Clockwise from top left: Ted Eeftink, a lifelong local and iconic first responder, passed away on Nov. 9. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Eeftink); Fire crews tackle a massive fire that destroyed the Parksville Heritage Centre building on Nov. 9. (Michael Briones photo); The male Pacific white-sided dolphin was still alive when it was first discovered on Nov. 4 in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Karyssa Arnett photo); Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey smile at the bar of their Pluvio Restaurant. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Clockwise from top left: Ted Eeftink, a lifelong local and iconic first responder, passed away on Nov. 9. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Eeftink); Fire crews tackle a massive fire that destroyed the Parksville Heritage Centre building on Nov. 9. (Michael Briones photo); The male Pacific white-sided dolphin was still alive when it was first discovered on Nov. 4 in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Karyssa Arnett photo); Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey smile at the bar of their Pluvio Restaurant. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories of 2022

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of the year

As we enter into 2023, we look back at some of the Westerly News’ most read stories of 2022.

Ucluelet restaurant named Canada’s best fine dining experience

Ucluelet’s Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms topped TripAdvisor’s list of Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Canada in 2022.

Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey opened the intimate 24-seat culinary experience in 2019 and have been delighted to see their creation quickly become a TripAdvisor darling with a five-star rating based on 553 reviews.

The restaurant has also racked up a list of accolades as long as its reservation list, with the recent fine dining award joining an already crowded trophy cabinet that includes a spot on Air Canada’s enRoute magazine’s list of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants, Best New Destination Restaurant list, and a fourth place spot on TripAdvisor’s Best Date Night Restaurant in the World.

“Between Canada’s 100 best and TripAdvisor, we feel like we’ve had a really spectacular year and we’re just really grateful for all the awesome guests we have that come through and are so supportive of us, whether they’re visiting from afar or from the community that joins us so often,” Barr says. “It’s very rewarding. We get a lot of cards, letters and even presents from guests after they’ve left just thanking us for a wonderful evening. It’s pretty amazing to be able to impact people that much through a restaurant. It’s awesome.”

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Ucluelet mourns loss of ‘kind and humble’ Ted Eeftink

Cancer robbed Ted Eeftink of his retirement. Eeftink, a lifelong local and iconic first responder, died on Nov. 9. He was 64 years old.

Ted’s widow Tracy Eeftink said they received the cancer diagnosis in April, the same day they had sold their Majestic Ocean Kayaking business with their eyes on retiring.

“It was that same day,” Tracy said, adding Ted was looking forward to finally taking it easy.

“He wanted to retire and I said ‘OK, well if you want to retire then so do I.’ I hadn’t thought about it. He’s 64 and I’m 62 and it’s time to retire and then we could go and do things ourselves. We were working so hard.”

She said when they received the diagnosis, they immediately set their minds on beating it, but struggled to find available care.

“We just wanted the best care possible. Whatever it takes, we wanted him to have the very best care possible. That was the biggest thing that went through our minds, he’s going to beat it,” she said.

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Police watchdog clears Tofino RCMP officer in shooting death of Julian Jones

A Tofino RCMP officer who shot and killed a 28-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man while responding to a call for help on Meares Island last year will not be charged, according the police watchdog charged with reviewing the incident.

In a Nov. 16, 2022 bulletin, BC’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) stated that all the evidence has been reviewed in the death of Julian Jones and “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer committed an offence.” The independent investigation is now closed and the matter will not be referred to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2021, two officers from Tofino RCMP attended an Opitsaht residence to locate a woman in distress, reads the file released by BC RCMP on Feb. 28, 2021. When they arrived, an interaction took place. One man was shot and another was taken into custody. The woman was located and taken to hospital for medical assessment. No one else was injured, according to the RCMP.

The death of Jones came less than two years after the fatal high-profile shooting of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman Chantal Moore.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) say they are “disillusioned and frustrated” that once again, a cop has killed a First Nations person without consequences.

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Ucluelet wins legal dispute over Wyndansea development

The District of Ucluelet won a legal battle with Onni Group, sending the owners of the roughly 376-acre Wyndansea site back to the drawing board.

Onni had hoped to subdivide one of its parcels on the land into 30 strata lots, dubbed the Signature Circle Subdivision, which would house both residential and vacation rental properties.

That plan was nixed by two bylaws adopted by Ucluelet’s municipal council on Sept. 28, 2021, and the district denied 29 building permits Onni had applied for.

Onni argued the new bylaws were unreasonable and had been passed by council in bad faith. The group further argued that if the bylaws were to be allowed, their use of the subdivision should be considered lawfully non-conforming, or grandfathered in.

Ucluelet argued that the bylaws had not been passed in bad faith and claimed council “was faced with an imminent land development it did not support and it reasonably acted accordingly,” adding that the lawful non-comforming claim was not supported by facts, which B.C. Supreme Court Justice, The Honourable Justice Lauren Blake, agreed with.

