PHOTOS: Sooke remembers 2020

Heather Leier was in high spirits after having her second child, Reese Campbell Leier, who’s claimed the title of the first baby born on Vancouver Island. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)Heather Leier was in high spirits after having her second child, Reese Campbell Leier, who’s claimed the title of the first baby born on Vancouver Island. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue manager Kathryn Farr and RCMP Cpl. Joe Holmes appeared before the media after three men were swept away by the Sooke River in February. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue manager Kathryn Farr and RCMP Cpl. Joe Holmes appeared before the media after three men were swept away by the Sooke River in February. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Cadet PO1 Serena Hutchinson was front and centre during the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Admiral R.C. Waller monthly division parade at the Sooke Legion Hall in March. (Bruce Hogarth - Sooke News Mirror)Cadet PO1 Serena Hutchinson was front and centre during the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Admiral R.C. Waller monthly division parade at the Sooke Legion Hall in March. (Bruce Hogarth - Sooke News Mirror)
Like so many in 2020, Journey Middle School students found the COVID-19 pandemic challenging. They wrote about their experiences in a special series in the Sooke News Mirror in April. (File - Sooke News Mirror)Like so many in 2020, Journey Middle School students found the COVID-19 pandemic challenging. They wrote about their experiences in a special series in the Sooke News Mirror in April. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
Ryan Orr, owner of Sooke Oceanside Brewery, is among local craft brewers who’ve managed to remain operating since the coronavirus pandemic began. He was featured in a May 2020 Sooke News Mirror story. (Dawn Gibson - Sooke News Mirror)Ryan Orr, owner of Sooke Oceanside Brewery, is among local craft brewers who’ve managed to remain operating since the coronavirus pandemic began. He was featured in a May 2020 Sooke News Mirror story. (Dawn Gibson - Sooke News Mirror)
Dr. Anton Rabien, left, and Premier John Horgan at the official announcement of the West Coast Medical Centre completion in June. (Don Craig - Province of B.C.)Dr. Anton Rabien, left, and Premier John Horgan at the official announcement of the West Coast Medical Centre completion in June. (Don Craig - Province of B.C.)
Juan de Fuca Ground Search and Rescue members practice their grid search skills in July while incorporating new personal equipment protection procedures and physical distancing to keep everyone safe. (Juan de Fuca Ground Search and Rescue photo)Juan de Fuca Ground Search and Rescue members practice their grid search skills in July while incorporating new personal equipment protection procedures and physical distancing to keep everyone safe. (Juan de Fuca Ground Search and Rescue photo)
Timber assessor Barry Simpson after falling and performing quality control on logs. Simpson was part of a three-part series on the forest industry the Sooke News Mirror launched in August. (Contributed photo)Timber assessor Barry Simpson after falling and performing quality control on logs. Simpson was part of a three-part series on the forest industry the Sooke News Mirror launched in August. (Contributed photo)
Edward Milne Community School principal Laura Fultan and vice-principals John Lyall and Todd Powell welcomed back students in September 2020. The school reopened on Sept. 10 with improved COVID-19 pandemic health protocols. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)Edward Milne Community School principal Laura Fultan and vice-principals John Lyall and Todd Powell welcomed back students in September 2020. The school reopened on Sept. 10 with improved COVID-19 pandemic health protocols. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
Jackson Egeland, 17, works on a 12-foot jet boat at Edward Milne Community School. Egeland is part of EMCS’ Metal Task program. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)Jackson Egeland, 17, works on a 12-foot jet boat at Edward Milne Community School. Egeland is part of EMCS’ Metal Task program. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Stephen Bradley tosses a crab into Sooke harbour while fishing off Rotary Pier recently. Crab fishing is a year-round activity in Sooke. (Ben Smyth photo)Stephen Bradley tosses a crab into Sooke harbour while fishing off Rotary Pier recently. Crab fishing is a year-round activity in Sooke. (Ben Smyth photo)
Kris Hardy and Monique Seidler are pictured on their rental property on Murray Road. In December, the District of Sooke said they couldn’t use a motorhome as a primary residence. (Kevin Laird – Sooke News Mirror)Kris Hardy and Monique Seidler are pictured on their rental property on Murray Road. In December, the District of Sooke said they couldn’t use a motorhome as a primary residence. (Kevin Laird – Sooke News Mirror)

JANUARY

A Sooke family welcomed Vancouver Island’s first baby of 2020 at Victoria General Hospital. The baby boy, Reese Campbell Leier, was born at 12:17 a.m., weighing eight pounds, three ounces.

Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, Compass Daycare, one of two new childcare facilities announced for Sooke in the spring of 2019, verged on shutting its doors. The operators of the daycare put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the District of Sooke.

