A Creston farm supports the food supply

The pandemic increases the importance of local growers.

When uncertainty and fear gripped the world due to the pandemic, Cartwheel Farm owners Laura and Nigel Francis felt it, too. But those emotions were soon overpowered by the reaction from the community.

“We’ve never felt as supported by customers as we did this year,” says Laura. “We were really in a good position to be of service.”

“Suddenly, the farm was more relevant than ever,” adds Nigel.

In 2014, the couple started the farm, located east of Creston in Erickson, on a property that was already certified organic. In 2015, they began weekly deliveries to about 30 Creston Valley families, offering items like lettuce mix, beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers. That number has since grown to about 150, plus eight restaurants and four grocery stores, which receive produce in plant-based packaging.

The Francises “grow on a small scale with joy and attention to detail,” according to their website. “We farm to cultivate health, justice, freedom, beauty and contentment.”

That philosophy may be why so many residents got in touch with them in March and early April 2020, concerned the pandemic would disrupt the food supply.

“They were panicked,” says Laura. “People were thinking urgently about how to eat in different ways.”

The couple reflected on their ability to support local food production, as well as what the pandemic might mean for their own health and livelihood.

“My big concern was if Nigel got sick or if the staff got sick,” says Laura. “The garden doesn’t give a half-day of downtime.”

Nigel agrees: “Farming is relentless.”

With serious interest from new customers, Laura and Nigel felt like it was their duty to expand Cartwheel Farm. They had already ordered 2020’s seeds, but it was early enough that they could scale up production.

They needed assistance, however, and were thrilled to get it from the Trust’s Basin Food Producer Loans, created specifically to help food producers expand operations due to increased pandemic-related demand.

“I hope investments in local farms become part of the ‘new normal,’” says Laura. “This is what people in the Basin want to see. Local food is not a luxury—it matters to people.”

The loan allowed them to lease additional land from a neighbour, giving them a total of just over two acres, about 25 per cent more than last year. They added tunnels to create covered rows and extend the growing season. To help with the extra gardening, they hired additional workers.

“It feels good to give good, safe employment to young people,” says Nigel. “I really feel for young people graduating during the pandemic.”

In addition to producing about 30 per cent more food this season, Cartwheel Farm is using its delivery network to support other Creston Valley producers, bringing their coffee, meat, eggs, sustainably sourced seafood, fruit, juices, spices, and bread and baking to Cartwheel Farm customers.

The couple is also putting more energy into educating consumers about seasonal eating, offering more recipes and advice about preparing and preserving seasonal foods, all the while providing a listening ear during difficult times to help support their customers—another benefit of having local businesses well connected with their communities.

Laura and Nigel are proud of their ability to contribute to the local food supply. They’re also gratified by the support of the Creston Valley community, as local eaters tune into what’s being grown, raised and processed around them.

“This feels like the kernel of a local food system that is gearing up to actually meet our food needs,” says Laura. “If that happens, we will all be safer, richer, healthier and happier for it.”

COVID-19 Highlights the Importance of Connectivity

The Basin’s regional districts, via the Regional Broadband Committee, have a user-friendly online platform to gather data on local internet performance.

Are you curious about the internet speeds in your area? Take this two-minute speed test and encourage your friends to do the same. The data will not only be helpful in providing the Committee with valuable data, it will also help to prioritize areas of need, and be useful in determining eligibility for federal and provincial connectivity granting programs. Take the speed test.

The Ultimate List of Basin Authors

Thanks to your suggestions, we have a compiled a list of Basin Authors. All authors are located within the Columbia Basin region. Check out our list below to learn more about each author.

Deryn Collier

“Deryn Collier is the author of The Bern Fortin novels Confined Space and Open Secret, both published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Originally from Montreal, she is a graduate of McGill University. After a very short career as a federal bureaucrat she ran away to the mountains of British Columbia where she has been for over twenty years. She lives in Nelson, BC with her husband, sons and cats.” – Bio courtesy of Deryn Collier

You can find more information about Deryn on her website deryncollier.com.

Dave Butler

“Dave Butler is the author of the Jenny Willson mystery series, published by Dundurn Press. He’s a forester and biologist living in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous Canadian publications. He’s a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. When he’s not writing, Dave is professionally involved in sustainable tourism at local, national and international levels and he travels extensively. He’s a Professional Author Member of the Crime Writers of Canada.” – Bio courtesy of Dave Butler

You can find more information about Dave at davebutlerwriting.com.

