the road gently raises and dips, altering the way a vehicle's suspension performs. Add to this wet roads, frost on the asphalt, shade from trees and moisture from the nearby Nicomekl River and you have a recipe for disaster. The stretch from the 13200 block to 13600 block is the main region where most of the accidents happen but there are others far outside of these deadly few blocks. Fortunately the last time this road was paved, Surrey engineering saw fit to remove the passing which led to not only speeding but dangerous passing as well. In all the years I have been going to the beach or living in the Semi-Pen, I have yet to see any police speed enforcement or road checks on Crescent Rd., even though excessive speeding and drinking and driving are usually contributing factors in most of these crashes, many that happen on Friday and Saturday nights. The Blackburn's informed me that booze-fuelled partying followed by drinking and driving is epidemic in this region as most of the young people here realize that their chances of encountering an RCMP cruiser is remote as most are probably busy in other areas of Surrey.

It would be interesting to see how many dangerous driving and DUI charges the Surrey RCMP could lay if they set up shop at the Elgin Park entrance, pulling speeders into the parking lot to give tickets and breathalyser tests. From my experience, almost no one does the speed limit on this windy road, with most doing 80 kmh and some above speeds usually reserved for our freeways. I'm sure that once folks here realized that the police had changed their routine that we would see the top speeds on the race track that is Crescent Rd. start to drop. Obviously the police cannot be everywhere all the time, especially when traffic is light late at night when most of the really bad crashes (but not all) happen. I believe the time has come for the Engineering Department of Surrey to look at the crash data from this roadway, examine the signage, corners and curb side dangers (including blocks and boulders) and come up with a plan to slow traffic. While I am no engineer, common sense allows you to easily come up with a variety of ways that this could be done while still allowing traffic to make its way easily to Crescent Beach.

At the bare minimum, more 50 kmh speed signs would be a great place to start, along with "slow" signs placed near the few yellow corner ahead arrow warning signage that is already in place. Putting some of the large side-facing chevron signs near the death corners would be a vast improvement as was done near the corner at the ESSO gas station at Elgin Rd. several years ago when I voiced concerns about having a gas station on a tight turn, a throwback that would never be allowed these days. While they have put three chevrons on that corner (in a 30 kmh zone might I add), after Tony Blackburn's crash Surrey installed a single chevron on the curve before his crash site. Months later, another out-of-control vehicle missed the same pole by a foot (check the memorial photo for the tire mark). Funny how they have three of these signs posted at the corner of 16 Ave. and 128th St., followed by two at a slight corner on Ocean Park Blvd several blocks north, yet the racetrack only has one over its entire length from Elgin Rd. to 128 St.? Installing signs is cheap, repairing cars and injured bodies is not, people (especially young ones with a long life to live) cannot be measured in dollars.

I know the City of Surrey was looking at traffic flow on Crescent Rd. several summers ago because I spoke to the person tracking the vehicles passing through the intersection of 140th St. Usually this is done when they are considering putting in a traffic light especially where vehicles line up during morning and evening commutes. How about this easy idea; put in a three-way stop sign now and install lights when budgets allow for them. This would slow traffic before it heads into the crash-filled corners while making it safer for people turning into or exiting 140th St. onto Crescent. A half-mile away, put a three-way stop at 136 St., getting drivers heading west to take a break before entering the crash zone just past Elgin Park. The same goes for 132 St., where a three-way stop would put the brakes on racing into the spot where four people have been killed in a space of 200 feet. In between all of this, how about a small traffic circle at the dead-end 32 Ave. to slow traffic without actually stopping it. In Formula 1 racing, its called a "chicane", which is used to slow traffic for safety, a novel concept. Another option is to post the entire Crescent Rd. as 30 kmh as it is near the King George and in Crescent Beach and hope that people only drive double this low speed limit, instead of doing twice the regular 50 kmh as often happens now.

ICBC (hi Karen), Surrey Engineering (hello again Vince), Mayor Watts and Council (see you at the Hall Tuesday I hope) and the Surrey RCMP (Chief Fordy, give me a call please) should all be aware of this problem but it sometimes take one person to get the ball rolling on a possible solution. While I would miss one of Surrey's best unobstructed drives, next to Colebrook or Harvie Roads that is, it would be worth it not to be at yet another accident scene and watch as someone is cut out of a vehicle with the jaws of life or worse. If people won't slow down on Crescent Road, then something needs to be done to make extreme speeding impossible, lowering impact energy and saving lives in the process. If you had seen the tears in the Blackburn parent's eyes or heard the painful screams of the young lady being transferred from the ambulance to the waiting helicopter at Elgin Park several weeks ago, you would understand why I take the time once a week to pen this column for the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editors note: Don Pitcairn's TNT column in the WR Sun on the dangers of Crescent Road have been dutifully noted by Surrey City Hall. Councillor Rasode has invited him to appear before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to address safety concerns on this roadway and analyze a comprehensive safety review of the Crescent Road corridor recently completed by the Surrey Engineering Department.

February 26, 2013 Update

Crescent Road Race Cancelled
Only a week after the Sun's Don Pitcairn warned about the dangers of Crescent road and its history of deadly high-speed crashes, steps are now being taken to lower aggressive driving there. RCMP officers were on site Monday morning near Elgin Park and later in the day by the Esso gas station where it is only a 30 kmh zone. At 9 o'clock at night, they were still enforcing the posted speed limit on Crescent Road. Check your speed folks, the raceway has been closed.

February 12, 2013

The Shirt Off My Back



Silly me coming up with an idea well over a year ago that it would be great to have a shirt with "Surrey" proudly emblazoned on it. While Vancouver has plenty of apparel companies and mountains of shirts, many of dubious quality, there was surprisingly little for Surrey, the second largest city in British Columbia, and growing by close to White Rock's population every year. I did manage to find one company online, surreyclothing.com, who were making Surrey shirts that unfortunately did not quite measure up to what I was looking for. I had a New York Yankees style shirt that I'd bought in the U.S. many years ago featuring a "Big Dogs" logo embroidered onto it that raised eyebrows wherever I wore it. I even had several people try to buy it right off my back including a rather hilarious resident of Las Vegas that I met on the old mall who went by the same handle, Big Dog.

Being 6' 6" tall, finding apparel is difficult at the best of times, so having previous dealings with a local screen printing company and finding an embroidery outfit next to my lawyers office, I decided that it was time to create my own "Surrey" shirt. Using the original Big Dogs shirt as a template, my designer created artwork with the word Surrey in an old English font with a large swoosh underneath used in many of the baseball team logos. From there the artwork was transferred to my lady friend at the embroider shop where it was then stitched up. Because of the hefty price tag associated with manufacturing only one select piece, I opted to purchase several dozen, knowing that it was likely that I would be able to flog them to friends and strangers. This is exactly what happened, and I was soon back at the shop ordering more including some with a modified SRY logo similar to the Chicago Black Sox. While this apparel was not cheap, it had the appearance I was looking for and it sold itself to people whose first words to me were usually, "Wow man, where'd you get the shirt?"



Once I had my first Surrey Shirts with black for home and white for away, I began dreaming up other designs which I drew up and filed away for future use. After a while this file grew rather thick with various concepts, some of them funny, others serious, and even some that I must admit were rather crude. Since I visit my screen printers once a week during the summer months, I slowly had them assemble the finished artwork for the many designs and started to build a rather interesting portfolio. With previous experience in creating my own T-shirts and working for five years at B.C. Place selling all kinds of souvenirs, my wife and I decided that it would be fun to make apparel for the good citizens of Surrey. After all, it is a rapidly growing and evolving city with a population that should top half-a-million sometime this year. Our first Surrey Shirts job was actually for a brand new White Rock store called Hempyz, after WR Sun Editor Dave Chesney (who knew what I was up to) tipped me that they might be in the market for T-shirts for the tourist market. I'll never forget when I revealed my design to owner Randy Caine and he said, "Looks great, I'll take seven or eight..." I looked at him somewhat dumbfounded, until he ended my confusion by saying, "...dozen." With that we had our first big sale and used it to finance what was now officially the "surreyshirt.com" website.

Surfing the internet you would think that creating a website is about as easy as getting out of bed. In fact, the amount of information and the timet hat it takes to assemble makes it an arduous task. For this I turned to my good friend Paul Andreassen who runs Hypersonic Internet Services along with the Skinnydippers Recreation Club and the most highly rated B&B in Surrey might I add. A storefront was selected and put together, artwork posted to it from the creative department of my screen printers, photos taken and added, with text being written, rewritten, edited, and then edited some more. Even this weekend I have spent several hours massaging the information it contains, adding various pieces while deleting some that have already become outdated. I'll never forget standing on the side of Hwy. 15 (176th St.) across from the Tudor Ale House, getting my picture taken in front of the "City of Surrey - the future lives here" sign. We needed some cloud cover so as not to throw shadows and the sun kept peeking out, wrecking out chances of getting quality shots. There is a reason why people hire professional photographers I discovered.



Speaking of the new Surrey signs, I have a rather long history with them. Years ago I badgered the city of Surrey to start doing some maintenance on the iconic "Welcome to Surrey" signs with the beaver on top. The paint was peeling from them and rot was beginning to set it. Imagine my surprise when it was announced that the city would soon be replacing them with new metal structures and their "City Signature" logo and slogan. A few weeks later I used the old signs to help end Surrey's beaver cull program with planks reading "The Beaver Dies Here" on them. Needless to say, myself and others were not impressed that the beaver and "City of Parks" were being replaced with a real estate slogan that looks like a copy of what Toronto uses. As if the design wasn't bland enough, the initial signs were drab green with dark grey lettering that was raised casting long shadows, making them invisible outdoors. These were then all removed and re coated with an off-white colour and new shallow lettering, with some being moved and enlarged. No total price tag on what this cost but I'm sure it pales compared to what Delta paid for their new signs. To make matters worse, while I wrote Surrey's Heritage Committee, Mayor & Council, plus Engineering of their historical value, the old signs were torn down and disposed of. I was considering removing one myself for safe storage, thinking it would look great in front of the Cloverdale museum. Now I realize that sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.



The Surrey Shirts website went live in mid-December, far too late to take advantage of the Christmas shopping season but that was fine because my printers were also swamped with last minute orders. We thought that word of mouth would slowly move sales forward but they caught a large boost when the Gangsters Out blog spot (www.gangsterout.blogspot.com) used an image of our controversial "Future Dies here" shirt design in one of their postings about crime and the new south Surrey casino. Agent K and me quickly became acquainted, having many of the same concerns about the level of violent crime in Surrey. Much like myself, he is gravely concerned that those arrested in the Surrey Six shooting have not yet gone to trial, especially since this massacre happened way back in Oct. of 2007. I must admit, some of our designs did lean on images the city of Surrey had previously used, along with the City Signature design. Most of these have been altered significantly to the point that they are free of trademark infringement plus parody and satire are allowed under the Copy Rite Act. Being an avid marksman, there were several shirt designs that I realized were going to be controversial but I felt it was necessary to bring attention to the gun violence problem plaguing our city. Little did I know how big of a sh_t storm was brewing just off the coast.

Without any previous contact, I received a cease and desist order via email from the legal department of city hall. It seems they had a problem with my Surrey girl and Surrey beaver designs plus the two anti-gun/gang violence shirts. Funny thing was that it was addressed to the owner of Surrey Clothing and not to myself or Surrey Shirts. Because of this, I decided to ignore the legal jargon until they could get their facts straight. On Wednesday, I was at work when I received a call from Bob Makin from Business in Vancouver. To be honest, I had never heard of either and thought he was going to waste my time trying to sell me a subscription or something. Imagine my surprise when he informed me that a source in Surrey city hall had told him a cease and desist order had been issued against Surrey Shirts! I told him that it wasn't news, that we were not concerned and that we'd decided to simply ignore it for the time being. Several hours later, I received a text alerting me that this non-story was suddenly on the front page of the electronic Vancouver Province! The next thing I knew my phone exploded with texts and phone calls from media outlets across the Lower Mainland. I packed it in early and spent the next seven hours doing radio interviews, having pictures of Surrey Shirts taken and spending time with TV camera crews looking footage. All I can say is that it must have been a slow news day!

Needless to say, in the age of cell phones, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook and the internet, word of the supposed David and Goliath battle of little old Surrey Shirts vs the oppressive Surrey City Hall spread like wildfire. When the shirt first hit the fan on Wednesday, Paul phoned me in a panic to ask me what had happened as traffic on the Surrey Shirts website jumped exponentially. By Thursday with the story on the front page of many newspapers and as the lead story on TV newscasts, the website went viral, finally running off the rails and crashing the server at just after noon with over a quarter of a million hits. Then it was the calm before the storm, answering hundreds of emails about when the site would be back online and how people could order shirts. When the server was beefed up to handle the traffic, orders and commentary (almost all positive) flooded in. We spent the weekend processing orders, stuffing envelopes, going to the post office and taking inventory. A well-known store in the Central City mall has been selected by us as our exclusive retail location and we have mailed Surrey shirts from Vancouver island to New Brunswick, answering inquiries from New York to Germany. I had a feeling that people would want Surrey shirts but failed to estimate the global demand. I'll have to thank the City of Surrey lawyers later this week for the free advertising when I hopefully get the meeting that I've asked for to discuss their concerns.

Now to get down to the guts of what Surrey Shirts is all about, other than myself having some new flashy threads to wear out on the town or to the ball park. There really are two main focuses and getting rich off this concept was never one of them. First and foremost, Surrey Shirts exists to make people proud of Surrey B.C., or as we call it, "the Big City." Too long the butt of off-colour jokes or derogatory comments regarding the women who live here, Surrey is shedding its red-necked image and growing into a metropolis that is already more populated than Richmond and Burnaby combined and destined to overtake Vancouver in 15-20 years. This is certainly not without its growing pains and in no way can I agree with every decision that Surrey Council has made along the way in getting to this point, even though I must admit the recent casino decision surprised and impressed the hell out of me. Secondly, it allows me to make a very public statement about one of the most pressing problems facing the city of Surrey and that is its gun and gang violence epidemic. Its not the misunderstood message on a trendy t-shirt that is giving Surrey a bad name, its the bodies under yellow tarps laying on the side of the road broadcast from coast to coast that does. In case you were away on holidays during the month of January, we had five gun related homicides on the streets of Surrey to start the year, a murder rate that hopefully will not continue.



I meet people from across Canada and down into the States in my travels and it pisses me off that when I tell them I'm from Surrey (I don't lie and say White Rock where there have been shootings too BTW) and I hear, "Oohh, you mean where all the shootings are?" Adding to the grinding of my teeth at night is Chief Supt. Bill Fordy of the Surrey RCMP telling Surrey residents that its generally safe in the community unless you are a gangster. Really? I've been around firearms all of my life, competing in a variety of competative shooting sports that have taken me around the globe. I can tell residents of Surrey that if people are firing guns within city limits, that it is NOT safe! Most rifle ranges have danger/safety areas behind the targets measured in miles. Some punk hood with a pistol smuggled in from the States blazing away at night, or day for that matter, cannot be guaranteed of hitting his intended target. A few years back there was a shoot-out on Dover Place in Richmond and the apartment and townhouse buildings that surrounded the park there were like Swiss cheese, reportedly from over 300 rounds fired. I've found a spent 9 mm bullet on the ground in Newton while raking leaves and a customer of mine had another 9 mm bullet fall from the sky in Panorama Ridge, shooting a hole in his gutter before bouncing off the driveway and into a nearby hedge. In both of these cases, they were turned over to the Surrey RCMP for inspection. When its raining bullets in Surrey, no matter what B.S. Fordy is shovelling, it isn't safe on our streets. Mayor Watts should have reamed him a new one for making such a moronic statement. Unless she put him up to it?

It is interesting to look at surrounding communities to realize that while the problem is not just a Surrey phenomenon, it certainly seems to be magnified in the city of Surrey. The only recent gangland hit in Delta that I can recall was in Oct. 2011 and that man had earlier been convicted of a shooting in White Rock in 2004 and released after only four years. I talked to a large group of Delta cops last week about the difference between the two communities and besides voicing their "no call too small" motto, they informed me it was due to a "difference in mind-set and attitude" between the Delta force and the neighbouring Surrey RCMP. Look no further than Abbotsford to see that gun violence can be stopped if a community decides to do something about it. in 2009, there were 11 gun-related homicides in this bible-belt region, including a total of 21 murders between 2008 and 2010, making it Canada's murder capital. Between the murders, arrests, gangsters quitting their night jobs, and families reigning in wayward adult children, they reduced their murder rate in 2012 to zero. Think about that for a minute and ask yourself why we have to tolerate gun-play and murders in Surrey? I sure as hell am not going to in my city.

I realize that there are people who will not understand the message of Surrey Shirts anti-gun violence designs and I accept that. I know that there will be family members, friends and loved ones of shooting victims here who will consider the images hurtful and in bad taste and to them I give my apologies. Unfortunately we cannot begin to address the gun and gang problem here until somebody stands up and says that five young men gunned down in the prime of their lives in one month alone in Surrey is not a cause for concern. If you take the time to go online and read the product descriptions of our apparel, you might get the message behind them and realize they were crafted to illicit a response to this problem. If Surrey Shirts can reduce Surrey shootings, then job well done. If we can light a fire under our judges asses to move trials forward at a reasonable speed while ensuring that gun crimes get punished severely, so much the better. If you want a recent example of what is wrong with our judicial system, look no further than Surrey judge James Bahen who on Jan. 3rd of this year struck down a three-year minimum mandatory sentence as unconstitutional for Glenn Sheck who was caught with a loaded Glock 9 mm. handgun outside a Surrey restaurant . Not surprising that with the deterrent of stiff sentencing suddenly removed, Surrey became a shooting range for the rest of the month. Judge Bahen should resign in disgrace for this farce of a decision, especially if the rumor is true that the RCMP here take more guns off the streets in Surrey than the rest of the province of BC combined.

For those who have a problem with the "Future Dies Here" and "Better Safe Than Surrey" designs, we have issued the "Surrey Shirts Challenge." If the city of Surrey can go a full calendar year with zero gun homicides, Surrey Shirts will gladly retire these designs permanently. There is nothing that I detest more than up a newspaper and reading about another gangland shooting in Surrey. Until that time, I am making myself available as a guest speaker to address community groups and Surrey's youth in our schools to talk about gun and gang violence and efforts to make the city of Surrey a safer place to live and work. If the future really does live here as advertised, we need to clean up this town, put pressure on our judges, start locking up people caught with illegal hang guns, and make it uncomfortable for people to live a criminal lifestyle. This is my city, it is your city, and its time to flex some Surrey muscle and put a choke hold on crime in these parts, ending the wild-west mentality on our streets. Having some pride and a sense of community, possibly from something as simple as wearing a shirt that says "Surrey" on it, might be a place to start.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Visit our website www.surreyshirts.com

 

February 04, 2013


Waste to Watts



It doesn't seem that long ago that the idea of locating a Waste-to-Energy plant in South Surrey was generating headlines along with statements from local politicians (before the last civic election) that burning garbage would not be happening at the Campbell Heights North Industrial Park. It will be interesting to see if the tune has changed with members of Surrey First after Metro Vancouver announced last week that a new waste-to-energy (WTE) capacity project review is now underway.

Solid waste is big business here in the Lower mainland as we observed here in Surrey last year with the city rolling out large grey bins to every household to launch their ambitious recycling and waste disposal program. With ongoing recycling and composing programs, Met-Van hopes to divert up to 70% of municipal waste that previously was either dumped at the Vancouver landfill, incinerated in Burnaby or trucked to Cache Creek. By 2020, it is hoped that 80% of solid waste will be recycled, leaving an estimated 700,000 tons of garbage that will still have to be managed. To deal with this problem, Met-Van has decided that increasing waste-to-energy capacity is needed. Currently the WTE processing plant in Burnaby incinerates 280,000 tons of garbage per year with the rest being dumped in landfills.

The increased WTE plan for the Lower Mainland is supported by the B.C. government who approved the region's Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan (ISWRMP). Key policies of this plan include the B.C. Air Action Plan that looks to improve air quality, the B.C. Climate Action Plan that is targeting a third less GHG emissions by 2020, and the B.C. Energy Plan whose goal is to expand the generation of electricity and biofuels from solid waste, including the recovery of heat for use in district heating systems. It would seem that some of these lofty goals are in direct conflict with others, for how can you hope to reduce green house gases while burning solid waste for energy? While the minimum WTE plant size would process 25,000 tonnes a year, Met-Van is seeking to manage 370,000 tonnes of solid waste by the year 2018 and close the Cache Creek landfill.

Metro Vancouver's timetable for increasing WTE capacity will proceed on the following timetable:
Fall 2012 - Spring 2013: Identify proponents that have the capability to deliver new WTE capacity.
Spring - Fall 2013: Allow site owners to identify potential project sites and any property secured.
Winter 2013 - Summer 2014: Qualification process to evaluate preliminary project proposals.
Summer 2014 - Spring 2015: Final process to identify successful WTE plant proponent(s).
Spring 2014 - Fall 2016: Regulatory and environment assessment of the new WTE project.
Spring 2015-2018: Detailed design and construction of WTE plant, commissioning and operation.
For more information, to be part of the process or make comments visit the following Met-Van link:
http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solidwaste/planning/Engagement/Pages/WTECapacity.aspx

Could Met-Van's new WTE facility find itself a home in south Surrey? This certainly was a hot-button issue leading into the last municipal election where many candidates took steps to distance themselves from the possibility. The fact remains that the city-owned Surrey City Development Corporation (SCDC) does hold an abundance of large industrial property located on the Surrey\Langley border at the corner of 32 Ave. and 192 St. that it is selling. The City is also looking at the possibility of installing a district energy system in the Campbell Heights area, going so far as to establish a unit within their Engineering Department operating under the name of "Surrey City Energy" that is tasked with the implementation and operation of district energy systems within Surrey limits. Of course, this location would accommodate solid waste from the Lower Mainland's second biggest city along with neighbouring municipalities, while air quality impacts would likely not adversely affect Surrey residents due to prevailing winds.

It is interesting to note that in 2011, Aquilini Renewable Energy secured an option to purchase 25 acres of property in north Campbell Heights subject to the site being approved for a regional waste incinerator. This business deal occurred behind closed doors at an in-camera meeting and yet many members of Surrey's Council at that time had difficulty remembering the details or wished to not discuss the WTE proposal before the last election. The Aquilini deal has since lapsed but now with Metro Vancouver accepting proposals for more WTE capacity, it is likely that the Campbell Heights industrial park will once again attract attention of those looking for a site location. Mayoralty hopeful Ross Buchanan was opposed to WTE in Surrey along with long-time Councillor Bob Bose but both failed to get elected to city hall. Marvin Hunt has long favoured WTE along with Councillor Barbara Steele who is on record as stating, "We want waste-to-energy in Surrey, there's no question about that. "(Council support) is not unanimous but I think most of us are willing to go for it."

As for Mayor Dianne Watts, in a statement sent to The Province newspaper in Oct. 2011 by her public relations firm in response to accusations that a proposal for an incinerator at Campbell Heights had been discussed by council she stated, "As mayor, I have never supported, nor will I ever support, a waste incinerator in Surrey." As if this wasn't enough, she went on to say, "Let me be very clear, as long as I am mayor, there will not be a waste incinerator in Surrey." Strong words from Surrey's "Iron Lady", but considering the recent divide on Surrey First exposed in the south Surrey Casino debacle, it will be interesting to see how council votes should the possible burning of Metro Vancouver's garbage here rear its ugly head again. When it comes to waste-to-energy in Surrey, we could be in for a power struggle.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Read how a WASTE TO ENERGY WTE plant works

 

January 28, 2013

All Aboard The Crazy Train

Nothing gets my bile backing up like when I hear about politicians giving themselves raises and perks far in excess of that which could ever be expected in the real world, let alone the private sector. On Friday, directors of Metro Vancouver voted to maintain their existing pay rates for attending various seminars, conferences and conventions, instead of lowering them as had been recommended in a staff report released last year. The mayors and councillors who sit on Met-Van's regional district board have been receiving $346 to attend external functions including travel time, a figure which balloons to $692 if the event happened to last longer than four hours. Their own staff had recommended that this amount be reduced to a flat rate of $100 per day for their efforts but this was rejected unanimously by the board of directors.

Think about that for a minute, or however long it takes for your involuntary gag reflex to kick in. The vote was unanimous! There was not one mayor or councillor from the Lower Mainland who voted to save taxpayer dollars and chop this perk that all seem very comfortable in accepting. Keep in mind that the cut to $100 would have only been for additional meetings, not the fees that directors are paid (at the same rate night I add) to attend regular Metro Vancouver board and committee meetings or the hefty salaries paid to the various committee chairs. This is also on top of the salaries already paid to the elected Mayors and Councillors from cities that are all part of Metro Vancouver. It would be nice to scold the Met-Van directors for double-dipping, but in this case it really is the triple-dip that makes the chip!

The pay rate for both the regular and extra duties performed by Metro Vancouver directors have also steadily increased in the past few years due to their policy of indexing them to the average of Met-Van mayor's salaries. When cities raise their mayoralty pay, the hourly rate paid to directors jumps accordingly, leaving many to wonder if the double digit increases to mayors salaries we have seen in the past few years throughout the region are being used to pad the payroll of Met-Van directors. No need to vote yourselves an arbitrary pay increase, simply give the mayor a boost in income and watch the money roll on down the gravy train. Of course, directors of Metro Vancouver are appointed, not elected, similar to the boards running other quasi-bureaucratic organizations like B.C. Ferries and Translink which seem to believe that tax-payers money comes from an eternal spring while they continually spring red ink.

The 2013 Metro Vancouver Board consists of 40 directors representing 21 municipalities, one electoral area, one treaty First Nation and Abbotsford that is a member of the GVRD solely for the parks function. Locally, Mayor Baldwin of White Rock and Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts along with councillors Lina Hepner, Marvin Hunt, Barbara Steel and Judy Villeneuve represent the constituents of Surrey and White Rock at Metro Vancouver. While all of the directors ignored the chance to cut the payroll at the bloated Met-Van bureaucracy, there is an easy way to trim some of the fat from this fourth level of government. There has been much push back on Walley Oppal's idea of introducing a regional Police Force for the Lower Mainland, likely due to the loss of power and influence from local governments. I believe we should take this concept one step further and call for the regionalization of our civic governments, amalgamating many of them to create larger cities while avoiding costly duplication of services.

With Abbotsford only belonging to Metro because of parks in that region, you have to ask why they have their mayor and four councillors on board? Do the villages of Anmore and Belcarra, plus Bowen Island really need to be represented by a mayor and a councillor, or would it be better to simply amalgamate these small fiefdoms into nearby cities? Joining the tri-cities of Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam together would reduce Met-Van expenses while likely reducing servicing costs for these sister cities. Other no-brainers would be to join the two North Vans with West Van and Lions Bay, plus Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. The same could also be said for the two Langleys and joining New West with Burnaby. Closer to home, would we be less represented at Met-Van if White Rock were rejoined with Surrey that grows by the Rock's population every two years? Simply take a look at Metro Vancouver's Board of Governors (http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Pages/directors.aspx) to realize we could save a lot of money by derailing the Met-Van gravy train.

Masia Ruta

With B.C.'s new Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) . Basia Ruta setting up shop in Surrey this month, many are hoping that she will put an end to the massive increases in local government spending that is outstripping residents ability to pay property taxes. Besides looking at how civic governments allocate funds, lets hope that she takes a microscope to Metro Vancouver and how directors are paid, especially after they voted as one not to roll back their perks that many consider part of the job. Hopefully the AGLG will give full consideration to the amalgamation of municipalities that would reduce the inefficient delivery of services. Considering that both Chilliwack and Abbotsford are the products of amalgamation and how Toronto went from 56 districts to one mega-city, you have to wonder why we still have 21 different municipalities in the GVRD? Since Metro Vancouver directors wouldn't consider docking their pay, I say lets put their heads on the chopping block and really clear some deadwood.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

January 21, 2013

WR, UN and Hg



The ever increasing coal train traffic through White Rock and along the Semiahmoo waterfront plus plans to dramatically increase U.S. coal exports from the Lower Mainland carry with it many heightened environmental concerns. Besides coal dust escape along White Rock's beaches and infiltration into nearby residential homes, the release of green house gases into the atmosphere when the coal is finally burned in electrical generating plants in China is causing the greatest concern among environmentalists on both sides of the border. Unfortunately these are not the only pollutants directly linked to coal, with mercury (Hg) contamination being one of the most sinister by-products of burning this dirty fossil fuel

The past week, delegations from 140 member countries of the United Nations met in Geneva, Switzerland to adopt a treaty to limit the use and emission of the toxic heavy metal mercury. The UN Environment programme (UNEP) have named this treaty the "Minamata Convention on Mercury", after the japanese town where residents have suffered the serious consequences of mercury contamination for decades. This highly toxic metal bioaccumulates in the environment through the consumption of fish, resulting in the poisoning of higher life forms at the top of the food chain and having deadly affects in mammals from whales to man. Mercury poisoning affects the body's immune system including damaging the development of the brain and nervous system, especially in that of children and infants. The text of this treaty will be signed in Minamata this fall and will take effect in three to four years once it has been ratified by at least 50 countries. Unfortunately the Minamata Convention on Mercury calls only for control and reduction of mercury emissions "where feasible", wording that is not only vague but discretional, likely leading to more pollution especially from developing economies.

Half of the world's release of atmospheric mercury comes from human activities with two thirds of this from coal-fired generating plants. Mercury lofted high into the atmosphere can be carried thousands of kilometres, falling to the planet in ecosystems far from industrialized areas. In Canada's far north, dangerously high levels of mercury have been found in fish at lakes thought to be pristine and beyond the reach of toxins. The native Inuit people are also accumulating mercury in their tissues at levels approaching that which can begin to cause disease and illness. Environment Canada estimates that between 50 and 200 tonnes of mercury is deposited in the polar regions of this country every year, with most of this likely being emitted by coal-fired power plants in China that are being fed with coal that we are exporting from B.C. ports. At the same time as the UN meeting, Beijing was suffocating from its worst ever air quality readings ever that had people choking across the city. While selling coal overseas brings plenty of profits to those responsible for its traffic including BNSF Railway owner Warren Buffet and Westshore Terminals coal baron Jimmy Pattison, the toxic cloud drifting back to Canada is slowly poisoning this country and the planet.



Tucked away in south Surrey, Klaus Oehr of Hazelmere Research Ltd. has developed a process to strip the mercury from burning coal , capturing this toxic metal instead of allowing it to be released into the environment. Educated at the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor in Co-op Chemistry followed by a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, the now 63 year-old Klaus has been working in the chemical field for 43 years, including operating Hazelmere Research Ltd. since 1998. Besides several other inventions, Mr. Oehr has patents on a process where calcium bromide is applied to coal before entering the furnace, reacting with elemental mercury vapour released during combustion to create mercuric bromide that sticks to alkaline ash and carbon. This is then collected in a sock or electro collector with the waste ash used in the creation of cement where the tightly bonded mercury remains inert and contained. Compared to systems using activated charcoal that capture half of the mercury (meeting Canadian guidelines), his method captures 90% of the mercury released, a level that will become mandatory in the U.S. by their EPA as of Jan. 2015. The technology developed by Hazelmere Research is already currently being used in eight U.S. coal generating plants including Portland Oregon, a figure that is likely to rise in the near future.

There is no point in exporting coal from our shores with no environmental controls over how it is utilized, allowing the toxic heavy metal mercury to return on the prevailing winds to contaminate the ecosystem here. That would be like banning a toxic pesticide from Canada but allowing it to be sold overseas, sprayed on produce there and then having the food shipped back for consumption. It is bad enough that the communist government in China is so focused on economic growth that they are not concerned about the welfare of their people or the environment. It has been calculated that China alone releases 42% of human-related mercury into the environment, including 14% of the mercury now contaminating the Great lakes. You don't need to look far from there to see the devastating impact this element can have on fish and people. In Dryden, Ontario mercury released from a chemical plant and pulp and paper mill continue to be persistent in fish, even though the companies were closed down back in 1976. The people of the Grassy Narrows First Nation suffered greatly from the devastating economic impacts of the loss of their commercial fisheries and tourism. To date a health advisory remains in effect, with the consumption of fish remaining dangerous for pregnant women and those with long term mercury exposure.

Coal is a cheap energy source that is easy to mine, transport and utilize but its cost should not be calculated solely on the heat output per tonne. Strip mining leads to stream and aquifer pollution, coal dust contaminates rail corridors and neighbourhoods, burning coal pumps millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere where it warms the planet, while mercury rains down on oceans and continents across the globe. In the U.S., from findings taken from the EPA's Mercury Study Report to Congress (1997), it has been estimated that more than 300,000 newborns each year may have increased risk of learning disabilities associated with in utero exposure to toxic mercury, 50 tonnes of which is released yearly into the air there from coal fired plants. Can we afford the wealthy few to profit from the trade in coal while the rest of society and the environment pay the price? Simply look at the misery in Minamata, Japan or the effect on the Grassy Narrows people in Dryden, Ontario for the simple answer. If the coal buyers can't or won't capture the mercury from coal, we shouldn't be selling it to them in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Mercury from coal fired generating plants isn't the only source of concern here in Canada. In a related story, the Canadian Press is reporting about problems collecting mercury from millions of burnt out compact flourescent light bulbs.
http://www.canada.com/health/Canada+ready+dispose+mercuryladen+light+bulbs/7848184/story.html

 

January 14, 2013


City Hall Stacking The Deck



If you are planning on attending Monday's Council meeting at Surrey City Hall that will deal with the south Surrey Casino application, you had better plan on arriving early to get a seat or a parking spot. While this contentious development has suddenly jumped to the forefront of public consciousness for Surrey residents, it would seem that the staff at City Hall are doing all they can to ensure that this important "Public Hearing" is anything but.

How else can you explain the asinine decision to hold the meeting concerning the south Surrey Gateway casino in Council chambers? While fairly large, the room only seats a total of 140 people! The last land use meeting in December attracted an over-flow crowd estimated to be over 200 people including many employees of Gateway Casinos that were bussed in mass to the event. With this upcoming meeting now giving the public the chance to finally have their say on this matter, it has been estimated that up to 1,000 people plus hordes of media could descend on City Hall to take part in the proceedings. Considering the size of the crowd that is expected, should the city not have chosen another venue that could have accommodated this number of people and their vehicles? They wouldn't have had to look very far as not even one mile north of City Hall on 144th St. is the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts, which is the largest rental theatre in the Fraser Valley. This modern theatre building has comfortable seating for 1050 along with 650 free parking spots and it can be rented for an eight hour period on Mondays for $1,500. Small change compared to the $250 million that Gateway Casinos bring in per year, the $100 million cost for building the proposed south Surrey casino, the $3 million Surrey will receive from gaming revenues annually, or even the paltry $24,500 donated to members of the Surrey First team by Gateway developers and their financial backers.

A little further afield but in a location that still makes sense, why not instead hold this council meeting at the Pacific Inn and Conference Centre (aka the "Pink Palace") in south Surrey on King George Boulevard? This hotel is located directly across Hwy. 99 from the location for the planned Gateway casino, giving south Surrey residents who wish to speak on this development easy access while allowing Gateway employees coming from Burnaby and Langley the opportunity to test their driving times, something that will be essential as there is no transit bus service to this quiet rural area. As a final choice, the Cascades Casino in Langley that is owned by Gateway has a 420 seat theatre plus a 26,000 sq. ft. Convention Centre that will hold from 200 to 1,000 people. I bet that Gateway would have allowed Surrey to utilize it for free and then invited these guests to try their luck at their wide variety of table games and 800 slot machines when the meeting ended. If reports out of Vegas are true, hopefully elevated oxygen levels would help keep people awake during the marathon meeting.

Instead staff have decided to cram people into Council chambers like sardines in a can, with monitors being positioned in the foyer of City Hall for those who are unable to make it into the room. Registration for this rather uncomfortable exercise in democracy will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday evening with numbered speaker tickets being handed out to those who wish to talk to Mayor and Council on this issue. There will be two colours of tickets, either for or against the casino development that will be issued on a first come basis. There will be no limit on the number of speakers and opponents who will speak one after the other. With 100 to 150 people estimated at wanting to step up to the microphone, if everyone takes their entire five minutes it is entirely plausible the proceedings may take up to twelve hours to complete. To make matters even worse, Council will consider five other items on the agenda before diving into the casino controversy, so it is likely the main event will not even begin until 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Expect this meeting to resemble something between a filibuster usually seen in Victoria or Ottawa, and an "all-nighter" that many Surrey residents have experienced.

Knowing all of this, would it not have made sense to schedule a separate meeting just to deal with the south Surrey casino application and to put it in a location that would house the expected crowd in safety and comfort? Instead, you would have to be a masochist to consider attending this meeting and staying from the very beginning to the bitter end. I would suggest being at City Hall at 5 p.m. in order to find a parking spot and get a seat in chambers, allowing you to get in line for when registration begins at 5:30 sharp. Then expect up to a three hour wait before the casino application begins to be dealt with. Depending on what speaking number you receive, your wait to step up to the podium to address the members of the Surrey First slate could be anywhere from minutes to half a day. If you happen to be the unlucky last speaker, might I suggest bringing an air mattress, sleeping bag, ear plugs, eye shades and an alarm clock. Should you care to watch this rather bizarre fiasco from the comfort of your own home, it will be televised on Shaw TV and live-streamed on the City of Surrey website at the following address:
http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/6993.aspx

The way it looks now, it appears that the city is doing everything they can to make the proceedings as uncomfortable as possible, hoping to dissuade people from attending the proceedings at the public hearing. When you have billion dollar hedge firms from back east that own, control and call the shots on the Gateway proposal, the people who live hear in Surrey don't stand a fair chance to be heard. Keeping this meeting at City Hall tilts the playing field in favour of the casino, destroying even the slightest indication of real democracy in Surrey. Instead corporate communism and cronyism where big money gets what they want rules the day and the public hearing becomes nothing but a sham, even before bus loads of casino employees descend on the meeting. You get an idea how done this deal is when you realize that Moody's Investor Services downgraded Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd.'s business ratings this summer because of reduced gaming growth and increased competition from competitors. They cited that, "These factors could also increase the execution risks at the South Surrey project that are typical for a ground-up new development project, such as potential project delays and cost overruns during construction, uncertain demand and possibly higher than expected opening and operating costs." Not a word was mentioned about the possibility of this project not going forward.

I'm hoping that Monday's meeting at City Hall will prove to be a bell-weather event in Surrey, possibly signalling the need for change. Having a political slate controlling all of the proceedings in chambers is not healthy for democracy and will only lead to corruption. Council needs to look at their own polls from the south Surrey region to realize that the casino application has been resoundingly rejected by residents here. I would expect to see plenty of signatures on petitions against the Gateway proposal being delivered to Surrey First on Monday night and into Tuesday morning. If Surrey First decides not to listen to the voters, they will immediately be re branded as Surrey's Worst and it is likely the groundswell of opposition to their undisputed reign and calls for their removal during the next election will begin the following day. Mayor Watts and company need to realize that while the hedge funds, casinos and developers may have the money, it is the common people who vote them into power.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

January 07, 2013

A Picture They Say is Worth a Thousand Words

........some think votes are going for $24,500



The South Surrey Casino application where the deck has already been stacked by Gateway, BCLC and developer Bob Cheema has raised lots of concern about the problems this gaming establishment will bring to the area including crime and traffic issues. The other main sticking point for many residents is the rural location that has been selected on 168th St. at 10th Ave. in an area of small farms and forests across the street from land protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. Being a boots-on-the-ground kind of guy, I decided to see first hand how the properties in question look in their present state before bulldozers likely level the place. What follows is a pictorial of the proposed Casino site along with descriptions.


These first two pictures show different angles of the fallow farm field in the centre of the assembled properties likely used as pasture land or for hay production. While this field is not currently being being used, the middle of it was cropped for hay this summer, likely by a nearby farmer who raises Lamas on similar ground. In the background are the forests and scrub land that are also part of the Casino proposal.



While kind of a crappy shot, this photo shows the left behind calling cards from the black-tailed deer and coyotes that call this rural area home. Good thing I was watching where I stepped! While meandering through the meadows and forests, I also saw squirrels, rabbits, plenty of song birds and a hawk.

This final series of pictures shows a shallow pond found on the south end of the property draped with a weeping willow tree, along with a view of a pathway leading towards one of the old homestead sites that has already been cleared as part of the Casino preparation. The last shot is taken from the edge of Hwy. 99 just north of the 8th Ave. interchange showing the development sign and the view of much of the the proposed casino property as seen from the roadway. Enjoy the view while it lasts as the new Gateway Casino will make the Pacific Inn Resort Hotel & Conference Centre (aka the "Pink Palace") on the other side of the Highway look small by comparison.




If you believe that this rural area is worth protecting from a large Casino development that will forever alter this area of small farms with rolling pasture land and babbling brooks, your window of opportunity for letting Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First Council know your thoughts is rapidly closing. Besides emailing or calling them direct, you can also join those opposing this development on FACEBOOK at facebook.com/nocasinoinsouthsurrey or sign the paper-based petition available at the South Surrey Rate Payers Association website at www.surreyratepayersassociation.com.

Your final opportunity to have your say and possibly sway votes on Council will be next week at the Casino Gaming License Review Public Meeting at Surrey City Hall, 7pm, Monday, January 14th, 2013. Plan on getting there early as the chambers will likely be overflowing, especially if Gateway once again buses in their employees as a way to dominate this meeting and bully those who believe the proposed location for the Casino is all wrong. I will be attending, bringing a CD of these same pictures with me so people can see what is at stake and to ensure that these photos are part of the public record.

That being said, I'll bet $24,500 (the amount of political campaign contributions reportedly donated by casino backers) that Surrey First will pass this contentious Casino development, continuing the unrelenting paving of everything left in Surrey until all that remains is a small sliver of green at the base of some concrete towers as shown in their latest civic logo.



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Sign The Petition

Ask Mayor Dianne Watts and Surrey City Council to respect the wishes of the community and deny Gateway a gambling license for the proposed South Surrey Casino.

The City of Surrey’s own report shows that 83.5% of Surrey residents oppose the proposed South Surrey casino and entertainment complex. Within 5 kms of the complex, the number opposed goes up to an overwhelming 94.3% opposed.

The residents of Surrey clearly do not want this casino!

(click here for petition)

 

December 31, 2012

From Newtown to Newton



First things first, I have to set the record straight about my long-term relationship with firearms. I am not a "gun nut" or even a "firearms enthusiast"; I consider myself a "marksman." For close to 40 years I have been involved with shooting sports, starting out with pellet rifles, .22 rim fire rifles, full-bore target rifles (still my main focus) along with service rifles and pistols. I have been fairly successful at all levels of shooting competition, having won my share of championship prizes over the years including an NRA gold medal in Oregon this spring and the Lieutenant Governor's medal this summer that includes an invite to Government House in Victoria. No matter what the firearm, ammunition, or course of fire, I'm proficient at putting my shots at the centre of the target regardless of conditions. To me, firearms are a sporting tool that measures your own accuracy against fellow competitors and I don't view or use them as weapons, even for hunting. Of course, on the rifle range the danger that firearms pose when used incorrectly is recognized by everyone and safety is of the utmost importance with great care taken to ensure there are no mistakes.

The most recent U.S. school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut has once again brought the subject of gun control and gun culture in the U.S. to the forefront of media scrutiny and public discourse. The slaughter of 20 young children plus 6 adult educators along with the gunman and his mother brings a new low for the deranged killers who are targeting defenceless citizens. Unfortunately this latest incident is but a continuation of the same type of mass murders seen in schools in both the U.S. and Canada. While the 1989 killing of 14 young women by Algerian Islamist Gamil Gharbi (aka Mark Lepine) at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal is our most most notorious school shooting, there have been 11 incidents since 1975 where guns have been fired in Canadian classrooms resulting in 28 deaths and many injuries. Since the "Montreal Massacre", AR-15 assault rifles and similar guns have become restricted or prohibited weapons and the possession of large capacity magazines has been outlawed while safe storage laws have kept guns out of unlicensed hands. Pistols in Canada have been registered since the 1930's and are strictly controlled because of their small size and ease of concealment. The Long Gun Registry resulted in $2 billion in costs and has recently been cancelled by the Conservatives due to its lack of effectiveness and the bureaucratic burden it placed on legitimate firearms owners.

 



As a member of the B.C. Rifle Association and life member of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, I was appalled with the position taken by the U.S.'s National Rifle Association which called for armed guards to be stationed in every school in America and their statement, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun." They might as well have said, "Only gun nuts can stop a gun nut." The second amendment right of American citizens to bear arms is now turning the US into an armed encampment as the firepower and availability of weapons continues to climb to insane levels. The end-of-the-world mentality fostered by the Mayan calendar along with the survivalist and anti-government attitude held by many is now creating a gun buying frenzy on both sides of the border as people stock up on guns, not for target shooting, but personal protection. There were even early morning line-ups here at a Whalley gun store in December, resembling Boxing Day sales you'd see at electronic shops. Why invest in gold and silver when copper and lead are so much cheaper, seems to be what many people are thinking these days.

Back in the 1990's, besides target rifle shooting, I participated in Service Conditions matches here that utilize the same course of fire used by our armed forces. The BCRA has existed since 1874 when black powder rifles were being used and has always has as its mandate the promotion of marksmanship as a way to help train our armed forces. In the 1970's, it was routine for BCRA members to be given a Canadian Forces FN .308 calibre semi-automatic rifle for six months, simply by signing a form. During that time, service pistol and sub-machine gun matches were held for civilians using Canadian Forces supplied weapons and ammunition at a rifle range in Coquitlam. All of this came to a halt soon after a mentally unbalanced Cpl. Denis Lortie stormed the Quebec legislature in 1984 with weapons taken from the Canadian Forces armoury where he worked, killing three people before surrendering to police. Military weapons and ammunition for the Canadian Army are now kept in separate depots and are under stringent controls, even for their soldiers.

With Canadian Forces rifles and pistols no longer available to citizens, I legally purchased an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle along with three 30 round clips that were needed for service shooting along with a 9 mm. handgun with 15 round magazines, all of which were securely stored in a heavy gun safe. During the 1990's, I won 9 BC Championship badges, including 3 gold in Service Pistol, 2 gold in Service Rifle and 2 gold in the combined Service Conditions. While off-the-shelf military styled firearms are not usually known for their accuracy, I've had matches where the groups were so small that all of the holes could not be marked as they were too close together, scoring a perfect 50-10x or half the bullseye. I enjoyed my years of service competitions with the BCRA and shooting with active members of the Reserves and Canadian Forces who proved their marksmanship and professionalism.

While I applaud many of the changes the Canadian Government has made over the years to restrict assault rifles, including now limiting the capacity of magazines to 5 rounds, I'm now wondering if the civilian population should be allowed to have access to military styled firearms at all? Down in the States, the combination of readily available assault rifles, high capacity magazines, legal possession of body armour and the plethora of hand guns is creating an environment where multiple shootings like the bloodbath this summer at a screening of a Batman film in Aurora, Colorado when a shooter in bullet-proof gear killed 12 people and injured 58 is becoming a routine event. The slogan, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people", rings hollow when you realize that it is the modern warfare weaponry and body armour that is making these mass deaths possible. Do we really want to send children to school where the teachers are armed with guns? The three R's should not be revolver, repeater and rapid-fire!

I have enjoyed shooting sports for most of my life and it has allowed me the opportunity to travel to ranges from England to Australia and from Ottawa to Oregon, making friends and enjoying competition and hospitality along the way. While Full-Bore Target Rifle shooting will hopefully continue to play a part of my life far into the future, I find myself questioning how some people believe that more guns will make us safer? I think that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to not let him have one in the first place! You only need to look at the differential in gun death statistics between the U.S. and Canada to realize that while our gun control laws have had a positive effect, the situation is getting seriously out-of-control in the so-called "Land of the Free." Even here, most of our hand-gun murders are committed by gangsters using pistols smuggled in from the States and that grim statistic is actually showing a downward trend. The 20 children shot dead in their classrooms at Sandy Hook has to turn the tide against guns that are designed primarily for killing people. While assault rifles and pistols can be used for legitimate sporting purposes as I have proved in the past, the risk they pose when in the hands of a deranged mad-man, terrorist or criminal make them too dangerous to be sold to the general public any more.



Lets hope that sanity prevails in the United States and they begin to tackle their gun problems beginning with politicians ignoring the extremist NRA whose letters might possibly mean, "Never Reach Adulthood." Controls need to be placed on gun manufacturers who are selling virtual weapons of mass destruction that are allowing homicidal gunmen to slaughter people as fast as they can pull the trigger. Washington DC should look north of the border to Ottawa to see that gun control is not just about being able to hit your target. It is doubtful that America's forefathers imagined the type of modern firepower available today when they passed the second amendment to their constitution back in 1787 while black powered muskets were still being used. Simply stated, nobody needs an assault rifle with a hundred round magazine to protect their home or to go hunting. Unfortunately if gun proliferation in the States is not stopped and quickly might I add, the slaughter at Sandy Hook will likely be repeated in the near future by some other sick wing-nut gunning for fame, notoriety and a record body count.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

December 25, 2012

Christmas Wish List - 2012


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

 


Wayne Baldwin White Rock Mayor– A white picket fence that won’t be so comfortable to sit on, especially when Surrey is nice enough to ask for White Rock’s position on the casino application for South Surrey.  As a stocking stuffer, a set of dangling metal bull balls to hang from the rear of his automobile. 

 


Dan Botttill White Rock City Manager– A large bucket of bright blue paint along with brushes and rollers so he turn all of the railings and lamp posts in the “City By The Sea” back to blue after deciding that black was more fashionable.  In the future, hopefully such mundane operations decisions will require public notification, meetings at City Hall,  steering committees and costly referendums to ensure that people living in south Surrey are happy with decisions affecting White Rock.

 


Stephanie Cadieux MLA Surrey Panorama– A Stetson hat, cowgirl boots (with spurs), chaw of tobacco and speech therapy so she can say “yeehaa” and “y’all” with a country drawl as she moves to take over the soon-to-be vacated Surrey-Cloverdale riding held by Kevin Falcon who is jumping from the Christy Clark ship.

 


Al Campbell White Rock Councillor - Security cameras for the inside of his house streamed live to the city website so residents of White Rock can keep an eye on him and find out the real reason why he believes it’s important to spend a boat-load of money to monitor the pier and promenade where crime is non-existent.   

 

Joanne Charles Council Member Semiahmoo First Nations  - A sanitary sewer line and new water pipes for the Semiahmoo Reserve so that they can eliminate antiquated septic systems and actually drink water from taps that have been under a boil water advisory for years, even though they live within spitting distance of Semi-pen neighbourhoods with million dollar mansions and a stone’s throw from the US border.

 

Dave Chesney White Rock Sun Publisher - A big thank you from your friends, followers and even those turkeys with ruffled feathers for having the drive, determination and chutzpah (yes..., chutzpah) to publish Canada’s first internet community newspaper.  A special thanks from me for letting the “Pitbull” take off the muzzle every week to prove that my bark is indeed worse than my bite.  Rrrr..., woof, woof!

 

Mark Donnelley Mr. Oh Canada - A much shorter belt to keep his pants up and a new wardrobe after White Rock’s very own “Mr. O’ Canada” dropped nearly half of his body weight after going on the controversial HCG diet involving pregnancy hormones to suppress appetite and promote rapid weight loss.

 

Kevin Falcom MLA Cloverdale - A bucket of Bondo for the former Liberal Transportation  minister to help repair all of the damage to vehicles on the new Port Mann bridge from ice bombs falling from the support cables.  While it may be a little early the title, “Leader of the Opposition” when he takes over the leadership of the provincial Liberal party after the next election. 

 

Helen Fathers White Rock Councillor - A beach towel to relax on next summer down at the clothing-optional Crescent Rock Beach after being stripped of many of her committee duties by the new WR Mayor.  As a Christmas bonus, a set of Pirelli tires whose corporate motto is “Power is Nothing Without Control” from Mayor Baldwin.

 

Jason garrison vancouver Canucks - For this gifted NHL defenceman who was born in White Rock back in 1984, the same present most Canadians want which is for Count Gary Bettmann to end the lockout and let the much delayed hockey season begin before we lose yet another complete season due to his arrogance and ego.

 

Russ Hiebert MP – A membership in a union so he can understand organized labour’s disgust at his private members Bill C-377 which targets unions, mandating them to make public their financial statements as a way to bring, “transparency and accountability in another group of public institutions”, requiring them to disclose how they spend union dues.  Considering the Harper’s government record of keeping financial dealings from the Canadian public, it’s safe to say that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

 

Bill Lawrence White Rock Councillor - A colouring book and Crayola crayons so he can do his own artwork rather than holding an Easter colouring contest at the Sandpiper Cold Beer & Wine store and enlisting students from the nearby elementary school to decorate the brown bags used to cover bottles of Christmas cheer.   

Doug LaChance Night Owl columnist White Rock Sun - A clone of himself so that he can be in two places at once, allowing him to attend concerts being held at the same time in south Surrey and White Roc.  Doug’s Xmas gift to all those living in the Semi-pen is the weekly “The Night Owl” entertainment listing that appears in the WR Sun.

 

The McGuires RA & DEBBIE sending Christmas greetings from their Hawaiian compound

Ra Mcguire lead singer TROOPER – For one of White Rock’s rock n’ roll royalty, entry for his band Trooper into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  While it was great to finally see Rush inducted this year, isn’t it time that the boys responsible for such classics as “Raise A Little Hell” and “The Boys in The Bright White Sports Car” were given their dues?

 


Allison Patton South Surrey Conservative constituency association President – A knife sharpener so the one that rogue Conservative groups stuck into leader John Cummins back would have caused mortal damage.  Instead the public in-fighting has caused the B.C. Conservatives to implode as a practical alternative to the disgraced Liberals.  For a stocking stuffer, a copy of Shania Twain’s song, “Dance with the one that brought you.” 

 

 

Gerry St. Germian Senator – For this recently retired Canadian Senator, somewhere he can be put out to pasture after his forced retirement from the Upper House at age 75.  Since he already owns a ranch in south Surrey, expect Gerry to keep busy promoting First Nation interests across B.C. and Canada, hopefully taking a stand on the south Surrey casino proposal and pressuring the provincial government to give a portion of proceeds from gambling revenues to help impoverished reserves.


Surrey Mayr Dianne Watts – A more suitable location for the proposed Gateway casino in south Surrey like the unused farmland on the south-east corner of 176 St. and 32 Ave.  This piece of property would easily accommodate this mega-complex, has U.S. border access and is in a rural neighbourhood similar to the location on 168 St. and 10th Ave.  As a bonus, her highness would be able to look at the casino from her kitchen window, giving her a daily reminder of what a mistake it was allowing this development.
Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year.


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

December 17, 2012

From High Water to Ground Water



It may be no "Super Storm Sandy" but sea conditions are looking right to possibly cause some localized flooding and/or wave damage to shoreline areas around Boundary Bay, especially at nine a.m. this morning when the high tide will peak. This is the time of our strongest seasonal tides known as "King tides" or a "perigean spring tide" that bring water levels over five metres above the low tide level. They are formed when the gravitational forces of both the moon and the sun combine to exert greater movement of ocean water. With a major wind and rain storm posed to lash the area, it is likely that a storm surge accompanied by wind generated waves could mean this tide may peak a half metre higher. While this will most likely impact low-lying areas of the Fraser River Delta including residential areas of Tsawwassen, we have seen damage from storms during these high tides here before in the Semi-pen.

The last major damage from a King tide and wind storm double whammy occurred in 2007 when large ocean waves chewed away at the Semiahmoo peninsula. The line of boulders across the front of the promenade were no match for the waves which tore apart several sections of the promenade and eroded patches of lawn. The BNSF Railway faired little better with the large rip-rap boulders lining their railway tracks being tossed around like pebbles and the rail bed being eroded to within a metre of the rails in several sections. A member of SmartRail even witnesed a CN freight train stop past Kwomais Point and the Engineer walk the tracks ahead of the train to ensure that it was safe. At the time, waves were breaking on the rocks below and the sea water was blowing over the tracks. I went down to Crescent Beach that day to witness the storm as Crescent Rock Beach where I usually walk was completely under water and under assault by floating logs in the pounding surf. As a result of this King tide and storm, the BNSF had to spend $800,000 the following year to install train loads of boulders next to the tracks to reinforce the rip-rap that protects the rails.

This is not the only damage from a King tide and storm surge to hit the Semiahmoo peninsula. In Dec. of 1982 during an El Nino year one of these seasonal high tides combined with a strong wind storm to push water up the Nicomekyl River. It crested and washed out an old farm dike just west of the Nico Wynd Golf Course on Crescent Rd. at 140 St. The brackish water flowed onto the golf course to a level of over four feet, flooding the course and leaving it covered with logs, chunks of wood and mats of seaweed. The maintenance building and all of the tractors, commercial lawn mowers and power equipment were flooded along with the nearby Pro shop. I was called in to help clean up this mess during the Christmas holidays, work that also included constructing a new dike on NicoWynd property to the west of their parking lot. To this date, this dike has never been tested but you never know when that might happen again. If you go there for a round of golf on this nine hole course, look at the long mound of dirt as you drive in. Somewhere at the bottom of that pile sits a set of keys that fell out of pocket of my work jacket that day 30 years ago, including the ignition key to my prized 1972 Dodge Dart.