Vancouver Island’s Pacific Marine Circle Tour might be a relaxing and beautiful drive, but local politician Mike Hicks said the highway’s lack of cellphone service also makes it dangerous. Much of the route weaves through remote wilderness.

According to information released by B.C. Assessment, most of Sooke’s 5,600 property owners saw the typically assessed value of their single-family home either drop or rise slightly.

RELATED: Sooke family welcomes Vancouver Island’s first baby of 2020

FEBRUARY

Three young men were killed when the pickup truck they were riding in plunged into the Sooke River during torrential rainfall. “I think this is a case of the three young men out for an adventure. It’s so sad,” said one first responder.

Sooke continues as one of the fastest-growing communities in B.C., according to new population estimates. The community grew by 2.5 per cent to 14,657 between 2018 and 2019.

In a move that could be a seismic shift for communities between Sooke and Port Renfrew, Telus Communications is attempting to extend fibre optic connections to the region. The area is “severely under-serviced” with inadequate or non-existent high-speed internet access and spotty cellphone service.

The search for two Scout leaders who went missing came to a successful conclusion as Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue located the group. The group’s investigation began after the three leaders and five scouts went for a weekend adventure and ran afoul of the weather.

RELATED: Body of third missing man found in Sooke River

MARCH

The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to concern for Sooke School District officials, as one overseas trip planned by Journey Middle School students was cancelled and another with Edward Milne Community School lay in doubt.

The Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic left a void difficult to fill for Girl Guides across the country. The event was planned for June at Camp Barnard and would have brought more than 2,500 Girl Guides to Sooke from across the country.

The Sooke School District fenced off a large portion of the Edward Milne Community School parking lot after a dispute with the T’Sou-ke First Nation’s George family. The George family raised concerns about damage to the First Nations burial grounds adjacent to the school.

The District of Sooke ramped up its Emergency Operations Centre to Level 2 in response to the growing threat of the pandemic. “The number 1 concern is flattening the curve (of the spread of the virus) by social distancing and practising good hygiene,” Matt Barney, Sooke Fire Rescue deputy chief, said.

RELATED: School district cancels on student trip and reviews another

APRIL

Sooke’s Canada Day event was the latest event to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said the event was cancelled in response to a provincial health order that banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

Officials announced SEAPARC Leisure Complex would be used as an emergency space for up to 45 homeless people needing to self-isolate during the pandemic. “We are providing them an opportunity to self-isolate so that they can meet the requirements of the local health authorities,” said Jen Wilds, homelessness programs coordinator for the Sooke Region Communities Health Network.

A petition asking that access to Vancouver Island is limited to essential services, supplies and residents only during the COVID-19 pandemic garnered thousands of signatures. “We need to be proactive and protect our residents,” the online survey stated.

As “stay home” orders ring out from provincial press conferences and social media posts, one Sooke mother pleaded with the public to stop shaming her for taking her kids along for errands during the pandemic. Janene Walker said her options during essential outings were limited.

RELATED: Sooke mom faces ‘pandemic police’ for bringing kids to the grocery store

MAY

Hikers and walkers were urged to keep physical distancing top of mind as Sooke relaxed restrictions at municipal parks. Whiffin Spit, Marine Boardwalk, Ed Macgregor, and Sooke Bluffs parks reopened to the public weeks after they closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Students in the Sooke School District were told there wouldn’t be a prom, but officials promised a “unique graduation ceremony.” The Grade 12 students learned through a video message from the school district on how they planned to recognize their accomplishments.

Former councillor and well-known Sooke resident Sheila Beech died. Beech served two terms as a councillor, once in 2005 and again in 2011.

Port Renfrew reopened to visitors after a two-month self-imposed closure. In March, the community asked visitors to postpone their trips to Port Renfrew, overwhelmed by people looking to escape COVID-19 self-isolation rules in the area’s beautiful coastal scenery.

RELATED: Port Renfrew reopens to visitors

JUNE

The much-anticipated expansion of the West Coast Family Medical Clinic was completed. The upgraded facility allows for more medical services in Sooke, including the addition of two family physicians.

The Sooke Country Market found new digs. The market relocated to John Phillips Memorial Park to allow more vendors while still practicing physical distancing.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more youth are reaching out for mental health support, saying they face new fear, dread and hopelessness in the wake of the unprecedented crisis, health officials said.

Sooke Fall Fair organizers postponed the annual fall event until September 2021. Organizers said they were still planning to host some form of competition or event.

RELATED: Sooke expanded health-care facility officially complete

JULY

A North Vancouver real estate company bought the Sooke Harbour House for $5.6 million. The hotel remains closed but is expected to reopen next year after renovations are complete.

The federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pacheedaht First Nation to build and co-manage a $22-million Coast Guard facility on Vancouver Island’s west coast. The base will provide search and rescue and environmental response services when it opens in 2022.

