With tears in their eyes the Aldergrove Sea Cadets held a “sunset parade” for the last time at their former facility at NRS (Naval Radio Section) Aldergrove Tuesday evening.
The renovated and converted barn at the NRS Aldergrove property had been home for the 169 Columbia Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, and their younger counterparts in the 125 Navy League Cadet Corps Columbia, for the past 25 years.
Back in about 1993 the parents and other volunteers had completely renovated an old barn on the NRS Aldergrove property (at 4315 – 272 Street) for use as a base for the sea cadets here.
The barn, which dated back prior to the purchase of the 800 acre NRS property during World War 2, was completely gutted and rebuilt as a two-storey facility with office and storage space for the use of the cadets. The area in front of the barn was paved for use as cadet parade ground, and outbuildings stored the boats and other large equipment.
Pat Wingfield, who has been involved with the Columbia cadets for 22 years and currently is the division treasurer for the Navy League of Canada, said every effort was put into trying to upgrade the facility over those years.
“In 2003 we put together $14,000 in donations to connect the septic system to the Township of Langley’s sewer system — we had donations of excavators and pipe and lifters promised to us — but the DND (Department of National Defence) said it was policy that it had to be put to public tender. That would have cost us $163,000 at the time and we said forget it,” said Wingfield.
“The DND did let us stay though, and because the property has no percolation and is adjacent to a pond with endangered frogs, we’ve had to pay $250 a month to have the septic storage tank pumped, emptied out.”
The cadets also looked at purchasing the property, valued at $2.3 million, but this would have involved a convoluted process that would have had the federal government offer this portion of the NRS lands first to other levels of government, including First Nations, as well as go through a process with the Agricultural Land Commission. None of the NRS Aldergrove lands are in the ALR, as the military use predates the creation of the ALR.
“The DND also said no building could be exclusively used by one corp,” said Wingfield.
“And when a problem arose in 2014, the facility was declared unsafe and the DND would not repair it.”
For the past year the sea cadets and navy league members here have been using the gymnasium at the old NRS Aldergrove base, which is shared with the 1922 Royal Westminster Regiment of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets Corp.
It’s a tighter space, although the DND has permitted the sea cadets to install two sea-cans and three small concrete storage outbuildings at the site, as well as park their six “Echo” sailboats and their mobile galley.
During this time the sea cadets have been moving their equipment to their new facility, ahead of the final closure of the former facility at the end of June. Everything that they can’t move will be put up for sale this weekend at the former facility.
Following that the DND will tear down the old barn and reclaim the land.
Thus, on Tuesday the cadets and their commanding officer, Lt.N. Vanessa Stewart held a “sunset parade” to pay homage to the old facility for the last time.
The sea casts and navy league will be standing down for the summer but Wingfield wants the community to know that the two corps will be starting up again in September at their facility at 3900 – 272 Street.
“We are down in numbers from what we used to be, due to the uncertainty — and many people are not aware that we continue to work out of the new location,” said Wingfield.
Families which want to become involved with the cadet program should call to register youths prior to the start-up in Septemer.
Navy league is for youths aged 9-12 years old, and the 125 NLCC starts on Sept. 12. For information and registration call 778-240-0986.
Sea cadets is for youths aged 12-18 years old, and the 169 RCCSCC starts on Sept. 5 Fo information and registration call 604-856-3700.
For more information, Columbia Sea Cadets have a website (see http://app.cadets.gc.ca/directory-repertoire/corpsinfo.aspx?uic=4469) as well as a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.