While high water will be the worry of the day on Monday, possibly even for residents of the low-lying Crescent Beach neighbourhood, work at the nearby Blackie Spit Park parking lot is addressing the problem of run-off water and ground absorption. With development comes buildings along with driveways, patios, roads, sidewalks and parking lots. The impervious asphalt and concrete create drainage problems and stop water from being absorbed into the ground. This now results in many of Surrey's rivers expanding greatly in flow rate and volume after rain events, leading to erosion and habitat destruction. At Blackie Spit Park, a new paving method is being utilized that will create a new dust and pot-hole free parking lot while ensuring that rain water will soak into the ground rather than being directed to storm drains and pump houses. Sustainable Concrete Canada (www.sccanada.net) is the prime contractor for this paving contract and they are installing pervious concrete that allows water to flow directly through it.

I saw the crew from SCC laying this rather innovative product and got a demonstration of its effectiveness. On hardened concrete from the previous day's pour, the foreman dumped half of a five gallon bucket filled with water onto the slab. It didn't really flow anywhere but down, disappearing in seconds in what would best be described as a great magic trick. While more expensive than traditional concrete, pervious concrete has many benefits over the solid alternative. It eliminates the need for drain water collection systems and achieves zero runoff, protecting nearby streams and watersheds which is a major plus. Because it has small holes, it reduces surface temperature and allows urban trees to grow to full size with air and water admitted to the root zone. Oil and grease falling from vehicles are dealt with through filtration and microbial conversion, rather than being washed into nearby waterways. It is refreshing to see that the city of Surrey is utilizing this technology known as Epave that would appear to have many environmental and financial benefits. While access to the Blackie Spit off-leash dog park may be limited until this work is done, I doubt there will be anyone who will miss the muddy/dusty gravelled surface that was always pock marked full of bone-jarring pot holes.

All of this just goes to show that water is always a worry. On a grander scale, if you go to the beach on Monday to see the big tides with predicted storm surge, consider that by the year 2100, sea level elevation rises for the Fraser Delta are conservatively estimated to be 1.2 metres. This will mean that an average tide will likely be even higher than our present King Tide in a wind storm. Because of this, dikes across the region will all have to be increased to keep low-lying areas from flooding or else they will have to be abandoned. The Vancouver region recently placed 15th in the world on a list of the most flood prone urban centres on the planet, with flood control measures needed here to combat sea level rise pegged at $9.5 billion. While not too many people seem concerned about a few degrees rise in air temperature (I've got bananas planted in my yard already), those living near the ocean will certainly feel the effects of tides over a metre higher than what presently exists. It will become very difficult to enjoy the sandy beaches of White Rock and Crescent Beach when they are increasingly under water for much of the day.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



Editor's Note: Don't miss next week's TNT containing the highly anticipated Christmas list of presents for the movers and shakers of the Semiahmoo peninsula. Ho-ho-ho!

UPDATE 9:30 a.m,

Pictures taken at height of King tide along Crescent Beach

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

First pix shot from the 101 Steps overpass, second looking north towards Van at Crescent Beach, third looking south at end of Crescent Beach walkway towards Crescent Rock Beach, all taken at 9:30 a.m.
Crescent Rock Beach the popular clothing optional beach was totally submerged. No where to walk except for on train tracks. In future when these conditions are expected the City of Surrey should lock the three stairway gates on the Ocean Park bluffs and limit access because of the danger to pedestrians from pounding waves, smashing logs and passing trains.

 

December 10, 2012

Deadestrians


It would be nice if we could take a break from the sudden rash of pedestrians being struck by vehicles on the streets of the Lower Mainland but yet another person was mowed down early Sunday morning, reportedly suffering serious injuries after being hit by a taxi while jay-walking in New Westminster. This is on top of the eight pedestrians hit in seven different incidents across the Lower Mainland during a 24-hour period of Dec. 5 on top of the two women joggers ran down on the evening of Dec. 3 at the intersection of 152 St. and 32 Ave in south Surrey in a hit-and run collision. Unfortunately with more inclement weather on the way and the nights continuing to get longer until winter officially starts on the solstice at Dec 21, it is likely we will continue to see the pedestrian accident rate including serious injuries and deaths climb to epidemic levels. If you want to see the extent of pedestrian/car crashes in the Lower Mainland for the past four years check out the map with ICBC data at the following link:
http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/AsCrashesinvolvingPedestriansinBC20072011/PedestrianDashboard?:embed=y

Running my own commercial landscape maintenance business, I work with a large variety of power equipment, many with sharp cutting edges. It is not the large industrial mowers, gas-powered hedge trimmers, chainsaws, ladders, or falls from buildings and trees that present the greatest threat of injury to my person or that of my employees. It is the simple act of stepping from lawn or sidewalk out onto the asphalt of driveways or streets that is the most dangerous thing we do in my line of work. We look at asphalt as the kill zone and take multiple steps to ensure our safety whether on a job site or crossing roads including walking in cross-walks. With increasing darkness as fall and winter approaches combined with heavy rain and cloudy days, visibility for drivers diminishes to the point that pedestrians must take full responsibility for their own personal safety, rather than entrust their life and limb to someone behind the wheel who may be blind to their presence.

Pedestrians these days amaze me with their simple lack of self-preservation. I constantly see people walking across the streets while texting, talking on their so-called smart phones, listening to their I-tunes with ear buds firmly in place, all oblivious to the vehicles around them, expecting right-of-way laws to keep them safe from harm. Throw into this folks wearing all black during dark winter months slinking around the streets looking like ninja warriors apparently unaware that they are as camouflaged as a navy seal commando during a night raid. You get pedestrians running across roads, crossing when the flashing hand sign has been activated, jay-walking from in between parked vehicles and standing on thin concrete boulevard islands stuck in no-mans-land between lanes of heavy traffic. I often wonder if these people are simply suicidal or have never heard of Darwin's theory of evolution. When hit by a vehicle travelling at posted speed, the damage to the human body can be catastrophic and while cars are easy to fix or replace, injuries to pedestrians can alter a life forever, or possibly end it.

Not long ago I was driving in Vancouver on Oak St. during the night while we were enduring yet another of our customary Pacific frontal systems. Ahead of me in the middle of the street I saw something moving near the ground but was unable to identify what the object was, thinking it might be an opossum or a cat. As I drove closer, it suddenly became clear that what I was seeing was actually two people, all dressed in black crossing the road with their hands and faces concealed by black umbrellas. What I had seen moving near the ground was the white running shoes that fortunately they both were wearing. I slammed on the brakes and hit the horn but neither of these two jay-walkers ever raised their umbrellas or took a look at the one tonne truck that had almost run them down. Two friends of mine were not so lucky, one hitting a lady who was drunkenly running across King George Blvd. to get to the bar in Newton, resulting in two badly broken legs. The other recently hit another jay-walker who suddenly stepped into traffic, also on the KGB, with his vision impaired by the black hoodie he was wearing. In both of these cases, the pedestrians likely survived their experiences only because the drivers took evasive action, reducing the force of impact resulting in injuries instead of death.

As a pedestrian, here are the many rules that I use to ensure I will never end up in hospital or a grim statistic:
- Before stepping onto asphalt, stop and look all around, especially in the direction of traffic.
- Be extra attentive to look for light silver vehicles that blend into the roadway, especially on cloudy wet days.
- Take care to realize that not all vehicles have day-time running lights including older vehicles and some used imports.
- Never talk on the cell phone or text while crossing streets, an inattentive practice that needs to be banned.
- Use crosswalks when available, but when crossing in the middle of a street ensure traffic is clear in all directions.
- When utilizing crosswalks, ensure you have eye contact with drivers around you, using head bobs or waving to acknowledge.
- Wear bright or reflective clothing if possible and never use a black umbrella, especially down over your face.
- Realize that reflective stripes and clothing only work when vehicle lights are on your clothes and visible to drivers.
- Even with the right-of-way, control your own safety knowing that in an accident, pedestrians always lose.
- Expect the unexpected and be prepared to take evasive action to avoid oncoming vehicles and injury.

When driving, especially at night when it is raining, here is the mental checklist I use to avoid accidents with pedestrians:
- Take extra care when turning, especially left, watching for pedestrians who may be walking or running up from behind you.
- Realize that oncoming traffic lights reflecting off wet roads impair vision; slow down and leave more space.
- Watch out for people wearing black or dark clothing who may be virtually invisible at night and during rain storms.
- Clear side view mirrors of beaded precipitation before driving and clean side glass by rolling down windows to improve visibility.
- Remind yourself that pedestrians can be walking, running, pushing strollers, riding scooters, rolling in wheelchairs or biking.
- Use fog lamps or high beams to illuminate dark country roads at night, replacing old bulbs with halogens for brighter light.
- Replace windshield wipers in spring and fall, utilize rain dispersant like Rain-x on glass and ensure window cleaning reservoir is full.
- Expect pedestrians at any time and place, being ready to undertake emergency manoeuvres to avoid collisions.

While both ICBC and the RCMP have recently warned the public to be more cautious about the increased danger to pedestrians this time of year, I believe it would be more proactive to help spread the word about this increased risk prior to it becoming a deadly problem that can be expected every year. In the spring, ICBC takes to the airwaves and buys advertisements in newspapers to warn that it is "Motorcycle Safety Season", with the Solicitor General and Minister of Transportation warning about the sudden increase in two-wheeled drivers. In a news release issued on Dec. 5, the day of the eight pedestrian traffic accidents in the Lower Mainland, ICBC warned drivers and pedestrians to use caution in dark, fall conditions (http://www.icbc.com/news/2012dec05-02). Considering that there are nearly twice as many pedestrian accidents in Nov./Dec. as in July/Aug., in the interest of public safety an ad campaign about the increased danger in fall and winter months should be considered next year before this seasonal slaughter begins yet again.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 03, 2012

 


It has been almost exactly a year since I outlined the rapidly escalating coal train traffic headed through White Rock in the Dec. 5, 2011 TNT titled "Coal on a Roll" followed by another column on May 21 of this year named "Shake, Rattle and Coal" that detailed the impact of these heavy trains on the century old rail bed and resulting ground shaking affecting neighbourhoods in White Rock. If you missed these columns or wish to refresh your memory on this topic before reading on, simply scroll down to the applicable dates before taking in the latest instalment on this never ending saga revolving around U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet's BNSF Railway and the waterfront train tracks in the Semi-pen.

Washington State residents are up in arms about plans for multiple coal exporting facilities planned for their region, including a massive terminal planned for at Cherry Point in Blaine capable of moving 48 million metric tonnes a year. They are concerned about increased train traffic, diesel particulates from the engines, coal dust from uncovered loads and most importantly, the increase in world green house gases when the coal is burned in asia for electricity or industry. U.S. coal is now shipped into Canada on the BNSF tracks through White Rock and south Surrey to the Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank in Delta plus Ridley Island Terminals in Prince Rupert. If residents here think they have seen a large increase in train traffic over the past four years, especially those folks living in Crescent Beach that have to wait for these long trains to pass, they need to realize that there are now plans to greatly increase this rail traffic yet again.

Fraser Surrey Docks has submitted a project permit application to Port Metro Vancouver for the development of a Direct Transfer Coal Facility at their existing Fraser River terminal to handle up to four million metric tonnes of coal per year. This coal will be transported from the U.S. by the BNSF Railway to the shipping terminal and loaded directly onto barges capable of carrying 8,000 tonnes. Once loaded, tug boats will take individual barges to the mouth of the Fraser River where they will then be towed in pairs up the Salish Sea to Texada Island where the barges will be unloaded and the coal stored before being loaded onto ocean-going freighters for transport overseas. The permit allows for up to four million metric tonnes of coal per year to be moved but there is a possibility this can be increased to volumes of up to eight million metric tonnes of coal per year in the future. If you hadn't heard about this plan don't be surprised as it is barging ahead apparently free from media scrutiny or public input.



The environmental group Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) have been alerted to this proposal and are now raising alarm bells about the inevitable increase in greenhouse gases that will result if this project is allowed to proceed. This is the same group who blocked BNSF traffic on May 5 of this year in White Rock that resulted in 13 arrests including that of former COPE city councillor Fred Bass and Nobel Peace Price winning economist Dr. Mark Jaccard with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The VTACC website (vtacc.org) provides the following data on the Fraser Surrey Docks coal transfer proposal along with a planned expansion of the coal export terminal for the Neptune docks in Vancouver, both which are under the control of Port Metro Vancouver:

"If approved, these two projects will increase coal exports from the Port Authority by up to 14 million metric tonnes (Mt) per year. This will bring the Port Authority's coal export capacity up to a staggering 55 to 59 Mt per year, making it the largest coal exporter in North America. Converted into global warming emissions, this volume of exported coal will release, when burned, more than 100 Mt of CO2 emissions per year, a volume of global warming pollution much larger than all the emissions within BC each year, and more than that associated with oil exports from the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline."

While the mandate of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority states that it is to "operate with broad public support in the best interests of Canadians", they do not seem to consider the overall effects of runaway global greenhouse gas release and the result it is having on the planet, especially in Northern Canada where the change have been profound. The Port authority has contacted neighbours living near the docks and also alerted local governments but no real public input is being planned with decisions on this project being made by PMV staffers behind closed doors. The VTACC are asking people to email Port Metro Vancouver's Board of Directors and besides giving personal concerns, asking them to delay decisions on both the Fraser Surrey Docks and Neptune Terminals coals export proposals, inform the broad public about these plans, develope an open and transparent process for public discourse, and to consider climate change impacts on all decision making. Their email addresses are all available at the following link: http://www.portmetrovancouver.com/en/about/corporate/boardofdirectors.aspx


On a local perspective, five rail cars of coal outweigh the White Rock boulder and the 18Mt planned increase in coal exports equates to an additional 3.5 coal trains per day rolling through White Rock on top of the current rail traffic. The resulting greenhouse gas release from the coal soon to be exported from the Lower Mainland weighs the same as 238,000 White Rocks. Go stand beside the giant white painted boulder that is a monument to the City By The Sea and then try to imagine nearly a quarter million of them floating by in the sky followed by the same amount or more the next year. You might suddenly realize why climate change is being taken so seriously by scientists, academics and environmentalists across the globe and why it is likely that White Rock will see more coal protests and possible BNSF Railway coal train blockades in the future as our political leaders fiddle while the world burns.

TNT Extra
In a global emissions study just released this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, the amount of GHG releleased in the world rose by a further 3% in 2011 with a total of 38.2 billion tons of CO2, making it unlikely the goal of keeping global warming to 2 C. will be obtainable. Since 1990 baseline levels, CO2 emissions are up 54% with China up 10% to 10 billion tons in the last year alone, mainly from burning coal for electricity generation.
http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Carbon+dioxide+emissions+again/7642503/story.html

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE

A large bulk coal carrier attempting to dock at Westshore Terminals at Roberts bank crashed into a col conveyor system. The accident has knocked out the largeest of the port's two berths. An undetermined amount of coal spilled into Georgia Strait.

The accident will put the berth out of service for an undetermined amount of time. The damage to the berth will cause major problems at Westshore which is North America's largest coal exporting port.

View The Video

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Ship+crashes+into+dock+Westshore+Terminals/7667184/story.html

Listen to the White Rock Sun's Publisher DAVE CHESNEY on SPEAKER radio with host JOHAN SANDSTROM talking about the coal trains and the Semiahmoo Peninsula corridor. (click here)

 

November 26, 2012


Surrey's Latest Gamble on Hold



You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.
Lyrics from Kenny Rogers "The Gambler" song

It would appear that the public backlash coming at the Surrey First council from many sectors of the community is starting to have an effect. Taking a page from the B.C. Liberal government who often issue press releases on Friday in order to deflect media attention, the City of Surrey announced on their website on Friday that they have delayed the public hearing on the proposed South Surrey Entertainment Complex that features a casino operated by Gateway and BCLC. Originally the Gaming License application and related Planning report for this project was to be presented for Council consideration at the Regular Council/Land Use meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 but due to a lack of information related to this application, staff were unable to compile the necessary documentation. Here is the list of information that City staff still needs to compile taken from the City of Surrey website:

A review and detailed analysis of the correspondence regarding the application received from the public;
Receive and consider comments from the City of White Rock and the Township of Langley, which comments staff have been advised will be arriving during the week of November 26, 2012 and to consider the comments that have been received from the Semiahmoo First Nation;
To receive and review a finalized socio-economic impact study that is being completed by BCLC; and
To receive and review a finalized version of the traffic impact study for the proposed development.

It is expected that it will take two weeks to assemble the needed documentation and the Gaming License Application and related Planning report on this development is now planned to be presented to Council at the Regular Council/Land Use Meeting on Monday, Dec. 10 with a public hearing likely to take place in the New Year on Jan. 14, 2013. For those who were planning on attending this Monday's festivities at Surrey City Hall and giving Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First team and earful of verbal abuse, you will have to find yourself something else to do that night (White Rock is holding Public Hearings at their City Hall if you need a community political fix). If you're concerned about the impact this large casino complex will have on South Surrey, or all of Surrey for that matter, please note the changes and make your plans to attend on the future dates.

As for myself, you can bet I will be in attendance to give Surrey First Council my two cents worth about this proposed casino complex. I must say that I'm not fascinated by gambling as I work much too hard for my money to give it away to the gaming syndicates and already given enough tax dollars to the government. While I recently travelled to Las Vegas (Lost Wages), I spent my time at shows, relaxing by the pool and partying with friends, staying away from the many games of chance including acres of slot machines. Casinos really lost their shine for me when I found out that a customer of mine had to sell their beautiful estate home because they'd lost a total of half a million dollars to the Cascades Casino in Langley when it first opened before finally getting help with their gambling addiction. I started to realize what a drain these gambling dens are on the local economy when a friend who works at the River Rock casino in Richmond informed me that the average daily take for this one location alone is reportedly $1.5 million. While concern has been raised about the tens of thousands of dollars in political donations given to Surrey civic politicians from those parties associated with the casino development, this pales in comparison to the estimated $6 million a year in revenue that Surrey will likely gain should this south Surrey casino project be given the green light. Just like our society, governments are addicted to gambling and dollar signs have a way of rubber stamping project approval regardless of community opposition.

Besides the social ills and crime that revolve around casinos including the man shot to death in New Westminster earlier this month during a hostage taking event in the parking lot of the Starlite Casino, I agree with many living in the Peninsula that the location for this casino complex is all wrong. Building such a large development in a rural area makes no sense from a neighbourhood perspective and will only lead to more rampant development which is seeing Surrey cleared of vegetation at a dizzying pace. If you have not seen the moonscape known as the Campbell Heights North Business Park at the corner of 192 St. and 32 Ave, this 250 acre clear-cut created by the city owned Surrey City Development Corporation is likely what most of the area around the proposed casino will eventually resemble. Having the casino located miles away from mass transit will ensure a huge increase in traffic to this formerly quiet area at all times of the day and night. Other than the promises of never ending tax revenue for the city and the bargain basement price originally paid for this distressed property, it is the wrong project in the wrong place and needs to be rejected outright by those who are entrusted with putting Surrey first.

There is another reason why the south Surrey casino should be given the thumbs down. In 2003, Surrey City Council approved the addition of slot machines to Fraser Downs in Cloverdale with the casino holding over over 400 slots opening in late 2004. The hope at that time was that the remodelled facility would help to stimulate harness racing in the Fraser Valley while attracting gamblers to Surrey. According to Gateway's own numbers, last year only 22 per cent of Surrey residents spent their money at Surrey's only existing casino while 78 per cent went to nearby cities such as Langley and Richmond or down to the U.S. If the proposed south Surrey casino opens, it will siphon gamers and their money away from Fraser Downs, likely leaving the casino there and possibly the racetrack unprofitable. As it currently stands, the City of Surrey received $2.9 million in gaming revenue last year from BCLC as their 10% share from the Fraser Downs casino. While Mayor and Council may be rubbing their hands over a possible $6 million payoff from south Surrey, I bet this will lead to a drastic reduction of revenue at Fraser Downs and likely spell the end of horse racing in Cloverdale that began back in 1976.

While Surrey's Mayor and Council are known to be "pro-development", every project has be scrutinized to ensure that it is appropriate for the location and adds something to the city. This South Surrey Entertainment Complex project may have flown under the radar when it was originally backed by Surrey developer Bob Cheema, but now that it is under the control of Cascades Casinos and the BCLC with the casino being the lynchpin of the entire project, people have suddenly woken up to the reality that it will have an enormous impact on the area. You only have to ask yourself, "Does this development belong in this location and does it make sense for Surrey?" to realize that the answer is a resounding "NO" that we must make loud and clear to Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First councillors. They already made a mistake by letting slot machines into the Newton bingo hall that has since been purchased by Gateway Casinos, they certainly don't need to compound their incompetence by allowing the proposed south Surrey casino to become reality.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

November 19, 2012

"Pitcairn on Cairn"

Cairn: a heap of stones set up as a landmark, monument, tombstone, etc.



RCMP Memorial Cairn with tributes

With a name like mine (dig a hole, pile the stones) it really should come as no surprise that I've always had an interest in cairns, their placement and meaning. In Surrey, one of the most notable cairns is located just west of the entrance to the RCMP Detachment building near City Hall. This four-sized cairn that stands approximately five feet tall is affixed with brass plaques containing memorials to the four RCMP members who have previously lost their lives while on duty. With the recent on-duty death of 28 year-old Const. Adrian Oliver who died on Tues., Nov. 13 in an early morning motor vehicle accident with a semi-truck at 148 St. and 64 Ave., public attention is now being focused once again on those Surrey RCMP who have previously died while on duty.

Even with the immense size of Surrey, the large numbers of RCMP officers who have patrolled its mean streets, the violence and shootings that continue to plague us to this day, and the dangers of driving at high speeds while responding to calls, there has not been a loss of life in the Surrey RCMP ranks in the past 37 years. Since the RCMP took over policing in 1951, four officers have died in the line of duty, the first in the early 60's with three more in an untimely rash of deaths in 1974 and 1975. While we usually think of shootings and other acts of violence as being the most likely cause of line-of-duty fatalities, it is car accidents that have taken the lives of all but one of the officers killed in Surrey. Taken directly from the RCMP website, here is the information about the four officers that grace the memorial cairn at the front of the headquarters building, ensuring that while they are gone they are not forgotten:



Cst. Archille Octave Maxime LEPINE

On July 15, 1962, Cst. Lepine was posted to the Patullo Bridge Unit in Surrey. He was driving a police motorcycle on King George Highway when a vehicle turned left in front of him. As a result of injuries suffered from the collision, he Cst. Lepine passed away in hospital on July 19, 1962.



Cst. Roger Emile PIERLET

On March 29, 1974, Cst. Pierlet was working his last shift before taking time off to be married. He noticed a vehicle being driven erratically, and after stopping the vehicle was fatally shot. The driver and passenger were sentenced to death and the sentences were later changed to life imprisonment.



Cst. John Terrance DRAGINDA

On September 29, 1974, Cst. Draginda was on General Duty at Surrey Detachment, riding with an Auxiliary Cst. when, in responding to a report of a motor vehicle accident, they were involved in a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of 152 Street and 96 Avenue. Cst. Draginda and two people in the other vehicle were killed.



Cst. John Brian BALDWINSON

On October 28, 1975, Cst. Baldwinson was on the General Investigation Section at Surrey Detachment and driving back to the Detachment. It was late at night, with poor visibility and he had just passed another police vehicle on Pacific Highway #15, when he collided with a horse on the roadway. Cst. Baldwinson died as a result.

The cairn at the front door of the Surrey RCMP Detachment headquarters is not the only monument in the city to honour our fallen police officers. RCMP members here in 2005 began a fund-raising campaign to design and build a memorial to honour the four officers killed in the line of duty in Surrey. The "Wall of Honour" as it is known was financed through the sale of RCMP landyards along with money raised at the annual Regimental Ball. It was constructed and unveiled in a ceremony on Oct. 19, 2006 attended by Surrey RCMP staff, RCMP veterans, municipal staff, along with Mayor Dianne Watts and members of Council. It is located at the central atrium of the Surrey RCMP Detachment headquarters in the Municipal complex located at 144 St. and 56 Ave. Const. Adrian Oliver will no doubt be added to this wall in a future ceremony that will remind both the public and RCMP members of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Wall of Honour - Surrey RCMP headquarters



Please be advised that the funeral arrangements for Const. Adrian Oliver have recently been changed. While it is still scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20, the location has been moved from a south Surrey church to the Langley Events Centre, located at 7888 200 St. in Langley. The proceedings will begin with a march at 12 noon PST with the regimental funeral being held at 1 p.m. that will be live streamed on the RCMP website at the following link: http://www.livestream.com/rcmpgrc

This event is expected to attract hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Canada and the United States plus friends and family that include Adrian's spouse, his twin brother and father, all who are serving members of the RCMP. If you cannot attend but wish to give your condolences and show your support, flowers, candles, cards and even a toy RCMP cruiser have been left at the base of the cairn at the Surrey RCMP detachment's front doors. A facebook page for the late Const. Adrian Oliver has also been created in his honour titled "R.I.P Surrey RCMP Constable Adrian Oliver. 11/13/12". Anyone wishing to e-sign the RCMP book of condolences can send an email entry to bcrcmp@rcmp-grc.gc.ca which will then be passed onto the Oliver family.

The service will be webcast to meet the expected demand. Tomorrow at 1 p.m. click on this link

A candlelight vigil is also planned for Const. Oliver at the Surrey RCMP Detachment, 14355 57 Ave., on Nov. 30 from 6-9 pm. An Events page for this public memorial has been posted on Facebook titled "Surrey RCMP Candelight Memorial" at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/events/508687892488269/?context=create

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 13, 2012


White Rock's Biggest Loser



While the subject of who is White Rock's biggest loser would likely generate much debate and serious competition, there is one person living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who takes the cake, none other than "Mr. O Canada" himself, Mark Donnelly. While most of us know him from his bombastic renditions of "O Canada" at the beginning of Vancouver Canuck hockey games where he invites audience participation, he is rapidly becoming recognized for his "re-Mark-able" weight loss that has occurred over the past few years. From the beginning of August, 2010 to the end of July, 2012, Mr. Donnelly went from weighing 370 pounds with a 62 inch waist down to a svelte 185 pounds and a 35 inch waist utilizing injections of human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG along with a 500 calorie a day diet. An advertisement from Nutra Pure Canada was hung on our door in south Surrey this week featuring Mark advocating the use of HCG drops as "Safe*(Before beginning any weight loss program consult your doctor or competent healthcare professional), Effective, Affordable, and... Canadian." The before and after photos of Mr. Donnelly were striking, including the one showing him standing in a pair of his old pants with plenty of room to spare. To say that Mark Donnelly is half the singer he used to be would be a fair statement, but only from a weight standpoint and certainly not from his singing abilities which haven't missed a beat.

Mark's battle against obesity has been ongoing for years with him gradually ballooning to a point where it was beginning to negatively impact his health. Taken from the www.markdonnelly.ca website, here is Mr. Donnelly's own explanation of how he achieved this amazing weight loss utilizing the HCG diet plan:
Even though I have been athletic (more or less) since junior high school, I have struggled with obesity for most of my life. Through moderately stringent dieting and extensive exercise, I had managed in the past to yo-yo between being fit and being fat. Then the 40's hit, and fit was a permanent thing of the past. Exercise would only slow the weight gain. Gradually I packed on the fat and reached 370 lbs! Diets were ineffective, and exercise only replaced a very small amount of the fat with muscle. I was at wit's end and was developing multiple health problems. Now we come to the part about which everyone wants to know. How did I reverse this?


My wife, Catherine, while looking for a book on another health issue, found a weight loss book which had at its core a diet protocol that has been around since the 1950's. This diet is based on the clinical experience of Dr. A. T. W. Simeons, a British physician practicing in Rome, and is outlined in his paper Pounds and Inches, According to Dr. Simeons, one of the features of the hormone human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) is that it helps metabolize fat rather than muscle in pregnant women. He surmised that, if one receives daily an injection of a small dose of hCG and ate a very low calorie diet (500 calories/day), he would lose weight, mostly fat. At his practice, he found that patients would lose weight at a rate of just less than one pound to about a pound and a half a day for about four to six weeks. They then would go into a maintenance period for six weeks or more. If more weight loss was needed, another six week course of injections would be administered. Since everything I had tried up to this point had not worked, I thought I would give it a shot (no pun intended). What did I have to lose (again, no pun intended)? I was jeopardizing my health by weighing twice what I should.

