Growth strategy report shows rural lifestyle is changing

Looking from Barnhartvale area north towards Area P. (Image: TNRD Growth Strategy Report, Kaisa Weins)

The rural population is declining, more rural residents are living closer to Kamloops, and farms are getting fewer but bigger.

Those are just a few of the findings in a new report on growth from the TNRD’s planning department. It’s an update of a previous study done a couple of years ago and it’s full of fascinating information about the state of the region.

The decline in rural population, and the concentration of population around urban centres, is concerning given the importance of our rural lifestyle. Sixty per cent of housing starts are now within what planning director Regina Sadilkova calls a “reasonable commute” from Kamloops.

The TNRD has a higher than average number of daily auto trips by those who live in the country but work in the city.

Two municipalities are experiencing significant growth. Between 2011 and 2016, Kamloops grew by 4,600 residents, or 5.4 per cent, and Sun Peaks continued to grow at a clip of more than 10 per cent.

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Public input invited on five-year financial plan

The TNRD is seeking feedback from residents about its five-year financial plan.

A public open house will take place at the TNRD Civic Building on Thursday, March 8, 2018 from 10 a.m. to noon. Director of Finance Doug Rae will be on hand to answer any questions and to provide information.

The online citizen-engagement platform PlaceSpeak will also be available to provide input. To participate in PlaceSpeak, create a PlaceSpeak account. The residential address of the user is never displayed to others or the administrator of the consultation. Your address is used only to ensure that you live in the TNRD.

TNRD staff begin developing budgets for each service for the coming year in September, taking into account strategic plans and priorities previously set and direction previously given by the board of directors.

The result is a final recommended five-year financial plan that will be presented to the board for adoption this month.

For more  information about the plan, or to provide feedback through the Financial Plan Input Form, go to

Cat evacuated from wildfire finally gets to go home

Dexter the cat after his rescue.

The cat came back the very next day
The cat came back, they thought he was a goner
But the cat came back; he just couldn’t stay away

— Lyrics, Fred Penner

Unlike the cat in children’s entertainer Fred Penner’s song, Dexter didn’t come back the very next day, due in large part to the fact he became lost hundreds of kilometers from home.

But after almost seven months on his own including some nasty winter weather, Dexter is heading back where he came from.

The grey tabby was evacuated from Williams Lake to Kamloops with his family last summer during the height of the wildfires.

He went on the lam during a visit to Pritchard and got left behind when the evacuation was over. He wasn’t seen or heard from until this week when he was spotted at the Pritchard eco depot.

Dexter’s story played out on the Pritchard community Facebook page when residents Mary Huntington and Gail Robinson posted his photo after the cat was found in a recycling dumpster at the eco depot.

Noting that he was friendly and wearing a brown and black striped collar, they sent out a call for help in locating the owners.

Along with at least one offer to adopt him came a reply from Violet Weaver that the cat belonged to her and her grandmother and had escaped in Pritchard.

“We never found him. I had no more hope. I gave up….” she posted.

So Dexter will soon be reunited with his family. Maybe his happy ending won’t be the last — his story prompted another post that two Clinton cats were also lost in Pritchard during the evacuation.

— Mel Rothenburger

Regional board cuts funding for non-TNRD fire departments

Fire truck formerly owned by Pinantan fire brigade. It was sold due to budget concerns. (Mel Rothenburger photo)

Life got harder for fire departments in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District on Thursday (Feb. 8, 2018) as the board of directors voted to cut off funding due to concerns about liability.

Effective immediately, community fire brigades will no longer be eligible to receive discretionary funding from electoral area directors, and fire departments currently funded through taxation must consent to fall under TNRD administration by 2022.

That means I’ll no longer be allowed to contribute to the Pinantan, Paul Lake and East Paul Lake brigades from the discretionary fund allotted to each electoral area director. This is a modest fund that can be used to help out community projects, and I’ve been able to direct some of it to the brigades for such things as pumps, radios, helmets and AEDs.

The McLure Fire Department is also directly affected. It currently operates on a tax-funded budget of about $40,000 a year. If it asks to become a TNRD-operated department, its costs are expected to go up substantially (the exact cost hasn’t been worked out yet); if it remains on its own, it will be left without the taxes collected within the service area by the TNRD effective the end of 2022.

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Wildfire recovery report shows $30-million economic loss

Elephant Hill fire as seen from Ashcroft.

Last year’s wildfires caused a $30-million economic loss, says a report on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s recovery efforts.

Myles Bruns told the TNRD board Thursday (Feb. 8, 2018) that most of the business losses were caused by interruptions to business operations. Sixteen percent of them were directly due to fires, and 8.5 per cent had business interruption insurance.

Bruns said about $21 million in sales was lost, and $1 million in wages.

Among suggestions for helping in the economic recovery were cutting red tape, creating a business continuity plan, and increased tourism marketing.