A homeless camp set up at Ed Macgregor Park will remain as long as necessary, Mayor Maja Tait said. Many residents were later moved to a homeless shelter on Otter Point Road.

Several overnight backcountry camping areas in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve were closed this summer due to the pandemic crisis. Parks Canada’s decision to close the park was made in consultation with local First Nations.

According to Juan de Fuca Ground Search and Rescue, during the first six months of the year, search and rescue calls in the Sooke Region increased sharply compared to the same period in 2019. The local search and rescue team responded to 25 calls up to the end of June, a steep increase from 2019 when crews answered 30 calls for the entire year.

RELATED: Homeless camp will stay until ‘solution’ found

AUGUST

With peaceful protests, sit-ins and blockades, the battle to save old-growth forests intensified near Port Renfrew. Calling Fairy Creek the last intact unlogged watershed on Vancouver Island’s San Juan River system, the so-called Forest Defenders were adamant they would not allow logging in the area.

Amid record calls for rescues, volunteers remind park users to practice caution as there’s a risk the province could close its outdoor spaces. Last year, Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue responded to 30 calls, an average of 2.5 per month. By August, calls surpassed that total with 32 callouts.

The ongoing closure of the iconic West Coast Trail caused long-term impacts for a Vancouver Island Transportation company. The West Coast Express closed midway through the tourist season but vowed to return in 2021.

The B.C. Education Ministry apologized to thousands of 2019 graduating high school students after more than half of their provincial exam marks were misreported, disrupting post-secondary plans.

RELATED: West Coast Trail shuttle operator struggles with closure

SEPTEMBER

A former Sooke hotel manager, wrapped up in legal actions surrounding ownership of the Sooke Harbour House, is suing Facebook for $50 million for an “imposter account” that appears to be trolling him. Timothy Durkin claimed he tried to get the Facebook posting off the social media site since he first discovered it in March.

The majority of families in the Sooke School District sent their children back to school in-person amid pandemic concerns. Self-directed learning groups and sanitation stations were planned for all education levels.

The B.C. Conservation Service investigated 60 bear complaints in Sooke since April, with two animals euthanized. Those numbers were down substantially from the previous year when conservation officers received 202 complaints.

The District of Sooke took another step toward building a senior complex on Lot A. The complex will include a community centre, affordable housing units, and space for youth programming.

RELATED: Former owner of Sooke Harbour House suing Facebook for $50M over ‘imposter profile’

OCTOBER

The B.C. Supreme Court awarded Sinclair and Frederique Philip more than $4 million after a contentious battle over the Sooke Harbour House ownership. The justice called the episode a “six-year odyssey of lies, excuses, threats, intimidation and bullying” by the hotel’s previous owner.

The federal New Democrats want to make psychological abuse within a relationship illegal. Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons, controlling coercive conduct in an intimate relationship a criminal offence.

Construction of a new library in Sooke began Oct. 19, marking a milestone for the facility that Vancouver Island Regional Library board chair Brenda Leigh called “a long time coming.”

New Democrat Premier John Horgan returned for a fourth term as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, and brought an NDP majority government with him. Horgan easily defeated his Liberal, Green Party and Community Party challengers in the provincial election.

RELATED: Construction begins on new Sooke library

NOVEMBER

The Jordan River Regional Park campground was closed indefinitely by the Capital Regional District due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said they could not meet the contact tracing requirement of the provincial health ministry.

The District of Sooke announced it was suing a welding business alleging it’s contravening several bylaws. Shawn Driver and Driver Enterprises denied the allegations. The case heads to court in 2021.

The District of Sooke received $2.9 million through the province’s Safe Restart Grant program aimed at COVID-19 relief. “It’s more money than we expected,” said Mayor Maja Tait.

A beloved holiday tradition for many Sooke families was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Santa Parade organizers cancelled the event when they couldn’t adapt to the necessary pandemic safety precautions recommended by the B.C. Health Ministry.

RELATED: Sooke sues business over zoning violation

DECEMBER

Juan de Fuca Director Mike Hicks expressed disappointment that the Capital Regional District electoral area received only $43,000 from the provincial government in a COVID-19 relief fund, significantly less money than a similar size municipality.

By fining the property owner, the District of Sooke is forcing a family with two young children who live in a recreation vehicle on the land they rent to leave. District zoning bylaws prohibit people from living in RVs year-round in residential neighbourhoods. The district later relented and allowed the family to stay.

District council voted itself a five per cent wage increase. It’s the second year in a row council voted itself a raise. In 2019, it approved a nearly 50 per cent wage increase after a decade of frozen wages.

Council approved a 133 housing development on Church Road. The development will include 78 townhouse units and 54 single houses.

RELATED: Sooke family faces eviction for living in motorhome



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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