Obviously no one can state that Mr. Donnelly's weight loss was not dramatic and effective, but now much of this was due to the HCG injections or the diet drops he utilized to shed the pounds or the greatly reduced caloric intake associated with this diet plan? HCG is approved by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat infertility in both men and women and is not registered for use as a dietary aid or hunger suppressant. Because of the suddenly increasing interest in HCG, in 2011 the United States Food & Drug Agency warned that homeopathic HCG including the diet drops is fraudulent and illegal when sold for weight-loss purposes. While the FDA said these products weren't necessarily dangerous, they cautioned that their sale is deceptive as there is no scientific evidence that they are effective for weight loss. The Nutra Pure Canada website, while cautioning that HCG is not registered as a dietary aid, still make the following claims with exclamation marks for additional emphasis:
- You easily can lose 1-2 pounds per day safely!
- HCG is completely natural, healthy and safe for all dieters!
- You do not need to exercise to achieve these permanent fat loss results!
- HCG is good for you and tests indicate that it may prevent breast cancer!
- HCG will improve your sleep, energy levels and cognitive thought process!
- HCG resets your hypothalamus so that your weight loss is permanent!
- You will not get those agonizing hunger pains!

While having been impressed by Mr. Donnelly's transformation from obesity back to a healthy living weight, I'm ever skeptical about miracle fad diets that offer weight loss with little or no exercise. My mother's old adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" rings like an alarm bell when I am presented with the latest weight loss craze. That being said, friends who came over for dinner this weekend who were informed about Mark Donnelly and this TNT topic, expressed their belief in the HCG diet. They are both in great shape and admitted to using this diet to shed a few extra pounds they had put on over the years that just wouldn't melt away no matter how much they exercised. They lost weight at the advertised one pound a day and have managed to keep off the fat, reporting that the HCG reduced their hunger and fatigue greatly while they quickly dropped to their target weight. While I won't be partaking in this diet plan ("die" is the first part of "diet") as I need all the body reserves I have, it would be interesting to have a truly obese friend possibly true this product out so that I would witness the results first hand (with doctor supervision of course). As to what the real truth is on this subject, I suspect we will hear plenty more about it in the months to come, especially when it is endorsed by a public personality such as Mark Donnelly who apparently believes this product was responsible for his rapid transformation.

Mr. O Canada is not content in only acting as a spokesperson for Nutra Pure Canada and their HCG diet drops weight loss plan. He continues to sing recital, opera, oratorio and musical theatre and is available for individual singing lessons. Mark also performs with a quartet of his children and is available for either single or family bookings, with a Christmas CD titled "Carol of the Bells" ready for purchase or download from iTunes. As if his musical talents were not enough, Mr. Donnelly also works as a licensed realtor for Sutton Group - West Coast Realty, something that would likely attract plenty of attention to any property listing . For all of his credentials, his main claim to fame is still being the Canadian national anthem singer for the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. Let's hope that the Donald Fehr/Gary Bettman pissing contest is quickly settled and that the NHL doesn't lose another season to greed and stupidity. It would be nice to watch professional hockey again while getting to join Mr. Donnelly in singing our national anthem, something few of us did until Mark came to town and showed us that being Canadian was cool and something to be proud of.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

TNT Update: We Still Got Our Mojo, Nov. 5, WR Sun


Due to the recent passing of rub-board player Jane Carnahan-Schultz, the Nov. 23 and 24 dates for Mojo Zydeco to appear at the Tudor Ale House in South Surrey have been cancelled. I attended her memorial on Sunday at the Crescent Beach United Church which was packed to capacity with well-wishers and those looking to give their moral support to Jane's husband and band leader Randy Schultz along with the other members of Mojo Zydeco. Needless to say, this was a very emotional time for all with hardly a dry eye in the house and many stories about Jane and her amazing life journey being shared. Please support efforts to fine a cure for breast cancer, a scourge that takes many fine women far too early in life.

 

 

November 05


We Still Got Our Mojo


Last weekend I got to enjoy several nights of the live music scene in the Semiahmoo peninsula, taking in Dave Chesney's election fundraiser at the Blue Frog studio on Friday featuring Jason Buie and Trooper's Ray McGuire followed by Daniel Wesley playing at the WR Firefighters charity Halloween ball at the Star of the Sea. Unfortunately the good times ended rather abruptly when I heard the sad news about the passing on Monday of Jane Caranahan-Schultz who sang and played the rub-board with the local cajun music band Mojo Zydeco. In case you are not familiar with a rub-board, it is a stainless steel version of the antique hand washboards that is worn on your chest and played with a couple of specially shaped spoons. Jane had fought a long and courageous battle against breast cancer for three years, enduring several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation before the disease returned in force late this year to finally take her life far too early.


In case you are unfamiliar with Zydeco music or have never had the pleasure of seeing Mojo Zydeco perform live, its beginnings trace back to the early 1700's in the swamps of Louisiana where traditional Creole and Cajun music later blended with Afro-American blues, jazz and R&B and a healthy dose of gospel music. Its infectious sound is usually fronted by a button or piano accordion and the rub-board in a fast tempo with a pounding base line that tends to attract everyone to the dance floor to join the party that this music naturally creates. I was fortunate enough to meet Dave Clairmont, the bassist for Mojo Zydeco who performs with a rather unique Luthier Paul Iverson designed 6-string fretless bass guitar, capable of extending the range and possibilities of the regular instrument. The first time I saw Mojo perform was at the Crescent Beach 240 Legion in Crescent Park where the dance floor was packed from the moment that the band took the stage. Jane was always front and centre, stroking the rub-board to the beat of the music and laying down backing vocals to help round out the singing of her husband, bandleader and lead guitarist Randy Schultz.



Originally one of the founders of the well-known local blues band The Blues Caboose that was formed in 1997, Randy dedicated himself to creating a Canadian Zydeco band after a trip to the city of New Orleans in 2001. You can read all the details about the various band members and the history of Mojo Zydeco on the Exposure Entertainment website at the following link: http://www.exposureentertainment.com/mojozyd.html Since its inception, the band has played their unique music throughout B.C. at bars, festivals, corporate events and private parties and even came perilously close to performing for my 50th birthday party. They keep a kindred connection with musicians from around New Orleans and surrounding region and operate an open door policy where members of Mojo can go down to Louisiana to play with performers from that region coming to Vancouver and Surrey to join with the band here to share new sounds, songs and stories. Several summers ago I took in one of their sets at the Fusion Festival in Holland Park in Whalley where they were joined by several amazing accordion players who had come north just to join in on the fun. I remember Jane getting into an amazing rub-board duet with one of these gentlemen, attracting people from across Holland Park to the front of their stage. My wife and I were the first ones to dance (she's the shy one) and by the time we sat down for a well deserved rest there were hundreds of people grinding to the funky groove that only Mojo Zydeco can lay down.



For those of you that enjoyed the taste of cajun creole music that Mojo brings to our neck of the woods and who knew Jane either personally or musically, a memorial is planned at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 (Remembrance Day) at the Crescent United Church located at 2756 127 St., Surrey, one block west of Crescent Park. A celebration of life will follow at Camp Alexandra in nearby Crescent Beach at 2916 McBride Ave. that benefited from the "Raising the Roof" fundraiser held this summer by Mojo Zydeco and Blues Caboose. While many of us are used to the regular Halloween dances at the 240 Legion a special tribute show in Jane's honour will be held at the Crescent Beach Legion on New Year's Eve. Keep your eye on Doug Lechance's Night Owl entertainment listings in the WR Sun for any other upcoming bookings that might arise.

It was heart-wrenching to have to watch a person like Jane who was so full of energy and passion towards her music, the members of the band and especially her husband Randy, suffer the ravages of breast cancer. While no one can take her place, someone will step up to take her space on the rub-board and continue the toe-tapping, spoon-slapping, high-tempo beat that this type of Cajun born music is famous for. To me, Jane's heart will continue to beat with every high octane note that Mojo Zydeco plays and I'd like to invite all Semi-pen residents who were touched by her music and warm soul to the New Year's Eve bash where we can ring in the New Year and raise our glasses in a toast to her memory while giving our continued support to Randy and the band.

Mojo Zydeco Surrey Fusion Festival 2011 with special guest Bruce Barnes



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 29, 2012

Bored in White Rock? Get board in Surrey


FERAL (fer-al): Existing in a wild or untamed state, having returned to an untamed state from domestication, or suggestive of a wild animal; savage.



A rather unique new business has opened at the eastern end of White Rock's East beach on the point of land at the end of the Semiahmoo First Nation. Already the location of the Organic Connections Cafe (formerly Sideshows restaurant), Feral Boardsports is now situated beside the restaurant, taking advantage of this waterfront location to access the nearby shores of Semiahmoo Bay. Semiahmoo First Nation band councillor Joanne Charles was instrumental in allowing Feral to set up shop in this waterfront location between the cities of White Rock and Surrey and the band appears to be very supportive of the recreational board sport use of the beach in front of their Reserve.

The brainchild of Darren Marshall who has moved here from jolly old England to take advantage of the ocean waters off the west coast of B.C., he first set up his Feral Kiteboarding School here three years ago. With his certification from the British Kite Surfing Association and the International Kiteboard Association he enjoys instructing people in this fast growing water board sport that is taking the world by storm. Feral Boardsports opened this summer just a few days before Canada Day and besides focusing on kite boarding also provide lessons and rentals of paddle boards, kayaking, skim boarding along with wake boarding that is done in the waters of the Deas slough near the George Massey tunnel. The asphalt at the front of their brightly coloured red and white building has been covered with a layer of fine sand with Darren telling everyone who will listen that it is, "the best beach in White Rock." Dont' worry about tracking it into their office as they feel it adds extra ambiance to the building that is usually lit only with candles and sunlight from the windows.


Besides teaching boardsports to the masses and renting the various equipment necessary to have fun along the White Rock waterfront, Feral will soon be selling merchandise unique to their company plus a lot of different brands that no one else in Canada is carrying. They promise that their line of apparel will be unique and different from anything that is currently available on the White Rock strip. There are plans next summer for various competitions and possibly even races that might be tied into other organized community events scheduled for White Rock and the South Surrey. During winter months the store will not be open on a regular basis but rentals and lessons are easy to schedule and Darren can arrange to meet you at Feral to provide you with instruction or equipment as needed. Simply contact him personally by phoning his cell at 778-986-1981 or emailing the office at dwmferal@gmail.com. Darren hopes that his new enterprise will help to bring some much needed excitement to East beach, attracting those who usually focus their attention solely on West beach by the pier.

You don't need to wait for good weather to enjoy the various boardsports offered by Feral. Take advantage of the fall and winter winds to learn how to kiteboard in the shallow waters of East beach. Put on the Gortex jacket and go for a paddle along Crescent Rock beach, taking in the marine bluff ecosystem between White Rock and Crescent Beach. On calm or sunny days, try out a paddleboard on the tidal pools, utilizing your strength and balance to cruise the waters off the promenade. When you live on the West Coast, you have to take what Mother Nature gives you and realize that outdoor water sports take place here on a twelve month basis. Feral Boardsports is a wonderful addition to the White Rock waterfront and deserves the support of the community for giving us a new recreational outlet that will no doubt help to attract tourists on a year round basis to East beach, providing a more balanced playing field to the businesses located along Marine Drive on either side of the Hump hillside.

Check out Feral's website

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 22, 2012



Bully for Surrey & White Rock


The topic of bullying and how to combat it is once again under intense media scrutiny after the recent death of 15-year old Port Coquitlam girl Amanda Todd. In case you have been living in a cave or under a rock, her story card suicide video posted on YouTube has already received nearly 20 million views on the top four links (http://www.facebook.com/#!/rip.amanda.todd.9696?fref=ts) with her cryptic message that is similar in delivery to Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues music video. A Facebook page "RIP Amanda Todd" has received nearly 1.2 million likes and has 4.1 million people talking about the page (http://www.facebook.com/#!/rip.amanda.todd.9696?fref=ts). This weekend, anti-bullying vigils were held in Amanda's honour in forty cities around the world including countries as far away as Sweden and India. Closer to home, upwards of 200 people visited Holland Park in Whalley that was the site for Surrey's anti-bullying memorial held for Todd. Many attending brought flowers and long pink candles which were lit and placed in a circle of flame around Amanda's name. Mayor Dianne Watts, Surrey RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy and other local politicians were in attendance and voiced their concerns about cyber-bullying and the need to speak out against the unethical treatment of others. While Todd's death has put increased scrutiny on Facebook and its ability to make people's life a living hell, you do not have to look far to see people posting taunts and hateful statements about Todd's suicide along with creating sick meme's and inflammatory trolls about her passing. For the internet uninitiated, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory and often off-colour messages online with the intent to provoke readers while a meme is an image with a phrase that spreads across the internet, often because of its subculture or shocking content. While Amanda Todd's death is sad and shocking, it is disturbing that she continues to be bullied even after death.


Unfortunately while Surrey's Mayor is going to bat for the victims of bullying, the Surrey School District is striking out at schoolyard violence including that being used in self-defence. Last week at White Rock Elementary, a six-year-old boy was accosted by another student three years his senior. After being thrown to the ground and bruising a knee that left him limping, the youngster fought back against the older boy who had started the physical altercation. For this, the victim was reprimanded by the school's Principal Ms. Fran Fagan and forced to apologize, the same punishment received by his bully. It turns out that the Surrey School has a blanket policy against violence at schools, including fighting back against someone using physical means. As if taking the fear of the strap out of the schools wasn't enough, you now can't protect yourself against a violent attack and instead are supposed to report the physical confrontation to schoolyard supervisors. If a student decides to fight back against a bully's attack, they will be punished the same as the aggressor, rather than being supported by the educational system. It appears that the Surrey School Board has no plans to change this rather absurd policy so hopefully Mayor Watts will take the bull by the horns and make it acceptable to fight back against physical aggression while at school. I'm wondering if a girl was sexually attacked on school grounds by a young male student, if they would simply have to take it lying down or else be punished for fighting back? Their policy against bullying is pure bull crap and if the trustees running the board can't see how ludicrous this situation is, they all need to be removed from office because as of now, they are part of the bullying experience. Imagine being the young lad who had to apologize for fighting back against a thug that was three years older? What a disgrace and a black eye for the city of Surrey. Nice to hear that this young boy's mother is now fighting back against this injustice.


White Rock Elementary - Scene of the Crime

I know of no one that has not experienced bullying while growing up, including myself and my two children who are now out of school and home. You would think that with increased education about bullying and celebration like the anti-bullying pink shirt day that adolescence violence would be decreasing but unfortunately with the internet, Facebook and YouTube, you can now cyber-bully victims from the comfort of your own home to the entire world. With everyone running around carrying camera phones and with access to photoshop, compromising pictures can be posted online or easily altered to place others in serious social ridicule. Ask children going to school if they think the teachers or principals would help in a bullying situation and most will scoff at the notion and tell you that they are useless as tits on a bull. Most kids feel abandoned by the education system, left to fend off attacks on their own and resorting to joining peer groups to help combat personal or violent attacks. As a tall lanky lad growing up, I was frequently the target of older boys who were bigger than me but diminutive in stature compared to those in their grade level who they could not push around. This only ended when they went to secondary school or I grew much taller and heavier than them and could now not only defend myself but possibly give them back some of their own medicine. What I know of bullies is that they must be challenged at every opportunity. You need to step up and say something against this type of behaviour. You need to come to the rescue of those not strong enough to protect themselves. Most importantly, if you are being bullied by aggressive physical behaviour, you need to fight back. There is nothing a bully hates more than getting their nose bloodied and this is by far the best way of getting them off your back. Self-defence is not violence, it is personal protection and the Surrey School District needs to alter its policy to accept this reality.



If you are married to a bully, you can hopefully leave the abusive relationship and get divorced. If you are being bullied at work, you can report it to your superiors and if they fail to deal with the problem, simply quit and find a safer place to work. Unfortunately with school, you are trapped in a building with the same people for years while navigating the emotional minefield known as adolescence with all of its body changes and hormonal swings that go with it. Resentments can grow, insults will be magnified and weaknesses exposed with others using them to increase their standing in the pecking order that is the hierarchy of all schools. I personally know of three people that I grew up with who took their own lives after being subject to years of ridicule at school and this was long before cyber-bullying became fashionable. As a society and as individuals, we need to stamp out bullying whenever it raises its ugly head and if we are the victims of it, expose it to public scrutiny and fight back hard against it. I'll never forget how I rid myself of a rather pesky bully while still in elementary school. I was riding my bike down the road when he stepped out onto the pavement blocking my way. Stopping didn't seem like a very good option so I decided not to slow down for him. I drove straight forward and at the last second veered to the right, while unfortunately for him he stepped to his left. My front tire went between his legs with the center handlebar post impacting square on his groin. He flew backwards through the air, landing hard on the road and smacking the back of his skull on the pavement. I managed to control my 10-speed without crashing and stood there listening to his whimpering cries as he held one hand to his bloody head and the other to his bruised testicals. While it was tempting to leave him on the road to get run over by the next passing car, I went to his house to alert his parents who came to his aid. While accidental, after this rather serious collision he never bothered me again, hardly speaking to me for years until he moved from the neighbourhood. I'd like to think I knocked some sense into him.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE 9 a.m.

In a front page story released Monday, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that the B.C. Ministry of Education sent a memo to all 60 school districts on Oct. 14 advising teachers not to show their students the Amanda Todd flash card YouTube video that has gone viral. This notice states there are concerns the video might cause "traumatic stimuli" and "may lead vulnerable youth and others to believe that bullying 'causes' suicides which dangerously simplifies a very complex and personal struggle for many individuals." Note to B.C. Education Minister Don McRae: You can't put the genie back in the bottle and this tragic event with its world-wide response should be used to address the serious issue of bullying in our schools that unfortunately does lead some of our young people on the path to self-destruction. Fortunately B.C. Teachers Federation President Susan Lambert is on record stating that, (teachers) should have the ability to make the decision themselves as to whether it is appropriate for their students", many of whom have already viewed it online. I say let the teachers teach, as this life or death subject is more important than much of the pablum we serve up to the students suffering in our schools.

Vancouver Sun Link

 

 

October 15, 2012

Protect Your Pet


This week's TNT is brought to you from the treeless desert wasteland of the Rattlesnake Mountain range near the Hanford Nuclear Site in South-East Washington State where most of the plutonium for America's nuclear weapons was manufactured for decades. As to what I was doing in this out-of-the-way location, let me assure you that it involved camouflage clothing, high-power long-range rifles and shooting against Americans. Not to worry though as the desert cam is worn to hide the dirt, the rifles are being fired at paper targets 1,000 yards away and the Yanks are our good buddies. After listening to packs of coyotes howling near our trailer, watching turkey buzzards circling overhead on daytime thermals and trying not to step on western diamondback rattlesnakes, I thought it was time to alert the residents of the Semi-pen to the ongoing wildlife threats that are endangering our pets.

This summer, attacks by raccoons in both Vancouver and Richmond received wide publicity in the local media. In a couple of altercations in Van-City, aggressive raccoons targeted leashed dogs being walked by their owners in the early morning hours. While the dogs were unscathed, the people were scratched and bitten by raccoons that were focused on the small dogs they had. Whether this was a predatory action or a defensive reaction protecting nearby young is unclear but the owners suffered scratches and deep bites trying to rescue their pets. In Richmond, a family of at least three raccoons spent the summer repeatedly targeting neighbourhood cats, ganging up on them and using their numbers to overpower and kill felines that were allowed outside at night. The same kind of thing is also occurring in White Rock, where friends living on Malabar St. had their cat seriously chewed up last week by several raccoons that seemed fixated on making it their next meal. A customer of mine living at Sunshine Hills in North Delta recently heard their cat screaming one night and came outside to find three raccoons on top of their pet, biting and chewing on its legs and head. It survived this onslaught after the coons were beaten off with a broom but required extensive repairs resulting in a rather hefty veterinary bill. Now both of these wounded cats are no longer allowed to venture outside at night, not that they wish to go into the dark anymore.

Coyotes in the Semi-Pen are also a serious problem with them living in our major parks plus the Ocean Park bluff and using our system of green spaces and nature trails to access suburban neighbourhoods in search of food that unfortunately includes our pets. While I used to have a ferocious tabby cat that would actually attack and shred raccoons foolish enough to meander into our yard, he went out one night and never came back, likely falling prey to the coyote pack that calls Crescent Park home. Only a month ago I saw a rather straggly young coyote walking down the middle of 24 Ave. across the street from Crescent Park Elementary school at 5 o'clock in the evening when everyone was driving home from work, showing that these animals may be preying on pets even during daylight hours. My parents live on top of Chilliwack Mountain and recently had their Maine Coon cat weighing 18 pounds killed by a very large and healthy looking coyote. They let the cat outside the back door at nine o'clock in the morning and watched as it walked across the lawn where it was ambushed by this predator that was laying in wait. They believe the coyote had likely smelled their cat's urine near the back door and it simply waited for them to serve up its next meal when poor old Murphy went for his regular morning stroll. Needless to say, they have warned the rest of the folks living in the mountain through their property owners association about the threat. If you are walking small dogs in forested areas of the Semiahmoo peninsula, it is advised to always keep them on leash and to be prepared to pick them up should an aggressive coyote approach looking to eat your pooch.

 

As if this were not enough, birds of prey can also focus their attention on pets, either at the beach or in our parks. Our small dog that weighs over 20 pounds has been targeted several times by bald eagles that have come in for a closer look to see if it was small enough to attack, hovering only metres above our beloved Juliette's back. I've been told there is an eagle's nest near Morgan Creek that has a colourful collection of cat collars in the bush beneath it. At night, Great Horned and Grey owls patrol pathways in our parks, looking for small furry nocturnal animals for their dinner. You can face large vet bills if a large owl lands on your cat and gives it a good squeeze with razor sharp talons, regardless of whether they can manage to carry it away. Even at home, you should be careful about letting small dogs such as Chihuahuas out at night for a bathroom break, especially if you have heard owls either screeching or hooting in nearby conifers. The smaller Barred owls can also be an issue but this usually involves them attacking female jogger's ponytails on running paths where the motion of the hair looks a lot like a squirrels tail. Unless you have a really ugly dog that looks like a rat with a bushy tail, they should be safe from the Barred owls that often fly during daylight hours.

The bottom line these days is that you had better consider the threat that wildlife can pose to your pet, especially if you own a small dog or cat. Felines are particularly vulnerable at night when their odds of them encountering a predator hunting for a meal are much higher than in the daytime. The best bet is to keep them as indoor pets or at the very least ensure they are safely back in the house long before dark. From my experience, outdoor cats live an average of 3-5 years while indoor cats often have life spans of 15-20 years. Next to being hit by a vehicle, attacks by wildlife are the next most likely cause of violent death for pets. You do not want to experience the anguish my Mother recently had of watching a coyote kill her prized cat right before her eyes before attempting to drag it off into the bush. Maybe even worse is letting your pet out at night to never be seen again, leaving you wondering what really happened to them. To my crazy old tom cat Ziggy, if you are still out there, please come home.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 09, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not



With the Thanksgiving long weekend now over, I have to take pity on the many people rolling your organics and recycling cans to the curb on Tuesday morning, likely stuffed with remnants of Thanksgiving dinner that likely include stuffing. In case you missed it, there no longer is a one day delay for garbage/recycling/compost pickup for most long weekends. It turns out that the many electronic billboards positioned throughout the Semiahmoo peninsula, including three within a block of the KGB and Crescent Rd. were correct about the pickup day. Now the only holidays that will involve a delay in this service will be Christmas and New Year's Day. Of course, if you happen to still be away on the last day of a holiday weekend, I guess you are out of luck and will have to wait a further two weeks for either garbage or recycling pickup. Chances are that by that time, your bin will either be very full, or very stinky. Something tells me that this is something the folks in charge of this program at the City of Surrey hadn't contemplated. The other problem with holiday pickup is that you now have garbage trucks emptying these large plastic totes on city streets starting at 7:30 in the morning. I heard our shiny new garbage truck on Monday morning making a hell of a racket as it circled the neighbourhood dumping recycles from up high. Nothing like getting woken up early on an extra day off to the sound of breaking glass and slamming metal is there?



Although I believe the City of Surrey has tried to put its best foot forward in starting this new ambitious refuse collection system, there are obviously lots of kinks to be worked out, especially in the first few weeks of operation. If you visit the city's www.surrey.ca website, the very first thing that pops into view is a picture of the new monolithic waste cans and information about the "New Waste Collection Program" along with instructions as to what is being accepted for the week. Directly under that is a tab for the "Waste Can Hotline" where they readily admit that they are receiving a "high volume of phone calls about the new program, asking Surrey resident's patience and giving an online form to provide your feedback instead of calling the hotline (604-590-7289, 8:00am to 4:00pm, Mon-Fri, excluding statutory holidays). While my own garbage pickup has gone off without a hitch, I do know that others are not quite so lucky. My daughter came home on Monday night to find her new bins had finally been dropped off at her new townhouse, interestingly only a few blocks north of City hall on 144 St. When we were going to a family dinner that evening, I saw three garbage trucks heading into south Surrey on Crescent Road at 5:30 p.m., which by my math is ten hours after the start of the work day, something that has to be costing tax payers a fortune in overtime on a stat holiday. This is nothing of course, compared to the accident last Thursday where one of the Progressive Waste Solutions trucks owned by BFI snagged an overhead electrical line in Whalley, snapping the power pole, causing a loud explosion and leaving the transformer ablaze on the ground with the neighbourhood in the dark.

I also have issues with the change in the organics containers that the city has supplied to all of its residential homes plus selected townhouse sites. If you look at the picture I took of the original test cans back on Nov. 10, 2010 (scroll way down into the archives) you will notice a thick rubber strap on the black topped organics can. This bungee cord-like apparatus was designed to keep the bin closed in order to keep animals away that might be attracted to the odour of rotting food including meat products and bones that are now allowed into the compost. Unfortunately the new bins have no way of closing them securely, meaning that if you have nowhere to safely store them inside, they are now temping targets for nocturnal visitors. Around my home we have gangs of masked bandits resembling raccoons that are quite adept at knocking over even heavy garbage cans. I believe it is only a matter of time until they figure out how to climb to the top of the new bins and either tip them over or simply lift the lid to get an evening smorgasbord. There are also packs of coyotes to contend with if they are not already full after eating yet another pet cat let out for the night, and free-range dogs like those of my wonderful neighbour who seems to take great delight in letting his animals loose on garbage day morning so they get at least one good meal a week. I've decided the best remedy is to simply drill a small hole in the middle of the front of the compost tote lid and can and slip in an appropriately sized padlock that will keep the foodstuffs safe and sound. Hopefully I won't be accused of vandalizing city owned property but I really detest cleaning up rotten garbage from my front entranceway where we have a rather convenient storage spot. Luckily enough we don't have bears to deal with in Surrey but other cities and municipalities that may be considering utilizing this same technology needs to think about some form of latching mechanism.

The new under-the-counter compost pail provided by the City of Surrey seemed attractive enough that my old stainless steel pail with matching lid was put away in favour of the new fangled plastic model. I must admit, I kind of liked the green colour that I thought was rather appropriate and used it for the food scraps that go into my home composting unit. Imagine my surprise when I opened it this weekend to discover that it was abuzz with a cloud of fruit flies! Now that the pesky little buggers are in our kitchen, it is almost impossible to get them out even though we are swatting and putting out wine traps for them (they seem to prefer the Merlot to the Cab-Sav). While the lid has a fine mesh of very tiny holes, likely to release methane and other gases, I don't think that they are big enough to even allow a fruit fly to enter. The problem seems to be the ill-fitting lid, that even when latched in the closed position still has a large gap on the front big enough to let in a big blue-bottle fly, let alone the cloud of fruit flies that no doubt were breeding there. Imagine going to put excess food into your compost pail to discover that what looks like rice is actually squirming maggots? Now put this into your big compost bin in the summer and wait to see what happens in a week's time. While science experiments are fun, I really don't think you'd want to be doing them with your garbage. The cute little green Surrey compost bin has now been dumped and cleaned out, replaced by the old stainless steel pail that I've used for years. Something tells me it will be back to the drawing board on this one if it turns out to be a problem in the 97,000 kitchens across the city. More buzz on that later.