While some of the proposals are outside the TNRD’s jurisdiction, Bruns said the regional district has a role to play in advocating for them with other levels of government.

“The TNRD has done a phenomenal job” in responding to the aftermath of the wildfires, Bruns said.

‘Disgusting’ library washrooms to get fresh paint

The washrooms in the downtown Kamloops library will get a fresh coat of paint.

TNRD director Tina Lange commented at the regional district board’s regular meeting Thursday (Feb. 8, 2017) that the washrooms are in sad shape.

“It’s disgusting,” she said. “We should be so embarrassed.”

Lange wondered if they might be renovated along with the other renovations scheduled for the library.

“We’re constantly renovating the washrooms,” CAO Sukh Gill responded wryly.

Lange noted that the washrooms are badly abused, with fixtures being broken and grime building up. “It’s the broken window thing,” she said, referring to the tendency of poorly maintained buildings to become worse.

“It’s happening every day,” said Gill of problems with the library washrooms. “It’s a constant struggle.”

But he said they’re scheduled for a paint job next week.

New date set for closure of downtown library for renovations

The Kamloops downtown library will close for renovations on Monday, Feb. 26 instead of March 1.

The last day of service to the public will be Sunday, Feb. 25. Renovations to the building are expected to take about six weeks while electrical, millwork, flooring, drywall, plumbing and painting are carried out.

“This will result in a more modern library that will create a functional space plan and patron self-service, interior ‘zoning’ for noise-related activities, and visual identity,” TNRD chief librarian Judy Moore said in a media release.

She said patrons are encouraged to keep their library materials at home during the closure, and that extended loan periods will be provided.

‘Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage’

(Image: Mel Rothenburger photo)

Director, Electoral Area P

Garbage might not sound like an exciting topic to some people, but others can get passionate about it.

The TNRD is in the final phases of developing a new solid-waste management plan that’s expected to go to the board for approval this coming fall, with implementation next year.

There’s no shortage of ways to provide input and no shortage of opinions on the subject. One of the greatest concerns has been raised by residents of Barnhartvale who fear closure of the landfill there would increase illegal dumping.

As a former resident of that area I fully understand that concern. I used to ride my horse near the Lafarge Road connector and in behind the golf course and was no stranger to removing garbage from the trails.

A few weeks ago, I returned to the area and was much heartened to find that one of the worst spots has been the subject of a major cleanup and it’s looking great. It would be a shame to see it become an illegal dumping ground again.

Illegal dumping is not a phenomenon specific to any one area. There are places near Black Pines where I now live that are constantly being used for dumping of household garbage, yard waste and even renovation waste. I’ve cleaned some of it up on occasion but it’s a tough battle.

I’m confident many reading this now have experienced the same thing.

Illegal dumping is very hard to control and even harder to police.

At a recent public meeting on the solid-waste plan, TNRD board chair John Ranta reminded everyone about Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song Alice’s Restaurant, which is about hauling a load of garbage into the bush with a VW micro-bus and dumping it.

The next morning, officer Obie calls Guthrie and says, “’Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it.’

“And I said, ‘Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage.”

In the song, justice prevails, with Guthrie and his friend having to pick up the garbage in the snow and pay a $50 fine.

As Guthrie tells it in Alice’s Restaurant, they were just trying to do a good deed by taking Alice’s garbage to the dump, and only left it in the woods because the landfill was closed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

In real life, at least in the TNRD, people illegally dump garbage in the bush for two reasons: to avoid tipping fees, and for convenience. They think it’s OK if it’s out of sight — at least, out of their sight.

They ignore the fact that they’re polluting the environment and defiling our great outdoors.

Part of the new solid waste plan involves continuing the fight against illegal dumping. TNRD environmental services manager Jamie Vieira says regional district staff clean up dozens, if not hundreds, of illegal dumping sites every year.

The more that illegal dumping is reported, the better we can protect our outdoors heritage.

And, by the way, public comments on the solid-waste plan close Feb. 9. To learn more, go to the website home page and scroll down.

This column was originally published in the Sun Peaks Independent News.

Work to resume soon on Heffley Creek bridge

Heffley Creek bridge site has been inactive for weeks but City says work should begin again soon. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

HEFFLEY CREEK – Residents should expect to see activity resume this week at the Heffley Creek bridge construction site.

The City of Kamloops says in a press release that an Archaeological Overview Assessment identified the area’s historical potential for First Nations artifacts, which required the City to obtain a Section 14 provincial permit. The City expects to get the permit early this week, which will allow archaeological testing to begin immediately. Barring any significant findings, bridge construction is expected to resume mid-February.

“While the permit process did take a little longer than expected, our timeline is not significantly impacted,” said Greg Wightman, utility services manager at the City of Kamloops.

“Our goal has always been to reconnect the Heffley Creek community as soon as possible, and we still expect to complete this project by late spring.”

