So much happened in Squamish this year that it was tough to narrow down our annual list of Top 10 stories. What would your list look like? Let us know with a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s municipal elections were perhaps the biggest newsmaker in town.
Residents have been grappling with the changes being brought upon as a result of Squamish’s ballooning population and rapid development.
For many, the municipal election was a way to express their views on the future path the town should take.
All in all, there were three mayoral candidates and 10 people running for a council seat.
The mayoral candidates each had unique viewpoints expressed in their platforms. Armand Hurford, who had served previously as a councillor, ran on three pillars — affordability, growth and development management, and finding common ground between community members.
Deanna Lewis, also known as Kálkalilh, ran on a bid to make Indigenous voices heard. As a former councillor of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), Lewis said that it was important for Indigenous people to run for positions of power in order to ensure they are properly represented.
Mike Young, the owner of Dynamic Property Management, was the mayoral candidate from a coalition called Squamish First. He called for a brand new recreation centre, another entrance to downtown, a parkade, and what he called smart growth.
Ultimately, Hurford wound up winning the mayoral race.
Among the 10 people running for council, all the incumbents who tossed their hat in the ring were able to keep their spot. Jenna Stoner, Eric Andersen, Chris Pettingill and John French were able to recapture their seats in council chambers. Two new faces also made it to elected office. Andrew Hamilton, a Quest University professor, and Lauren Greenlaw, an exploration geologist by trade, made it to council.
Hamilton did not have a specific platform but promised that he would use a fair and transparent decision-making process to cast his votes. Greenlaw ran on an environmental platform, saying that it was imperative that humanity get off fossil fuels.
2/ Anonymous influence campaigns target Squamish
In the lead-up to voting day, there was a concerted effort by several entities to influence public opinion.
Back in 2021, a Facebook page called Squamish Voices appeared. Separate from an old community forum page, this entity branded itself as a community group, but it did not provide any identification of who ran the group or what its intentions were.
For much of 2021 and 2022, the group posted attack ads and mailed flyers around town, often accusing the municipality of misspending money, among other things.
It targeted then-mayor Karen Elliott, then-councillor Doug Race, and councillors Jenna Stoner and Chris Pettingill.
As the election neared in later 2022, it made a serious unfounded accusation against Armand Hurford, who was running for mayor at the time.
Once election season began this past fall, another Facebook page called Squamish Now appeared. It began posting attack ads aimed mainly at Hurford.
After an inquiry from The Squamish Chief, Elections BC compelled Squamish Now to make its name consistent with the registered third-party advertiser associated with it — Dikran Bedirian.
Shortly after, it blanketed the town in flyers attacking Hurford, raising questions about whether it exceeded the elections advertising limits for third parties.
Elections BC said it has been looking into the matter, but no determination has been made as of press time.
Immediately after the election was finished, the pages disappeared.
Before they were deleted, The Squamish Chief made numerous requests for comment from the pages and contacts associated with the pages. There were no replies.
In the meantime, Hurford has launched a lawsuit against website domain registrar GoDaddy in an effort to compel the company to release information about who was behind the attacks.
Hurford told The Squamish Chief it has yet to reveal the identities of the people behind the campaign.
3/ Bear attacks
On separate occasions, a mother and yearling cub attacked two pedestrians the same day in early November.
The incidents prompted authorities to shut down the Squamish estuary trail network.
Conservation officers determined that the attacks were not predatory, but rather the result of the sow and cub being caught off guard when they were feeding.
At that time of year, bears are stressed as they try to consume as much food as possible before hibernating.
Officers said the attacks were no fault of the two people involved in the incidents. At the time, both of them were expected to make full recoveries.
The incident has brought to light a discussion about how people use the estuary. For example, when closures were put in effect, people were seen disobeying them.
It has also called into question the common practice of having dogs off-leash in the area.
While current regulations state that dogs must be on-leash when in the estuary, it’s a rule that is often ignored by dog-walkers.
However, conservation said that frequent interactions with off-leash dogs stress bears in the area, and, over time, can make the animals more aggressive.
While they can’t say this was a contributing factor in the two attacks in November, conservation told The Squamish Chief at the time that it was entertaining suggestions to completely ban off-leash dogs in that zone.
In the meantime, the District is piloting an off-leash area at Merrill Park with plans to pilot three other locations.
Mayor Armand Hurford has said that having designated off-leash areas will potentially allow municipal bylaw to take a harder stance on dogs being taken off-leash in areas where that practice is banned.
4/ Record-breaking October weather
This was another year marked by irregular weather patterns.
Following a slow-to-start summer, which was marked by wet weather in the beginning, things ramped up dramatically.
In August, a heat wave swept across Squamish, kicking the mercury into record highs.
Temperatures were regularly hitting the 30s, giving locals a reason to flock to the lakes and rivers. Even frigid glacial lakes felt like an appropriate respite from the heat.
However, things wouldn’t stop there.
The t-shirt and flip-flops weather persisted well into fall.
On Sept. 26, thermometers in Squamish beat out the rest of the province at 29.9 C. The previous high for that date was 26.5 C in 1991.
While there is typically some pleasant weather in early September, this was unheard of.
These atypical conditions persisted well into what some may have called Aug-tober. As the 10th month of the year rolled around, temperatures were still summer-like. October has traditionally been when the rains become more persistent.
But save for a few days scattered here and there, it was bright, sunny and hot.
Shannon Falls slowed down to a mere trickle.
Even in October, Squamish was hitting record high temperatures, at one point setting an all-time high for that month of 29.5 C.
As of late November, temperatures took an opposite turn. A snowstorm blanketed the town around that time and cold temperatures persisted into December.
This month, temperatures dropped to the negative 10s. Air from Siberia — what some meteorologists have called some of coldest in the world — has been streaming into the B.C. coast, driving down temperatures.
A combination of snow, freezing rain and vehicle collisions prompted authorities to shut down parts of Highway 99 during Christmas Eve.
As of press time, the snow has given way to heavy rain and flooding.
5/ Remembering those lost
Squamish lost many people this year who made a lasting mark on the community.
Perhaps the most significant of those was the passing of Thor Froslev, the builder, owner and curator of the Brackendale Art Gallery.
In addition to turning Squamish into a destination for musicians to perform and artists to host their work, Froslev spearheaded one of Squamish’s most timeless traditions — the annual eagle count.
The fact that Brackendale has branded itself as the eagle capital of the world is in large part due to Froslev’s efforts.
While Squamish continues to struggle providing steady spaces for artists and musicians to hone and perform their craft, Froslev’s creation, affectionately known as the BAG, was the cultural centre of Squamish arts.
Since opening its doors around 1972, the BAG has become an institution. It’s hard for locals to imagine Squamish without it.
It was a fact not lost on the community.
Back in 2018, Froslev was honoured with the Freedom of the Municipality, which in previous eras was known as the Key to the City.
Just before his final days this year, international artist Kevin Ledo made a tribute to Froslev with a mural that now covers the side of a downtown building.
Froslev would’ve turned 90 this upcoming March.
Froslev was not the only remarkable person whose passing leaves Squamish a less vibrant place.
The community was also hit hard by the sudden death of Jeramy Duckworth, best known for his time as the head chef of Saha Eatery.
Duckworth was remembered as an eccentric man with a taste for the finer things in life.
His friends remember his fondness for expensive fashion. Even though only someone well-versed in the fashion world would be able to recognize his clothes as fine fabrics, he nonetheless got a great kick out of showing off seemingly ordinary clothes that he obtained for extraordinarily high prices.
He was known as a talker, a man of culture, and a person who loved his expensive Japanese whiskey and fois gras.
Nathan Roberts was another person who was taken too quickly.
Roberts was known for being a long-time local climber who had recently made daring free-solo, or rope-free, ascents of difficult routes.
He died in a climbing accident in Cheakamus Canyon, a popular sport climbing area. The BC Coroners Service did not release the cause of his death.
Roberts was known as a person who had a love of adventure that was infectious.
Friends and family recall that he revelled in sharing his passions with others while helping and watching them succeed.
Roberts had been having the best climbing season of his life. He’d recently pulled off some of his proudest achievements, including two high-level climbs.
He sent The Contrarian, a 5.12c in one day. He also sent Mr. Negative, his first 5.12d.
David Reid, a man remembered for his contributions as a master trail builder, was a fixture in Squamish’s mountain biking scene.
The trail crew manager and lead builder for SORCA died in a kayaking incident on the Ashlu River.
While he is best known for his contributions to the mountain biking community in Squamish, Reid was known to encourage a sense of inclusivity among user groups on the trails he built.
Friends recalled that he believed the trails he built were for everyone — hikers, runners, bikers and more.
He was also remembered for his wild, adventurous spirit, and as a person who excelled at entertaining with colourful stories.
Squamish also lost one of its influential artistic voices this year.
James Piche, known best for his musical talents, died in an apartment fire. As of August, the BC Coroners Service said it was investigating the death at Tantalus Manor.
Piche was known for his generous heart, and was a performer who played at places like the Brackendale Art Gallery.
Life was not easy for Piche, who suffered a debilitating lung condition.
However, after moving to Squamish about 15 years ago, he was able to set himself on the path to healing, friends and family said. It was here that he devoted himself more to spirituality.