Elinor Florance

“Elinor Florence grew up on a Saskatchewan grain farm, a former World War Two training airfield near North Battleford.

After earning her English degree at the University of Saskatchewan, she studied journalism at Carleton University. She launched her career at her hometown newspaper The Battlefords Advertiser-Post, followed by The Western Producer in Saskatoon, The Red Deer Advocate in Alberta, The Winnipeg Sun in Manitoba, and The Province in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Weary of city life, Elinor and her husband moved their young family to the mountain resort town of Invermere, British Columbia. For the next eight years, she was a regular writer for Reader’s Digest.

She returned to her newspaper roots when she purchased a fledgling local newspaper, The Columbia Valley Pioneer, and turned it into an award-winning community staple.

Elinor sold the newspaper in 2010 to pursue her lifelong goal of writing fiction. Her first historical novel Bird’s Eye View was published by Dundurn Press of Toronto in 2014 and became a Canadian bestseller.” – Bio courtesy of Elinor Florance

Learn more about Elinor and her books at elinorflorence.com.


Kate Armstrong

“My lucrative corporate career was never going to make me happy. When I could finally accept this, I was ready to make a change. Freedom came when I fully committed to my dream of living as a writer.” – Bio courtesy of Kate Armstrong

Kate, who is a former military officer, wrote about what it was like when she became the first female cadet admitted to the Royal Military College of Canada.

Learn more about Kate at katearmstrong.ca.

Roz Nay

“Roz Nay’s debut novel, Our Little Secret, was a national bestseller, won the Douglas Kennedy Prize for best foreign thriller in France, and was nominated for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Mystery and the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award. Roz has lived and worked in Africa, Australia, the US, and the UK. She now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children.” – Bio courtesy of Roz Nay

You can find more information about Roz and her new book at roznay.com.

Anne Degrace

“In 1981 I stumbled across the charming mountain town of Nelson, British Columbia, and never left. Here, I’ve raised kids while juggling myriad jobs, most of them involving books. In my early years here I had a used bookstore; for a time, I worked at the local independent bookstore; for the last 30 years, and to various degrees, my place has been at the Nelson Public Library.” – Bio courtesy of Anne Degrace

Learn more about Anne and her novels at annedegrace.ca.

Tom Wayman

“Tom Wayman’s long writing career includes more than twenty poetry collections, three collections of critical and cultural essays, three books of short fiction, and a novel. His honours include being named a Vancouver BC literary landmark.” – Bio courtesy of Tom Wayman

Learn more about Tom and his work at tomwayman.com.

Jane Byers

“Jane Byers lives with her wife and two children in Nelson, British Columbia. She writes about human resilience in the context of raising children, lesbian and gay issues, sexism, local geography and health and safety in the workplace. She spent many years working for the City of Toronto in corporate health and safety and now works at WorkSafeBC where she continues to facilitate resilience in injured workers. She has had poems, essays and short fiction published in a variety of books and literary magazines in Canada, the US, and the UK, including BEST CANADIAN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, GRAIN, RATTLE, DESCANT, THE ANTIGONISH REVIEW, THE CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HOCKEY LITERATURE and OUR TIMES. She is a three-time winner of the Nelson and District Poetry Competition.” – Bio courtesy of Jane Byers

Learn more about Jane and her work at janebyerspoetry.com.

Angie Abdou

“Angie Abdou is a Canadian author who has published seven books, including The Bone Cage (a CBC Canada Reads finalist in 2011, defended by NHL star Georges Laraque). Chatelaine magazine named Angie’s most recent novel, In Case I Go, one of the most-riveting mysteries of 2017, and The Vancouver Sun called it a “spectacularly successful” novel.  It was a finalist for the Banff Mountain Book Award, in the fiction and poetry category.  With her seventh book, Abdou turns her attention to nonfiction.  Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom chronicles the year in the life of a busy sport family.  A starred review in Booklist calls Home Ice a first-rate memoir, a fine example of narrative nonfiction, and a must-read for parents with youngsters in organized sport. Angie is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Athabasca University.” – Bio courtesy of Angi Abdou

Learn more about Angie on her website abdou.ca.