“Upon a careful review of the record leading to the Council’s decision to adopt the Bylaws, I do not find its decision to be unreasonable, nor to have been made for an improper purpose nor in bad faith,” Blake wrote in her ruling announced on Oct. 26. “Further, I do not accept that the proposed use of the Subdivision satisfies the legal requirements to be determined to be lawfully non-conforming.”

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Crews respond to massive fire at Parksville Heritage Centre building

Fire crews were called around 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 to the Parksville Heritage Centre building after a fire at the back of one of the restaurants was spotted.

No injuries were reported.

The blaze completely destroyed La Belle Parksville, the British Bobby, the PQB News/Vancouver Island Daily office and the Heritage Animal Hospital. Two cats were brought out of the animal hospital, according to Parksville Fire Chief Marc Norris. He added they were the only animals in the treatment area at the time of the fire.

“The fire was into the roof area. This is quite an old structure, it has several ceilings in it and the crews were unable to get to it,” he said. “The fire spread through the loft area and the truss spaces.”

Norris added there are no fire separation barriers between the units.

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Tofino DMO hopes to help tourists get along with locals

Tourism Tofino plans to boost off-season traffic and hopes to improve tourist-resident relations by guiding visitors away from negatively impacting the local community and environment.

The town’s Destination Marketing Organization presented its tactical plan for 2023 during Nov. 8’s regular council meeting, highlighting a goal to achieve 69 per cent occupancy from October to May by 2027, a 10 per cent increase to 2019’s pre-COVID numbers.

“Our mission, or why we exist, is to deliver sustainable growth for our members that contributes economic and social benefits to our community. Our vision, or what we’re striving to achieve, is that Tofino is deeply respected and sought out for its transformative experience. That everything is connected, everything is one,” said Tourism Tofino marketing manager Samantha Fyleris.

She suggested that, along with increasing shoulder season traffic, Tourism Tofino also hopes to attract mid-week meetings and work retreats and will collaborate with industry partners to expand Tofino’s domestic and international exposure.

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Province promises Tofino-Ucluelet highway will open to two-way traffic in early 2023

Four years of travel delays may finally be coming to an end for West Coast residents and visitors.

The provincial government announced in late November that its $54 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvements project is over 90 per cent complete and the only highway connecting Tofino and Ucluelet to the rest of Vancouver Island is expected to fully open to two-way traffic in early 2023.

“When both lanes are open, traffic impacts will be reduced to nighttime closures and minor interruptions during the day while the contractor continues to work toward final project completion in the spring,” the announcement reads, adding that the timeline is weather dependent.

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4.8-magnitude earthquake hits close to Tofino, felt as far as Courtenay

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck roughly 34 kilometres northwest of Tofino on Friday, Nov. 25. The quake was felt across the island, including in the Comox Valley.

According to Earthquake Canada, the quake happened at 7:50 p.m.

There was no tsunami warning detected.

Many took to social media to share the feeling of rumbles, including MLA Josie Osborne.

“Wow! Felt that 4.8M earthquake here in #Tofino just a few minutes ago. The whole house shuddered. Another good reminder to #beprepared,” Osborne wrote on her Twitter.

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Dolphin washes up in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

A Pacific white-sided dolphin was discovered on a beach within the southern end of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (PRNPR) on Nov. 4.

PRNPR marine ecologist Jennifer Yakimishyn said the dolphin was still alive when Parks Canada staff and members of Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society (SIMRS) arrived on site to do an assessment.

“It was alive, but there was a lot of blood in the area and there were some injuries on the animal,” said Yakimishyn.

She told the Westerly that likely what had happened was a predatory incident with a killer whale.

“The way that (killer whales) attack their prey is they basically ram into them. It likely beached itself to avoid predation,” she said.

SIMRS executive director Karyssa Arnett said the dolphin was still vocalizing and thrashing about when they first arrived on scene.

“It was clearly in distress,” said Arnett.

The team made an attempt to refloat the 160-pound, male dolphin with a sling, but unfortunately the rescue was unsuccessful.

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Tofino tweaks bylaw enforcement policy

Tofino is tweaking its bylaw enforcement policy to better reflect its complaint-driven approach while allowing room for the town’s municipal council to identify priorities in need of proactive enforcement.

During the final meeting of their term on Oct. 11, council unanimously approved the first amendment to Tofino’s General Bylaw Enforcement Policy since 2012.

The changes had been discussed at a Committee of the Whole meeting the week prior where Tofino’s fire chief and manager of protective services Brent Baker explained the policy was first adopted in 2009 and had not been amended since 2012, adding that “staff feel the current policy inaccurately reflects how bylaw enforcement is administered.”

He said the policy’s current wording stated the district “will undertake a proactive approach to bylaw enforcement within the constraints of available staffing and resources,” which does not reflect the district’s real-life process.

“That wording probably comes as a surprise to most of the public and maybe to folks in this room because for many years we have understood it to be the opposite way,” Baker said. “The majority of the bylaw enforcement that does take place in the community is complaint based or concern driven.”

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