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2009 a year of introspection

Rotary club fireworks on Halloween; Photo, Mona Mattei

2009 has been a year of change across the Boundary region. For myself, although I left the Grand Forks Gazette with a heavy heart, my new venture into the Boundary Sentinel has been a huge learning experience and a fun adventure. While the site has not been active for long, as a journalist I have been writing through the year and have seen our communities’ own changes. With the downturn in the economy, many people have spent time this year looking internally to decide what their next step in life will be. Our communities have done the same. 2009 was a year of introspection and time for dealing with local needs.

The Boundary region came together under the economic development banner working with Community Futures Boundary. The region spent a great deal of energy working with local industries to prevent the abandonment of the rail line between Grand Forks and Kettle Falls (Railway stays open for time being). They had success in working towards a solution. Another region-wide initiative to come to fruition is the development of a Boundary water committee that will spearhead a Kettle River watershed management plan over the next few years. The region also supported the restriction of motorized watercraft on the Kettle River when the news of a potential airboat tour hit the airwaves.

Christina Lake Arts and Artisans Society led the change in breaking ground for the Living Arts Centre. This new building will lead the way in environmental practices and provide a collective place for the development of culture. On the other side of the coin, the Christina Lake community waited all year for the Aquilini group to come back to the table with their information on the proposed waste to energy plant. They are not done waiting yet. Aquilini given five months to produce plan.

Grand Forks’ new council stayed active throughout the year. Starting by resolving the dispute with the Boundary Museum Society, the council also looked internally at their next steps. A transition study was completed to assist the city in planning for local development. Council successfully received grants to plant trees and created parts of a new trails system hiring unemployed forestry employees that they see becoming an alternate transportation system in the future. Another successful grant came late in 2009 for the continued development of these trails. Council is seeking ways to find the additional funding needed to do this project that will take them into 2010. Medical marijuana became one of the city’s hottest topics (Democracy wins in marijuana debate), next to deer, and they welcomed a new city administrator in Lynn Burch. New administrator appointed for Grand Forks.

The Grand Forks community also experienced a tragedy in 2009 when 12-year-old John Fulton was murdered. While a suspect, Kimberly Noyes, remains in custody pending her trial in 2010, the family mourned the loss of John’s bright spirit. Not guilty plea expected in murder trial.

Greenwood’s board of trade took their vision for an improved community by the horns and steered the local businesses to beautify their town. New paint, decorative flowers, trees, and lights all dressed up Greenwood to increase their attraction to visitors. Supported by the city council’s efforts to find funding for improvements to infrastructure, the combined effect has been a delight to many passers-by. The community developed a number of activities throughout the year – dances, drop-in teas, demolition derby, bluegrass festival, Christmas light-up – and the local businesses have been a leader in supporting these events.

Greenwood received funding from a tourism grant to make further improvements including website changes, new town signs, interpretive signs, and paint for playground equipment. Greenwood also had an assessment by Laney McMullin from Everett, WA to plan for local improvements that will lead to cultural development. Her report will provide guidance to council in 2010. Making Greenwood a memorable community.

Midway also spent a great deal of effort on community and tourism improvements. From exploring the expansion of senior’s housing to developing a water protection program (Midway receives grant for groundwater protection), Midway has worked with provincial and regional representatives to create development opportunities. They hosted a bluegrass festival, a car show, annual Kettle River days, and got on board for the upcoming Rail Trail 200 dog sled race. City works oversaw a trails project hiring unemployed forestry workers and worked towards creating new village signs. Mayor Randy Kappes held monthly open houses to get feedback from local residents and will continue them into 2010.

The Midway Airport Development Association disbanded after years of work to see a growing air community, and the city council continues to try to remove airport lands from the agricultural land reserve to allow for the needed developments. Midway council also worked to attract a new doctor for their clinic. Dr. Ooi has agreed to start practice in September of 2010.

With a vision for the continued health and well-being of our communities I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you readers for your support. Happy New Year from myself, and all my contributors, at the Sentinel. Here’s looking at a wonderful ride through 2010!