Galadriel Watson

“I‘m Galadriel Watson. I’ve been writing since childhood, when I penned the spellbinding “Amy Goes to the Olympics”—typed by my grandmother on a manual typewriter, illustrated by me and bound in green construction paper.

I’ve since honed my skills through years of practice, plus through my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, where I won the 2016 Penguin Random House/Hazlitt Award in Creative Writing. I also have a Bachelor of Arts With Distinction in Writing from the University of Victoria, plus completed Humber College’s Creative Writing by Correspondence program.

My 24th non-fiction book for children, Running Wild, was published in April 2020 by Annick Press, following 2019’s Extreme Abilities. I have also published over 50 articles for children in magazines like Brainspace, Muse and Ask.

My writing for adults has been published in places like The Globe and Mail, Discover magazine, The Washington Post and the Montreal Gazette, and my comics have been published by The Washington Post and others. I have taught creative writing at Camosun College in Victoria, BC.”– Bio courtesy of Galadriel Watson

Learn more about Galadriel on her website galadrielwatson.com.

Jane Frances Powell

“I am an author and have published a novel, a nature guidebook, as well as some short stories, articles and opinion pieces. My second novel, about the experiences of teens in youth protection in Montreal, is currently in the works.” – Bio courtesy of Jane Frances Powell

Learn more about Jane on her website janepowell.org.

Tony Berryman

“Tony Berryman dreams in stories. Occasionally he’s fast enough to write a few of them down.

After getting his start in Nova Scotia he moved to the mountains and then the West Coast. He has worked as a taxi driver, museum guide, apple picker, snowplow driver and desk jockey. He spent 17 years as a Registered Massage Therapist, including 12 as a traveling therapist in Greater Vancouver.

Berryman has intended to write stories since middle school and is finally getting around to it with massage therapy thrillers. He was a finalist for the Young Canadian Writers Award in 1982. The Night Nurse is his first novel.” – Bio courtesy of Tony Berryman

Learn more about Tony and The Night Nurse at tonyberryman.com

Maureen Thorpe

“I have  been a nurse on two continents, a running coach, a yoga teacher, a world traveller and am now the author of my debut novel ‘Tangle of Time’. I can also lay claim to having completed one marathon, two triathlons and did not finish last.”– Bio courtesy of Maureen Thrope

Learn more about Maureen at maureenthorpe.com

JG Toews

“I’ve loved to write ever since I could hold a pencil and make meaningful squiggles on a page. As a kid, I published neighbourhood news at twenty-five cents a pop, then went on to be editor of two school newspapers. My parents saw a future for me as a novelist but I had other ideas. Still, even as a public health nutritionist I found myself writing workbooks, technical reports, and newspaper columns, finally teaming up with journalist Nicole Parton to pen three non-fiction books about healthy living (Key Porter Books). These days I embrace the writing life my parents envisioned for me. Why mysteries? I love to read them and I suppose it was my training in health sciences that sparked a fascination with forensics”. – Bio courtesy of JG Toews

Learn more about JG Toews at jgtoews.com

Keith Powell

“Keith Powell is a life-long resident of the Kootenays.  He is the former publisher at Koocanusa Publications Inc., in Cranbrook.  He has a keen interest in local history and the lives of the many colourful characters who at one time or another called the Kootenays home.  He retried as publisher of Kootenay Business magazine in September 2019.” – Bio courtesy of Keith Powell

Learn more about his novels at wildhorsecreekpress.com

Shelby Cain

“Shelby Cain was raised in Cranbrook, British Columbia, where she developed an obsession for nature and adrenaline. She now lives an hour away in Fernie with her husband and two young daughters. Writing is a new and exhilarating passion she has explored since having her children. She writes short stories, magazine articles, and a monthly column about her life for Fernie Fix magazine entitled “Family Stoke.” Mountain Girl is her first novel.”– Bio courtesy of Oolichan Books

Learn more about Shelby and her work at oolichan.com

Heather Mcleod

“I am a writer and blogger living in Invermere, BC, Canada. We live in the beautiful Columbia Valley, between the Rocky mountain and Purcell mountain ranges.

I write about women (sometimes fictional, sometimes myself) working through their grief to help and reconnect with the world.” – Bio courtesy of Heather Mcleod

Learn more about Heather at heatherwmcleod.com

Tom Greentree

“I’m proud to be married to Tennille and thrilled to be the father of two great teenage boys. I am the lead pastor of a great church in the Kootenay Mountains of the Creston Valley, British Columbia. As a family, we run a little farm where we grow our own food and love the land God gave us.