He was able to obtain a successful double lung transplant and beat COVID-19 when he caught it, despite his vulnerable health.
Piche was playing music whenever he could and had a part-time job at Home Depot before he passed.
Squamish’s Indigenous community also lost a man known for his efforts to further representation of Canada’s First Peoples.
Gyauustees whose heritage is Nuu-chah-nulth, Coast Salish, and Kwakwakawakw, died in his Dentville apartment.
He was a traditional song keeper, Sun dancer, master carver and carrier of the World Unity, Peace, and Dignity Walking staff, which locals likely saw in last year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation downtown Squamish march, which he participated in.
To his nine children, of course, he was beloved as a Dad.
While growing up, Gyauustees lived in various places, including Victoria, Powell River and Squamish.
He later became a ceremonial leader of the tribal people of the northwest, his obituary states.
Clinton Shard was another bright light that Squamish lost this year, passing away too early at the age of 29.
Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was 12, Shard never let his condition get the better of him.
He was remembered as living a full life, regardless of his circumstances.
Shard had a love of the outdoors and adventure.
When he was 16, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and joined an expedition to Mount Everest base camp the following year.
In his honour, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada started an annual grant in his name.
The Clinton Shard Memorial $5,000 AbbVie IBD Scholarship Program grant is bestowed each year to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community.
The grant’s inaugural winner is Hailey Rocha, who is studying at the University of Toronto.
Shard’s family said Rocha was chosen for her interest in child welfare, among other positive attributes.
6/ Squamish Spit removal
A landmark recreation site that has drawn windsports users across the world to Squamish has been permanently altered.
As of this year, a large section of the Squamish Spit has been removed in order to allow the passage of juvenile salmon into the estuary.
Previously, the man-made structure, which was built for a coal port that never materialized, blocked the fingerlings from the calm, brackish waters adjacent to the Squamish River.
However, when the berm was constructed, the unintended result was that young salmon were being funnelled into the deep waters of Howe Sound prematurely, causing many of them to die.
The Central Estuary Restoration Project, or CERP, spearheaded by the Squamish River Watershed Society, along with other partners such as the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), Fisheries and Oceans, the Ministry of Forests, among others, has been seeking to remove the berm.
So far, 300 metres of the Spit have been removed. However, the southernmost tip has been preserved as an island, which windsports users now access through a boat.
CERP organizers aim to remove an additional 550 metres.
In the meantime, both the terminals and conservationists are monitoring the results of the removal.
The terminal has said initial findings show that there is a build up of sediment at its west berth, which has become a cause for concern.
If the issue becomes substantial, regular dredging may be a necessary, costly option for one of Squamish’s top employers.
While the berm has been detrimental to the salmon, it’s believed to have acted as a shield for the terminal, blocking the accumulation of sedimentation from the Squamish River.
However, CERP organizers say that their findings show that there hasn’t been an impact on the terminal. They’ve said they will be working together with the terminal to figure things out.
7/ The rising influence of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation)
The Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) has made some landmark gains this year, especially with the nationwide recognition of its Sen̓áḵw development.
The 11-tower project will be erected by the Burrard Street Bridge, in Vancouver’s Kitsilano area. In a place where housing has been a desperate need, the development aims to build up to 6,000 rental units.
As of this year, preparations for the build have started on the site, which is being constructed in partnership with Westbank.
The project’s profile has risen to such a level that it’s received national attention.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the site and promised $1.4 billion in federal loans to help get it off the ground.
In Squamish, there have been a number of events that have allowed the Nation to cement its mark in the community.
One example is the reclaiming of St’a7mes School’s name. The institution, previously called Stawamus School, had been operating under an anglicized name.
The renaming was marked with a ceremony with officials from the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw, who commended the efforts of the school’s educators to learn the Nation’s culture.
On the recreational front, the Nation and the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association, or SORCA, signed a historic agreement regarding mountain biking on the Nation’s lands.
The newly-inked memorandum of understanding is to serve as a guidepost for future recreational land use.
Peter Baker, then the Nation’s rights and title department director, said that the Nation sees itself as a government regulator in its territory, and the memorandum creates a pathway for both parties to work together.
The Nation also had a say in a potential Olympic bid.
The Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw was one of four First Nations that were part of what was called the first Indigenous-led Olympic and Paralympic bid. The Nations were seeking to bring the 2030 games back to their lands.
However, despite their historic role in this capacity, the province ultimately decided not to support this effort, which was called by some a blow to reconciliation.
8/ Fires destroy historic business buildings
Once a destination for people seeking a taste of authentic British fish and chips, Wigan Pier was a Squamish institution for 28 years.
But then came the fire.
