A look back at the top Cloverdale stories in 2010 – (Part II)

A summer of fires and dashing rescues, an autumn of uncertainty on the backstretch, and an MP gets his travel expenses in line.

Sammy the parrot had an awfully big adventure in August.

Sammy the parrot had an awfully big adventure in August.


Fire in Clayton

A family of five survived a fire that tore through their Clayton home.

The Campbells had all gone to bed and everyone was asleep when fire broke out in their backyard. A huge, blazing fireball outside the basement window alerted Moira Campbell, who was able to wake up the rest of the family upstairs. The home was completely gutted and some damage spread to nearby homes in the close-built community, melting siding panels and igniting shingles.

Fortunately, quick-thinking neighbours went around disconnecting propane tanks from barbecues, possibly averting further damage.

Last bus stop

The last remaining wooden bus stop post in Metro Vancouver was removed from a bus stop in Langley Township on July 9.

It’s took 15 years and 8,200 new, round steel poles to replace them all. Coast Mountain Bus Company employees Frank Crowhurst, a 43-year veteran who originally planted the post and Chris Rasmussen performed the historic replacement. The wooden pole was Liberal blue, in the long-observed tradition of painting the wooden poles with provincial government colours. Past incarnations were “NDP” orange and brown, and “Socred” red, white and blue.

Car fire quenched

Good Samaritans helped put out at another fire, this time a car fire on 176 Street.

When Clover Inn owner Peter Fan sees his friend’s car on fire, he grabs two fire extinguishers and gets to work. A Clova Cinema employee also runs out with an extinguisher to help put out the flames. The 1995 Oldsmobile Achieva is owned by Stacy Sanford.

Mighty good save

Yet another local proves we’re a good bunch to have in a pinch when Fleetwood’s Pete Pretorious saves a drowning man offshore from White Rock beach.

He is able to swim out to the man and grab ahold of him, and bring him back to shore. He credits his taekwondo training, which he does at the Cloverdale Black Belt Academy.

Water escape

The summer of fire continues when a Cloverdale family escaped after their 40-foot yacht catches fire en route to Crescent Beach. The Steinmanns had finished a week’s sail in the San Juan Islands when fire broke out on their boat on July 10. They piled into their 18-foot Boston Whaler, and called in a mayday to the U.S. Coast Guard, and eventually arrived safely at Crescent Beach marina.

Mayor with a plan

Mayor Dianne Watts helped unveil the latest plans to redevelop the old Cloverdale Mall property. The multi-phase plan calls for a new home for the Cloverdale Legion, plus a mix of residential and commercial buildings on the city-owned site.


Summer gold

Local athlete Jaden Aston-Ellett returnes home from the B.C. Summer Games with four gold medals in canoe, kayak, and outrigger, competing in individual and team events. The Grade 11 Clayton Heights Secondary student trains at the Flord Langley Canoe and Kayak Club.

Rocking the River

“Olympic fatigue” in Vancouver persuades organizers of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s Rock the River tour to book the one-day event at the Cloverdale Amphitheatre. This year’s stops also included Calgary and Edmonton. Six bands performed at the Aug. 7 festival, a blend of live music and inspiration aimed at young adults. Nearly 8,000 people attend, despite the rain. Franklin Graham, son of televangelist Billy, spent a month touring Western Canada.

Too many kitties

The Surrey BC SPCA was forced to turn away and create waiting lists for owners hoping to surrender cats and kittens because the shelter is at full capacity. Shelters in Vancouver, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Dawson Creek, and other places are also struggling to handle an influx of cats and kittens.

Horsemen lash cuts

B.C.’s standardbred horse racing industry was reeling after learning upcoming race dates at Fraser Downs Raceway and Casino were cut back and the 2011 season has been temporarily rescinded.

The provincial government appointed B.C. Horse Racing Management Committee is studying ways to make the industry more viable. Chair Derek Sturko says a fundamental change in business approach is needed. Horsemen wonder if the sun is about to set on harness racing at Fraser Downs, owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corp., because no one offers assurances that there were be any racing at all in 2011.

It also fuels speculation that a merge between harness racing and thoroughbred racing at Hastings Park in Vancouver is imminent.

Sammy goes AWOL

Kevin and Nancy Baxter were distraught when Sammy, a 15-year-old African grey parrot, flew away from home.

After nearly a week on the loose, in which he was located in trees several times but wouldn’t come down, Sammy flew into the home of Kevin’s former hairdresser, who had heard about the missing bird and called the Baxters.

“Until now, they’ve never clipped his wings. If he flies away again, “he’d probably survive,” Nancy said. “But I’m not sure we would.”


Sorry, Translink

Cyclist John O’Brian won a three-way race from the main Kwanlen Polytechnic University campus in Newton to the Langley campus. The students – on bike, foot, and bus – vied to see what’s the fastest way to commute between campuses.

O’Brian made the trip in 59 minutes; the marathoner was a close second at 1:06 and the bus rider, Ashely Fehr, came in dead last last, thanks to a bus ride of an hour and 19 minutes.


Keeling leaves Fraser Downs

Voted Surrey business person of the year in 2009, Chuck Keeling stepped down from his job as general manager Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino.

After 30 years at the track, Keeling wants to pursue other business opportunities. In doing so, he severs the last remaining family connection to the historic harness racing facility, which was opened by his grandfather, Jim Keeling Sr., and a syndicate of investors, in 1976.

