In recognition of the New Year, welcoming 2019 and with 2018 in the rearview mirror, The Packet highlighted some of the news that made headlines this past year.
George’s Brook-Milton becomes a municipality
Early in 2018, after many efforts by the local service district, George’s Brook-Milton officially incorporated as the province’s newest municipality.
The community made the announcement at the local recreation centre on Jan. 23, 2018 that they would be the 272nd town in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It feels great. We’ve arrived,” said Craig Pardy, chair of the local service district at the meeting.
While the community voted in a referendum in favour of incorporation back in May 2017, with 66.1 per cent of voters confirming the decision, the official announcement didn’t come until January.
The newly minted town went on to hold their first ever municipal election in May, with Pardy named mayor, Deputy Mayor Morgan Ellis, and Councillors Blanche Wiseman, Sarah Whalen, Brian Foley, Darren Ellis and David Adams.
The municipality also began work on a town hall facility—taking residency in the community cultural house which was a former church in George’s Brook-Milton. Work on that building is ongoing.
Port Blandford begins fight with province to prevent clearcutting
In February 2018, when the provincial government made clear their plans to institute clearcutting in the Port Blandford and Thorburn Lake areas, residents in the town say they felt blindsided.
What transpired was a months-long struggle between an advocacy group against the clearcutting and the province.
The group argued that cutting a large portion of the trees surrounding their community would have a detrimental effect on the tourism industry in the area, as well as environmental and quality of life concerns.
The government were looking to create work for companies in the area and argued that much of the timber was old growth and needed to be addressed.
After a series of public meetings and consultations with the government, the Town of Port Blandford — in an effort to comply with the wishes of their residents — responded with a solution to block the access to clearcutting in a large majority of the nearby woods by rezoning areas within their municipality.
The Packet newspaper celebrates 50 years
March 28, 1968 the very first of edition of The Packet newspaper hit the newsstands in the area.
For over 50 years, The Packet has been in circulation covering the news and community events in the 99 communities in the Clarenville-Bonavista Peninsula region, including the three bays — Bonavista, Trinity and Placentia.
As the paper of record, the reporters of The Packet have seen it all over 50 years, and on March 26, released a special retrospective issue for publication which included old photos, headlines and editorials from the decades of publication.
In addition, The Packet debuted a new weekly column called “A Packet of Past” which features snippets of the old editions which pertain to the week’s date from 10, 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years ago.
White Hills Ski Resort hits lowest revenue in a decade
The 2018 winter season marked a noted downturn for the White Hills Ski Resort near Clarenville, with the facility recording the lowest revenue since 2009.
The ski resort, purchased by the Town of Clarenville in 2000, brought in just $423,065 in revenue in 2018 (compare to 2017’s $668,303)
While the hill seemed to thrive with events and sales revolving around food and drink, day passes saw a drop of over 4,000 and season passes fell by over 1,000.
This equated to one of the very worst seasons for the resort in recent memory.
Clarenville Caribous win fourth Herder title
Following a 2017 Herder final loss in heartbreaking fashion to the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars when the winning goal saw the puck actually pass under the side of the net, the Clarenville Ford Caribous had a 2018 of retribution.
The Central West Senior Hockey League’s Caribous stormed back to the Herder finals on a mission, sweeping the St. John’s Caps of the East Coast Senior Hockey League in four games and claiming their fourth Herder title in their history.
In addition, ‘Bous head coach Rebecca Russell became the very first female coach to hoist the coveted provincial trophy in history.
“There’s a wide range of emotions right now. I’m obviously elated and happy for the guys on the team that’s their first time winning a Herder,” Caribou captain Dustin Russell told The Packet after the clinching victory in Torbay.
Clarenville defenceman Justin Pender received the Cliff Gorman Memorial Award as the series MVP.
Anglican Church diocese closes four churches in Bonavista Peninsula
The Central Anglican Church diocese of Newfoundland and Labrador made official four closures of churches in the Bonavista Peninsula region this past year — including King’s Cove, Petley, Keels and Princeton.
Some of the churches were sold and repurposed, with King’s Cove’s becoming a private residence, Petley’s church used for storage and the Keels church becoming occupied by a Baptist Ministry based out of Clarenville.
In Princeton, however, some residents were dismayed to discover the church was sold to be torn down — dismantled by a bidder who reached an agreement with the diocese.
While locals protested and initiated social media campaigns, ultimately, the church was torn down.
“It definitely stings… buildings like that have been preserved all over the island. There’s a whole lot of potential in these structures,” Princeton resident Mark Clench told The Packet after the church was dismantled.
In response to a request for comment, Bishop John Watton of the Central Anglican Diocese directed The Packet to an online statement he issued.
In the release he says the “most honourable and respectful thing we could do to uphold the integrity of the spirit of our forebears was to respectfully and prayerfully dismantle the building.”
Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove gets funding, beginning period of expansion
Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove had an eventful 2018, with two lots of government funding helping the fish plant begin to realize a three-year, $15 million expansion.
In July, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) of the federal government gave the plant $2.625 million in a provisionally repayable investment. The money was used to purchase new deheading, filleting and skinning machines.
In December, a cost-shared project between Icewater and the Atlantic Fisheries Fund was announced, totaling $4,454,000 for a new ice-management system. In this agreement, Icewater contributes 25 per cent and the remaining 75 is a conditionally repayable loan.
In a news release, Icewater president and CEO Alberto Wareham said how important these upgrades are to the area.
“(Investors) know what it means to Arnold’s Cove, to Newfoundland and Labrador and to Canada,” he said. “Without them, without their support, we wouldn’t be delivering quality seafood from Newfoundland and Labrador to premium world markets.”
Despite the ups and downs in cod stocks, Wareham is also optimistic about the future of the fishery and “is committed to the people of Icewater Seafoods continuing to be an integral part of that future.”
Bonavista named ‘most-road trippable’ by Chevrolet
While many tourists know about Bonavista as a highly-regarded destination, Chevrolet Canada made the distinction official this past summer, awarding the top prize of a contest to Bonavista, naming the community “most road-trippable” in Canada.
Twelve families across Canada were chosen to participate in the contest, which required them to submit a video of their family’s July 6-8 road trip.
Videos were then voted on between July 16-29; the three videos with the most votes went to a panel of judges to choose the ultimate winner.
The Yildiz family of St. John’s submitted the winning entry for the Bonavista Peninsula.
Other towns visited included Tobermony, Ont.; Miramichi, N.B.; Loydminster, Sask; Canmore, Alta.; Yarmouth, N.S. and North Cape, P.E.I.
At a special celebration in September, Bonavista was officially recognized by Chevrolet with a trophy.
Yavuz Yildiz told The Packet they were glad to have helped bring the recognition for the community. Their video contest submission was viewed over 130,000 times.
“It’s not just amazing scenery or amazing food, but it’s also the people. The people are very kind and lovely. They want to interact with you and talk with you. You just feel like you’re part of the town.”
Cannabis legalized in Canada; local communities react
One of the most talked about news stories of 2018, nation-wide, was the official legalization of recreational cannabis in October.
The effect was felt by many people and many communities from coast-to-coast, including places like Trinity Bay North and Clarenville.
While Clarenville is the site of two different retail locations for cannabis—the old Ocean Choice International fish plant in Port Union, which was vacant for years was handed over to an entrepreneur who is looking to turn the building into a cannabis production grow operation.
The company, called Cheeba Bros., began work this past year after taking ownership of the facility and look to eventually turn the building into a grow-op which would provide employment for many people in the area.
In a public meeting last spring, Daniel Porter presented his plan to residents, who seemed excited at the prospect of a new industry coming to the town.
Before a single seed can be planted, however, Porter’s company will need to get approval from Health Canada and become a licensed grower.
Despite not yet having that confirmation, Porter told The Packet this past year he is still confident Cheeba Bros. will eventually be up-and-running.
“Just watch what I can do for the people … I’m going to help change that area, I promise you,” said Porter.
Businesses bankrupt in region
Many have felt the trying times in the local economy recently, perhaps none more so than business owners — many of which have struggled to remain profitable over 2018.
In fact, some major businesses in the Clarenville area have been forced to declare bankruptcy in 2018.
Most notably, Burry’s Shipyard Inc. officially declared bankruptcy in October.
Clarenville Mayor Frazer Russell told The Packet at the time, the news of the bankruptcy is a blow to the area.
“It is disappointing,” said Russell. “I guess the only thing we can hope now is that there would be new owners in that location because I think the need is still there.”
Russell noted Burry’s had up to 150 employees at one time, and anywhere from 75 to 100 on a regular basis.
He says there’s the immediate impact on those workers, who are now out of job, as well as a direct financial impact on the town itself.
“There is quite a bit of property involved there and we were deriving taxation from the business and the property tax as well — so that certainly has an implication for the town as well when a business comes off the tax roll.”
In addition, the Terra Nova Golf Resort and Hotel went into receivership in November.
Port Blandford Mayor Chad Holloway told The Packet in November that this news is disappointing for the community. He said the first thing he thought was about the approximately 60 workers directly employed by the resort.
“On top of that, the community is a tourism hub, being a gateway to the Bonavista Peninsula and Terra Nova National Park,” said Holloway. “So, there is over a hundred jobs in the community directly linked to tourism. It’s going to have a significant impact on not only the people at the resort but the community as a whole.
However, with that being said, Holloway said they are trying to remain optimistic. He says this isn’t the first time the ownership of Terra Nova Resort has changed — adding that the 80-room hotel and two premier golf courses are a real asset for a potential buyer.