Jerry Donaldson, the self-proclaimed Cadboro Bay Dog Walker, and his “pack” pause to greet other dog owners on Cadboro Bay beach. (Black Press Media file photo)

Jerry Donaldson, the self-proclaimed Cadboro Bay Dog Walker, and his “pack” pause to greet other dog owners on Cadboro Bay beach. (Black Press Media file photo)

Looking back at the top Saanich stories of 2020

Five stories that captured the interest of Saanich News readers over the past year

While COVID-19 dominated the headlines around the world in 2020, that wasn’t the only story to pique the interest of Saanich News readers. Here are some of our favourite articles that appeared in the Saanich News this year.

Saanich boy gives free giggles with roadside joke stand

What’s a pirate’s favourite hobby? The answer may not be on the tip of your tongue but six-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin knows.

“Arrrrrr-t,” he said with a giggle, showing off his missing front teeth.

The Saanich first-grader set up a joke stand in his Cadboro Bay front yard in early April where he tells jokes for free in an effort to brighten people’s day.

McLaughlin, who wants to be an engineer when he grows up, was looking for something to do with schools closed and wanted to start a lemonade stand. His mom, Kelsea, explained that selling drinks wouldn’t be safe during the health crisis and instead suggested a joke stand.

McLaughlin became a local celebrity after starting the stand and is enjoying being famous. He said he’s had at least 10 people come by the stand on Penrhyn Street each day.

Saanich greenlights farm stands, garden suites

The end is in sight for Saanich residents fighting for the right to open a roadside farm stand or build a detached garden suite on their property.

Following a Sept. 15 public hearing that lasted nearly four hours, council voted unanimously in favour of bylaw amendments to permit roadside stands selling homegrown and homemade goods in the Urban Containment Boundary, and also approved garden suites – small, detached rentals – in areas zoned for single-family dwellings.

Efforts to permit farm stands in the district were catalyzed by resident Katherine Little, who began fighting to keep her jam business, The Little Stand, open on her street for more than two years. Saanich bylaw officers came knocking after neighbours complained and Little hasn’t stopped pushing for change since.

Her campaign gained momentum when Colleen O’Farrell, a local florist, joined the fight in March.

Councillor calls for review of off-leash dogs on Saanich beaches

A review of the district’s off-leash bylaws brought howls of protest from Saanich dog lovers.

The fur was flying after Coun. Karen Harper asked staff to review the district’s bylaws for beach use and dogs. She said the off-leash bylaws were more than 20 years old and due for a reassessment.

Harper notes that the birds and spawning fish that rely on local beaches and shores are often disturbed by dogs. Cadboro Bay is part of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary which has banned off-leash dogs since 1923, she said, but the federal rule is overridden by the municipal bylaw allowing loose dogs.

But news of potential changes to the bylaw came as a devastating blow to the dogs and their owners who frequent the beach on Cadboro Bay when it is allowed outside the summer season.

Dog walker Jerry Donaldson said he’s been using the beach for 30 years. He says he doesn’t let his whole pack off-leash at the same time, always picks up after them and “leashes up” if people voice concerns.

“It’s about coexistence,” said Louise Egan, a Gordon Head resident with a 16-year-old miniature pinscher named Tobias tucked in her raincoat. She brings her dogs down to Cadboro Bay beach on a daily basis.

The Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association presented a report to council in September saying there was no “harmonious solution” to the issue, and suggested Saanich either stick to the status quo with more enforcement and better signage or make drastic changes to the leashing rules with fewer off-leash areas.

Council eventually tabled the matter, pending the results of a federal government study on the impacts of off-leash canines on migratory birds.

Saanich’s J. J. Morgan Restaurant closes after 32 years

A fixture with Saanich diners closed its doors after more than 30 years.

Russell Eng, who has owned and operated J.J. Morgan Restaurant for 25 years, decided to close at the end of April rather than relocate during the redevelopment planned by Wesbild, the company that owns the University Heights Mall property.

Eng has mixed feelings about the impending closure of the restaurant. He’s going to miss the routine, the chicken pot pie, his “crew” and regulars who’ve become like family.

“Everybody is a regular here. It’s the community meeting place,” he said.

In more than two decades at the restaurant, he’s seen children grow up, get married and then bring their own babies by.

Almost a dozen staff members have worked by his side for more than 20 years and Eng said he couldn’t just open another restaurant because it wouldn’t be J. J. Morgan’s without his crew.

“They’re the heart of the restaurant,” he said.

Otters foil annual salmon count at Saanich fish fence

A family of sneaky otters forced the annual Colquitz River salmon count in the Cuthbert Holmes Park to end early.

Every fall, the volunteers with Salmon in the City – a project funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – install fish fence panels in the river to temporarily trap salmon that swim through so that the team can monitor the population and collect data for the DFO. In a typical year, volunteers attend the fish fence every day from September to December to assess the age, species, health and sex of the salmon coming up the river to spawn.

The first fish of 2020 began to appear in early October and for about three weeks volunteers counted fish – often under the curious gaze of local preschool classes and seniors’ walking groups. However, after less than a month of fish counting and a hard-fought battle against a family of five otters that circled the trap “like sharks,” volunteers admitted defeat.

The official tally collected by volunteers showed that a total of 176 coho – 126 young males, 22 older males and 28 females – and four cutthroat trout came up the Colquitz River this year.


 

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Best of 2020Year in Review

 

Russell Eng owned the J. J. Morgan Restaurant in the University Heights shopping centre for 25 years. (Black Press Media file photo)

Russell Eng owned the J. J. Morgan Restaurant in the University Heights shopping centre for 25 years. (Black Press Media file photo)

Katherine Little, owner of the Little Jam Stand, fought for a bylaw amendment to permit roadside stands selling homegrown and homemade goods. (Black Press Media file photo)

Katherine Little, owner of the Little Jam Stand, fought for a bylaw amendment to permit roadside stands selling homegrown and homemade goods. (Black Press Media file photo)

An otter was scooped out of the salmon containment area in the Saanich fish fence during the fall salmon count on Nov. 4 – much to the surprise of volunteers. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

An otter was scooped out of the salmon containment area in the Saanich fish fence during the fall salmon count on Nov. 4 – much to the surprise of volunteers. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Six-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin set up a joke stand in his front yard in Cadboro Bay where he tells jokes for free. (Black Press Media file photo)

Six-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin set up a joke stand in his front yard in Cadboro Bay where he tells jokes for free. (Black Press Media file photo)