Goodbye for now Sun Peaks!

Sun Peaks’ powder is so light, some times one has to truly immerse themselves in it to truly appreciate it. Photo by Nathalie Barde

It’s been a good time, but not a long time. And alas, my time at SPIN—at least in the full-time community reporter position—has come to the end. Starting in September, I’ll be in a teacher’s college in Victoria, with the intention of becoming a high school teacher. 

I began working for SPIN last summer, after I was commissioned to write a series on the community’s water and sewer infrastructure and the major capital investments involved in expanding it. 

This gig eventually transitioned into a full-time contract largely focused on reporting on tourism-related stories, the job funded through the federal government’s Local Journalism Initiative. 

Following a brief layoff this spring, I was hired back on and 

I have fully enjoyed the position of community reporter. 

It has given me the opportunity to tackle a much wider range of stories related to the community. 

As some of you may know, I have a long history with Sun Peaks, with my parents building one of the first cabins on Sunburst Place back in the mid 90s.

To come back after a long hiatus that took me to Vancouver, Montreal, Victoria and Whistler has been eye opening. 

As a teenager, I never imagined the community would grow this fast. 

At the end of the day, we have to thank a council and mayor who live and breathe the mountain lifestyle we love about Sun Peaks, and a large contingent of community-minded people who have created anchor institutions, like the schools and the health care centre. 

The importance of the health care centre was made crystal clear this winter, with Dr. Shane Barclay taking a notably proactive approach to informing the community of any positive COVID-19 cases as soon as he learned of them. 

Sadly, this was not the approach taken by health care providers at large, with health authorities largely refusing to release positive test case numbers for individual communities.

By getting the word out about positive cases, Barclay encouraged residents to double down on social distancing guidelines and orders, and helped Sun Peaks avoid the fate of mountain towns like Big White and Whistler, which were overrun by cases of COVID-19. 

The Embleton Mountain wildfire also provided a steady stream of important stories to write. I hope this coverage helped keep you informed on the fire’s progress (and the fight to stop it) and shed some light on the heroics of the firefighters who worked tirelessly to put it out. 

Thinking back over the last year, here are a few of the stories that stick out as memorable.

– This story about how a group of Heffley Louis-Creek Rd. neighbours put out a dangerous pile burn on what is widely thought of as the most intense night of the Embleton Mountain Wildfire. 

– It’s always a pleasure talking to Heather Shtuka about the ongoing search for her son, Ryan, who has been missing since February, 2018. Heather has been incredibly generous with me and other SPIN journalists. 

– A story from earlier this year about how The Sun Peaks School will need to add additional portables to keep up with growing enrollment this year, but advocates say what’s needed is a permanent building.

– In March, I localized a truly jaw-dropping spending scandal at the TNRD. The story followed on the coattails of aninvestigative series carried out by Kamloops This Week reporter Jessica Wallace. 

– This long piece I wrote, with the support of Journalists for Human Rights and the Solutions Journalism Network, about what Sun Peaks can learn from Whistler in terms of transitioning into an all-season resort that is more economically sustainable for workers and business. 

– This story is about investments needed to shore up Sun Peaks’ water supply.  

A big thank you to the people I interviewed for these stories, and all the other ones I wrote at SPIN. 

Hope to see you all on the hill

– Joel

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