In one unexpected turn, one of Squamish’s most well-loved restaurants had been destroyed. The fire started somewhere in the Tantalus Mall building, which housed the restaurant, other businesses, as well as a number of residential apartments.
Luckily, everyone made it out safely, but the loss of the restaurant rippled throughout the community.
On social media, many people shared fond memories they had of the establishment, dating back to its opening in 1994.
Shortly after the incident, the owners of the Wigan Pier said they had intentions of reopening the restaurant at some point in time.
Another historic building that was destroyed by fire was the old Squamish Mills building.
The fire that consumed the building forced firefighters to cut power in the area and stall the CN Rail line for hours.
The loss of the building was a loss of Squamish history.
The building takes its namesake for one of the town’s longstanding businesses. The building itself was built around 1973, according to Eric Andersen, who spoke to The Squamish Chief in his capacity as a historian.
However, the business goes farther back than that.
Andersen said Squamish Mills was started back in 1951 by Pat Brennan and John Drenka.
That makes it the second-oldest continuously active locally-owned company in the corridor, after John Hunter Co., he said.
Finally, a historic 1932 cottage in Brackendale was also consumed by flames.
The property on 41747 Government Road, originally dubbed the Schoonover home, was destroyed in a fire.
On this matter, Andersen also talked to The Squamish Chief in his capacity as a local historian.
He said the cottage was built by Charles Schoonover, after his previous family home on Schoonover Creek — by today’s Eagle Viewing Dike — was taken by a flood.
The home was later occupied by the Schoonovers’ daughter, Mildred MacDonald, who was well known for the gardens that were kept there.
Since then, the home was last sold in 2006, according to REW data.
9/ Extreme sporting achievements
‘Extreme’ sports are so commonplace in Squamish that they’re considered more everyday rather than extreme.
However, there were two sporting achievements this year that, even by Squamish standards, may seem extreme.
To begin with, unseasonably cold temperatures in January blanketed the Squamish area in snow.
To some, this was more than just an opportunity to complain about how much shovelling they’d have to do.
Skiers Paul Greenwood, Eric Carter and Chris Christie decided that it would be a good chance to test out their skis. And not for a trip to Whistler.
Instead, the trio set their sights on the more ambitious goal of making a descent of the Stawamus Chief’s North Gully.
While the South Gully has reportedly been skied by Jean-Francois Plouffe, there hadn’t been any descents of the North, to the knowledge of Greenwood, Carter and Christie.
As a result, they set about making it happen.
The group bootpacked and skinned their way to the top of Second Peak, and from there, skied their way down, with the exception of a couple of rappels to avoid obstacles.
Within five to six hours, the adventurers made it down the by early afternoon — just in time for them to get either to work or other commitments.
Later during the year, Matt Bolton pushed the boundaries of what constitutes a mountain biking trail.
While Burgers and Fries in Smoke Bluffs is renowned for its climbing, Bolton saw an opportunity to make a descent right by one of the most popular ascents in Squamish.
After scouting out the area, marking a path, and placing a ramp at the very bottom of the line, Bolton made a spectacular first mountain biking descent.
The moment was memorialized in a photograph taken by Travis Bothner that showed Bolton rushing downward the steep rock face at the same time one of his climber friends is making his way up the route, just a few feet away from the rider.
The result is a spectacular shot that’s on an even grander scale than Bolton’s last viral photo, which pictured him racing down a steep slab in the Bluffs right beside Adam Luu, a climber going in the opposite direction.
Bolton said the descent of Burgers and Fries was the next step after making that initial rider-climber picture. A lot of work and preparation went into making it happen.
Obviously, for anyone getting any ideas — don’t try it at home.
10/ Most underreported: Opioid deaths continue
The ongoing toxic drug supply crisis has so far claimed 34 lives in the North Shore-Coast Garibaldi health services delivery area, to which Squamish belongs.
That figure, which was released on Nov. 30, shows the human cost of the crisis up until Oct. 31. It’s the most current information for 2022 that the BC Coroners Service has for this zone.
While the BC Coroners Service has not released numbers specifically for the Squamish area, the toll it has taken on the community was readily apparent on International Overdose Awareness Day.
That day in August, members of the town were invited to pay tribute to those who had been lost as a result of the toxic drug supply.
As one part of the event, attendees were invited to lay down a flower to each represent a person they knew who had lost their life to the opioid crisis.
By the end of the event, there was a table almost entirely covered by flowers.
For the last several years, it has been a roller coaster ride with respect to the total amount of opioid deaths in the North Shore-Coast Garibaldi health services delivery area.
In 2021, the total number was 61. In 2020, that number was 50. Back in 2019, it was 25.
In the entirety of B.C., the total death count was 2,267 for 2021.
In 2022, the number, as of Oct. 31, is 1,827.