I’m passionate about helping people grow in all the relationships that matter–our relationship with God, with each other, with God’s creation, and even within ourselves. That’s why I write: I believe God wants us all to flourish across all these relationships, so we can live a truly whole life.” – Bio courtesy of Tom Greenttree

Learn more about Tom and his work at tomgreentree.com

Chris Brauer

“Chris Brauer lives in British Columbia, Canada where he splits his time between writing and teaching. He has recently completed a travel memoir about living in the Sultanate of Oman, and is currently working on a book about his travels in Ireland. He is also working on his first collection of poetry. He enjoys traveling, eating out, and wearing wool sweaters. He writes with a Visconti fountain pen.”
Bio courtesy of Chris Brauer

Learn more about Chris at chrisbrauerwriter.com


Did we miss your favourite Basin Author? Email us at communications@ourtrust.org and let us know!

Cabin Preserves Pioneer Life

Meadow Creek Museum invites visitors to explore a pre-dam home.

To travel back in time to pioneer life in the Basin, soon all it will take is a step into the restored Billy Clark cabin in Meadow Creek. One hundred years ago, miner, trapper and snowshoe maker Billy Clark built the cabin on the shores of Duncan Lake. Today, the cabin represents Basin life before the Columbia River Treaty dams were built, and the Lardeau Valley Historical Society aims to share this history by turning the cabin into an in-depth museum exhibit.

“Museums are about telling stories,” says Peter Jonker, Society President. “Billy Clark cabin is really the centrepiece for telling the story of the flooding of the Duncan Reservoir.”

Built in 1919, the cabin has remarkably survived over a century to become one of the very few remaining tangible pieces of pre-flood life in the area. Although it’s only becoming a full-fledged museum exhibit in 2020, “the project really got started with the building of the Duncan Dam,” says Jonker. As part of the Columbia River Treaty, construction of the dam began in 1964. Soon, construction crews and the rising waters of Duncan Reservoir were destroying landscapes and settlements and submerging First Nations archaeological artifacts.

“Billy Clark cabin was really considered one of the nicer cabins,” Jonker says, making it a lucky target for rescue. It was moved to the Meadow Creek clay pits, which provided the clay that workers mixed with aggregate to build the dams. Although there were plans to build a ski hill on the slopes of the pit, using the cabin as a warming hut, the project was never realized. So the cabin remained at the pits until 2009, when it survived a final move to the grounds of Meadow Creek Museum.

Now, a thoughtful rehabilitation process is well under way. The emphasis is on turning the cabin into a functional building with modern services while maintaining its heritage likeness and value.

To make sure people into the future can benefit from pieces of history like this, the Trust’s Built Heritage Grants, administered by Heritage BC, help local organizations conserve their assets and build awareness about them. These grants have supported three phases of the Billy Clark cabin project: constructing a concrete foundation; restoring the exterior, including adding a new deck, a lean-to woodshed and new timbers to improve structural stability; and now completing interior electrical work and transforming the cabin into a functional museum exhibit by installing interpretive signage and decorating with the many pioneer artifacts.

Rehabilitation also paves the way for materials and artifacts to be put on display—luckily, the society has many of these. Jonker says they have numerous pieces from the cabin’s heyday, including tools, kitchen wares and even some snowshoes that Billy Clark made himself. He was quite a skilled trapper, and a photo shows him next to a formidable bear skin, nearly half the height of the cabin. This skin has made its way overseas, but “we are going to try to get that back from Norway,” Jonker says. One day, it can then help illustrate another aspect of pioneer life.

Jonker notes the project has truly been a community effort. While the society is spearheading the project, construction is led by local tradespeople, and numerous volunteers were instrumental in the initial preparation of the cabin’s site and moving the cabin into place on it.

The museum plans to welcome guests into the cabin on weekends throughout the summer, with rules in place so they can experience the exhibit safely. Also, the interpretative signage outside the exhibit means guests will continue be able to learn about Billy Clark and his home throughout the fall and winter (with good snow tires).

Preserving the cabin allows for the Meadow Creek community to remain connected to its local history, plus will attract and educate history buffs and the public for generations to come. When complete, it will be a historically rich experience and a great opportunity to learn about Basin life and the intrepid people who shaped it.

