Thursday, March 5th-3.3°C

Early Years Centre launched

Parents of young children in Kamloops now have access to a range of early learning, health and family services in one location.

A new B.C. Early Years Centre has opened at 150 Wood St., to support families with children up to age six. Hosted by the John Tod Centre – YMCA-YWCA, it offers a number of programs, services and supports including an interactive Play and Learn drop-in program for families and child-care providers and a toy lending and resource library.

It is one of 14 new centres across the province. Each will receive $52,000 in provincial funding for this fiscal year as part of a $5.5-million investment over three years.

This is the second phase of an initiative under the B.C. Early Years Strategy.

“Programs and services that have been developed for the B.C. Early Years Centre in Kamloops help ensure our region’s children thrive now and throughout their lives,” Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said.

“Our Early Years Centre location will provide enhanced accessibility to more services and to more families,” said Janis Arner, director of family services with the Y. 

The first three years of the Early Years Strategy has aimed for the creation of up to 2,000 new licensed child-care spaces by March 2016, with the goal of opening 13,000 new spaces by 2020.

Corner store robbed

Kamloops RCMP responded to a robbery in progress this morning at the Cornerstone Market on 12th Street.

A male entered the store and threatened the clerk with a syringe while demanding money. The suspect made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The clerk was not harmed during the incident, said Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Cheryl Bush.

A suspect was taken into custody by police shortly after the incident, but there may have been a second male involved.

Police later located a blue Toyota Tacoma pickup that departed from the robbery, but have not said anything more about a second suspect.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is urged to contact Kamloops RCMP or call CrimeStoppers to remain anonymous.

Boat was at 'killing speed'

A speedboat was travelling at "killing speed" before a fatal nighttime crash with a houseboat on a British Columbia lake in 2010, a trial has heard.

Leon Reinbrecht is charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm stemming from a collision on Shuswap Lake that killed Ken Brown.

A speedboat allegedly operated by Reinbrecht collided with a houseboat piloted by Brown.

Firefighter Michael Wallace testified Monday that he was on vacation in the Shuswap on July 3, 2010, when he saw the speedboat and told a friend that it was travelling at "killing speed" and that someone was going to die.

"I probably said quite a few things, quite a few profanities," Wallace told B.C. Supreme Court, noting he witnessed the speedboat pull a fast U-turn at one point.

"It’s a total disregard for any nighttime driving. I was in shock to see it. I remember how odd that was to see at that time. To me, it was doing top speed or near top speed."

Another witness, Ronald Swift, said he saw 40 boats on the water in the area known as Magna Bay during a fireworks display before the crash. He said he also saw the speedboat on the lake while building a bonfire with Wallace.

"We could hear the engine, loud," he said.

"We looked out and we saw a boat heading in the same direction as all the other boats, moving east, moving fast. It sounded like a boat you’d hear during the day going by."

Swift said he saw the boat make "an abrupt turn" and begin to head back into traffic at a high speed.

"We just looked at each other and said, 'He’s going to run into somebody,' because there’s just so many boats out there," Swift said.

"It alarmed us. We just knew that nothing could come good out of it from the way he was driving. It sounded like perhaps it may have been wide-open throttle after he came out of the turn."

Swift said he heard "a loud bang" 10 seconds later.

"And then we could hear the boat out of the water," he said.

"You could hear the engine revving very high — and then silence, and then you could hear people screaming for help."

Swift said he and Wallace began running along the beach to get closer to the crash.

"Somebody on the houseboat was screaming for help, that they had a baby with them," Swift said.

Reinbrecht’s trial got underway in early February but has been plagued by delays as lawyers sorted out issues with the disclosure of evidence. 

The Canadian Press

Burn set for nature park

A popular Kamloops nature park will close temporarily this month while crews conduct a prescribed burn of wildfire fuel.

The City of Kamloops, provincial Wildfire Management Branch, Kamloops Fire Rescue and a local contractor are teaming up for the effort at Kenna Cartwright Nature Park.  

Starting Wednesday, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will have a crew in the park doing site preparation, which will include slashing and piling of debris, clearing areas around trees so they are preserved, and ensuring that trails and roads are cleared and will act as fire boundaries.  

A “black line” will be put along the eastern boundary, where there are no existing roads or natural fire guards. A black line consists of a controlled burn strip that prevents fire from spreading, since there are no longer fuels available in that area.  

Once site prep is finished, Wildfire Management Branch staff and the contracted "burn boss" will monitor the weather, venting index and site conditions, and will indicate when burning should occur. Park users and residents will be given notice of those dates. 

Signage will be put up at all park entrances explaining what a prescribed burn is and showing a map of the burn area. Residents are asked stay out of the burn area for their safety, as well as the safety of crews working there.

The city says reasons for the prescribed burn include:

Forest health – wildfires typically occur in the ponderosa pine biogeoclimatic zone as often as every 15-25 years. Because of their frequency, fires have played an important role in the ecology of this zone. Mature ponderosa pine trees have a thick bark and a self-pruning habit that prevents most fires from spreading upward to the crown. However, as fires speed through the understory, they burn off grasses and new growth, leaving behind a relatively bare forest floor and restricting regeneration of new trees. Historically, this pattern resulted in a mosaic of grasslands and open stands of pine. Currently, there are many dense clumps of trees leading to increased risk of disease and insect predation, as well as a general decrease in tree health due to competition for water, nutrients and light. By opening up the stands, it will allow the trees to follow a more natural cycle of growth.

Community wildfire protection – In the mid-2000s, the pine beetle epidemic went through the park, killing 90 per cent of the pines. These have since fallen, resulting in an increased amount of fuel loading. In recent times, as a result of fire suppression, dense stands of pines have replaced some of the more open stands, as well as some grasslands. These dense stands contain “ladder” fuels that will result in hotter and more abundant crown fires in the future. Because there is much housing in the zone, many residences are at risk from wildfires. A prescribed burn can reduce the fuel load, greatly reducing the potential for urban interface fires.

Noxious weed concerns – Over the last few years, the city has used various methods to control weeds in the park. These include hand pulling, goats and some spraying. Fire is another effective way of helping to control weeds, especially in conjunction with the other methods. 

Learning from Mount Polley

Jacinda Mack, the mining response coordinator at the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, will give a public presentation entitled, “Mount Polley Mine Disaster Response.”

The talk will take place at 5 p.m., Tuesday March 3 at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in the Old Main Building, Room 3632.

Imperial Metals’ ‘Mount Polley Mine’ tailings pond breached on Aug. 4, 2014, releasing 25 million cubic meters of water and toxic slurry into Polley Lake, and causing one of the largest environmental disasters in modern Canadian history.

Jacinda Mack, who has experience protecting Indigenous land and advising on natural resources policy, will discuss the tailings disaster and the contamination of the Quesnel River Basin, as well as the Northern Secwepemc response to the breach and its clean-up.

Mack calls for accountability in the extractives industry and encourages communities to work toward maintaining water as a public trust.

For those in the Kamloops region, lessons learned from the Mount Polley disaster are particularly relevant with respect to the proposed KGHM-Ajax Gold-Copper mine.

The event is sponsored by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators’ Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee and the TRU Faculty Association Human Rights Committee.

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