Homes are evacuated in Milford Bay and Shawanaga First Nation and forest fires burn in Algonquin Park and the Lake of Bays area despite a total fire ban throughout the region –including a rare ban on camp fires at provincial parks.
WEST PARRY SOUND – In January, 2012 started off with a devastating tragedy on the highway.
But, despite the shaky start, it was a year of relative calm. It wasn’t a year of huge prosperity or change, following several months of stimulus and G8 spending that made 2011 the year of rebuilding.
In 2010, tragedies peppered every season, with fatal accidents seemingly occurring every holiday weekend. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case over the last 12 months.
No, 2012 was a quiet year. So quiet, in fact, it’s hard to attach a theme to it. The summer was “okay” from a business perspective – as some business owners reported record profits, others struggled. Local controversy included relatively timid but entertaining Twitter debates, budget debates in Parry Sound and arguments over $3,000 in McKellar.
On the positive side, some municipalities conquered debts, new buildings were unveiled, and as always the community rose to the occasion to support local non-profit initiatives and create inspiring moments.
Perhaps that is the theme for 2012 in West Parry Sound: A quiet year.
We can take comfort in that, as it was anything but “quiet” across the rest of the planet, where Superstorms, school shootings, presidential races and the “fiscal cliff” dominated the U.S., while uprisings surged or were violently squelched in the Middle East and European nations teetered on the edge of financial collapse.
Here in Parry Sound, it was a year highlighted not by significant events, but an accumulation of small moments – subtle reminders that we live in a special place, and life here is pretty good.
Maybe that’s why our population has grown.
Here are a few samples of local news in 2012 collected from the front pages of the Parry Sound North Star and Beacon Star.
On the roads, the year started out ominously as four teenagers, two from Barrie and two from Sudbury, are killed when a Camaro and Civic collide after the Camaro slid across the centre line of Highway 69 near the Shawanaga First Nation exit. “It was just after Christmas . . . what did the kids do to deserve this at this time of year,” asks local personal support worker Doug Clark, one of the first to arrive at the scene.
MP Tony Clement Tweets his way into national headlines after Grade 10 Parry Sound High School student Keith Pettinger corrects his spelling on Twitter. After an exchange, Clement eventually calls the student a “jack ass.” Pettinger was then overwhelmed by calls from national media. Clement issued an apology.
And the award goes to . . .
Jim MacCoubrey receives the Order of Parry Sound for his contributions to the 4-H club and other community efforts from Mayor Jamie McGarvey during the mayor’s New Year’s levee.
Students at Parry Sound High School dress in orange and hold an assembly as they mourn the loss of Jordan Mehlenbacher, a recent graduate who died when the snowmobile he was riding fell into icy waters.
An expansive idea
The Town of Parry Sound and Seguin Township announce an exciting proposal that could lead to a growth spurt. Seguin offers Parry Sound 132 hectares of land near the town’s south end. Parry Sound promises to extend municipal services to the site, reimburse Seguin $90,000 in planning fees The deal hinges on the support of two thirds of the 12 land owners affected. In the end, the property owners say no, and the deal dies.
The sailing community bids adieu to local boat-maker Victor Carpenter, touted by some as one of the best sailboat makers in the world. Carpenter and his wife, Hazel, started building the meticulously crafted boats in 1964, and moved to the Parry Sound area in 1993. When he died January 25, Victor Carpenter was 82.
After years of dreaming, fundraising, planning and building the Britt Nursing Station officially opens its doors – a vast improvement over the trailer the local practitioner operated out of for 37 years.
Statistic’s Canada releases 2011 population counts and reveals that the Town of Parry Sound has grown by 6.4 per cent, from 5,818 residents in 2006 to 6,191. Overall, the population in West Parry Sound jumps by 4.1 per cent.
Finally, a birthday party
It’s a leap year, and a handful of Parry Sounders born on February 29, who’ve waited four years, get to celebrate their birthdays. For example, 12-year-old Liam Bruyns celebrated his third birthday.
It’s February, and there’s no ice on Georgian Bay. It means the Canadian Coast Guard doesn’t have to break shipping channels through the bay, but as Environment Canada announces the lowest ice cover on record, it also has area residents worried about the impact of climate change. “None of the old fellas I talk to remember when it wasn’t frozen,” says Tony Agnello, owner of Diver’s Nook.
Bob Barker supports Aspen
Bob Barker, legendary star of one of television’s longest running game shows, The Price is Right, donates funding to help the national wildlife charity, Zoocheck Canada, relocate an otter and two beavers to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, providing funding for two new enclosures at the sanctuary for the new arrivals.
An early-morning fire destroys Hillcrest Grocery store on the corner of Hillcrest Street and William Street – a store that has been a candy store and snack shop serving generations of kids for about 80 years. New owners vow to rebuild.
Hopkins under fire
McKellar Township’s new reeve Peter Hopkins includes his township in more regional conversations than ever before, but he comes under fire for his expenses after spending about $3,400 to attend meetings and events.