Learning to Climb in More Ways Than One

Nakusp students benefit the community while benefiting themselves

At the Nakusp climbing wall, the blue ropes hang slack and the fresh paint only shows a few smudgy shoeprints. But Nakusp Secondary School principal Peter Gajda knows this won’t last. “I’m looking forward to the day when there are five or six kids sitting on the bench waiting for their turn because there are already five or six kids on the wall,” he says.

“Yeah, we want to see people on it,” agrees teacher Dorian Boswell.

Located in the local high school, with the vertical climbing wall in the gym and the bouldering wall in the adjacent weight room, the facility will open to the public once the pandemic allows.

To understand the impressive history of this project, you need to understand the history of Boswell’s former outdoor education class. This program ran for five years, from September 2013 to June 2018. The initial goal was to help students get certifications they could put on their resumés, such as first aid and search and rescue. To make money to pay for these courses, the class added an entrepreneurial aspect; in particular, the students started making and selling fishing flashers and fire starters—and finding success.

“When we started making more money than we needed,” says Boswell, “we started looking for projects to put money back into the school and community.” For example, they bought a trailer and filled it with canoes that could easily be borrowed by schools across the district.

Then, while at the Vancouver International Boat Show to sell their products, the students visited a nearby climbing wall. “On the way home, we got talking about it,” says Boswell. “The kids said, ‘We don’t have a swimming pool or rec centre, so why don’t we have a climbing wall?’ So we said, ‘Well, let’s make it a priority. Let’s do it!’”

It was a long journey, with several bumps in the road—made particularly tricky as students came and went each year. Also tricky was the location, as few buildings in Nakusp are tall enough, and building a structure just for the wall was beyond the scope of the students. The solution was to place it in the school.

“Having another recreation facility in the school adds to the regular community use of the high school for physical wellness in the community,” says Terry Taylor, Superintendent of School District 10. “All of our SD 10 schools are hubs in the community and vital to the well-being of both children and youth, and adults.”

In addition to the students putting in their own class savings, support came from far and wide. A Trust grant helped cover construction costs, as did the school district, which also spent two years helping bring the numerous climbing wall details to life. Local businesses, individuals and the Regional District of Central Kootenay offered money, time and/or materials. A designer in Vancouver designed the facility for free, and even a school in Alberta sent 100 pairs of shoes.

“We’ve had so much support from the community,” says Boswell. “We’ve had a lot of people step up to the plate and really help out.”

A couple of years later, the wall is now ready for use. While attending school part-time in spring 2020, a few grade eights and nines tried it out, as did some teachers. When the world re-starts a bit more, the wall will probably begin by opening after school a couple of days a week.

“The plan is to start small and see what the use is like,” says Gajda. “We have a feeling it’s going to be pretty popular.”

To manage safety and programming outside of school hours, a new non-profit society is training volunteer supervisors. The Village of Nakusp is covering liability. The society and school district will then keep monitoring how the facility can best serve both students and the community.

The society is also deliberating what fee to charge—something minimal, but enough to cover the replacement costs of equipment like harnesses and ropes. The results will be an affordable, accessible, year-round facility that will bump up physical activity in the community.

The outdoor ed students have successfully given back to the community. They’ve also taken away many valuable lessons. They did their own research. They talked to people. They formed an executive and learned how to delegate. They wrote the grant applications. One student, after spending an afternoon with the wall’s engineer, decided to study engineering himself, and now is.

“You can sit in a classroom and talk to them about entrepreneurial stuff,” says Boswell. “The outdoor ed program was more about doing it. It was a vehicle to teach the kids real-life learning.”

Taylor agrees the benefits are broad: “I would anticipate that knowing that it was students who began this work will serve as inspiration for current and future students to follow their dreams and do the hard work to make a difference for their community.”

And hopefully those community members can take advantage soon and get climbing.

Cattle Put to Work to Suppress Fires

Targeted grazing using new technology aims to keep the people of Cranbrook safe.

Cattle lumbering across the rolling land, flicking their tails, cocking their ears and slowly chewing on grass. You wouldn’t think this would be an effective strategy to reduce the risk of wildfires to a community, but a project south of Cranbrook plans to prove it is.

In brief, grass feeds fires and cows eat grass.