By mid-month the city has promised to start collecting any old garbage cans or blue boxes that you may wish to dispose of. With the early growing pains already being experienced with this large change in waste collection, I'd be surprised if it is not postponed to allow crews to become more accustomed to the new equipment and service routes. Before you turn in your old containers, realize that they can still be put on the curb on the appropriate day to hold excess organics (Greencan sticker required) or recycling, with extra garbage being okay as long as a paid sticker available from city hall is attached. Likewise, you can also ask for a smaller or larger tote in either of the three colours, should the ones first delivered not match the needs of your household. Obviously a single person living alone will probably not need a monster tote, while a home with a suite (or suites, this is Surrey after all) will have much greater capacity requirements. I'm sure that with time, eventually all of these problems will sort themselves out and we will see far greater recycling and diversion from our ever shrinking landfills. Until that happens, I would suggest keeping the following two City of Surrey waste web addresses on your favourites list so that they can be quickly accessed should you have any questions or concerns about this new waste collection service. The second one even has a handy-dandy app for your smart phone to keep you informed of the new waste collection schedule.
http://surrey.ca/city-services/4548.aspx
http://www.surrey.ca/rethinkwaste/

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Oct. 1, 2012

Ramsar and the Fraser River Delta



I managed to complete all of my household chores early on Sunday and headed down to the waterfront south of Crescent Beach to catch the last few rays of the season. Soaking in the sun watching as it sank towards the horizon, the placid ocean between Crescent Rock Beach and Tsawwassen looked the same as any other time this summer, yet a profound difference has recently been bestowed upon the waters of Boundary Bay and beyond. On Sept. 22, the Switzerland based Ramsar Convention of Wetlands secretariat announced they had designated 20,682 hectares of land at the Fraser River Delta as a "Ramsar Wetland of International Significance" giving this region the highest designation for protection of wetlands. This new conservation site includes the wildlife preserves of Sturgeon Bank, South Arm Marshes in Richmond, Alaksen on Westham Island and Burns Bog in Delta, plus Boundary Bay and the Serpentine River Estuary in Surrey.

For those not familiar with Ramsar, it is a Convention of Wetlands that was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 which created an intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for international cooperation for the world-wide conservation of wetlands. There are presently 163 members signed onto to the Convention, with over 2,000 wetland sites totalling 120.5 million hectares included in the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. Currently there are thirty-seven Ramsar sites in Canada totalling over thirteen million hectares of protected wetlands with seventeen of these in national wildlife preserves or migratory bird sanctuaries. The Fraser River Delta Ramsar Site is an important migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds that include large flocks of Western Sandpiper. It provides feeding and roosting sites for over a quarter million migratory waterfowl plus and an estimated one million shorebirds. The nutrient rich waters of the Fraser River basin create diverse and plentiful schools of feeder fish capable of supporting dense wildlife populations and is one of the more critical habitats for shorebirds in the province of British Columbia.

The Corporation of Delta played an integral part in achieving this Ramsar certification, beginning in 2004 with the acquisition and protection of Burns Bog that was made possible with the help of all four levels of government including the GVRD, now known as Metro Vancouver. After years of lobbying the federal government including sending delegations to Ottawa the past few years culminating with Delta Mayor Lois Jackson meeting with Conservative Environment Minister Peter Kent, an application to the Ramsar Secretariat was accepted earlier this year. The Boundary Bay Conservation Committee of which I am a member as president of SUN, the Burns Bog Conservation Society and all levels of government were singled out for praise by independent South Delta MLA Vicki Huntington who also thanked all levels of government for their help in making this important ecological designation a reality. Unfortunately while the Ramsar designation protects large portions of the Fraser River delta, there is an elephant in the room that conveniently has been left out. The Roberts Bank region that is the site of the proposed Terminal Two container port expansion project at Deltaport being promoted by Port Metro Vancouver and connected to the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Gateway Program was not included in the federal Conservative government's approved designation. It is decisions such as this that make many believe it is only a matter of time until most of Delta is paved over, similar to what has happened previously in Richmond.



Another serious problem with the Ramsar certification is the lack of any form of enforceable public use regulations that would protect shorebirds and their habitat from the recreational demands of the growing population in the Fraser Valley. Low flying ultra-light aircraft regularly fly just above the beaches of Boundary Bay, targeting flocks of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, getting them to fly while the misguided pilots get some perverted sort of thrill from harassing wildlife. I've seen this personally with Bald Eagles being chased away from their catch by pilots excited to see a flying eagle up close. Some dog owners seemingly take great joy in releasing their pets so that they can disrupt thousands of feeding or roosting birds from Crescent Beach in Surrey to Centennial in Tsawwassen. Kayakers and paddle boarders traverse areas of Mud Bay that formerly were used almost exclusively by wildlife. Kite-boarders now routinely invaded the shallow waters during wind storms and and Kite-carters roll their wind-powered machines on sand flats frequented by Sand pipers, Plovers and waterfowl. Add to this the use of wetsuits and thermal protective clothing, the result is that many areas of the Ramsar Fraser River Delta are regularly utilized for recreation to the detriment of wildlife even during cold and rainy months when they are most vulnerable.

With Roberts Bank being purposely excluded from the Ramsar by Steven Harper's Conservative government and crown corporations such as the Vancouver Airport, Boundary Bay Airport, Port Metro Vancouver and the railways having an adverse impact on the habitat of migratory birds in the Ramsar area, is it not time to properly protect the waterfront wildlife areas from human intervention? We need regulations with teeth and proper enforcement to ensure that habitat is protected and that wildlife is not harassed, whether by accident or for people's entertainment. Considering the damage being caused by the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, Deltaport expansion and ever increasing railway siding building that is burying acres of farmland, parkland and nature preserves, more crown foreshore needs to be put aside free of human interference to compensate for these losses. Perhaps it is time to ban hunting from all foreshore habitat in the lower mainland, constraining the harvesting of waterfowl to inland agricultural fields where migratory birds have a direct impact on farming. Only by implementing strategies like these can we reverse the steady decline of birds in Canada, estimated in a report released earlier this year to have declined by twelve percent from levels in the 1970's.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Read what RAMSAR says about their efforts to protect our area

 

 

September 24, 2012

Turn To Stone


The recent publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton taken with a telephoto lens while she was vacationing at a French chalet created headlines around the globe last week, but to me the scandal was not the fact that Prince William's wife was sunbathing, but the response from the media, the Royals and the public. In France along with many other countries from around the world, topless sunbathing is quite the norm and something that barely raises an eyebrow. Unfortunately society in so-called developed regions including North America seem to have swallowed the Playboy lie and believe that breasts are a sex object instead of a perfectly designed baby food delivery station. To see how we view male and female breasts in a completely different light, Prince William was also topless on the same patio as his new wife with his nipples showing, yet not a word was printed about how they were basically dressed in the same manner. So much for equality of the sexes! Of course it doesn't help that photos of Prince Harry showing off his crown jewels while playing strip pool in Las Vegas also recently surfaced. Whatever happened to the old slogan, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" dammit?

This weekend my wife and I plus several friends went on a road trip and visited both the Sloquet and Skookumchuck hot springs in the Lillooet area north of Whistler in a region dotted with geothermal vents. If you have never visited a natural hot spring in B.C., you should be advised that because of their remote locations and wilderness settings, many women go topless with a large number of people including families with children soaking in the hot mineral water free of clothing. Nobody stares, nobody gawks and it is considered completely normal behaviour that does not attract unwanted attention or sexual advances. It is worth noting that there are people at the springs who will wear bathing suits during the day but not at night, likely being more comfortable with the glow of a few tea lights than the glaring light of the sun. While most of the weekend was cloudy, on Sunday while driving home down Lillooet Lake, we passed several B.C. forest campsites and could not help but notice that several women were taking advantage of the last warming rays of the years to get rid of tan lines. If you venture down to Crescent Rock Beach in south Surrey, nude sun tanning is the norm as this stretch of shoreline between Crescent Beach and White Rock has been officially recognized by the local RCMP as being legal for clothing-optional use.

What bothers me about the Kate Middleton photos are the way they were taken and the complete lack of respect to the Royal's privacy. At Wreck beach, there is a no photo policy as people are there to relax and not worry about voyeurs or professional photographers trying to capitalize on their naturalness. Some people will announce they are taking personal pictures of friends or family members to ensure that those who happen to end up in backgrounds of pictures are comfortable with being photographed. If you are caught taking voyeuristic pictures of people at Wreck, you will be asked to clear your film or digital images and leave the beach. Failing that it is likely your camera will end up on the rocks and if not careful, it may not be the only thing broken as several perverts have experienced over the years. The long-lens photos of the Royals on a patio they likely thought was private is an invasion of privacy and should not be used for profit. We have a private backyard but if a neighbour was to climb onto their roof with a camera and take pictures of us on our patio, would these be fair game for media publication (disregarding the photo at the top of this column of course)? Even people relaxing on a public nude beach should not have to worry about their photo being taken and printed in newspapers, magazines or posted on the net. Without consent, this is a serious breach of privacy, regardless of how that person feels about being seen by others without clothes.



The Royals have responded through the courts and have received an injunction against the French paper that chose to originally publish the blurry far away shots. Unfortunately there are two more rags in other countries that are stepping up to also put these pictures to print with some reports suggesting there may be up to 70 photographs that were taken of the young Royal couple soaking up some sun. With the internet, once photographs are release it is like trying to put the genie back in the bottle, with these images being copies and distributed throughout the web for perpetuity. Of course, if nobody cared or were interested and refused to purchase the newspapers or magazines carrying nude photos of celebrities taken without their knowledge or consent, then this wouldn't be a problem would it? Until people take the personal responsibility for not endorsing this type of behaviour, it is likely that it will require laws to be passed throughout the world making this activity illegal with heavy fines to ensure that it is not profitable for the sleazy owners of these despicable publications. Until then cross your fingers, for if nude photos of Mayor Dianne Watts happen to surface, I'd like to think they would not appear in the pages of the Surrey Now, Peace Arch News, or especially the White Rock Sun for that matter.

Besides taking a stand for personal privacy and control over the publication of photos without consent, Kate Middleton is now in a rather unique position to take a stand on the over sexualisation of women's bodies, especially their breasts. As luck would have it, a rather picturesque beach couple of miles away from the Welsh home of William and Kate is the subject of calls to make it an official nudist area. Newborough beach on the west coast of the island of Anglesey in England attracts naturists and nudists to its natural setting of sand dunes bordering forest. Rather than simply fighting against the paparazzi and media mogul slime balls, why not endorse a more wholesome and non-sexual way of looking at our bodies, instead of the one perpetuated by modern media that results in body image disorders, self-image problems and sexual dysfunction? Could you imagine the media storm if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to visit the naturist beach on a regular basis? For these Royals to draw a line in the sand and say that nude sun tanning, especially simply being topless for a woman, was completely normal, natural and socially acceptable, it is quite likely that many pornographers would quickly go out of business and we might start looking at each other as people instead of sex toys. Until then, realize that a woman's right to go topless anywhere in Canada is the same as a man's and protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 17, 2012


Paved Over Park



While the illegal destruction of some trees at a development in Newton has created headlines this weekend, nearby parkland is being razed without barely raising an eyebrow. Just south of Panorama Ridge is one of Surrey's newest nature areas, known as Colebrook Park. It runs from the KGB CN Railway overpass west to near where Colebrook Road crosses over the train tracks. The city of Surrey has been quietly purchasing land along this area and bulldozing the old houses tucked into the edge of the forest besides the substantial grasslands that exist there. This location provides a key natural buffer between the open farmlands and the residential neighbourhoods up the hill which run into Newton. It is home to various creatures including many varieties of birds, owls and hawks, coyotes and a herd of black tail deer. When an old farm building was torn down several years ago, Surrey built a barn-like structure on a pole in this region as habitat replacement for barn owls (including similar min-barns at Elgin Park and Mounds Farm). Unfortunately for all the good that Surrey is doing to preserve this spot, the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program trumps any desire that Major Watts and Surrey First has to save it from development.



The stretch of tracks below Panorama Ridge is being altered as part of the Panorama Ridge Whistle Cessation Program that is a small part of the many overpasses being built over the train tracks including at the nearby 152 St. Recently large bulldozers and articulated earthmovering trucks began laying down ballast rock next to the Colebrook tracks where there are plans to build a 12,000 foot siding to accommodate the ever increasing train traffic including BNSF coal trains headed north into Canada from the United States. Besides increasing rail capacity, a large swath of the newly assembled Colebrook Park wildlife area is now also feeling the bite of the bulldozer blade for a related reason. As part of the effort to reduce motor vehicle crossings, a total of 21 acres of prime park/pasture/farmland along with some forested area is now being buried under gravel and asphalt as Colebrook Road is realigned to the north side of the tracks. The existing Colebrook Rd. will be retained to service the farm properties to the south with the current railway crossing being removed allowing for unimpeded freight traffic. This will eliminate the need for trains to blow their whistles at this main crossing plus several other less used locations, something that has infuriated members of the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association for years. For complete details on the scope of this project, visit the following link:
http://www.robertsbankrailcorridor.ca/proposed-projects/panorama-ridge/_rbrc_project



While I have not been told the total market value of the property involved as appraisals are not yet complete, Surrey will be financially compensated by Transport Canada,Port Mtro Vancouver and the railway companies for the land being lost with this money earmarked by Surrey to purchase further parkland as part of their Parks Acquision Fund. Unfortunately what is being lost in Colebrook Park is the scale of the entire parkland site. The larger the piece of property the more wildlife it can support, making the twenty-one acres being bulldozed more valuable than its monetary cost per acre. Whether the Parks Department will be able to acquire land that will be able to fully compensate for the decrease in size at this already assembled natural area remains to be seen. The Gateway program with the South Fraser Perimeter Road has already gobbled up over 300 acres of prime farmland in Delta, not including the 200 acres in the ALR at the Tsawwassen First Nations that will be developed for port expansion and for a large mall development that I promise to never set foot in. Of course there are also plans to create a huge warehouse and industrial complex near the Deltaport including a 12,500 rail yard that can be used to deal with the increasing container traffic from Asia that should instead be directed to Prince Rupert. Add to this the amount of protected land lost to roadway expansion in the Surrey, Langley and Delta region over the past few years and we are seeing a continuous erosion in the arable land in the Lower Mainland that will be available to feed future generations.



There is one positive development to the Colebrook Road Realignment Project other than the people of Panorama Ridge being able to get a good night's sleep free from the constant high-decibel blare of train whistles. The Panorama/Colebrook Park area has a very high water table and is criss-crossed with old drainage ditches and small streams. The City of Surrey, obviously aware of the environmental loss associated with this project has decided to include the construction of a riparian wetland adjacent to the north Colebrook Rd., creating an artificial wetland that will be connected to the existing streams, drainage ditches and culverts that flow towards the Serpentine River and Boundary Bay. I have been promised that there will be a "significant fisheries creek" built there along with "extensive environmental planting" which will hopefully increase the overall quality of this natural area. This will undoubtedly resemble the area between Hwy. 91 and the Delta Golf course or along the lower edge of the Watershed Park where man-made waterways have been created to help offset other areas where development and infrastructure programs have resulted in environmental degradation. Surrey does not yet have design details or drawings on what has been proposed but I trust this will be forthcoming in the near future, possibly along with a community meeting where the plans can be reviewed by the public with any questions, comments and concerns being addressed.

Learn more watch the video

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Septmeber 10, 2012

 

What Goes Up, Must Come Down



Reports of UFO's flying in formation above White Rock last week should be viewed with suspicion and scepticism for while there are many who would like to believe we are being visited by aliens in spacecraft from other worlds, it is likely there is a very terrestrial explanation for what was observed. On Sunday night, Sept. 4th, folks walking the pier saw bright orange globes in the sky, with one after another appearing until there was a line of ten of them strung across the city. Shortly after they were first spotted, they slowly started to blink out one by one until the sky was black again. While flying saucers piloted by green men cannot be dismissed, it is likely they were Chinese sky lanterns (also known as Khoom Fay or UFO balloons), paper globes that work like small hot air balloons which are popular and common in asian culture. They are released in mass in several festivals including many in China and Thailand and are also now being used by cultures world-wide for weddings, birthdays and other notable occasions.

Sky lanterns have been an Asian tradition for hundreds of years with them now being used across Europe and recently available in North America, being shipped from overseas businesses and even an office in Vancouver. They consist of a thin paper balloon, a small lightweight frame that is usually metal and a flame source that once ignited fills the balloon with hot air lifting it into the sky. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours allowing people to customize their aerial displays. Newer versions now use fireproof paper but this does not ensure that the flame which powers them will not ignite other objects. These balloons will travel up to a mile high and often drift for miles in the direction of the prevailing wind. Once the fuel cell burns out, they will then descend to the ground if everything goes as planned. Sky lanterns can be purchased for as low as a dollar each and usually come in a package of ten, the same number of lights that were seen over the Rock in a coincidence that is likely anything but.



When I was a teenager, a friend of mine who lived in Surrey produced his own version using ultra light weight materials and a contained flame source (I won't go into details as don't want kids in the Semi-pen making their own). We would build several of these rather flimsy devices and on calm nights in the fall or spring when the ground was wet, would take them to the shores of Mud Bay to launch them. This area was chosen to hopefully eliminate the possibility of starting either a field, tree or house on fire. These homemade balloons operated perfectly and would cast a eerie glow as they bobbed along in the wind currents, often above Hwy. 99, causing traffic jams as startled motorists pulled over to watch the strange apparition in the sky. While I don't remember reading about UFO's above Boundary Bay during that time, I would not be surprised if these home-made balloons were reported as a UFO sighting. As far as we are aware, these mini-hot air balloons consumed their fuel and went out long before they crash landed miles away from where they were released.

Unfortunately while they are interesting to watch, sky lanterns pose a variety of risks to human structures and the environment. The main hazard is fire as these lanterns, even the ones now made with fire retardant paper, can easily drift into nearby trees or buildings setting them ablaze. Sometimes they will land before the flame is extinguished, resulting in grass fires or shingles on houses being set alight. The wire hoop that supports the base can entangle wild animals and there have been cases of owls and other large birds getting wrapped in old lanterns. The spent lanterns also land in pasture land with the wire getting chopped into pieces with the hay and then fed to cows, injuring or killing them. When launched near airports, they pose a risk to low-flying planes and their glow at night can often be misinterpreted as a signal flare, especially in a marine environment such as off the shores of White Rock. Because of house fires, forest fires, electrical blackouts and animals deaths, sky lanterns are now banned in jurisdictions around the world including Vietnam, Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and others with many areas looking at blocking this incendiary device.

Because of house fires, forest fires, electrical blackouts and animals deaths, sky lanterns are now banned in areas (jurisdictions) around the world including Vietnam, Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and others with many jurisdictions looking at blocking this incendiary device.



I was in Peachland on Sunday, Sept 9th when a small fire was suddenly whipped by winds into a fast moving forest fire that caused the evacuation of 1,500 residents including myself, my wife Sheryl and our two friends who we were visiting. In the space of an hour, the slight smell of smoke turned into a thick cloud that stretched across Okanagan Lake to Kelowna. We were given an evacuation notice and began packing our possessions into our vehicles, something we were going to do anyways. In a matter of minutes, the fire exploded in size with ash, soot and cinders filling the air. When smouldering embers began plunking to the ground around our convertible, we decided it was too hazardous to stay any longer and drove away from danger. Our friends made it out safely and as of deadline are still awaiting word on whether their house was destroyed by the flames. If it was Chinese sky lanterns that were seen above White Rock, they were launched during a very dry time when the forest fire hazard was at a high to extreme rating. The city of Surrey has recently posted signs warning against smoking on or near park trails because of the fire risk. It might be wise for local governments to realize the safety and environmental risk that Chinese sky lanterns pose and considering banning their sale or use before they become a big problem in our neighbourhoods, no matter how pretty they might appear when drifting overhead.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 04, 2012

Where's A Cop When You Need One?



How many times when you are driving do you see people flagrantly violating the rules of the road, otherwise known as the Motor Vehicle Act, and ask yourself the question in the title above? Sometimes this will be a minor transgression such as someone changing lanes without signalling or doing a rolling stop through an intersection. Other times it may be a driver travelling above the posted speed limit or possibly going too slow (old men with hats in WR maybe?) keeping in mind that anyone travelling faster than you is a maniac while those going slower are idiots. We can't have cops standing on every street corner and probably wouldn't want to live in such a police state anyways let alone be able to afford it. What few people realize is that when you see particularly offensive driving behaviour such as street racing, dangerous driving, or those travelling without due care and attention, you can step up to the plate, gather information on the offending vehicle and driver and report it to the police who will then investigate the case and possibly lay charges or write tickets based on your statement.

I found this out years ago when I saw a van in Langley blow through a red light, turning onto Fraser Hwy. directly in front of me. I was instantly on alert considering how dangerous this manoeuvre was and followed the vehicle to the next major intersection where he attempted to stop for another red light, this time at 264 St. in Aldergrove. Though his tail lights activated, the van did not slow down, entering the intersection as traffic started to move for those vehicles who had the green. A car coming from the left saw the van and slammed on the brakes to avoid being hit and the red light runner had to swerve around a tractor trailer driving from the right, actually jumping the concrete centre curbing. It was obvious to me that the offending vehicle had no brakes and was unable to slow, yet alone stop. I already had the van's licience plate number and a description and reported it to the Langley RCMP later that day, concerned that this vehicle would eventually be involved in an accident or possibly kill someone. The police took this matter seriously, going to the farm where the vehicle was kept and towing it into a shop for a mechanical inspection where it was confirmed the braking system was completely worn out. The driver was charged with a variety of offences and the van not released until the needed repairs were made to make it road worthy. I was subpoenaed to appear in court, something that was an annoyance yet necessary to protect both myself along with the travelling public and what I saw as my civic duty.



On the Labour Day long weekend, I was travelling along Vedder Road in Sardis, Chilliwack, which is a four lane road with a double solid line separating the two lanes travelling in either direction. Traffic was moving at slightly above the posted limit and there were plenty of cars in both lanes going my direction. Imagine my surprise when an Acura sedan pulled into oncoming traffic to pass a car carrying an elderly couple with a disabled decal who was already driving above the speed limit with the flow of traffic. Accelerating to double the speed limit, the Acura driver cut back into the proper lane moments before being involved in a head-on collision with several cars. This wonderful maneuver was even more ridiculous when you realize that Vedder Rd. is a busy thoroughfare with plenty of intersections and I easily caught up to this offender at the next traffic light without even speeding. I took the licience plate and vehicle information along with time and location and promised myself that before I left town after being the barbeque chef for my parent's party, I would report what I had seen to the Chilliwack RCMP. What I failed to realize was that with cell phones, if you see people driving in an erratic and unsafe manner, the police would like you to contact them immediately with the pertinent information so that they can intercept the car and identify the driver. The last time I saw this car was as it headed east onto Hwy. 1, but an investigation has now been launched and officers will be contacting the registered owner to find out who was driving and possibly law charges of either dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention. Driving is the most dangerous activity we do on a regular basis and those threatening other peoples lives and showing no concern for others must be held accountable. I say this after being at the site of many horrific accidents over the years including some involving fatalities with myself often being the first motorist on scene. I have seen too much twisted metal, mangled bodies and blood, watching as people with serious injuries are placed into ambulances for a ride to the hospital and life-long disabilities.

While not a member of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) I have successfully taken several drunks off the road by alerting the police. In both of the cases I have been involved with, I came across drivers who were so obviously impaired that they posed a serious threat not only to themselves and their passengers but anybody around them. I'm not talking about slightly meandering from one side of the lane to the other but driving onto the gravel of the shoulder and then half way into the oncoming lane. Following a truck in Whistler on Hwy. 99 several years ago, in the space of only a few miles I saw a suspected drunk driver almost run over a pedestrian, narrowly miss two cars at intersections where they had the right of way and then avoid a head-on crash with a motorcyclist only because the bike driver managed to swerve out of the way. In this case I did phone the RCMP immediately with my concerns and they radioed to a cruiser further down the highway who pulled over the suspect vehicle. The driver was charged with driving under the influence along with a variety of other offences. I had to appear in court which was a major inconvenience considering it was held in Pemberton but the driver eventually pled guilty after several attempts to delay the proceedings, likely hoping I would not follow up on this case and show up as promised. Besides large fines, they lost their driver's licience for a year and hopefully learned their lesson that drinking and driving do not mix. If you witness driving behaviour where you believe the person behind the wheel is likely impaired, it is your duty to alert the police and take them off the road. Can you imagine not reporting a suspected drunk driver, watching them speed off and eventually coming across a crash involving the same vehicle, or even worse, them involved in an accident involving other cars?



If you don't have hands-free cellular phone capability in your vehicle, don't worry as the law governing the prohibition of hand-held electronic devices has exemptions for contacting emergency services. You can call ECOM 911 or your local police department while driving without worrying about the rather nasty $167 ticket that goes along with talking on your cell phone. You need to realize that by informing the police about dangerous or possibly impaired drivers that it is possible you may be subpoenaed to show up in court to provide evidence to support any charges that get laid. I look at this as a minor problem when compared to allowing street racers to rip of the road or drunks to maim and kill innocents in our neighbourhoods. We do not need cops on every corner to make our roads safer, what we require is motorists will cell phones to realize that they hold the power in their hands to get drivers off the road when they are using their vehicles as weapons. Don't waste police time and resources by reporting minor traffic offences but if you witness dangerous or impaired driving, do everyone a favour and call the police immediately with the offending vehicle information and location. If possible and without endangering yourself and others, you can discretely follow them until such time as the police are able to intercept them. Just like how this summer the Surrey RCMP were able to pull over several high-end sports cars for street racing at speeds over 200 kmh on Hwy. 99 because of phone calls from several concerned citizens, working together drivers can be the eyes and ears of police officers, keeping our streets safer and getting these dangerous drivers off the road.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 27, 2012


"Botts" Beaten Black and Blue



I wanna see it painted black, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun, blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black
Yeah, hmm, hmm, hmm...
(Lyrics from the Rolling Stones song "Paint it Black")


When Dan Bottrill was selected as the new White Rock City Manager, I made sure I took the time to contact him directly, congratulate him on his new position and as an old family friend warn him that politics in this small seaside town were often petty and and taken to extremes. I'll bet that Mr. Bottrill had no idea that changing the colour of the safety railings protecting the BNSF Railway tracks alongside the WR Promenade would create such a stir in the community. South Surrey resident Donna Burns is seeing red that the "City By The Sea" has decided to change the colour of the railings from a bright blue to a jet gloss black, receiving front page media coverage about this story. Nearly 4 km. of railings along with light standards and other related objects are going to be painted in a maintenance project that began last month and is scheduled to be finished as the end of August with a price tag estimated at between $60,000 to $70,000. When completed the Promenade railings will match the new railings installed along Marine Drive on the Hump hillside plus the ornate light poles and lighted archways costing $415,000 that now grace the WR Pier. The decision to undertake this railing painting project and the colour selection was made by Mr. Bottrill, with WR Council being aware of the plans and discussing its merits. While Dan is pleased with the black railings, Mrs. Burns has likened it to the view one would see from the inside of a prision.

What many people don't realize is that the metal railings across the waterfront on both side of the BNSF Railway tracks are a relatively new feature resulting from a pedestrian fatality on the waterfront only fifteen years ago in 1997. On February 20th of that year, 12-year-old Lief Everson, his 10-year-old brother and a friend were crossing the tracks, going from the beach to buy candy from a nearby corner store near the old train station. Lief was struck and killed by the Amtrak passenger train which had resumed its Seattle to Vancouver run several years earlier. As a result of this accident and another that happened two years before where a teenage girl was injured, Transport Canada lowered the rail speed from 30 to 21 mph for the mile stretch of the WR waterfront between East and West beach. The BNSF Railway was also instructed to install safety railings and warning signage along the Promenade so they would be in place before the summer season when crowds of people would again be lining the tracks. These were erected and painted blue to blend in with the ocean environment, rather than utilizing a bright colour that would normally be used for safety railings protecting an industrial rail line passing through a heavily used marine recreational site with crowds sometimes numbering over 100,000 people during festivals.



I find it entertaining that the new colour of these railings is upsetting to some people, when what they are protecting is a century old railway line. I think the black colour of the railings matches perfectly with the black of the continuous steel rails in the railway corridor. The black paint also ties in exactly with the black of the oily creosoted railway ties which support the tracks. In fact, with two horizontal rails the safety railing actually could be viewed as being a perfect match for the train tracks, with the numerous vertical support posts representing the ties, especially when viewed from an angle down the Promenade. I have to wonder if Mr. Bottrill was also considering how well the new colour would match with the black paint used on much of the otherwise orange and yellow BNSF diesel locomotives? Black railings will also look magnificent should the historic Royal Hudson ever come steaming back into town. It also makes a fashion statement with the increasing number of black coal trains from the U.S. along with the black tankers cars containing everything from gasoline to sulphuric acid and chlorine gas. While it has been pointed out that some business across Marine Drive have trimmed their facades in blue, there are many more that are painted black which will make them even trendier. For White Rock, "black is the new black" dare I say, showing the versatility of this idea at the expense of the popularity of the old blue colour.

