Hope is growing—and that's a good thing, mostly.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Good Morning!
I don’t like to remind people about the negative things. I would rather use this section to shower our communities in praise, or provide a little levity with something like a cow map. Not today. Today, I feel I have to say that Canada is full of hate. A young boy in London, Ont., will be growing up without his family because a white man decided to commit an act of terrorism. For at least 4 years we have ignored Canada’s growing hate by looking at the chaos in the United States. "At least we are not as bad as them," we said. But that was a lie. A comforting lie for those who do not face the consequences of racism and hate each day. An insulting lie for those who do. We need to stop lying to ourselves. Only then can we work to become what we profess to be: an inclusive, multicultural country, where everyone is welcome and safe. —Grace Kennedy, reporter
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The District of Hope is growing, and more young families are coming to the community. 📸  Tyler Olsen
No longer in decline, Hope looks to the future

You might think COVID would have taken a bite out of Hope. And you’d be right. But it has also accelerated the growth the small end-of-the-valley has begun to see in recent years.

After a decade-plus of contraction, the population of Hope began to steadily increase about 8 years ago. And Mayor Peter Robb says the pandemic has accelerated the influx of new residents, even as existing businesses bide their time until restrictions ease.

That’s creating some problems. But it is also good news for a town working on building a new 21st century identity.

"Our enrolment is up in kindergarten and Grade 1, which is always a good indicator. Young families are moving out this way," Robb said, adding that Hope is growing younger. "I’m looking forward to this next census. Our median age for the last little while has been in the 52 to 54 range, and I think that’s dropping, which is a good thing. We don’t want to just be known as a retirement community. We want a mix of all ages and family types."

Hope is notable both for its environment and surroundings, and being as far away from Vancouver as you can get in the Lower Mainland*. That, combined with its relatively moderate house prices, has enticed more people to move east. That advantage, and the draw of a smaller town, has long existed. But Robb says that COVID has brought people looking for more space.

"When you add COVID into the mix now, all that accelerated because people want to be outside, and they can work from home, they don’t have to be in the office. That helped us a lot."

Realtors have told Robb their clients are citing the outdoor lifestyle, ability to work from home, and affordably raise young families as key factors in bringing more people to Hope.

"When you’re out and about in the bike park or at the skateboard park, the registration is up for hockey, all those different signs are there," Robb said. "Even with COVID, the kids are out and about doing what they’re allowed to do. And you notice it in the community."

Meanwhile, empty-nesters have been moving to the area and pocketing equity from their homes elsewhere for their retirement. (BC Statistics estimates that while the number of children has increased substantially in the last decade, the number of seniors has risen even faster.)

"I think years ago, we were too slow to change from our resource economy. We lost the lumber, we lost the mine, we lost the mill. We didn’t have an identity and we struggled with that for a while." In the past 12 or 15 years, Robb said the focus has shifted towards tourism and focusing on the lifestyle opportunities that Hope provides. That, he says, has taken some time but is now working.

Robb, though, says people still don’t think about Hope’s recreational options as much as they should.

"It’s coming," he said. "I still think we have a reputation as being a pitstop… but that’s gradually changing. They’re spending [more time], we’re getting more overnight stays, which is a good thing."

Those recreational options are bringing both tourists and families.

"I’m excited about the amount of young families that are discovering us because of our outdoor activities. We’re still a small community and that’s appealing to a lot of young families getting out of the city," Robb said. "We need our seniors, I’m a senior, and we have a lot of facilities for us as well, but to see all the young kids and families coming here, that’s exciting."

That doesn't mean things are easy. Growth inevitably brings challenges, particularly in the Lower Mainland, where every town and city is struggling to provide sufficient housing. House prices have been increasing everywhere, even Hope, and Robb says the community needs more townhomes, apartments, and rental units. The last one is of particular importance in helping businesses find and attract workers. That’s much harder to do when prospective employees can’t find a place to live.

These are significant problems, but they are ones that plague Fraser Valley communities. Now it’s Hope’s turn. No one said growing was easy.

*While some have questioned whether Hope is closer to the Interior or the Lower Mainland, Robb said plainly: "We are more aligned with the Lower Mainland than the Interior."

— By Tyler Olsen

The Floor Is Yours: What changes have you seen in the Fraser Valley over the past few years?

Correction: Yesterday’s story mislabeled the road on which Little Sprouts Café is located. The café is located at 102-2776 Bourquin Crescent West.
Need to Know
🚤 The Cultus Lake Fire Department now has a boat to help save drowning victims [Chilliwack Progress]

🟠 A Sumas First Nation man is running 215 km to honour residential school victims and raise funds for survivors [Abbotsford News]

📃 Mission is finally a city, and is about to start rebranding its logo [Mission Record]

🎵 The Harrison Festival of the Arts is back this summer with a "farm edition" at the Holberg Farm in Agassiz [Agassiz Harrison Observer]

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Construction on an overpass over the Vye Road rail crossing will take more than a year. 📸  City of Abbotsford
The Agenda
Beginning next Monday, Vye Road will be closed west of Highway 11 for more than a year. An overpass is set to be built over the railroad tracks as part of a large, much-delayed project that will also see Sumas Way/Highway 11 widened. The crossing is expected to be closed until November 2022. Traffic will instead be routed through 4th Avenue in Huntingdon.

The District of Kent has been waiting with a "shelf-ready" project to improve the capacity at its wastewater treatment plant, but no one is willing to do it within the municipality’s budget. In April, Kent released an invitation for companies to bid on a project that would see a second digester put into service and one of the plant’s empty chlorine tanks converted to handle sludge. However, only 1 bid came back—and it was twice the budgeted amount. Kent council rejected the bid, and staff will go back to working with Onsite Engineering, the company who designed the project, to look at other, more economical options.
COVID latest
Public health officials are looking to a future when BC's COVID response will move from an emergency pandemic response to a long-term public health approach. Deputy public health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson indicated this could happen as soon as September, as BC moves through its restart plan. Right now, BC is still in the first stage of the plan, and won’t move to stage 2 until next Tuesday at the earliest. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 165 / 175 average (down 33% from last week)
  • 203 hospitalizations (down 20% from last week)
  • No new deaths / 1,722 total
Around Town
🚧 Elk View Road in Ryder Lake is closed all this week for road stabilization and repaving. Detours are in place.

💻 UFV historian Keith Carlson will be speaking about the kidnapping of Indigenous children during early European contact in a presentation this afternoon at 2:30pm. Register online.
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