One of the project leads, Mike Pritchard, is a rancher, Wildfire Prevention Coordinator with the BC Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA) and former long-time employee with the BC Wildfire Service. He says, “Grass is the most volatile fuel type out there. A lot of our fuel reduction treatments historically have been about the removal of conifers, because that was sort of the big-ticket item—everyone saw the flames coming toward the community. But as you remove these conifers, you open the stand up, allow more sun in and make more water available, because trees take up a lot of water. The grass starts to grow. It’s trading one fuel type for another.”

The issue then becomes, “What do we do with the grass? Why not just let the cattle, the four-legged guys, wander around in there and mow it for us?”

This, therefore, is what the project aims to do on a 13-kilometre-wide stretch of Crown land bordering Cranbrook, where conifers have already or will soon be removed. The project is supported by the Trust through its Grassland and Rangeland Enhancement Program, delivered by the Kootenay Livestock Association, and key partners like the BCCA and the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Since 1961, Jordy Thibeault and his family have been grazing cattle on a section of this land.

“Where this project is taking place, the cattle have always had access to the entire thing, which is about 40,000 acres,” he says. “Now we’re going to attempt to keep them contained on a targeted area of about 700 acres for a period of time, as long as it takes them to graze down to the intended degree of use.”

In addition to reducing fuel, this also makes the remaining grass healthier. “They utilize grass for a shorter period of time and then the grass gets a longer restoration,” Thibeault says. “It stays greener in a vegetative state longer, and so it’s less likely to burn.”

Another innovative part of this project is how they’ll contain the cattle: with “virtual” fencing. While used in places like Europe, this equipment is rare in North America. Using GPS and cell-phone technology, the rancher defines the location of fences, and collars let the cows know when they get close to the boundary. If they proceed too far, a mild electric shock turns them back.

“The equipment and technology’s not cheap,” Thibeault says, “but it’s not going to be any more expensive than going out and having to build a physical fence, and then those physical fences have to be maintained and repaired. For me, the idea of being able to control where my cattle go and being able to monitor them is of very high value.”

Unfortunately, the virtual fencing hit a glitch: the technology used by the supplier in Norway isn’t usable here, as it’s based on the European 2G cell network. Until it can be adapted, hopefully by fall 2020, the project is proceeding using electric fencing instead.

The project is also increasing its impact in Thibeault’s and the neighbouring rancher’s Crown tenure land by adding items like permanent fences, gates and cattleguards; installing a water delivery system powered by the sun; and treating invasive species—all to benefit the cattle, the ecosystems they graze in and the wildlife that also use these spaces.

Residents of Cranbrook—who use these lands as “their backdoor to the wild,” Pritchard says—will also get to enjoy a new trail. Traditionally, there can be conflict between people (and their dogs) and cattle, so Pritchard hopes word spreads widely about this important project.

“We want to get the information out to folks in Cranbrook and say these cows are basically doing a job there” and protecting their homes, he says. “There’s cattle out there working for the community.”

An Interactive Trail for All

Thirty-five kilometers west of Creston, towards the Kootenay pass, you will find the beginning of the 1.7 km Ka Papa Cedars Trail. While you loop through the towering old-growth cedars, along the rich forest floor you will soon find interpretive signs guiding your way along the trail.

Starting this summer, the Trails for Creston Valley Society will start placing nine interpretive signs along the Ka Papa Cedars Trail. Each sign is designed to provide historical, environmental and cultural education to enhance the hiking experience.

What was initially intended to be a fitness trail for the community and tourists is now also an educational trail. “School groups will have better learning opportunities and recreational users will have a better understanding of the environment and the ecosystems they are experiencing,” says Adam Mjolsness, committee member, Trails for Creston Valley Society. “Thanks to the Trust’s Trail Enhancement Grants we were able to implement interpretive signage which really adds to the value of the trails.”

The signs will also include the origin of the name Ka Papa, which in Ktunaxa language means “my grandfather.” The society wanted to include Ktunaxa language as it is at risk of going extinct. “We are hoping to work closely with the Ktunaxa community as partners in the future to add more Ktunaxa language to the signs,” says Mjolsness.

The Trails for Creston Valley Society is a non-profit that has been working on legally gaining access to crown land in perpetuity since 2015. “Our society was formed to create official trails, official rec sites and access to waterways that can be used by everyone,” says Mjolsness. “We are passionate about providing the public with legal access to crown land and wilderness experiences.”

