Clockwise from to left: A memorial for children in unmarked graves at the former residential school in Kamloops is pictured at St. Eugene Resort, June 7, 2021 (Barry Coulter photo). The Rotary Park Tourist Autocamp circa 1923. In 1925 it was moved to what’s now Baker Park. The campground was decommissioned in 2021 (photo courtesy Jim Cameron). The beaver dam at Idlewild Park (Barry Coulter photo). The interior of the Armond Theatre, under renovation (Barry Coulter photo). The Cranbrook Bucks, and friends, Western Financial Place, December, 2021 (Brian Clarkson photo)

Clockwise from to left: A memorial for children in unmarked graves at the former residential school in Kamloops is pictured at St. Eugene Resort, June 7, 2021 (Barry Coulter photo). The Rotary Park Tourist Autocamp circa 1923. In 1925 it was moved to what’s now Baker Park. The campground was decommissioned in 2021 (photo courtesy Jim Cameron). The beaver dam at Idlewild Park (Barry Coulter photo). The interior of the Armond Theatre, under renovation (Barry Coulter photo). The Cranbrook Bucks, and friends, Western Financial Place, December, 2021 (Brian Clarkson photo)

Five top news stories for Cranbrook in 2021

Tragic discoveries, historic reflections, community transformations the coming Roaring 20s, the plucky Bucks, and beavers beavers beavers

To look back on the happenings in the community of the year past, you have to dig through the immense snowdrifts of the pandemic.

Year Two of the novel coronavirus pandemic saw an even greater shifting of our lives. The advent of vaccine passports, mask mandates, new ways of behaving in public, and all the accompanying effects on business, education, arts and culture, travel, and our individual lives, have not only presented great challenges for us to endure and overcome, but shown us a glimpse of our future.

But there was other news — that also reflects the changes we’re going through, that both makes us look back on the past and gives us a look into the future of our community. My colleagues at the Cranbrook Townsman and Kimberley Bulletin has discussed some of these issues recently in looking back on 2021: Unprecedented weather events; the toxic drug crisis; and yes — Covid, Covid, Covid.

But as well as these, here then are my choices as Editor for Cranbrook’s important new stories of the year.

• The discovery of unmarked burials at former residential schools, including at St. Eugene Mission.

The announcement on May 27 that ground-penetrating radar had confirmed the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School was followed by the news of more such discoveries, including at the site of the former the Kootenay Indian Residential School, which operated for 60 years, between 1910 and 1970.

The ʔaq̓am leadership confirmed that 182 unmarked graves were discovered in a cemetery site close to a former residential school near Cranbrook. The graves were found using ground-penetrating radar.

The area of the cemetery has a complex history. The cemetery was established around 1865 for settlers to the region, and the St. Eugene Hospital was built near the St. Mary River nearly a decade later. Many of the graves in the cemetery are those who passed away in the hospital from within the Cranbrook region during that time frame, according to the ʔaq̓am.

The St. Eugene hospital burned down in 1899 and was rebuilt in Cranbrook, but the community of ʔaq̓am did not start to bury their ancestors in the cemetery until late 1800s.

The St. Eugene Residential School, adjacent to the cemetery site, operated from 1912-1970 and was attended by hundreds of Ktunaxa children, as well as children from neighbouring First Nations and communities.

The discovery of the unmarked burials sparked a nationwide conversation and reflection on our shared history, truth and reconciliation, and finding our way forward as a nation and community from past injustices and tragedies.

• A new wave of entrepreneurialism in downtown Cranbrook.

The recent wave of local risk-taking youthful entrepreneurship will transform Cranbrook’s sleepy downtown core into something that will help launch a post-pandemic Roaring Twenties. The good kind of Roaring Twenties, not the Roaring Twenties with prohibition and tommy guns. So it’s safe to predict that a year or two from now, with all the changes we have undergone, we will be ready to roar into a downtown that has been transformed to accommodate us.