The bridge is a replacement for the creek culvert washed out in last spring’s flooding.

Public Works and Utilities Department staff are available to answer questions weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 250-828-3461. Project updates can also be found online at

New approach to invasive plant management underway

Hoary alyssum is one of the noxious weeds in the TNRD.

TNRD news release Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018:

A new Thompson-Nicola Invasive Plant Management Committee (TNIPMC) has been created by the TNRD that will administer invasive plant management within the TNRD boundaries. Invasive plants occur outside their natural range and can have significant ecological, social, and economic impacts once established.

The key functions of the TNIPMC are to provide coordination and communication amongst land managers to ensure everyone is working together in their own operations to minimize the spread and impact of invasive plants across jurisdictional boundaries. Other functions include education, promoting research, and ensuring financial accountability.

“This new committee is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in invasive plant management,” said Kenneth Gillis, TNIPMC Chair and TNRD Director, Electoral Area L Grasslands.

“The TNRD is home to a substantial area of grasslands which are critically important for agricultural and ecological values, and prone to invasive plant infestations.”

The membership of the TNIPMC includes representatives from following:

  • TNRD directors from electoral areas and a municipality
  • Provincial government (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, BC Parks)
  • Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
  • Nicola Tribal Association
  • B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, as well as key organizations with invasive plant
  • Thompson Rivers University
  • Grasslands Conservation Council

The Southern Interior Weed Management Committee (SIWMC), which delivered invasive plant management on Crown land throughout the TNRD over the past two decades, ceased to exist in 2017. The original TNRD Invasive Plant Committee which had existed since the 1970s has been replaced by the TNIPMC.

The public can inquire about invasive plant management within the TNRD as follows:

TNRD committees chosen for coming year

Heffley Creek Eco-Depot.

TNRD committees will have a busy year ahead of them. Board Chair John Ranta announced the makeup of committees for 2018 and I’m very pleased to say that all of my requests for committees were met, as there’s often a lot of competition for them.

At the beginning of each year, directors submit their preferences for which committees they’d like to serve on, and the chair makes decisions on the make-up of most of them, with some being chosen by directors in a vote.

Here are the committees on which I’ll sit for the coming year:

Economic Development and Recreation Services

Emergency Management and Protective Services

Regional Solid Waste Management

Utility Systems

Electoral Area Directors

Thompson Regional Hospital District

The Emergency Management and Protective Services, and Utility Systems committees are of particular importance to me due to the need to support rural fire departments, and the number of utility systems in Electoral Area P.

The Solid Waste Management Committee will continue to be busy with finalizing the new plan that will set a direction for the next 10 years for garbage disposal and recycling.

My return to the Economic Development and Recreation Services Committee is also welcome, as it now includes responsibility for the Film Commission, which I chaired several years ago.

All EA directors sit on the Electoral Area Directors Committee, and all board members are on the regional hospital district board.

The complete list of committees and directors that will sit on them is available from the 2018 Committee List on the website.

Downtown library to close for six-week renovation

Civic Building, home of the TNRD and the downtown library. (Image: Mel Rothenburger.)

The main Kamloops library will be closed from March 1 to April 9.

The TNRD board approved the closure at its meeting Thursday (Jan. 18, 2018) to allow for a major renovation of the library at 5th Avenue and Victoria Street, including added space and re-alignment of existing space.

Referred to as a “modernization,” some of the work was done between Christmas and New Year’s but the major part will be done over the six-week period. It’s the first major upgrade to the library since it opened in 1998.

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Closure of Barnhartvale landfill, illegal dumping highlight concerns at public meeting

TNRD Chair John Ranta speaks to meeting on regional solid-waste plan Wednesday night. (Photo: Mel Rothenburger)

Director, Electoral Area P

Closure of the Barnhartvale landfill and worries about illegal dumping highlighted a public meeting Wednesday night (Jan. 17, 2018) held to talk about the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s plans for handling garbage and recycling over the next 10 years.

About 40 people attended the meeting in the Sandman Centre, part of the consultation process as the TNRD works toward adoption of a new solid-waste management plan, expected this fall.

TNRD Chair John Ranta explained that solid-waste management, which costs more than $10 million a year, is one of the top two expenditures within the regional district’s budget.

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Public meeting to talk about draft garbage plan

The future of garbage will be the subject of a meeting next week co-hosted by the TNRD and the City of Kamloops.

The meeting, on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Valley First Lounge in the Sandman Centre, will discuss the Regional Solid Waste Management Draft Plan.

TNRD and City staff will be on hand to provide information and to field any questions about the draft plan, which will provide guidance for the handling of garbage and recycling for the next 10 years.

Issues such as closure of the Barnhartvale landfill are expected to come up.

The amount of waste that is landfilled would be reduced by 20 per cent under the draft plan. For more information about the plan, or to provide feedback, go to