One of the Society’s objectives is to provide trails and recreation opportunities that can be used by anyone in perpetuity. “There is some history where there was access to our natural wonders that were then taken away,” says Loretta Fladhamer, the Project Leader for Ka Papa Cedar Trail. The Society currently has official stewardship for two trails, including the Ka Papa Cedars Trail, and is hoping to add more regional parks to the Creston Valley area soon.

To read more about the Trails for Creston Valley Society, visit crestonvalleytrails.ca.

Interested in more information on our Trail Enhancement Grants? Find it at ourtrust.org/trailgrants.

Partnership restores computers, connects residents

A Cranbrook resident with a chronic illness that has him housebound is exploring the world from the comfort of his home, via a newly refurbished computer from the Cranbrook Computer Donation Project.

He’s just one of many Basin residents benefitting from the community initiative, led by the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Kootenay Computer and the Cranbrook Salvation Army.

“The original goal of the program was to help 50 families per year gain access to technology that has become an essential part of living in our society,” explains Helen Barron, executive director for the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce. “We’re excited to say that the program has far exceeded this goal, providing 220 computers to those facing financial barriers in the East Kootenay between September 2018 and December 2019 – and there’s no end in sight!”

The Chamber collects old, unwanted, or damaged computer equipment and sends it to program partner Kootenay Computer to wipe personal data, make repairs, and refurbish the donations in preparation for their new owners. The Salvation Army, in the meantime, vets qualified recipients and arranges for pick up or delivery of the restored computers.

Nancy Lemire, the Salvation Army’s former coordinator of Community Ministries, says her client, who doesn’t leave his home because he suffers from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), has “been thrown a lifeline.”

“We brought him the computer, and now he travels by accessing virtual tours of countries around the world,” she explains. “It has lit up his life. That computer came to him and he took complete advantage of it; he’s not shut in anymore and lives a more worldly life than many others. This one case alone makes it all worthwhile.”

The program has been made possible with a grant from the Trust, which helps cover the wages of an assistant computer technician as well as supports marketing and promotion of the program to those who need it most.

Lemire is also pleased to see single parents reaping the benefits of the program, citing the need for technology in the household to help with school or securing employment.

“Moms and dads are relieved to find a way to get computers for their children,” she explains. “I mean, today you need computers to do everything, whether that be finding a job, applying for social support, or looking up the bus schedule. And these are top-notch – I can’t say enough about Kootenay Computer. Any time there’s been any issue with a machine, they replace it in a heartbeat.”

Yet another benefit is the reduced environmental impact, as the program diverts computers that may have otherwise hit the landfill. It’s also providing meaningful employment for the assistant computer technician. The volunteer-turned-staffer came to the program through the Cranbrook Society for Community Living, which secures work placements for individuals with diverse abilities in jobs that will help transition them to full independence.

“Our assistant technician is working and thriving as a result of this program,” adds Barron. “The program has had an incredible impact. And in addition to being successful for the recipients, it’s been fantastic for Cranbrook and the area as a whole. Community partnerships with the Southeast Kootenay School District and Teck have been particularly great; they’ve donated a substantial number of computers.”

This program is not currently active but will be up and running again as soon as it is deemed safe by the Chamber and its partners. To learn more about the program, purchase a computer or make a donation, contact the Chamber at 250.426.5914 or info@cranbrookchamber.com.

Connecting LGBTQ2+ community in Elk Valley

Andrea Brennan is honoured to offer a blessing at the start of the Elk Valley Pride Festival each fall, kicking off the Fernie event with a welcome that encourages recognition, acceptance, and inclusivity.

“Some LGBTQ2+ youth and adults were raised in environments that taught them they were ‘less than’ because of their sexuality,” she explains. “The Fernie Pride Society hosts events where anyone can come and feel safe. I want every LGBTQ2+ person to know that they are loved.”

The passionate board member of the Fernie Pride Society was amazed by the positive response to the organization’s recent year-long project, which focused on boosting its presence in the community by amping up its communications and outreach.

“Fernie is a small town, and some residents have no idea or experience with what it is to be ‘gay.’ The Fernie Pride Society creates a place for dialogue, for conversation, and for people to learn about one another.”

A grant from Columbia Basin Trust assisted the Society with helping diverse people who live in the Elk Valley and surrounding area feel supported.