I believe that the railings on either side of the BNSF tracks in White Rock should be painted in colours normally used for safety railings next to a dangerous location capable of causing serious injury or death. Instead of trying to blend into the ocean environment with blue or match with components of the industrial rail line with black, these railings should instead be painted yellow, orange or red. It is these colours that warn people to the danger of the railway tracks, not scenic blue to blend into the ocean or black that disappears at night. Considering that the safety rails are only feet away from passing freight trains and their heavy loads, I think that not utilizing bright warning colours increases the threat of a train/pedestrian collision. I've seen parents walking with children directly down the tracks in White Rock oblivious to the danger and teenagers acting cool by sitting on the top safety rail as freight trains pass by mere feet away. The railings also need to have a small vertical strip of steel welded to the top of them, discouraging people from using them as a narrow bench. If "Botts" wants to really make a fashion statement for the safety railings next to the BNSF tracks, instead of trendy black why not utilize either the bright orange or yellow colours used for the BNSF locomotives? There is a reason why this railway uses orange and yellow for their engine colours while CN and CP utilize fire engine red. They are easy to see and are used to indicate danger, hopefully not leaving people black and blue or worse after being struck by a train.



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 21, 2012


Poleish Joke



Don't worry, I will not be utilizing this column in the WR Sun to deride, ridicule and abuse those fine folks of Polish ancestry. After all, it was Poles who first bore the brunt of invasion by Nazi Germany (and the Soviet Union) in World War 2, kicked off the yoke of communism and broke free from the USSR in an act that led to the demise of the Soviet empire, and who also make those sweet little sesame seed wafer snacks sold worldwide. Come to think of it, those off-colour jokes we unfortunately told in the schoolyard as children (even though we didn't know any Polish people) had little relation to reality which is one of the reasons that we fortunately don't hear them anymore. The "poles" that are a joke here in the Semi-Pen are the B.C. Hydro utility poles along North Bluff Rd. on the south side of 16th Ave. separating Surrey and White Rock. I've previously taken Hydro and "The City by the Sea" to task in previous TNT's about these dangerous power poles left in the asphalt when the road was widened years ago (Feb. 13, 2011 & Feb. 8, 2010). Unfortunately B.C. Hydro doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about negative publicity or public safety and they appear to be still up to their stupid old tricks on this major thoroughfare.

After originally putting yellow caution tape on the offending poles several years back, including a handful that were located within five different intersections entering White Rock, my weekly rant put both the City of White Rock and Hydro on notice to the public safety danger posed by leaving these relics in the street. To their credit White Rock responded, albeit in the typical glacial speed of most governments, putting up safety signs and then repositioning both sidewalks and parking spots east of Johnston Rd. (152 St.) so that it was safer for both automobiles and pedestrians alike. It is my understanding that there are future plans once funds become available, to ensure that all the poles on White Rock's northern border are taken off the street. A year and a half ago, showing that the dreaded lawyer Murphy reads the WR Sun, a motorist driving a GM Humvee smashed her large SUV into the very first of these offending poles heading eastbound into the Rock from Surrey past 136 St./Bergstrom St. The old wooden pole was sheared in two, the power line fell into a nearby fir tree in a shower of sparks and the heavy transformer fell with a bang onto the sidewalk at the bus stop, fortunately without anyone getting electrocuted or killed including the driver.

After this accident, B.C. Hydro responded by relocating this destroyed pole off the roadway away from the bus stop, putting it into the sidewalk where it was safely away from passing vehicles. At the same time, they also marked a large concrete power pole at the nearby ESSO station at 140 St./Nichol Rd. for relocation, spray painting a target marker marked "Pole" into the sidewalk as was also done down the street. Though contacted frequently by WR Sun editor Dave Chesney, Hydro staff never answered questions about when this pole might be moved or if was being done for safety reasons involving the nearby gasoline pumps. This pole still remains in the roadway with the orange spray paint faded into obscurity but Hydro was busy last week taking early steps to install a new pole at nearby Cory Rd. a block away. This is one of the intersections where there is already a pole sitting a foot out from the curb into the intersection. For reasons unknown, B.C. Hydro crews have cut a round hole in the asphalt, dug a large amount of dirt out for installation of a new pole and dropped a fresh wooden pole in the gutter just up the street. What I find hard to believe is the new hole is yet another foot further into this intersection and if installed in this hole will be yet another infrastructure "upgrade" that make White Rock look like a third world country instead of an affluent seaside community.



As if this wasn't enough, the dirt excavated from the new hole was not loaded up and taken away as one would expect. Instead it was piled high next to the curb, only a foot away from a drain grate. There was no attempt to keep dirt from the storm drain or to install a sediment catch, something that is standard fare these days to keep sediment away from creeks and streams that many of these storm drains flow into. I contacted Surrey's Environment and Drainage Manager (unfortunately for her she's on my speed dial) and enlisted her help in ensuring this mess was properly taken care of before the weekend when thunderstorms were forecast. By the end of the day, the pile of mud and crud had been removed from North Bluff and the asphalt swept clean. Whether this was work crews from Surrey, White Rock or maybe even B.C. Hydro remains to be clarified but the important question is why this dirt had been piled in the street next to a storm drain in the first place where it could have possibly caused flooding or negatively affected fish habitat?

I'm hoping that the City of White Rock can find out exactly what B.C. Hydro is up to with their plans to seemingly place yet another pole far from the curb into a White Rock intersection off their busiest main road? While they are at it, maybe Hydro can tell Mayor Baldwin and company why the ESSO station pole marked for relocation after the Humvee crash was never moved? I'd like to think it wasn't simply because Mr. Chesney was asking too many questions and not simply forgetting about it. I'm crossing my fingers that the new wooden pole laying in the gutter will be a temporary support for the overhead wires while the existing concrete pole that currently sits well past the curb will actually be relocated away from traffic. Hopefully this is the case but until we get some answers from B.C. Hydro as to what they are doing about this ongoing problem, just like when the Humvee tore out the power pole down the street, we will continue to be left in the dark.

While being concerned about how utility poles left standing in roadways threaten driver safety in the Semi-Pen, I have my own personal "views" on B.C. Hydro that I'd like people in White Rock to consider. There is nothing to stop city hall from okaying new buildings and developments that block people's views, with tall monster houses sprouting up where small ranchers once stood. It is also okay for residents to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have city boulevard trees axed for views, regardless of whether this destroys the privacy of neighbours who might like the trees adjacent to their properties. No matter what views people might have in the Rock (you can take that both ways), the one constant there is the forest of utility poles and tangle of wires that criss-cross the sky between most people's picture windows and Semiahmoo Bay. While it would be expensive, putting these ugly power, cablevision and telephone wires underground would be the best view improvement project the City could ever undertake. I bet the resulting real estate price increase for properties with unobstructed views would more than pay for the cost. That's something to think about while you try to ignore the poles and wires that you look at every day.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn.

 

August 13, 2012

Marshalling Help for the "Crescent Cottage"




There are a lot of very unique homes and properties located throughout the Semiahmoo peninsula, some oozing with eloquence, charm, history and character. Of all the amazing properties found here, there is one that stands alone in its uniqueness due to its rather stunning position within one of our major south Surrey parks. Located at 12876 Crescent Road just east of 128 St., this formerly grey coloured heritage house sits all by itself, surrounded on three sides by the second growth forest of Crescent Park. This property was recently purchased by Michael and Myra Juan Marshall who have rolled up their sleeves and are putting much time, energy and funds into restoring the house and improving the grounds for themselves and their four children. A home-made sign attached to a nearby hydro pole recently caught my attention looking for information on this property and the history behind it.



The poster read, "Seeking Heritage Information relating to 12876 Crescent Rd., Photos, Who Lived Here When, Historic Uses, Stories of Crescent Park (Not Crescent Beach)" plus contact information and a big "THANK YOU" in colour. I have been watching this property slowly take shape from the rather rundown condition it was formerly in, with the siding being cleaned and painted a fresh bright yellow colour. I knew that the new owners were gardeners because the overgrown grounds have suddenly sprung to life with a abundance of flowering shrubs and perennials. I stopped by the house one afternoon this week, introducing myself to the Marshalls and asking them questions about the signage and of course the history of the house. They had been informed that it was built around 1913 and were looking for any and all information about the history behind the home and property. Of specific interest was the large concrete foundation directly east of the house that likely would have been a large garage or shop, something they would like to rebuild to its previous specifications. To do this, they need to acquire pictures of this house from the years before this building, minus its heavy foundation, was demolished. A set of blueprints would be helpful, but realistically it is unlikely that any exist with early cottages in the area being hammered together by knowledgeable carpenters.



What I do know from the Heritage Register on the City of Surrey website (http://www.surrey.ca/plans-strategies/3251.aspx) is that the building is known as the H.C. Major House. It is listed as site #181 which was registered on December 4, 2000 because of its architectural significance. The property description is as follows: "In 1908, this property was acquired by Sveinn Brynjolfson, who sold it to Henry Major in 1930. The Craftsman bungalow was built around that time (not 1913 but probably 1931). Features a stone foundation and porch piers, narrow lap and shingle siding." There is a listing in the Ocean Park section of the Surrey history website by noted local historian Jack Brown (www.surreyhistory.ca) which makes reference to a lodge at the corner of Stevenson Road (128 St.) and Crescent Road but it is unclear if this has anything to do with the Marshall/Major home. Gleaning through various real estate advertisements, about the only information there was that the lot is a little over a half acre with a rather astonishing 520 ft. of road frontage, a figure I question. The problem with computers is that much of the historical data has not yet found its way onto the internet making research time consuming and laborious, usually entailing spending hours on weekends sifting through files and photographs at the Surrey archives building in Cloverdale. Sorry to say but with the nice sunny weather, I decided to spend my time on the beach.

In this age of social media and data exchange, the easiest way to find out information about the past is often to put out a call for the public's help in the media. It is amazing how many of our seniors have become computer literate, using PCs to help spread the historical facts, figures and photographs they have. I'm hoping that by giving the Marshalls some publicity about their historical quest about their home that someone in the local community or a historical society will be able to fill in the blanks regarding what has transpired there over the years. I've also put them in touch with elder historical statesmen Jack Brown, Jack Berry and Roger Brown plus the Surrey Archives department, hoping that they may have information about the history of this property or possibly have photographs of the missing building in question. Personally I think that it is remarkable that the Marshalls have shown the level of interest in the history of their new home that they wish to rebuild the large outbuilding which is now only a foundation to its original condition. While the neighbours across the street may have their incredibly large multi-million dollar mansions, they don't have the history of the H.C. Major house or the peace and serenity that comes from having a home surrounded on three sides by a city park.



If you can be of assistance and shed some light on the history of this Crescent Park home, please forward any information you have to the Marshalls at crescentcottageheritage@gmail.com, an email address they created solely for this purpose. They got the "Crescent Cottage" name from an enamelled metal plaque that they found buried underneath some rubble while cleaning out old debris. It now occupies a strategic place above one of the main windows facing Crescent Road. Hopefully, members of the Semiahmoo peninsula community will be able to provide the Marshalls with the answers that they seek. Please keep an eye on this TNT as it will be updated with new information as it becomes available, filling in pieces of this rather interesting historical puzzle. When you pass by this property, keep an eye on the ongoing renovations, realizing that whether you call it the "H.C. Major House" or the "Crescent Cottage", this is one of the older homes still standing in south Surrey and one worthy of protection.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 07, 2012

Semi-Pen Shooters on Target

Semi Pen Hardware Haul



While much of the world's sporting attention is focused on the Olympics at this time, it doesn't stop others from competing at a high level in their chosen sport. On the B.C. Day long weekend, marksmen from across B.C., Washington, Oregon and California converged on the Fraser Valley city of Chilliwack, attending the B.C. Rifle Association's 128th annual full-bore Target Rifle Championships being held at the General Vokes range complex. The BCRA was formed way back in 1874 and has been promoting marksmanship from the time when black powder rifles were still being used. Modern shooters use single shot target rifles in either .308 or .223 calibre, focusing on the target with peep-hole iron sights and utilizing hand-loaded ammunition for ultimate accuracy. For those shooters looking for a little more "fun", there is F-class shooting which began in Kamloops by George Farquharson featuring heavy high-power rifles with bi-pod supports and optical scopes, with a bulls-eye half the diameter of the TR targets. While the General Vokes range only goes back to 600 metres with short range shooting starting at 300 m., other ranges measure back to 1,000 yards or well over a half a mile in length with bulls-eye's measuring only 20 inches wide at that distance. Throw in weather conditions including blustery winds and near record heat like what was experienced this weekend and this sport can be difficult to the extreme for even the most talented marksman.

Jim Paton

The Semiahmoo peninsula is home to a couple of premier target shooters, one being myself who has been shooting competitively for 35 years and the other is White Rock resident Jim Paton, arguably one of the finest riflemen this country has ever produced. While I usually compete at the local or nearby state level due to business concerns and time constraints, Jim Paton regularly travels to the Canadian Target Rifle Championships held by the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) in Ottawa and the NRA of the UK matches held in Bisley, England. Mr. Paton just returned from the latest shoot in Bisley, finishing 28th in the Queen's Finals out of close to 900 competitors. This was the 17th time that Jim has qualified for this prestigious event, a Canadian record that also includes winning the gold medal in 2005. In Ottawa at Canada's National Full-bore Target Rifle Championships held on Connaught Range, Mr. Paton has won five Governor General Medals for Marksmanship, been the Canadian Target Rifle Champion three times and taken gold in the Grand Aggregate twice. As if this were not enough, Jim Paton has also represented Canada three times in the Commonwealth Games, winning a gold in the individual matches and silver in the pairs. Unfortunately because of IOC politics, full-bore rifle shooting, though widely practiced in much of the free world, is not part of the Olympics as there are repressive countries and regimes that do not allow their people to own firearms, even ones that have no other purpose than for accurately shooting paper targets. Not to worry though, as the five-ring-circus has ping pong, badminton, synchronized everything and even trampoline, something we happened to win gold in while our B.C. Rifle Championships were taking place.

The BCRA TR Championships are held over a four-day course of fire, beginning on the Friday and ending on the holiday Monday. Besides many individual matches and aggregates, it also has a large number of team events, some of which are concurrent with the match shooting and others which are fired shoulder to shoulder from the prone position. When the gun-smoke had cleared, to no one's surprise, Jim Paton emerged victorious, winning the B.C. Target Rifle Open Aggregate by a score of 723 with 94 V-bulls, which are half the diameter of the actual bulls-eye and used for improving accuracy and breaking ties. While giving Jim a good run for his money, on the third day of shooting he pulled away and I had to settle for second place with a score of 719-64Vs, four points back and with a third less centre shots. Paton also had a similar result taking gold in the B.C. Grand Aggregate with a score of 551-73, followed by both myself and Washington States Wayne Budbill both shooting a 447 but with the "Bug-killer" as he is known taking second place courtesy of his 57 V's versus my lowly 45 V's (I gotta work on those). In the Lt. Governor's Aggregate, with the same format as the Queen's Prize in England and the Gov. General's Prize in Ottawa, I had a little better luck, shooting a perfect score of 105-10V in the first stage and battling to keep this lead as the shoot progressed. In the Lt. Gov. final, I found myself tied with Jim and we were squaded together for the final range at 600 metres, shooting a 15 round match with each other to end the Championship. With some skill and a whole lot of luck, I managed a one point victory over Mr. Paton, winning gold with a score of 376-40V to his 375-47V, showing that the points are more crucial than the centre shots. An honourable mention must go to my father Robert Pitcairn who had the high score in this final shoot, a 75-8V, giving him third place with the same score as Jim Paton, not bad for a guy in his mid seventies who shoots in the veterans category.

"The Rifleman" gets chaired

The best part about the Queen's, Governor Generals, or the Lt. Governor's Prize is the historic "chairing" of the victor, carried high above the shoulders of your friends to the music of Handel's "Hail the Conquering Hero." This is the second time that I have had the privilege of winning the Lt. Governor's and been carried from the firing point down to the range headquarters for prize presentation. The ride is a little nerve-wrecking, especially when the fellow shooters are picking you up or putting you down but it is much nicer to be riding in the chair than carrying the winner plus fifteen pound rifle on your shoulders. While I must admit the first chair ride I took was likely sweeter, having the chance to go shot for shot with White Rock's Jim Paton with so much on the line was an experience I will never forget. I have to shake my head in amazement that two guys who live only miles apart in the Semiahmoo Peninsula would find themselves in this rather unique situation. We both managed to collect a large chunk of the BCRA's silverware (Jim's pile was much better than mine might I add) with us receiving Governor General medals for Marksmanship (bronze for me, silver for Jim) for our first and second place finish in the B.C. TR Agg. Mr. Paton will no doubt be looking to add to his collection of the five gold Gov-Gen medals he already has that are only awarded at the DCRA shoot as he is planning on visiting Ottawa for the Canadian TR Championships on August 17-25th.

Hometown Hardware

In the team shoots, the Lower Mainland team completed an extremely rare feat, winning all ten team matches including the concurrent team matches featuring four shooters plus the General Currie Cup shot for with six marksman and two coaches at the 600 meter firing point. In the International Team Match, fired by an eight person team with two coaches at the 300, 500, and 600 metre distances over three days, the strong American contingent held their own with the host Canadians and both teams ended up tied with exactly the same score. Fortunately for us, our V count was slightly higher and the Canuck team took the gold, leaving the Yanks to take home silver. Sorry I don't have the scores as the stats were not yet posted and only announced at the prize giving. If you want to find out more about competitive full-bore target rifle shooting or the super accurate F-class shooting, check out the BCRA website at www.bcrifle.org or the DCRA at www.dcra.ca. Who knows, maybe another top shot lives in the Semi-pen waiting to be discovered? If you have a steady hand, a skilled eye and nerves of steel, you might want to give this life-long sport that allows for international competition against the world's best marksmen and marks women a try.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


 

The Naked Truth - July 30, 2012

Pain in the Grass



Travelling through our community, I always keep an eye out for something new, anything out of place, or a small detail that might be part of a larger story that I can cover in my WR Sun TNT column. This week was no different and as I drove home to the Semi-pen along Hwy. 99, out of the corner of my eye I spotted hundreds of small fluorescent flags protruding from the shoreline of Mud Bay beyond the Delta Dyke Trail. I quickly contacted Carrie Baron, the Environment and Drainage Manager for the City of Surrey, who informed me that these were likely to mark areas where the invasive grass Spartina had been found prior to it being removed. A trip down to Mud Bay Park off Colebrook Road at the bottom of Panorama Ridge revealed thousands of pink and orange marking flags throughout the marshes and mud flats and that was just in the small portion of waterfront that I could see. Considering that Mrs. Baron informed me the problem was even greater in Delta than Surrey, you suddenly begin to realize the scope of the invasion facing the shoreline of Boundary Bay.

Spartina species, also known as cordgrass, are salt-tolerant grasses that grow in intertidal salt marshes and mudflats. This invasive aquatic grass rapidly overgrows existing ecosystems, converting tidal mudflats areas like that found in Mud Bay into elevated spartina meadows. This increases the risk of flooding and causes ecological degradation resulting in the loss of migratory bird, fish and shellfish habitat. Four Spartina species threaten our shorelines including Spartina anglica (English cordgrass) from England, Spartina densiflora (dense-flowered cordgrass) from South America, Spartina patens (salt meadow cordgrass) and Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) from the east coast of North America. All of these Spartina species except for S. alterniflora have been found in various locations throughout the coastal areas of British Columbia. Cordgrass was originally planted as a bank stabilizer in Washington State where it has now become a multi-million dollar problem to control and eradicate. Spartina was first found on the Canadian side of Boundary Bay and on Roberts Bank in 2003 during an intertidal marsh survey being conducted for the Vancouver Port Authority.



In response to this serious environmental threat, a consortium of conservation organizations and governmental agencies known as the B.C. Spartina Working Group (BCSWG) was formed that is committed to monitoring and removing this invasive grass. Partners involved in this project include Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the BC Ministry of Environment, BC Ministry of Forest, Lands & Natural Resource Operations, Metro Vancouver, City of Surrey, Corporation of Delta, Port Metro Vancouver, Friends of Semiahmoo Bay, Ducks Unlimited, Community Mapping Network, Seagrass Conservation Working Group, Greater Vancouver Invasive Plant Council and the Coastal Invasive Plant Committee. Their mission statement is to,"Work collaboratively to eradicate invasive Spartina in B.C. through detection, removal, education, and research - to maintain the ecological integrity of our intertidal habitats." In this province the Spartina invasion is still manageable and the Committee partners are utilizing an "Early Detection, Rapid Response" technique to stop its spread but they need support from the public.

If you don't mind getting dirty or playing in the mud, you can volunteer for the annual removal of Spartina in Boundary Bay. Report Spartina sightings to the Great Vancouver Invasive Plant Council at 604-880-8358 or email at info@gvip.ca To join the summer work parties, phone the Vancouver Aquarium River Works coordinator at 604-659-3503 or email riverworks@vanaqua.org. The B.C. Spartina Working Group (BCSWG) has a new online volunteer listing where you can subscribe your email address at http://vancouvercommunity.net/lists/subrequest/spartina-ca. Their web site and email list contact is Rob Knight (rknight@telus.net) and you can sign up online for daily work parties at the following link: http://www.doodle.com/47mpvgy8xipy83dm. BCSWG volunteers meet every day at the Delta Air Park (south end of 104 Avenue in Delta) at 9 a.m. to form teams, decide where to work for that day, with the current job of removing the grass clumps usually over by 3 p.m. when the tide comes back in.

For more information about this noxious weed, visit the www.spartina.ca website and for interesting reading about the important role that tidal marshes play as a "blue carbon" sink against greenhouse gases, check out the related article, "Why Saving Marshes Might Save Civilization" in the electronic pages of The Tyee (www.thetyee.ca) at:
http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/30/BlueCarbon/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=300712

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Juy 23, 2012

The Daily Grind, Semi-Pen Style



Two people meet in a bar. The one says to the other, "You should know first off that I am a sadist. I receive pleasure by inflicting pain on my slave." Their new friend answers, "Well, I'm a masochist. I derive my satisfaction by receiving pain from my master." They leave and go home to the sadist's dungeon. After being properly restrained, the masochist whimpers in anticipation, "Are you going to beat me now?" The sadist leans over them with whip and hand and breathing heavily says, "No."

Now for the rest of you masochists out there, this TNT is definitely for you. You see, I like to work out, which means I go out and I work. Sometimes at the end of the day I hardly have enough energy to lift those 12 ounce weights (remember, its the reps that are really important) if you catch my drift. Going to the gym, pumping iron, riding bikes or running marathons are not on my list of things to do, but that doesn't mean that there aren't people in the Semi-pen who strive to maintain physical fitness and their chiselled form. For fitness freaks in Vancouver, "Mother Nature's Stairmaster" commonly known as the Grouse Grind is a very popular hiking trail on Grouse mountain. It climbs 854 m. (2,800 ft.) over a distance of 2.9 km. (1.8 mi.) with an average grade of 17 degrees. Regular hikers can reach the top in an average of 90 minutes with extremely fit people being able to conquer the challenge in under 30 minutes. Sebastian Salas holds both the overall unofficial record (23.48 min.) and the annual Grouse Grind Mountain run for men (25.01 min.) with Leanne Johnston holding the women's record (31.04 min.).

1001 steps

Should this type of aerobic activity be of interest, residents of the Semi-pen should exhale a big sign of relief knowing that they don't need to drive to North Vancouver to feel the burn derived from tackling steep inclines. With the Ocean Park bluffs and White Rock hillsides, there are plenty of slopes here to challenge your physical fitness. At the west end of 24 Ave. in south Surrey, the so-called "101 Steps" staircase attracts runners from across the region, with water bottles and Lulu Lemon apparel strewn at the top and bottom of this 190 step staircase which runs down the bluff and over top of the BNSF Railway tracks on an metal platform. There are times on the weekends when you will meet up to a dozen people huffing and puffing their way up and down the stairs. A rather athletic couple I met this Sunday told me that their training program included seven trips, all at a rather brisk pace just shy of a jog. Several years back I met a young lady who was literally dripping with sweat at the 101 Steps and she had just completed 12 trips on the staircase. I only use the staircase to access the beach but have been known to go up them two at a time (its nice having long legs), something I would not recommend to anyone with a history of asthma or heart problems.

A little south of this location the "1,001 Steps" staircase can be found at the west end of 15A Ave. in Ocean Park. This rather circuitous staircase, that looks as if might have been designed by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, winds its way down the steep bluff. While I have not personally counted the steps it takes to reach the beach, a young girl I met while photographing it confidently told me there were 215 from top to bottom. At the base of the hill it turns into a well-worn path which heads north paralleling the tracks until it reaches a pedestrian tunnel under the rails, allowing for safe access to the waterfront of Crescent Rock Beach without having to trespass on the rail corridor or risk being struck by either passing AmTraks or BNSF freight trains. I've been told that the tunnel was part of an agreement with the Stevenson family who insisted on water access as a condition to selling property for what was then the Great Northern Railway over a century ago. While not as well known as its sister 101 Steps, the 1,001 Steps (confusing isn't it?) still attracts its share of runners who prefer the many different angled sections that twist and turn across the hillside. For those folks living near Ocean Park, this staircase provides a close to home natural stairmaster only a few blocks away from the Kwomais Park lookout, where its stunning vistas can be enjoyed while cooling down or stretching out a tight hamstring.

The Olympic Trail on 13 Ave at 131 St. incorporates a walkway and trail system leading to the shoreline facing the Olympic peninsula, but it is used more as a beach access point that a runners training ground. Don't let the elevated landslide detector fence wire fool you when you get to the bottom. Trespassing on the rail corridor is illegal and can result in a hefty fine if you are caught by the CN Police. In White Rock, the Coldicutt Trail at the east end of Terry Rd. also has a steep staircase and woodland pathway similar to the Olympic Trail but in the rainy season it can be slippery and treacherous, with falling trees and landslides posing a threat. The Duprez ravine at Centennial Park runs from 16 Ave. down to Marine Drive, incorporating various stretches of paths and staircases, likely having the greatest vertical drop but not the steep grade found elsewhere. For those seeking a more straightforward challenge, try Oxford street which runs straight up and down from Marine Dr. to North Bluff with the steepest section being between the beach and Thrift Ave., with a grade of 23 percent. By comparison, the world-famous Lombard St. in San Francisco known for its tight switchbacks has a grade of 27 percent. The sidewalk at Oxford is so steep that it has small raised bars in the concrete that help people to keep their grip and balance. If you try it, keep an eye out for Mary Garner, a resident of White Rock from when it was still Surrey, who keeps herself young by often climbing this challenging roadway several times a day.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 16, 2012

Nude Beach Cover-Up



Spending the weekend relaxing down in Las Vegas, Nevada, aka "Sin City" where even the world renowned Cirque du Soleil's shows feature semi-naked performers (Google Zumanity), it seems rather appropriate that the focus for this TNT column is on the clothing-optional Crescent Rock Beach (CRB). While this rugged and secluded 6.5 km. of shoreline protected by the Ocean Park bluffs between White Rock and Crescent Beach in south Surrey has been quietly used for naturist sunbathing and skinny-dipping for decades, with the spread of information through the internet and a link to the Wreck Beach website, the nude-recreational use of this strip of shore during hot sunny days has greatly increased during the past ten years.

Unfortunately there are those in the community who feel it is their God-given right and moral obligation to fight against the clothing-optional use of this rough and rocky piece of the Semiahmoo peninsula waterfront. This begins at the top with Mayor Dianne Watts who continues to perpetuate a long history of gymnophobia (fear of nudity) at Surrey city hall. Six years ago it was a Surrey works crew who cut down the original naturist beach signage, despite them being posted below the high tide mark on land under the jurisdiction of the B.C. Ministry of the Environment. While originally opposed to the clothing-optional use of CRB stating, "If people want to be naked, they can drive to Wreck Beach" she eventually threw in the towel saying that, "People can stand on their heads naked there for all I care", showing obvious contempt for naturists and nudists. The Skinnydipper Recreation Club had to take the City of Surrey to court to reinstate their nude swim nude nights which continue to this day at the Newton Wave Pool but there are no listings for either "nude recreation" or "Crescent Rock Beach" on the City of Surrey website (www.surrey.ca). Going back to the 70's when Mayor Bill Vanderzalm was then in charge, Surrey effectively ran the Sunny Trails Nudist Colony out of town by refusing to issue a building permit for their new location. Last year the Parks, Recreation and Culture department removed the 1001 Steps location in Ocean Park from their Nature Walks listings after only one complaint of beach nudity, yet they refuse to post any information about the nude recreational possibilities about this area, despite their laughable claims of promoting cultural diversity and inclusivity.

