By Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison
2021 was quite the year!
Our community faced many challenges. The residents of Salmon Arm persevered through them all.
Early in the year, COVID-19 ramped up again. Working under Dr. Bonnie Henry’s umbrella, and with resident safety as our foundation for decision making, we closed indoor community facilities. Residents understood and supported these decisions. Now instead of in-person meetings, playing hockey and going to the movies, we walked, skied, Zoomed and bundled up in our homes with Netflix.
In June, the heat dome engulfed the province. The heat was stifling. We extended opening hours at Shaw Centre, so those without AC could relax in a cooler place. Residents really helped each other out; businesses and non-profits stepped up with water and cool locations for those in need.
Then the smoke blew in. Wildfires surrounded us. There was a lot of anxiety and stress in the air. The Shuswap Emergency Management team, operated the Emergency Operating Centre day and night. We welcomed evacuees to our Emergency Reception Centre and helped support them with accommodation and food. BC Wildfire set up a camp for firefighters on the fields normally used for Roots and Blues campers. Communication was key, and we did our best, through all mediums available to keep our residents informed.
In early September, positive COVID-19 numbers in the Interior Health region started to rise. The Salmon Arm region (Sicamous to Sorrento) recorded 104 positive cases in one week. Rural vaccination rates lingered about 10 per cent behind the Coastal Health regions. City council encouraged residents to get vaccinated, and mandated city employees be vaccinated. Things are starting to open up – we want to ensure this continues! Our area’s vaccination rate now sits at 78 per cent of those 12+ being double vaccinated, 82 per cent single. Our area’s cumulative cases from January 2020 to present is 1,455.
Then came the rain. In Salmon Arm, we set a three-day record. While it was wet, we avoided flooding. This was due in part to the city’s establishment of holding ponds and large diameter piping to settle and move storm water. In addition, due to the low river and lake levels, we had significant capacity. Once again locals reached out to help those in need. Our Emergency Reception Centre assisted over 800 evacuees from the Merritt area. I heard from a number of sources how helpful and friendly our hoteliers, restaurant staff and local residents were towards these evacuees.
So, what is around the corner? In this topsy-turvy world, I hesitate trying to predict what might happen next. I do know that we need to expect the unexpected. Being calm, having a plan and making decisions based on objective information will hold us in good stead.
To Salmon Arm residents, thank you. Your resilience, perseverance and kindness has overcome many challenges. I wish you a well-deserved, restful and joyful Holiday Season.
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