The Society provides information, resources, and referrals for individuals and families struggling with gender and sexual identity. By organizing youth programming the Fernie Pride Program Coordinator aims to create connections between LGBTQ2+ individuals and develop a sense of community.

“Individuals who feel isolated because of their gender or sexual identity reach out for support,” explains Kevin Allen, Fernie Pride Society board member. “Just recently, a young trans-man contacted us; he was feeling alone, and asked if there were other trans people in Fernie. We were able to connect him to other locals and regional trans support services, and we also invited him to take part in our next Fernie Pride activity.”

The Society has partnered with local schools to provide educational resources, who have responded further with their own pride initiatives, such as painting pride sidewalks and selling rainbow tuques and caps. The Society has also joined forces with local RCMP to bring the Safe Place Program to the Elk Valley. By placing a decal in their window, participating businesses and organizations clearly identify the premises as a safe haven and ally for members of the LGBTQ2+ community.

The Fernie Pride Society formed to address issues of visibility, connectedness and social isolation of LGBTQ2+ individuals.

Aimée DeCorby, who is relatively new to the area and recently joined the Fernie Pride Society, is overwhelmed by the support the organization has seen while increasing their visibility and encouraging dialogue.

“I’m so excited to find a community within Fernie that’s full of such compassion. Every person has a unique story, but I think the resounding message within this group is complete acceptance. To me, that’s very powerful and uplifting,” she says. “Community engagement is so important because it can challenge people to consider and see things from new and different perspectives. It’s been significant for the younger generation to see these examples of acceptance and know they are welcomed and celebrated for their unique identities.”

Learn more at ferniepride.ca.

Photos supplied by Fernie Pride Society.

Ready for Restoration

Creston grain elevator moves closer to a rejuvenated future

Pass by Creston’s two grain elevators and they’ll look like they have for a long time—historically and visually fascinating but in need of repairs and a good coat of paint. Peek into the red elevator, though, and you might spot a different story: one that means this significant icon is even better prepared to stand and serve the community for many decades to come.

What’s different? “It’s way cleaner,” says Mark Brunton, Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits, for the Trust, which owns the elevators. This sounds insignificant and simple, but wasn’t. Rather, it required in-depth removal of old, mouldy grain and droppings from rodents and birds—“all of which was quite a significant biohazard.”

And being clean means the elevator is now ready for next steps: significant repairs and restoration, and a re-imagined use.

Important icons for the Creston community and its residents, the two elevators are a rarity: there are only two other wooden grain elevators in British Columbia. Which is why the Trust purchased them in 2018: it’s working “to save them for the community,” Brunton says, “and secure the heritage for future generations.”

Heritage consultants Elana Zysblat and John Atkin evaluated their historical value in 2017. Zysblat says, “The fact that we have two of them side by side, in such an accessible location, makes them more unique and more valuable than most grain elevators in the entire country.”

Approximately six storeys high, the elevators were built in 1935 (the white one) and 1936 (the red one) and were used to collect, store and ship locally grown wheat, barley, oats and rye. The white one closed in 1971 and the red in 1982.

Now, with most of the hazardous material removed and many assessments complete—including health and safety, historical and structural—the Trust is ready to progress into restoration. Because the red elevator is in much better shape than the white one, current efforts are focusing on it.

An architect who will oversee the restoration should be on board this summer. Construction is expected to start in early 2021 and finish by the end of that year. By that time, passers-by should be able to notice the difference: new roof, fresh siding, and refurbished windows. Inside there will be structural and safety upgrades.

The public will also get a hand in deciding what to do with the elevators. “In fall 2020, we will consult with residents of the town of Creston and other stakeholders,” Brunton says. “We’ll be asking people what they think the red elevator should be used for and discuss options for the white elevator.”

The community consultation process will invite ideas and suggestions online and through a series of in-person discussions, as public health guidelines allow. Once the Trust gets this feedback, it will work with the architect and other professionals to see what can be done.

Currently, the Kunze Gallery, which is opens for the summer, is located at the elevators, but other future uses might also be possible. For now, the public can be assured that progress on these landmarks is moving steadily forward and that people will have a chance to give their input soon. Watch for updates from the Trust in the coming months.

“From the outside, it may look like not much has been happening,” Brunton says. In fact, this aspect of the region’s history is well on its way to being preserved and starting a fresh, modern life.