Because of Surrey's refusal to post nude beach signage and the Provincial government showing no interest in officially recognizing the clothing-optional nature of CRB, local naturists have for years painted "Clothing-Optional" or "Nude Beach" signage on a flat rock just past the 120 tonne Crescent Rock boulder located 100 m. due south of the 101 Steps elevated pedestrian overpass at the west end of 24 Ave. The reason for this is to alert visitors and residents to the fact that on warm sunny days they will likely encounter folks peacefully enjoying nature and getting an all-over tan. This sign has been the target of misguided vandals in the past that also include the Crescent Rock boulder being coated with two gallons of bright pink paint several years ago in an attack believed to be motivated by homophobia. Unfortunately it appears that hatred is indeed alive and well at CRB with the so-called sign rock being repeatedly painted over this year along with a nearby log advertising "Crescent Rock Beach" also covered up. Of note, the various graffiti tags on the rip-rap rocks including one with a crude image of male genitalia have not been painted over, just anything referring to Crescent Rock Beach and its clothes-free use. While I am not involved in any sign painting at CRB currently being done by a well-known local artist who shall remain nameless, it would appear that the person or persons responsible for continually trying to cover up the nude beach signage feel that I am to blame. In a rather insidious display showing the contempt and hatred they feel towards those members of society who reject the concept of body shame, they have scrawled my name and home address on the Crescent Rock boulder in the same paint used to conceal the nude beach sign.

This marks the second time in the past few years that someone has written my name on the Crescent Rock, a 120 tonne glacial erratic which serves as a signpost for the beginning of the clothing-optional beach. The fact that a disturbed individual would look up my address, take it to the beach and then write it on this boulder that is Surrey's version of the White Rock must be viewed for what it really is; a threat. The Surrey RCMP certainly thinks so after I reported this incident to them and they have now opened an investigative file on this incident including any reports involving harassment of naturists and nudists peacefully enjoying CRB. In fact, I had a meeting with Staff Sergeant Dave Brown several years ago where he acknowledged that nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping on the secluded shores of Crescent Rock Beach is perfectly legal under Canadian Case Law and that RCMP officers from both Surrey and White Rock detachments would not be responding to simple public nudity complaints from along Crescent Rock Beach. Sgt. Brown also reaffirmed that a woman's right to be topless in public is the same as a man's and that it is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowing top-free tanning on the more public beaches of the Semi-pen including the White Rock pier and promenade if someone was so inclined. The wing-nut who thinks I'm easily intimidated should realize that besides creative writing and long-range rifle shooting, my favorite thing in the world is to expose fascists who are trying to intimidate people and expose them to the glaring light of public scrutiny they so richly deserve.

The last nude beach sign cover-up that happened last week when my name and address were also scrawled on the Crescent Rock occurred at the same time that a rather bizarre email was received by WR Sun editor Dave Chesney. Titled, "Don Pitcairn, GRRRRR", it contained the following passage along with a link to a Craigslist personal ad that was no longer posted: "Maybe you could pass this along to that idiot Don Pitcairn. This is the kind of thing we don't want on our neighborhood beach, but thanks to him we're stuck with it. This was never a nude beach until he came along." Whether this has anything to do with the continual painting over on the beach or the veiled threat against me remains to be seen but I would certainly like to speak to the individual responsible for sending it. While they have since ignored repeated attempts to contact them, it was signed by a Don Jenkins from the email address frankhuff@hotmail.com. In what was likely a letter from the same person two summers ago, the Surrey Now carried a let-ed titled, "Surrey's beach not a nude beach – It's a lie!" which then went on to say, "If anyone around here knew there was a nude beach at the bottom of the stairs we wouldn't have bought homes here." If you know of a Don Jenkins of Frank Huff living in the Semiahmoo peninsula, I would appreciate having their addresses and phone numbers, as would the Surrey RCMP for their investigation into what I consider a hate crime targeting naturists at Crescent Rock. It seems rather odd to me that anyone so fixated about the nude beach would spend their time searching Craigslist personals for people seeking out romantic encounters? I checked the popular free advertising website for myself and found that "Crescent Rock Beach" returned nine ads from the beginning of May to present with five of these seeking romantic liaisons of various forms including four using the beach as a meeting place. By contrast, a search of "White Rock" showed over two hundred listings for the same time period including many for "Casual Encounters", "Men Seeking Women" and "Men Seeking Men." With White Rock being such a haven for sex and promiscuity, I guess we should paint over the city signs, bulldoze their City Hall and force it to rejoin Surrey. Hopefully I won't find my name and address now scrawled on the White Rock boulder as I had nothing to do with the "City by the Sea" being formed back in 1957; in fact I hadn't even been born.


While there were no official plans to celebrate "Crescent Rock Beach Day" this year due to scheduling conflicts and travel plans involving the executive members of the Skinnydipper's Recreation Club, Van Tan and Surrey's United Naturists, I believe that it is time to draw a line in the sand over the official recognition of CRB. The continued refusal by politicians to acknowledge the clothing-optional nature of this shoreline needs to be questioned as this only leads to ongoing prejudice, bigotry and harassment of naturists and nudists in Surrey. Considering that Wreck Beach in Vancouver was deemed "C.O." over 30 years ago, you have to question what is wrong with Surrey and if they are really that far behind the times? In case you missed it, the city organized Surrey Pride Festival was held a week ago in Holland Park with many well-known corporations including BMO, CUPE and SFU throwing their support behind this celebration. While helping to promote acceptance and tolerance towards gay members of society, naturists and naturists are left out in the cold and treated as second class citizens, inviting discrimination, animosity and outright hatred. I'm starting to wonder if it will require someone taking either the City of Surrey and/or the Province of B.C. to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for people with an aversion to tan lines to be treated as regular members of society in this "clothes-minded" town.

If our warm summer weather holds as is forecast then on next "SUN-day", July 22, members of Surrey's United Naturists, Skinnydippers Recreation Club, Wreck Beach Preservation Society, Van Tan, NIFTY, Fraser Valley Naturists, Seattle SLUGS and other naturists groups will be down at Crescent Rock Beach in south Surrey. We will be painting over any graffiti on the Crescent Rock boulder (the pink paint was previously covered by SUN) and using an environmentally safe coating remover to clean up all spray painted tags from the shoreline rocks. I'm hoping that either the City of Surrey or the B.C. Environment Ministry will consider posting naturist beach signage to identify the clothing-optional nature of this rather inhospitable piece of waterfront, but if not I'm hoping that my artist friend will once again paint "Nude Beach" on the rock that has been repeatedly vandalized this spring. If you wish to help spruce up the beach, show your support for naturists and nudists, or protest against bigotry, prejudice and discrimination that is being fostered by the City of Surrey and the Surrey First slate, please feel free to join us at Crescent Rock Beach, no matter what you care or dare to wear. As for the person or persons responsible for trying to put the genie back in the bottle and somehow end the naturist use of this area with threats, intimidation and plenty of paint, you need to realize that there are different strokes for different folks and that your intolerant actions towards fellow human beings, not people nude sunbathing, is what needs to be stopped. If anyone has information regarding these incidents at CRB, please report it to the Surrey RCMP detachment (non-emergency 604-599-0502) who are now investigating this matter under the file number 12-92603.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

July 19, 2012

The Vancouver Sun weighs in on the matter

 

 

July 09, 2012

They're Back!

Back in 2007 Nav Canada, the government created monopoly entrusted with controlling air traffic throughout the skies of Canada, decided in their infinite wisdom to change flight paths to the Vancouver International Airport, without bothering to inform any of the residents of the Lower Mainland. One day we suddenly awoke to commercial jet airliners criss-crossing the Semiahmoo Peninsula at low altitude while slowing and turning, both maneuvers which create substantial noise. These flights included many directly over the beaches of White Rock and Crescent Beach along with the surrounding subdivisions that previously did not have to deal with this problem. While Nav Canada's offices are in Newton behind Costco, they didn't bother to alert Surrey's Mayor and Council to the change, even though city hall is only a five minute drive away.

Needless to say, this sudden change created quite a stir in the Semi-pen and other areas of Surrey near Fleetwood and Guildford who were also affected. Citizens groups including SCAANS (South Surrey Citizens Against Airplane Noise) were formed to fight for a return to peace and quiet in formerly tranquil neighbourhoods that suddenly sounded like Burkeville in Richmond, the subdivision located at the ends of the runway. Our Conservative MP Russ Hiebert became involved when it became apparent that the airplane noise issue was not going to go away quietly. While it took a few years and much public pressure, Nav Canada finally realigned the incoming flight path called the GRIZZstar over the middle of Boundary Bay instead of atop the Semi-pen. Most jets following the GPS coordinates head north over the water, turning east and flying over Hwy. 99 before turning left and looping back in a westward direction for final approach to YVR. On clear days when visibility is good and air traffic light, Nav Canada controllers sitting behind their screens in Newton have the discretion to allow pilots to fly a shorter visual approach that is supposed to be away from this area. Unfortunately it appears that over time, this directive has been forgotten or is simply being ignored.

One of the positive results of the flight path battle that was waged was the installation of noise monitoring terminals in Surrey along with WebTrak, a publically accessible computer system that allows people to access information about aircraft landing or taking off from Vancouver (www.webtrak.bksv.com/yvr). Utilizing this system you can watch air traffic in the region following a ten minute security delay, showing the various airplanes, their speed, altitude and the noise being received from local monitoring stations. It also has a historical playback feature allowing anyone to review various periods of time for up to four months. This is rather handy, for if you see or hear a jet flying in an airspace far away from the prescribed routes, you can go to WebTrak and see the plane responsible plus check the amount of noise it is creating. In south Surrey, many people including myself bought homes here at a high cost so as not to be subjected to the noise from commercial jets. Having lived on Bridgeport Rd. in Richmond, Sunshine Hlls in North Delta and Guildford in Surrey, all of which get a non-stop aerial parade of planes, having peace at my home and at the beach is essential to my quality of life and that of my neighbours as well.

While it was all quiet on the western front for quite some time, there has been a gradual increase in over-flights above the peninsula including the public beaches that serve as the main marine recreational site for almost a million residents of the Fraser Valley who come here to enjoy the ocean and the serenity. Now the peace and quiet is routinely shattered by the shrill whine of spooling engines and air speed being shed as passenger jets stray from the middle of Boundary Bay to the skies over south Surrey and in particular Crescent Beach. While I work long hours away from home and often spend my weekends away from here, it is not uncommon for me to once again see jetliners transecting the peninsula is the same fashion as what originally brought all the original complaints. Case in point was last Thursday, July 6 at 6:27 p.m. when a Boeing 727-200 flew north over Ocean Park and Crescent Beach at 250 mph at a height of 3,000 feet. The noise monitoring terminal located at the Ocean Cliff Elementary School registered 68 decibles from this jet that flew up 124 St., which is classified as loud and comparable to the sound of average radio or busy street noise. Since YVR operates 24/7/365, unlike some eastern airports such as Montreal which are closed to night flights from midnight till six a.m., it is quite possible to have planes fly over this region simply because they were given the clearance.

In the past Nav Canada has tried to explain that often these planes needed to be vectored over our airspace because of another jet flying in the same vicinity. With WebTrak, you can see that this is not the case as there are not other large commercial jets anywhere in the area while the pilot was taking a scenic trip over the Semi-pen. With this in mind, maybe it is time for residents to start taking more note of over-flights in this region, marking down time and day of the incident, checking out the offending plane on WebTrak and reporting it to the proper authorities. From past experience I found that the minions at Nav Canada were quick to offer lame excuses or simply ignore email questions as to why these flights were continuing to occur but I think it is essential to hold them accountable. They need to adhere to the guidelines that came as the result of much public input and consultation, something that never happened before the change in flight paths. Nav Canada can be contacted at 1-800-876-4693 or email service@navcanada.ca with your questions and concerns while the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has a 24 hour noise information line which is (604) 207-7097 or email noise@yvr.ca. Make sure you keep MP Russ Hiebert in the loop by calling his office at 604-542-9495 or email at info@russhiebert.ca. Once again, you can find WebTrak online at www.webtrak.bksv.com/yvr.

As far as I am concerned there is still too much unnecessary aircraft noise affecting the population of the Lower Mainland. Tsawwassen still has serious noise problems even after the GRIZZstar flight path removed a large portion of flights from over Centennial Beach and Boundary Bay Park. Sunshine Hills and Panorama Ridge see a constant stream of planes, many which are banking or shedding speed, creating much more noise than regular flight. Newton and Guildford receive planes from two different directions but the end result is the same, a relentless air show that often goes on late into the night every day. If you are unlucky enough to live under YVR's glide slope to the airport, the planes will go by so often you may not even notice (to steal a memorable line from the Blues Brothers). In the interest of reducing the negative health effects from exposure to commercial aircraft noise, I believe that Nav Canada would be doing us all a favour if instead of simply looking at the most economical flight paths for the airlines, that they should also attempt to mitigate the noise over residential neighbourhoods and recreational areas. By keeping flight paths above industrial areas, busy highways and agricultural land, they would disturb far less people, allowing everyone to sleep a little better.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 02, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

While talking to an old-timer resident on Crescent Road in south Surrey, he complained to me in length that uphill development in the city of Surrey was having negative effects on his hillside property with water ponding on previously dry areas necessitating expensive drainage work. After spending over $20,000 to address the problem, he then received a letter from the City explaining how he lived in a so-called "high risk area" along with a glossy brochure titled, "Living Near Steep Slopes." I doubt that the information it contained makes him sleep any better at night, knowing that changes in water flow onto his view property likely raise the risk of landslide activity.

After contacting Carrie Baron, the Environment and Drainage Manager for the City of Surrey, I was informed that Council had instructed staff in 2011 to assemble educational material for residents living near steep slopes in Surrey. A cover letter and the pamphlet were sent this spring to approximately 630 homes in Surrey that were identified as being on or adjacent to a hillside having at least 15-20% slope. While unable to identify all of those areas of Surrey that received this informational packet, it is likely many were in the Semiahmoo peninsula at the top of the bluff above Boundary Bay or on the many ravines draining water down to its shores. It is these homes that have been the scene of multiple slope failures over the past few years, with many ending up on the BNSF tracks blocking both freight and Amtrak passenger train traffic. To be quite honest, with the rainfall we experienced this June, I was wondering if we would experience landslide activity as my slope failure meter (aka rain gauge) overflowed several times during this rather dreary month.

There is information concerning the slide risk on steep slopes posted on the city website at www.surrey.ca/steepslopes, warning residents living near ravine or bluff slopes that landslides tend to happen after extended periods of heavy rainfall when the slope becomes saturated with water. It goes on to explain that property owners are responsible for the stewardship of these steep hillsides, with land care decisions at the top of the hillside possibly influencing side neighbours and those living at the bottom of the slope. Besides listing the various measures being done to improve slope stability including geotechnical evaluations, increased building setbacks, engineered foundations, storm water control and vegetation management they also list the following tell-tale signs that a landslide might be imminent:
Springs, seeps or saturated ground in areas that have not typically been wet before.
New cracks or unusual bulges in the ground.
Soil moving away from foundations.
Ancillary structure, such as decks and patios, tilting and/or moving relative to the main house.
Tilting or cracking of concrete floors and foundations.
Leaning telephone poles, trees, retaining walls or fences.
Rapid increase in water levels, possibly associated with increased turbidity or muddiness in water.

As far as reducing the slide risk, in their pamphlet Surrey instructs ravine and bluff property owners to take the following steps to protect and preserve their land and dwellings:
Comply with the city's procedures land development guidelines and bylaws that are in place to protect property.
Divert water away from slope edges and avoid ponding water above hillsides, landscaping to drain properties away from these slopes.
Avoid placing fill including garden waste and soil at the crest of hills or in drainage canals. All sheds, pools, ponds and patios should be kept as far from bluff slopes as possible.
Regularly inspect all plumbing, irrigation pipes, downspouts, drains, pools and ponds for signs of leakage that may saturate soil.
Refer to tree protection bylaw and consult professional arborists when pruning or limbing trees plus maintain natural vegetation on slopes, especially native shrubs and trees.
To see the PDF copy of this brochure which has recently been added to the city website, visit the following link: http://www.surrey.ca/files/ENG-Safe_Cliffside_Tips_Brochure_FOR_PRINT.pdf. Of note is the rather large legal disclaimer absolving the City of Surrey of any liability from injuries or property damage resulting from the use of the information the brochure contains.



While it is great that the City of Surrey is finally educating people to the risks of living near steep slopes and taking steps to address this problem, it amazes me how often they don't follow their own advice. At the new Kwomais Park lookout, Surrey had crews cut down large alder trees (on BNSF land might I add) to improve the view of the lookout platform on a slope that had previously failed. Nearby, they allowed a wealthy landowner to install a heavy concrete pool at the edge of the bluff, even though the property originally had a restrictive covenance not allowing an in-ground pool. While Surrey has a right-of-way along the top edge of much of the Ocean Park bluff, they do little about illegal landscaping, tree cutting for views and non-engineered drains putting water onto the bluff, all which have triggered slides in the past. Even more frightening is that I recently discovered what appears to be an old City of Surrey storm drain that is dumping the water from an entire neighbourhood onto the steep slope between Kwomais Point and the 1001 Steps in an area known for large slides that often bury the BNSF train tracks below. I'm not sure if the Engineering Department knows of its existence but I will ensure they inspect this large pipe and if necessary, extend it to the bottom of the bluff before our heavy fall rains and the dreaded "Pineapple Express" return.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 25, 2012

The Little School That Could - South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre



Graduation season is in full swing in the Semiahmoo peninsula with graduates from Earl Marriot, Elgin Park and Semiahmoo secondary schools holding their year end celebrations and graduation ceremonies. What many here fail to realize is that there is a rather unique education facility in our midst that is also run by the Surrey school district. Located on 156 St. just south of 24 Ave (actual address is #13 - 2320 King George Blvd.) is the White Rock/South Surrey Learning Centre, home of the Ravens. While not as large as the more conventional schools, its enrolment totalled 171 students in 2011 with a 2012 graduating class of 40 classmates who all earned their Dogwood diplomas.



In their mission statement they reveal that, "The White Rock Learning Centre encourages personal growth, life-long learning and respect for the dignity and rights of others." Their listed goals give much more insight to the reason why this special school is so important to many of the gifted and sometimes personally challenged individuals who occupy its hallowed halls and rooms:

to provide an alternative educational environment for students who are at risk of leaving school
to provide opportunities for students who have left the system, with a place to resume their education with ease
to prepare students to return to the mainstream school, upgrade course marks for post-secondary enrolment, or complete graduation at the Learning Centre
to encourage students to set and meet educational goals

They offer completion of courses in grades 10, 11 and 12, along with a High School Graduation Program and an Adult Graduation Program. Special emphasis is given towards career preparation, cooperative education and the gaining of work experience. Students work at their own pace with a much higher ratio of teachers to students than found in larger schools. The WRLC also partners with with Kwantlen College in trades certification and secondary school apprenticeship, along with a variety of on-line courses through Surrey Connect (more info at www.surreyconnect.sd.bc.ca/). They also teach FoodSafe, WorldHost, First Aid and CPR that are not usually provided at larger schools. While they do not have gymnasium facilities on site, one of their many community partnerships is the White Rock Baptist Church who provide weekly use of their gym. For those students who do not fit in at traditional schools, have different learning requirements, have left or are considering leaving school, or those returning to finish their education after taking one of life's unexpected turns, the WRLC is there to help those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. Led by Principal Jim McConnell, the Learning Centre is often described by its students as a family where uniqueness is respected and everyone is treated as a person with even teachers being called by their first names.



The graduation ceremony featuring the slogan, "The Future Begins With You" was held last week at the Gracepoint Church on the KGB in south Surrey just south from Crescent Road. It began with a RCMP Honour Guard dressed in red serge leading the gowned graduates into the auditorium accompanied by live bagpipe music with hundreds of parents, family members and friends in attendance. After a rousing chorus of "Oh Canada" where many joined in with the singing, Principal McConnell gave his welcoming address followed by several dignitaries from the Board of Education and Surrey School Board. Community Recognition and Athletic awards were given out along with the coveted Governor General's medal for education, followed by a stunning Year in Review video and photo montage. Scholarships were distributed to deserving students by the White Rock Lioness Club, Kiwanis Club of White Rock, Peace Arch Monarch Lions Club, White Rock Peninsula Rotary Club and Shell Busey's HouseSmart Centre along with Surrey's Principal/Vice Principal Association, the Surrey Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education. The night finished with group grad photos, the moving of the tassel from right to left marking graduation (or left-leaning thinking maybe?) and the obligatory motarboard hat toss followed by refreshments and a meet and greet.

Besides the White Rock/South Surrey Learning Centre, there are four more of these specialized schools throughout Surrey, with locations in Guildford, North Surrey, Newton and Cloverdale. For those having trouble in traditional schools, not fitting in to the highly cliqued societies that exist there, or who have quit school to find out that McJobs and minimum wage employment does not pay the bills, Learning Centres help to bridge the gap back to educational opportunities and future advancement. Should your child, someone you know, or even possibly yourself be helped by the alternative teaching methods and respectful schooling that the Learning Centre provides, you can find out more about them at local secondary schools, through the Surrey School board, checking them out online at the following link http://www.sd36.bc.ca/whiterocklc/, or by phoning direct at 604-536-0550. Do me a favour and tell Jim plus his talented caring staff that Don from the White Rock Sun sent you, giving them my thanks for their devoted and professional care that makes such a big difference in so many young lives.

Natually yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 18, 2012

A Whale of a Tale


The demise of a young Humpback whale on the sandy shores of East Beach in White Rock last week garnered much publicity and media attention, drawing crowds of people to the area to the point that Council might think they have finally found a great tourist draw for the quieter part of town. The carcass has now been towed away by a Coast Guard hovercraft to a deeper part of Boundary Bay where it has been anchored for possible necropsy and to allow decomposition and Dungeness to clean the bones that eventually will be used as a teaching aide. While it has been some time since a whale has washed up on the shores of White Rock, unfortunately this is far from being an isolated incident.



Long-time White Rock resident since 1963 and environmentalist extraordinaire Barry Belec informed me about multiple incidents where dead whales have been found on the shoreline. While his memory is a little foggy about exact dates with the passage of time, he has been at East Beach three times over the years with bucket in hand trying in vain to save beached whales. The first incident was in the early 1970's when a small Grey whale washed ashore in the Semiahmoo Bay a summer or two before the Cherry Point oil spill in 1972 which he also helped to clean up with help from hundreds of other volunteers and thousands of bales of hay. The next beaching was in the early 1980's when a mother and calf Grey whale washed up together, again down on East Beach, drawing Mr. Belec and others to the shore in a vain attempt to save these two large ocean-going mammals. While unsure of the date, he also attended another beaching years later of yet another single Grey whale that had also died before being washed ashore. With the latest death, this time of a Humpback, this makes a total of five whales found on the White Rock beach in forty years, the last one emaciated and tangled in commercial fishing gear.

Wyland

This number is actually only half of the whales that have died here during this time with the iconic Whaling Wall in uptown White Rock by world renown marine mural artist Wyland meant to commemorate the deaths of seven Grey whales in Boundary Bay in 1984, including the two found on East Beach. This 30' x 70' mural known as "The Grey Whale Family" was the fourth in a series of international paintings by Wyland dedicated to the "great whales forever." While unable to research what killed these whales, Mr. Belec recollects that they ingested toxins dumped into the ocean from a paint manufacturing plant in Washington State. At the corner of the mural on the Romich Centre located at the intersection of Roper Ave. and Johnston Rd. in uptown White Rock is a plaque on the Whaling Wall with the following inscription:


"The only species of the family Eschrichtidae, this whale, hunted to the brink of extinction has survived only through an effort by conservationists to protect it since 1946. The death of seven Grey Whales in the White Rock area in 1984 illustrates the need to be vigilant in protecting our fragile marine eco-systems from the ravages of pollution. This mural depicts the passage of a mother and calf with male escort as they pass by White Rock on their annual migration from Baja, Mexico to the Bering and Chukchi Seas off Siberia, a trip of 9,600 km (6,000 miles) which takes six to eight weeks at a speed of 160 km (100 miles) per day."

Starting with his first mural in 1981 at Laguna Beach in California and ending twenty-seven years later in 2008 with a mural for the Bejing Summer Olympics, Wyland and his Foundation completed the goal of painting 100 life-sized public marine murals featuring whales and aquatic habitats. The Whaling Wall campaign was one of the largest public art projects in history, encompassing five continents, thirteen countries and seventy nine cities around the globe. Wyland explained this ambitious endeavour stating, "We know now that water connects all the countries of the world. Our goal with these projects over the last three decades has been to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public. The health of our ocean and waterways are in jeopardy, not to mention the thousands of marine animals and plants that face extinction if we do nothing." You can personally view other nearby Whaling Wall paintings in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle and Tacoma, or check out the entire world-wide collection available online at www.wyland.com.

Whether through ingesting toxins, getting tangled in fishing gear, deafened by sonar blasts or rammed by passing ships, whales continue to pay the price for man's attempted domination of the environment and wildlife. With its low water levels, gentle currents and sandy shores, Semiahmoo Bay will continue to attract sick or injured Cetacea who do not have the energy to continue with their long annual migrations from northern feeding grounds to southern breeding locations. Do not believe the Province's editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy who late last week suggested that simply being in White Rock caused this animal's death, likely raising the ire of Mayor Baldwin and others who love living on hillside above the bay. While an international moratorium on whale hunting was put in place in 1982, these large and placid mammals still need our protection as they run the gauntlet of dangers still posed by humans.



Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 11, 2012


Giant Alien Invaders Taking Over Semi-Pen!



With sensational headlines like this, I'm pretty sure that the National Inquirer or News of the World taboids will be contacting me shortly to offer me the editor's position. Until then, the invasion of species of animals and plants not native to this region continues with eradication procedures in place for many of them. Coming only days after the successful capture of a predatory snakehead fish in Burnaby's Central Park, I thought it would be timely to feature a column on the Giant Hogweed plant now popping up on boulevards, farm fields and hedgerows throughout the Lower Mainland including here in White Rock and South Surrey. Known as an "aggressive ornamental", Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a perennial member of the parsley family that is native to Asia. It resembles the native cow parsnip but is much larger, growing up to 6 metres in height. This rather striking plant was introduced to North America as a garden curiosity decades ago but with its fast growth and invasive characteristics has escaped into the wild where it continues to spread. In the Province of B.C. it can be found on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and across the Lower Mainland.

Besides its immense height that makes it easy to spot and identify, Giant Hogweed also has a thick dark reddish stalk that can grow five to ten centimetres across. Its broad compound leaf is deeply grooved and divided, capable of expanding to 1.5 metres across. The stalk and leaf stems are both hollow and have thick hairs around a blister-like pustule. In the early summer, small white flowers form together in plate sized clusters that together make up an inflorescence or umbrella-shaped head which can reach a diameter of up to one metre across. It reproduces through seed and perennial buds, taking several years from the time it germinates until it develops its characteristic dome of white flowers. While adult plants die after reproducing, the perennial buds can live on for 25 years with the viability of the 100,000 seeds each plant produces extending for more than seven years. Giant Hogweed will grow in a variety of habitats but it is usually found next to streams, boulevards, field edges or vacant lots that have moist or wet conditions.

The reason why Giant Hogweed is being targeted for eradication from our environment is the risk that it poses to human health. The pustules on the stalks and stems secrete a clear runny sap containing chemicals that sensitizes skin to ultraviolet radiation, a condition known as phytophotodermatitis. If you are unfortunate enough to get this sap on your skin, you will experience severe burns within 48 hours resulting in blistering and painful dermatitis that can leave purple to black pigmented scarring. Even a miniscule amount of this sap in your eyes can cause permanent corneal damage or blindness. A friend of mine had the unfortunate experience of weed-eating some young Giant Hogweed plants growing next to an industrial site, not recognizing them amidst the other vegetation. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt and ended up with painful burns and swelling on both arms requiring a visit to hospital and several days off of work. Pets can also experience the same photo dermatitis experienced by humans, plus can easily transfer the poisonous sap to their owners from contact with their fur. In the environment, Giant Hogweed's fast-growing and invasive nature allows it to outcompete and crowd out native species of vegetation. In streamside areas it can form a dense canopy, shading out competing native species leading to bank erosion.

park n' ride hogweed

The City of Surrey is on the lookout for this plant that is featured on their website in the culture and recreation section. Under the headline, "Beware of Giant Hogweed" they warn to "avoid direct contact with the plant as the sap and stem hairs cause a serious skin inflammation activated by exposure to the sun." With the large white flower heads now opening up, I have recently spotted this dangerous noxious weed on the King George Boulevard near the South Surrey Park n' Ride, both sides of Hwy. 99 at the Nicomekyl River bridge and the Surrey/Delta border, plus in Richmond near the George Massey tunnel. The City of White Rock website goes even further, advising residents exposed to Giant Hogweed to wash affected areas immediately, keep affected skin out of the sun and seed medical advice for burns. They also offer advice for removing these plants from private property including wearing full protective gear with eye protection, cutting flower heads to stop seed spread, digging roots 8 - 12 cm below the ground and disposing the plants in double bagged garbage bags. Their strong warning, "DO NOT COMPOST" needs to be followed as this may not kill the buds or seeds. WR Sun editor Dave Chesney last year reported Giant Hogweed on the BNSF rail corridor near the Semiahmoo First Nation Reserve where it poses a threat to anyone crossing the train tracks to access the beach, especially those wearing shorts, bathing suits or sandals. Unfortunately it appears his warnings were not acted on as the tall weed patch is still growing in the same area a year later.