Think of the purchase and upgrade of the Armond Theatre into a live music venue, the purchase and upgrade of Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley into a brewery and high-end indoor entertainment facility, the irruption of restaurant and bar patios all throughout the downtown core, the establishments like the HeidOut, and Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap, the Mount Baker Hotel, The Blind Pig, Dash Eatery, and others which have transformed downtown immeasurably over the past few years and more recently. Think of the plans for the old lots between the Choice and Cranbrook Photo on Baker Street, and the new Morchella’s Market. Plus, all the small business owners who worked to keep downtown core economically alive and “cool” (I use that word unironically).

It’s an exciting collective vision of a downtown Cranbrook that in a couple of years will be a ground zero for organic food, fine dining, craft brew and live music.

• The decommissioning of the Mount Baker RV Park.

Travelling motorists have been using the Mount Baker RV Park (formerly the Cranbrook Auto Camp) on 14th Avenue South and 2nd Street South since 1925, the same year that Western Canada’s largest since outdoor swimming pool was opened in what is now called Baker Park, right next to the Auto Camp.

But almost one year ago, the City of Cranbrook voted to not operate the park for the 2021 season, and to develop a public process to solicit ideas for future use of that space. The park’s infrastructure needed $1.3 million, while generating $28,000 in income yearly for the City.

The green space of Baker Park will remain pristine, but the development of the area of the former RV Park, because of its size and location, will have an immense impact on downtown Cranbrook, whether it ends up as green space, housing development, or the actualization of some other vision. We’re all looking forward with anticipation to 2022, when we find out.

• The Beavers, the beavers …

Yes, the beaver family set up shop at Idlewild Lake this year, and, as beavers will do, caused a great ruckus just by following their natures. The dam the beavers built at the east end of the lake was an engineering marvel, and we Cranbrookians flocked to the park to check it out, and maybe catch a crepuscular glimpse of the creatures themselves. Idlewild Park was thick with wildlife this year.

But the beavers also caused great havoc around the park, chopping down the young trees that had been so carefully planted. The City of Cranbrook had enough, and declared that the beavers would be live-trapped and transported — as carefully and humanely as possible — to a different location, without memorial trees and less dependent on streamflow to keep its waters pristine and park-like.

A public outcry followed this announcement. Turns out a swathe of the community enjoyed the presence of the beavers at Idlewild and were concerned the relocation was coming too late in the year for the beavers to survive. The City let its permit to do the live trapping expire, and the beavers are spending their winter at Idlewild. Expect more beaver news in the spring of 2022.

This is such a Cranbrook story. How we live with the animals among us, and they with us, is a situation that is uniquely ours. For example, in an unrelated news item, the City of Cranbrook declared they will no longer be conducting deer culls.

• The Cranbrook Bucks

Cranbrook used to pride itself — even define itself — on being a hockey town. The departure of the Kootenay Ice in 2019 left a hole in our collective psyche. But the advent of the Junior A Cranbrook Bucks, a BCHL expansion team, filled it up again. But the pandemic arrived just as the Bucks’ inaugural season was to get underway.

How often in history has a newly created team been set to launch play at the exact same time as a pandemic hit? (For now, I’m going to say never. I’m not counting the Seattle Kraken of the NHL).

But Nathan Lieuwen, Ryan Donald, et al, and the BCHL itself persevered, and were able to play a “pod season” earlier this year. The Bucks played against Penticton and Trail in the Penticton Pod.

A more regular regular season is underway for the winter of 2021-2022, and the Cranbrook Bucks are in fifth place in the Interior Conference of the BCHL (ahead of the Trail Smoke Eaters). The Bucks — or the Herd, as we should refer to them informally — are drawing over 2,000 fans to their home games, which is about what the WHL Kootenay Ice were drawing.

The Herd is here to stay. Go Bucks go!

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On behalf of the Cranbrook Townsman, Kootenay Advertiser and Black Press, may 2022 bring you all peace, health, prosperity and joy. Talk soon.