Senior Songbird

Cloverdale’s Irene Reed headed to the national finals in the 2010 Senior Star competition, Canada’s largest talent contest for the over-65 crowd. The 75-year-old doesn’t win, but feels like a winner nonetheless.

“I sang my heart out and was very pleased with my performance,” she said.

Contestants were gleaned from 500 competitors at the regional level.

MP expenses in line

South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert isn’t the top-spending Member of Parliament any more.

In October, the MP announced his office operating costs were down, putting him 22 out of 35 B.C. MPs in terms of expenses, thanks largely due to a reduction in his travel budget by $51,000 in 2009-2010.

Strangely, given the controversy, his December email Christmas card to supporters featured a recent holiday family portrait taken in one of the gothic corridors of Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

You want to put a soccer stadium where?

Political leaders showed a troubling lack of commitment to the future of harness racing in Cloverdale.

In October, Mayor Dianne Watts revealed the City of Surrey is in talks to bring the Vancouver Whitecaps training facility to Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino. It’s unclear whether the track, casino or rodeo would be part of a new soccer facility.

Meanwhile, local MLA Kevin Falcon said he believes the harness racing track should go wherever it needs to in order to survive.

But he wants the casino portion of Fraser Downs to stay where it is – in Cloverdale.

Let’s go, Anthem

The long-awaited commercial project for Cloverdale finally moved forward. Anthem Properties asks Surrey council to approve a major commercial development at the corner of Highway 10 and 15, a step closer to becoming a reality. Anchor tenants reportedly will include CIBC, Staples and Rexall Drugs, along with smaller tenants like Cobbs Bread and Kin’s Market.

Bye bye, Dave

Instead of retiring as planned, Sgt. Dave Woods moved over to Surrey RCMP headquarters after seven years as District Commander of the Port Kells/Cloverdale District Office.

The long-time Cloverdale Reporter columnist says he’ll be working with Chief Supt. Fraser MacRae. His replacement is Staff Sgt. Shirley Steele, who has extensive experience in community policing.

Tenants leave Cloverdale Mall

Time ran out for tenants of the old Cloverdale Mall, who were told to vacate by Oct. 31.

The city-owned mall is being torn down to make way for new residential and commercial development as part of Surrey’s long-term revitalization plans for Cloverdale’s town centre. It’s the end of the road for some tenants, like AAA Auction Ltd., located inside the former Safeway, the long-gone anchor store.

An extension to Jan. 31 is granted to the Cloverdale Sikh Society, which operates a Gurdwara (temple) that’s at the centre of community life for as many as 300 people, and the Shepherd’s Inn soup kitchen.

The mall will be demolished in February, with construction slated to begin early next spring.


McCallum joins the races

Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum was named CEO of Harness Racing B.C., the society that represents owners, trainers, drivers and breeders of standardbreds – the type of horse racing at Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino.

The news comes the same week reports surface that a new agreement plan is in place for racing in 2011, with 70 guaranteed dates plus 12 conditional ones provided certain objectives are met. A six-month summer break brings dire warnings from insiders who fear a looming slaughter of surplus horses due to financial constraints for owners.

Please slow down

Residents along 72 Avenue called for calm between 184 and 192 Streets. Greg Tomyk says the neighbourhood is plagued by constant and dangerous speeding. When he spoke to the Cloverdale Reporter in October, he planned to help deliver a petition to city council asking Surrey to add traffic-caliming measures, traffic lights or four-way stops.

She… won’t

Mayor Dianne Watts ended speculation that she wants to replace premier Gordon Campell when she announces she won’t be running for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, citing a hostile environment for politicians.

But he will

Before a large crowd gathered at the Surrey Museum, Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon announces he’s running for the B.C. Liberal Party leadership. He emerged as the front runner in the race to replace Campbell.

Legion votes yes

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 members endorsed a plan to relate as part of the city’s plans to redevelop the old Cloverdale Mall. The legion would remain in its current facility until the new one is complete next door by spring or summer 2013.

Rodeo GM hired

The Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association hired a new general manager, ending a months-long search. Dave Melenchuk comes from a background in resort management and the hospitality industry. He’ll oversee the day-to-day operations of the fairgrounds and be part of planning for the 65th Cloverdale Rodeo and 122nd Country Fair on May 20 to 23, 2011.


Activist dies

Long time Surrey school trustee, family values activist and politician Heather Stilwell died at the age of 66 following a battle with cancer.

Stilwell served on Surrey’s board of education for 15 years, stepping down in 2008. She was a founding member of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada, and co-founded the Surrey Traditional School.

Main street move

Roomies already, the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association announced they’re moving into new digs.

The new joint offices will be at the Destination Cloverdale storefront on 176 Street, as of Jan. 1, 2011, making them more accessible and easier to find.

More money for horse racing

The province will be injecting more gambling profits into B.C.’s horse racing industry, upping the allocation to a $10 million fixed amount per year.

The move will provide stability and certainty in terms of government support, according to a Dec. 10 letter from Derek Sturko, chair of the B.C. Horse Racing Industry Management Committee. Added up, the grant and wagering profits will bring $48 million in operating money in 2011.

Financial reports show Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino and Hastings Park, is on track to once again turn a profit at its two B.C. racetracks.