If you find this alien pest during your travels, keep your distance and report it to the authorities so that it can be safely removed before going to seed and spreading further afield. If you find Giant Hogweed growing in a Surrey park, call the Parks service request line at 604-501-5050. To report this noxious plant along Surrey roads, boulevards and ditches, phone the Engineering Department service request line at 604-591-4152. In White Rock parks, roadways or even on private lands, contact the Engineering Department at 604-541-2181 with the plant location. If you find it on your own property, educate yourself on how to safely remove it and properly dispose of the plant material or call a professional to deal with it. While strangely beautiful, the Giant Hogweed needs to be eradicated from the landscape where its simple existence poses a serious threat to anyone not aware of the harm it can do.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note - Hogweed is once again growing on the White Rock beach east of the landmark white rock. Stay away and be extra careful if you have children with you.



 

June 04,2012



A "Green" Lawn


Having worked on golf courses, school boards, parks boards plus hundreds of different commercial and residential properties, I can readily admit to knowing how to achieve a lush green lawn. Unfortunately many of the previous turf management practices used in the past were far from "green" using copious amounts of chemical fertilizers and herbicides to achieve an artificial look of healthy grass. Over the past few years I have found many ways to have a doubly green lawn that reduces the dependency on chemicals, requires less work, while producing turf that is thick, weed free, and drought resistant. I probably should be writing a book about this instead of giving away this information free of charge in my weekly TNT but I hope that gardeners across the Semiahmoo peninsula take the following recommendations to heart, realizing they are backed by thirty years of experience in the commercial grounds maintenance industry.

For decades, most lawnmowers bagged the clippings which were then discarded, usually on a compost pile or even bagged for disposal in a landfill. Even today with curb side organic pickup, many homeowners discard lawn cuttings which eventually are turned into rich organic topsoil at large industrial composting facilities. To do so is a complete waste of time and energy as every time you mow your lawn you are robbing the soil of valuable nutrients and the organics that are being produced. A better alternative is to employ a recycling or mulching mower that cuts the clippings into a fine powder that is spread into the lawn where it then becomes part of the nutrient cycle, acting as a weekly organic topdressing. This dramatically reduces the amount of biomass being taken off the lawn while greatly decreasing or eliminating the need for fertilizing. People need to realize that clippings are not removed from golf course fairways, community sports fields or park lawns, yet these areas are generally viewed as being green and healthy. Simply rake up or blow any heavy piles of mulch that the mower may leave when cutting is complete and don't worry about thatch build-up as I have never encountered this to be a problem. Keeping the underside of your lawn mower clean and the blade razor sharp so it functions properly is essential though.



This same mower technology can also be used in the fall to get rid of unwanted leaves and tree debris. Instead of raking up leaves on lawns or from beds and then bagging them for pickup or composting, simply spread them evenly on the lawn surface and shred them into a fine leaf confetti. On grass where the underlying soil is nutrient poor or well drained, this will greatly increase the organic matter and ensure far greater drought resistance the next summer. By employing this technique, I have taken yellow boulevard lawns growing on sand and gravel and turned them into thick green carpets that held their colour far into the summer. With the combination of leaf mulching and recycling mowing, not only is the soil condition greatly improved, it also adds to the fauna of bacteria, fungi and insects in the ground which are beneficial compared to a sterile soil starved of organics. To give you an idea of the labour savings, on a large strata complex in Surrey where I used to haul away four large truckloads of leaves a week in the fall, now all of this biomass is shredded directly into the ground with not a single leaf leaving the property. The end result is thick green lawns that are drought and weed resistance without the need for bags of costly fertilizer.

Leaf mulching mower in action, turned leaves into compost confetti.

If you wish to make your lawn as green as possible, and by this I mean environmentally sustainable, besides mulching to build organic reserves and cycle nutrients, organic fertilizers utilizing a blend of natural products are now available should your turf require feeding. Pull large weeds by hand while using the new lawn weed spray with chelated iron instead of the chemicals such as 2-4DT, Mecoprop and Dicamba found in products such as Killex and Weed-n-Feed that while not legal to use in Surrey and White Rock can still be unfortunately be purchased at some local stores. Control moss by using dolomite lime or ground eggshell in the fall and by power raking plus overseeding in spring and pruning tree branches to reduce shade. The other option is to realize that moss grows well in wet and shaded conditions and requires less mowing than grass, making it ideal in these situations. As temperatures increase in the summer, raise your mower to provide more height in your lawn and avoid cutting it in the morning or on hot days. Met-Van's new water regulations that just went into effect will now allow for three watering days per week but only in the morning hours from 4-9 a.m. With our wet weather patterns and by avoiding lawn mowing during hot spells, I usually only water my lawn three to five times a summer, and these are only necessary on a weekly basis to keep my grass healthy and green in colour.

Who said a lawn with so-called weeds couldn't be beautiful?

There is something else that people might want to try to wrap their heads around when it comes to their lawns. The whole idea of grass is to give us open areas on our property that can be utilized for our pleasure with the least amount of work required. Fertilizing your lawn makes the grass grow faster, necessitating more lawn cutting and increasing the work load. Watering the lawn in summer to keep it green when drying out is a natural part of the usual grassland cycle also means that instead of relaxing in a lawn chair with a margarita in hand, you will instead be having to mow the damn lawn! Those weeds that infiltrate your grass all flower, so is a lawn devoid of other plants actually healthy, or should a lawn with them be viewed instead as having wildflowers? Some folks are even planting a "fleur de lawn" that incorporates a mixture of dwarf grass, dwarf English daisies, baby blue eyes and strawberry clover which needs minimal water, once-a-month mowing and no fertilizer. Others are instead turning lawns into gardens, growing their own organic vegetables and saving money while producing their own food instead of grass clippings.

The old saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" might need to be given a new meaning, implying that your neighbour is an idiot for working so hard when he does not have to. Mulching has dropped my grass cutting time by a third, reduced organic waste dumping by ninety percent, while almost eliminating the need for fertilizing. At the same time the turf is thick and resistant to weed infiltration, healthy and drought tolerant during hot summer months, and staying green without the need for constant cutting. For those who want the ultimate green lawn, the old-fashioned push reel mowers appear to be making a trendy comeback. These eliminate the need for gas powered or electric mowers and I have seen several of these recently being used on residential lawns in the Semi-pen. As for myself, with numerous commercial contracts including one measuring twenty acres in size, I think I'll stick to the mowers that I have for a while, unless I can figure out a way to herd a flock of sheep from lawn to lawn and house to house.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 28, 2012

Boundary Baywatch & BBAMP

If you look around the shores of Boundary Bay, you will find remnants of pilings from old wharfs that were once part of the commercial oyster fishery from a century ago, which was the largest on the west coast of North America. Along the shores of Crescent Rock beach, you can see evidence of landing areas for Semiahmoo First Nations canoes at the base of the Ocean Park Bluffs were the harvesting of shellfish played a vital source of marine protein. Unfortunately development, agriculture and urban contaminants have polluted the water outflow sources flowing into Boundary Bay to the point that shellfish harvesting has now been banned for decades due to contamination. As a member of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee (BBCC), I recently brought forward a proposal to them to have the cities around the Bay on both sides of the border to work with First Nations and environmental groups to attempt to clean up this area. While the executive concluded that this concept would be worthwhile, they expressed a need for me to collect data about the levels of contamination currently being experienced.

While I have personally paid to have water from various local rivers analyzed in the past for Ecoli and various chemical contaminants, what I needed was a broad historical overview taken from many locations showing the level of the problem along with year-to-year changes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that such a study was already in place, with scientific results from three years of testing in what will eventually span a five year length of time. This project is called the Boundary Bay Assessment and Monitoring Program or BBAMP and it was initiated through the 2002 Metro Vancouver's Liquid Waste Management Plan's commitment to environmental monitoring of relevant water bodies. The partnership approach that BBAMP developed coordinates individual environmental monitoring efforts under a single comprehensive program. BBAMP is being conducted by Metro Vancouver, the cities of Surrey, Delta and White Rock, B.C. Environment plus Agriculture and Lands ministries, Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans Canada, B.C. Hydro, and the Semiahmoo First Nations. To the south, our American neighbors are participating in a related study of the Boundary Bay Biosphere Reserve under the control of the Puget Sound Partnership.

In the BBAMP water column data collection program, samples are collected during the dry-weather period from July to August, with wet-weather samples collected during late October through early December. This study focuses on the City of Surrey, monitoring at a number of sites on the tributaries including Bear Creek, Nicomekyl and Serpentine Rivers and the Little Campbell. The Corporation of Delta monitors the discharges from
the five pump stations on the northern edge of Boundary Bay that remove ditch water from farmland areas. Metro Vancouver takes samples of water at the mouths of some of the main tributaries plus marine sites in the bay itself (along with testing public beaches in the summer). The amount of raw data from all of these sites along with the many chemicals, metals, Ecoli, turbidity and oxygen levels is truly staggering, especially when one starts to compare the data from the three years that this scientific study has already been undertaken. Without getting into the specifics that would likely crash the White Rock Sun website, in a nutshell various pollutants and contaminants exist in all of Surrey's rivers with levels increasing as they flow towards Boundary Bay. The Nicomekyl River Sea Dam, where it noticed a thick foam plume several months ago is consistently one of the worst offenders. I would personally like to thank Carrie Barron, the City of Surrey's Drainage and Environment Manager for providing me the detailed BBAMP report at the request of Metro Vancouver.

What I found most interesting about this study was not the data itself but the fact that none of the many environmentalist, naturist and even naturalist groups that are part of the BBCC knew anything about the BBAMP study even though it has already been in existence for three years. While it is wonderful that the governmental agencies, NGO's and First Nations are involved in this study, I believe that community environmental and naturalist groups in the region should also be included and all given access to the BBAMP results. Besides giving them a window into pollution problems in the region, it also increases awareness of the fragility of the catchment basin to contamination from a wide variety of sources. I think that the environmental groups, especially those involved in salmonoid and habitat replacement along the Little Campbell, Bear Creek, Nicomekyl and Serpentine Rivers plus their tributaries have an important role to play in educating the public about problems in the watershed. The many members of these various groups can also play a vital role in reporting sources of pollution and increasing awareness of the importance of water quality for the ditches, streams and rivers that flow into Boundary Bay.

I would like to see the local governments and groups already involved with the BBAMP study invite environmentalist groups from across the region, including in the Blaine area of Washington State, to form "Boundary Baywatch", focusing attention on efforts around the border area to clean up Boundary Bay. It is one thing to actually have hard data showing the results of water quality testing from across the region but without a concerted multi-faceted effort to reduce contaminants, it is unlikely we will see much change in pollutants over time. The more eyes we have watching for problems and contaminants, along with educating the public at large about the scope of this problem and ways to improve the results, the more likely we will successfully improve the overall environmental health of Boundary Bay. Fisheries and Oceans Canada also has a vital role to play in Baywatch, ensuring that those found responsible for dumping chemicals or contaminating water flowing into Boundary Bay are held accountable and charged with transgressions and fined. Publicity from this will undoubtedly lead to further education of those who might be unknowingly polluting the watershed while putting public pressure on those who use our streams as a local dumping ground to change their minds.



With the Boundary Baywatch concept's obvious link to the 1990's television show Baywatch, hopefully we can use the nostalgia surrounding this long-running series to generate public interest to the cause. Maybe well-known Canadian celebrity Pamela Anderson who played the buxom beauty C.J. Parker in Baywatch can be persuaded to help publicize the cooperative efforts to clean up Boundary Bay to the point that we might one day possibly be able to dig for clams from the sands of Semiahmoo without risking poisoning or arrest. Considering that Mrs. Anderson is originally from Ladysmith on Vancouver Island and with her long history of concern for the ethical treatment of animals and the environment, I'd like to hope she would add her grace and beauty to the Boundary Baywatch program. Now, if she would like to come down to Crescent Rock Beach to work on those tan lines with the other SUN "Rockers", I'd be more than happy to give her a guided tour, provided we can keep the paparazzi away and not cause a riot on the shores of Boundary Bay.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 21, 2012


Shake, Rattle and Coal

"Come over baby, whole lot of shakin' goin' on.
Yes, I said come over baby, baby you can't go wrong.
We ain't fakin',whole lot of shakin' goin' on."


Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On, written by Sunny David and Dave Williams
Made Famous by Jerry Lee Lewis, a.k.a. "The Killer"

Pacific Terrace South Surrey Marine Drive

(Site of 3 landslides on to rail tracks - 2010)



When the BNSF began their program of railway upgrades here on the Semiahmoo peninsula several years back, many thought it was because of the publicity surrounding the sorry state of the corridor that included worn out old-fashioned segmented track, mud fouled ballast rock, missing connector tie bolts and rotting bridges. Since that time, continuous weld rail has been installed along with new wooden ties, rip-rap boulders have been reinforced against wave erosion, trestle bridges have seen ongoing maintenance and the vegetation near the tracks has been cut way back for visibility. Unfortunately, what nobody seemed to realize was that the BNSF Railway was making these changes in order to bring big heavy coal trains loaded with Power Basin coal from Wyoming and Utah to the Robert's Bank coal terminal for shipment to Asia. Now that these trains are rolling along the waterfront, some of the negative aspects of these massive loads are beginning to be felt.

Last weekend I took advantage of the warm weather and sunny skies to finally soak up a few rays down at Crescent Rock beach just south of the 101 Steps staircase at 24 Ave. Unfortunately the increased train traffic, with the doubling of the AmTrak passenger service, growth in regular mixed freight and the new U.S. coal trains, took away from the natural ambiance and peace that one could formerly find there. Twice in the few hours that I was at the shoreline, coal trains chugged by led by three BNSF diesel locomotives followed up by two more bringing up the rear. In between these engines were a long line of railway coal cars piled high with broken black rock, varying in length from 125 to 140 cars and taking up to 15 minutes to pass. It is these long and heavy trains that likely necessitated the infrastructure upgrades, rather than concerns from the local community rail safety group SmartRail that is hoping to have the tracks relocated back inland with the proposed high-speed rail. The squeal of the brakes as they slowed for the Nicomekl bridge, coupled with the chugging of the engines and shaking of the ground disturbed nature and naturists alike, with the bald eagles and herons flying away to escape the racket.



The increase in coal train traffic has not gone unnoticed by people living on or near the view properties above the BNSF Railway. While the removal of the segmented track has decreased some of the noise from the rails, the mass of these trains and the multiple locomotives needed to safely move them (as many as 7 engines have been spotted) is causing vibrations in the ground that transmit for some distance. Folks residing up to four blocks away from the tracks in White Rock are noticing the change, with old-timers complaining about mini-earthquakes from the BNSF coal trains in their neighbourhoods that is about as subtle as that noticed down at Crescent Rock beach. There have even been reports of new cracks in concrete suddenly appearing in patio slabs and garages laid down decades before. Whether this is from vibrations from trains or possible soil movement on the slope above the tracks still needs to be ascertained and Prof. John Clauge from SFU's Geology Department has been contacted about doing seismic studies in this region relating to coal train passage. For those with view properties on the edge of the Ocean Park Bluff, it is likely the tremors will be more noticeable with ground vibrations focusing on the cornice, something I witnessed personally at the edge of a Langley hillside during the Seattle earthquake back in 2001.

The increasing coal train traffic and their heavy loads also appear to be having an effect on the waterfront tracks, even with all of the millions of dollars poured into the upgrades. There are multiple areas of the BNSF tracks that are now being monitored by concerned citizens who are keeping the Transportation Safety Board aware of liquefaction occurring due to the pumping action of the ties attributed to heavy loads, believed to be from the loaded coal trains. A section of rail bed next to the Semiahmoo First Nation parking lot has exposed ties with passing trains flexing the rails and cars tilting noticeably, even when passing by at low speed. Another section of tracks near Vidal Street has at least 10 sleepers (ties for the layman) that are without ballast rock on the side facing the bay, while further to the west from this location some ties are literally hanging in the air. Before the past couple weeks of nice dry weather, the rail bed near the pier was noticed to be somewhat fluid in a section of track close to the White Rock museum. It is unknown as this time as to the condition of the tracks between Crescent Beach and West Beach, a 6 km. long section that is dangerous and illegal to walk on. The BNSF has reportedly agreed to address the known problems and bring in more ballast to stabilize the rails but what effect this will have on tracks originally built a century ago on the inter-tidal zone of the beach remains to be seen.



We were somewhat fortunate that last winter brought mild temperatures and decreased rainfall with a noticeable absence of strong tropical storms from the Pacific known as the "Pineapple Express" that are linked to much of the landslide activity from the Ocean Park bluffs onto the BNSF tracks. It will be very interesting to see what happens if we experience heavy rains, saturated soils and increased ground vibrations from passing coal trains. Whether this is a recipe for disaster, time will definitely tell but knowing the geology of the bluff and the history of train derailments caused by landslides, I believe it is only a matter of time until Murphy's Law catches up with Warren Buffet's railway. While the BNSF Railway cancels the AmTrak passenger trains for either 24 or 48 hours after slide activity onto the tracks here, they do not follow the same protocol with freight, rolling trains after the rails have been cleared instead of waiting for the hillside to completely drain. Case in point was the landslide zone just east of the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park two winters ago that was the scene of three successive slope failures onto the tracks, fortunately without impacting the freight trains that rolled by with everything from coal to chlorine gas while AmTrak passengers were being bussed around for their own safety.

Railways are under federal jurisdiction and seem to operate with impunity from concerns expressed from citizens and local government. As a long-time White Rock councillor recently noted, the city cannot ask the railway to fix their tracks, only a private citizen can. Even the Transportation Safety Board, gutted by successive federal government cutbacks, seems to have little sway over powerful railroads who operate on their own terms, addressing safety as they see fit. While both SmartRail and SUN previously made presentations to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel several years ago, detailing what we believed were dangerous practices and rail conditions in this region, our proposed amendments were all but ignored by bureaucrats in Ottawa. If you are experiencing ground vibrations you believe are linked to coal train traffic here, you can report them to the Canadian Transportation Agency Rail Division (http://www.cta-otc.gc.ca/eng/rail-noise-and-vibration-complaints). Safety concerns about the rail corridor should be brought to the attention of the BNSF Railway (gus.melonas@bnsf.com) and the Transportation Safety Board Rail Division in Richmond (1-800-387-3557). Other than that, our federal M.P., Conservative Russ Hiebert (info@russhiebert.ca / 604-542-9495), needs to know if you have noticed negative changes brought on by the influx of coal trains now passing along the shores of the Semi-pen. Hopefully he will be able to get us all a fair shake from the BNSF.

The BNSF Railway has recently completed repairs to the tracks next to the Semiahmoo Reserve play field, removing mud fouled ballast rock from under the tracks and replacing it with large amounts of fresh crushed rock for an stretch of close to 100 metres. No word yet on if and when other mud infiltrated areas of their corridor that are now appearing will be dealt with.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

May 14, 2012

Curb Your Enthusiasim

It never ceases to amaze me how slowly government can respond to glaring safety problems in our highway's infrastructure, especially when these deficiencies have proven to be lethal in the past. Case in point is the seemingly never ending story concerning the Serpentine River bridge on Hwy. 99 in south Surrey that has been the topic of my TNT's dating from March 12, 2012, Feb. 20, 2012 and way back on March 7, 2011. You can scroll down the previous editions for the gory details and explanations as to why this is such an important topic to someone like me with a strong interest in transportation safety. Most importantly, realize that much of what you may have read in the local newspaper concerning problem with the bridge vehicle containment system has not been consistant with the facts in this case.

This story started with a young woman losing control and crashing her car through the guard rail and drowning in the Serpentine on Feb. 28, 2011, succumbing to her injuries a dozen days later. After I raised the alarm about the railing failure, the B.C. government that is responsible for this stretch of highway initiated a study that found while the railings met 1960's construction codes, they contain a fatal design flaw and brittle metal support posts making them prone to failure. This report was delivered to the Minister of Transportation in November of last year and finally released to only myself and a PAN reporter in late February, the day before the B.C. budget in a tactic that is usually used to bury embarrassing information from the mainstream media. Since that time I have exposed unrepaired damage to bridge components on both the Serpentine River and Nicomekl River bridges which used the identical style of aluminium guard rail (Broken Railings..., Broken Parts..., Broken Lives..., Broken Hearts, Mar. 20, 2012).

It gives me a great sense of relief to finally report that the broken guard rail mounting posts on both the "Serp" and "Nick" bridges on Hwy. 99 have been replaced by Mainroad since my last TNT on this topic along with most of the damaged lateral railings that were dented or out of line. Late last week, Highway's contractors were at both of these bridges installing 18 inch concrete curbing next to the guard rails as a way to protect the fragile railings and ensure that another motorist does not end up drowning in the drink. Both sides of the southbound lanes of the 99 at the Serp have been completed with only the fast lane sides of both directions of the Nick currently being finished. I would expect the slow lanes of this bridge to have their curbing installed sometime later this week. The northbound lanes at the Serp already had their guardrails replaced when the bus lane was built, utilizing the new concrete parapet design that is built to withstand impact from even large trucks.

While thrilled that these repairs have finally been done, it exasperates me to know that soon after this accident happened, these same concrete curbs were placed on the fast lane side of the Serpentine River bridge as additional protection for the workers who were widening the decking for the bus lane. I wrote to the Department of Transportation and the Minister, informing them that leaving these curbs in place and possibly putting them next to the failed railings on the slow lane side might be a good idea in the interest of public safety. Instead when the bus lane was completed, they were removed in mid-summer last year, finally being reinstalled this week, two months after they were originally promised in March of this year. For almost a year from when a small Honda Civic ripped out 60 feet of safety railing in a side-swipe accident, these defective guard rails have been left to protect the sides of Hwy. 99, when in fact they were an accident waiting to happen yet again with a watery grave likely for an unlucky motorist.

Could the Minister of Transportation or the local MLA's Stephanie Cadieux or Gordon Hogg not have seen the common sense in leaving the original concrete curbing put in place for construction on the bridge until the report on the guard rail failure was complete? If they had acted with caution in mind, both the Serp and Nick along with the nearby BNSF Railway bridge whose railings are beat and bent should have been protected with concrete curbing while waiting for the results of the engineering report. An initial inspection of the railings brought up from the Serpentine River, including the first piece that I dragged out of the muck, should have raised enough concerns about the structural integrity of this important safety system. As it is, we are lucky that only one person died over the years that these defective railings were in place. Just last week, a pickup truck towing a trailer crashed into large concrete barricades northbound on Hwy. 99 right before the Nicomekyl River bridge. The truck came to rest on top of these railings that are twice as tall as those being installed beside the guardrails on the bridge, moving them apart with the force of the collision. Had this happened on the bridge, there is no way of knowing if the outcome would have resulted in yet another vehicle at the bottom of a south Surrey river.

While the concrete curbing placed besides the guardrails of the Serp and Nick bridges is a good stop-gap safety measure, the following statement from the executive summary of the "Hwy. 99 Serpentine River Bridge No. 1629W Barrier Failure Analysis" report should not be swept under the rug:
"...we believe that any feasible mitigative measures for this railing, and similar existing railings, would not bring these railings into compliance with current standards. In our opinion, the appropriate way to address the lack of containment exhibited by this railing and similar existing railings, is to replace the railing with a barrier configuration that is compliant with the current standards."


We need to know when these faulty railings here will finally be replaced with the new concrete parapet barrier design that is used across the province in new bridge construction. As to how many more of the 2,800 bridges in B.C. utilize this same type of defective aluminium railings and when they will also be protected with concrete curbing and scheduled for parapet barrier replacement needs to be revealed. Hopefully Stephanie Cadieux, Gordon Hogg and Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom will be able to provide us with definitive answers and a price tag, along with a time table for these much needed safety improvements.

If not, I can promise them that the "Pitbull" won't be letting go any time soon.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


The Naked Truth - May 7, 2012

Black Rock in White Rock



This weekend's climate change protest on the BNSF tracks at the White Rock pier put me between a lump of coal and a hard place. While I applauded the Stop Coal BC (www.stopcoal.ca) group's very public way of bringing attention to the amount of coal we are shipping to Asia, I did not support interfering with freight trains on the waterfront with people blockading the tracks, because of serious public safety concerns I had. Since I had previously enrolled in a two-day communications course on this weekend, I was unable to attend and avoided the dilemma of getting involved and being arrested or skipping this event that placed people in harm's way. As the B.C. Green Party's Transportation Critic, I believe it would have been my duty to join the blockade, with my involvement in railway safety and involvement with SUN and local community railway safety group SmartRail keeping me off the tracks. I'm glad I didn't have to make the decision between these two conflicting ideals that suddenly crossed paths, realizing the hypocritical position I would find myself in either way.

While the B.C. Liberal government would like to appear to be concerned about growing CO2 pollution in the atmosphere, hitting drivers here with the ever increasing carbon tax in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption, they are doing nothing to stop the strip mining and shipment of large amounts of coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels that generates the most greenhouse gases. This protest was planned to bring public attention to how the burning of coal in power plants and for steel production in Asia is adding to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere worldwide, believed to be responsible for global warming. This was part of an even bigger protest organized across the planet by the international environmental organization 350.org (www.350.org) on 5/5/12 called "Climate Action Day" where they invited people from all countries to, "Connect the dots on climate change." This group hopes to raise awareness of climate change, to confront denial of this problem and cut emissions to the 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere believed to be the safe upper limit needed avoid a climate tipping point. To grasp the rate of change, refer to the "Keeling Curve" graph showing a steady increase in CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere from 315 ppm in 1960 to 394 ppm in 2012, with the 350 ppm benchmark being passed back in 1985.

Mark Jaccard led away by RCMP

For most of Saturday about 40 protestors milled about the White Rock pier waiting to block any coal trains, with spotters in Washington State and north of Crescent Beach keeping an eye out for approaching coal trains. Regular freight trains and the AmTrak passenger trains were allowed to roll by unmolested as promised. The fact that the BNSF had already received a court injunction against Stop Coal members Bruce Mohun and Peter Nix plus anyone else from trespassing on the BNSF right-of-way did not concern the protestors who vowed civil disobedience and planned to block the tracks regardless. The most high profile person on site had to be Mark Jaccard, a SFU professor who is the coordinator of the university's Energy and Materials Research Group. He was the former chair of the B.C. Utilities Commission for five years in the 1990's and was among those who were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To learn more you can read his book, Sustainable Fossil Fuels that won him the Donner Prize for the best policy book in Canada. At 6 p.m., a BNSF coal trail approached, stopping just short of the pier crossing. Fourteen Stop Coal members blocked the passage of the train and 13 of these were peacefully arrested by the RCMP and taken to the White Rock station for processing and for payment of their $115 dollar fines for trespassing. Taking a stand against climate change, the Nobel laureate Prof. Jaccard was one of those charged.

The 125 car train then made its way to the Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank in Tsawwassen, bringing coal on American billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet's railroad to B.C. billionaire businessman Jim Pattison's coal port. With each rail car holding an estimated 100 tonnes of coal, this one train delivered 12,500 tonnes of coal destined for shipment, likely to China. The Stop Coal protestors claimed they eliminated the delivery of five more trains that day on the BNSF lines while 18 other coal trains headed west on the nearby CN line along Panorama Ridge. Westshore is the busiest coal export facility in Canada, moving more coal than all of the other terminals in the country combined. It is the busiest single export coal terminal in North America, shipping 27 million tonnes of coal last year, with 8 million tonnes of this from U.S. locations. With a tonne of coal generating between two and three times its weight in CO2 when burned (depending on carbon content) this means we are indirectly generating approximately 60 million tonnes of CO2, or close to 13.5 tonnes of CO2 for every man, woman and child living in the province. This number equates to the average CO2 emission for more than two cars per person showing that while we are not burning this fuel here, we are directly adding to this global problem. With this in mind, Westshore's statement on their website that they are,"committed to being a caring, responsible neighbour in this fragile environment" needs to be questioned.

What I found most interesting about this entire protest was being told that this was not the first time people had blocked the BNSF tracks in White Rock to protest pollution from passing coal trains. Noted horticulturalist and thorn in WR Council's side environmentalist Barry Belec informed me that students from Semiahmoo high school had taken to the seaside tracks in the early 1970's to protest coal trains moving north from the U.S., with concerns about coal dust contaminating the beachfront and foreshore across White Rock and south Surrey. He put me in touch with former classmate Doug Feltis who confirmed that this had indeed been the case and that he'd been part of a large group of students who had left school and laid down or sat on the tracks to bring awareness to the sudden influx in coal trains in the peninsula. Supposedly there was a large picture on the front page of the local newspaper (likely the previous incarnation of the White Rock Sun) and I will be asking Hugh Ellenwood at the White Rock Museum and Archives to see if he can find the article on this historical incident. Whi