The Parry Sound North Star’s general manager, Bill Allen, born and raised in Parry Sound, passes away a few weeks after suffering a heart attack in his Huntsville office. He was 61.
After 37 years in the community, a lack of financial and volunteer support forces the local chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters to close. The decision comes five years after a provincial decision to withdraw funding for the program.
A group of Parry Sound High School students mark the 95th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge battle by making the trip to Europe, where the 40 local students joined 4,000 others from across Canada at the site in France to honour lives lost in the historical First World War offensive, and the brave acts of Canadian soldiers. “This puts it all in perspective,” says Grade 12 student Alora Scali, during a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London – part of the students’ European tour.
The Town of Parry Sound reveals taxpayers will face a 2.5 per cent property tax hike after months are spent paring down spending by about $1.8 million. There are tough times ahead, and the 2013 budget process won’t be any easier, council members suggest.
Out of debt
Seguin Township announces it will become debt-free in 2012 – in June to be exact. The municipality successfully pays off the last of $6.6 million in debt incurred between 1998 and 2003. The good news for taxpayers includes a tax rate decrease of .01 per cent.
More than 1,000 Canadian military troops visit the area for military exercises. Tanks and other vehicles filled area parking lots and fairgrounds as the military personnel built temporary bridges over local waterways, among other exercises.
Goodbye Bear Wise
The province cuts funding for the Ministry of Natural Resources Bear Wise program, leaving bear problems up to the public and local municipalities and police officers. Meanwhile, Seguin Township follows McDougall Township in banning backyard bear feeding in a effort to dissuade residents from creating nuisance bears.
McKellar Township is the second West Parry Sound municipality to announce that it has become debt-free, and will finish 2012 with a surplus – a rare feat for local municipalities.
Carling Township officials official unveil their new municipal office, a $1 million, 4,000-square-foot building that includes administrative offices and a new council chambers.
Professional golfer Ron Harris, Special Olympics medal winner Sandra Hunt, community hockey builder William “Bill” Peachy and the 1961/62 Bantam All-Stars team are inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. Orr, the NHL great, was on hand to welcome the inductees for 2012.
Elmar hangs it up
After 39 years of cartooning for the North Star, Elmar Dambergs retires … sort of. Almost 90, Dambergs decided to step away from the grind of deadlines. Dambergs, born in Latvia in 1924, had his first editorial cartoon published in England in 1951. Since 1973, when he started drawing for the North Star, he has created more than 1,800 cartoons, as well as regular cartoons for a paper in his Latvian homeland.
“My mind says, ‘you have to meet the deadline,’” he said with a laugh. “After 40 years it drives you crazy.”
Putting heart into it
On a whim, paramedic Sean Elvy and two fellow paramedics decided to enter a team into the 25th annual Ride for Heart, a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
That whim raised more than $10,000 in 55 days – enough to pay for five local community defibrillators, and more than most city teams of 20 or more members raised in the event.
Councillor under fire
Fellow councilors called upon an integrity commissioner to investigate the actions of Parry Sound Coun. Dave Williams twice – once for allegedly using his position to dispute a traffic ticket, and again for allegedly using his position to avoid paying an entry fee at a local business. Williams “used his title very inappropriately,” the commissioner finds, but adds that the investigation is limited by a lack of a formal complaint.
Coun. Williams calls the allegations a misunderstanding.
Friends, family and council and committee peers gather at a Park-to-Park Trail bridge crossing to honour the long-time Carling Township councilor, Park-to-Park Association founding member, and overall local philanthropist for his work and dedication prior to his death in 2011.
The Laughs and Crafts group joins forces with Victory Grade 5/6 students and, with paint from the Town of Parry Sound, the group puts new artwork on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail foot bridge crossing the Seguin River – covering graffiti that ruined murals originally painted on the bridge in 2006.
Greg Lawson was there
Grade 8 students at McDougall Public School made sure teacher Greg Lawson’s presence was counted at the Grade 8 graduation ceremony. Lawson, who taught at the school for 19 years, took sudden medical leave after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. Students made a life-sized paper-maché version of their teacher for the ceremony. The touching story made national headlines.
What appears to be a domesticated cougar is shot by police after viciously attacking an Utterson family’s German shepherd. The dog, Indy, was fatally wounded. Police find the cougar unafraid when they arrive, and after shooting it find it is declawed. The incident prompts the Township of Muskoka Lakes to pass a bylaw restricting ownership of exotic animals.
Wasauksing team heads to U.S.
The Parry Island Hawks men’s fastball team earns a berth in the annual International Softball Congress World Tournament in Michigan.
The Great Lakes Cruising Club hosts its annual gathering in Parry Sound for only the second time in 40 years after more 50-amp power outlets are added to the town docks to accommodate the larger yachts. About 90 boats, and 200 people, come for the four-day gathering.
Dry, dry, dry
Rain, or as Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson jokes, the “lack thereof” starts to become a focal point of weather watchers, firefighters and farmers alike – not to mention people with shallow wells. By the end of July, the area has seen 4 mm of rain, compared to an average of 100 mm for the month. The drought continues throughout most of August.
Fire, fire, fire