Ed Wilcock, one of many friends the community lost in 2019, was killed in a helicopter crash at the Tyee Spit in Campbell River Sept. 24. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

Happiness, heartbreak, a TV star and a monkey?

It was a year of ups and downs for the community in 2019. Here’s a look at some of what happened

We may not be a big city, but we have our fair share of interesting stories here in Campbell River.

And here at the Campbell River Mirror, we share more of them with the community than anyone else. By a lot.

There were many different ways we could have decided on what the “top stories” of the year for 2019 would be. We could have gone by the amount of clicks each story got online, or how many calls we received about each one, but we decided just to go through the year and talk a bit about the ones that we, as the people who covered them, are still thinking about here at the turn of the calendar.

People Making a Difference

Back at the beginning of the year, young Sylas Thompson decided to take it upon himself to go for a swim in the frigid waters off the Tyee Spit every day until he raised $30,000 for local charities. He hit the water for 36 consecutive days during one of the coldest Februaries in recent memory, racking up $37,217.48, which he then split between the Women’s Resource Centre and Grassroots Kind Hearts. He would later win two Local Hero Awards for his efforts: Youth Volunteer and Hero of the Year.

In August, Tracy Masters mounted the charge to bring the community out in recognition of those we’ve lost to overdose for the first ever Overdose Awareness Walk through downtown Campbell River. Masters lost her daughter to overdose in March, after which she and her sister Kristy started a group called “Masters of Hope,” which brings people together in a safe space to have conversations about mental health and addictions struggles.

In September, it was our community’s youth who again shone bright, as students from both high schools called upon those who want to change the environmental impact humans have on the planet to join them in Spirit Square and march on City Hall in solidarity with Greta Thunberg and the rapidly-building global movement calling for ecologic responsibility.

The Loss of Some of Our Best

It’s always hard to lose people that are important to you, and the community lost some really good ones this past year.

Back in March, Campbell River lost its Santa Claus when Scotty MacLaren died. For 46 years, MacLaren dedicated himself to community service in Campbell River, raising millions of dollars for charities including the United Way, BC Special Olympics, BC Cancer, Society, the Campbell River Community Foundation and Campbell River Search and Rescue.

In September, long-time helicopter pilot and friend to many in the region, Ed Wilcock, died when his helicopter crashed on the Tyee Spit, narrowly missing the carving shed in which internationally-renowned and respected carver Bill Henderson was at work.

Then in October, we lost local artist, Wei Wai Kum First Nation band councillor and advocate for education, reconciliation and togetherness, Curtis Wilson. Wilson – who was given the traditional name Mulidzas at a Potlach in 2001 – died of a major heart attack, but will long be remembered, as his legacy is sprinkled throughout many facets of our region, including the new logo of the Campbell River School District, unveiled just weeks before his passing.

In November, one of Campbell River’s staunchest defenders of the environment, Don McIver, died at the age of 93. McIver championed a number of causes but will certainly be remembered for his role in preventing the Beaver Lodge Lands from being developed into housing subdivisions.

Ongoing Situations

2019 was marked by a couple of ongoing and still-lingering news stories in the community.

On Canada Day, 98.8 per cent of the union’s members at Western Forest Products voted in favour of a strike when the two sides couldn’t ratify a collective agreement to replace their previous five-year agreement. No one could know at the time that the year would close without an agreement in place. Rallies and fundraisers have been held, mediation has happened – and broken down – numerous times and 2020 begins with as much – or more – uncertainty the forestry industry has experienced in recent memory.

2019 was also a year of controversy in the new Campbell River Hospital. Doctors at the hospital brought forth a petition to hire a third pathologist instead of outsourcing lab services to a facility in Victoria, saying the move would harm the quality of care received by patients in the North Island. Meanwhile, complaints continue to roll in about the hospital’s capacity and overcrowding issues.

Seeing Stars

The community was all about Aquaman for a while this year, as Jason Momoa was in town filming for a new Apple TV series, which debuted with the release of the new streaming service in November. A special screening of the first two episodes of the series was held for a packed house at the Tidemark Theatre and the series is being hailed as another huge piece of publicity for the beauty of the region.

A Missing Monkey?

In the weird and wonderful world of animal sightings, what was believed to be a capuchin monkey was seen roaming around the area of Hilchey and Eardley Roads in Willow Point, sending the online community into a tizzy.

It turns out, Campbell River has somewhat of a lenghty history with monkey escapades, as then-Mirror reporter David Gordon Koch found out when he went digging for information, including a furry fella named Ringo who went on a tear in a Campbellton restaurant in the 1970s.

Other News of Note

2019 was also, of course, the year where Canadians went to the polls and re-elected a Liberal government, albeit with a minority in the House of Commons. Campbell River and the North Island re-elected NDP incumbent Rachel Blaney.

Recreational marijuana was also legalized in 2019, and Campbell River became the second community in the province to have a retail outlet when BC Cannabis opened in the Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre in July.

The first private retailers are scheduled to open in 2020.


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Vancouver Island’s first government-operated cannabis store opened in Campbell River on July 31. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror

The Jason Momoa series “See”, which was shot in the Campbell River area, debuted on Nov. 1. Photo Courtesy Apple TV

An impromptu rally in support of struggling forestry workers took place in the parking lot of the Community Centre in November after a planned community meeting by the Sierra Club of BC and the Wilderness Committee was cancelled at the last minute by the city. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror