Photo collage of Aldergrove in 2020. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)

Photo collage of Aldergrove in 2020. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)

A look back at Aldergrove in 2020

A toppled hotel, an evolving zoo, and a global pandemic topped headlines amid a troubled year

2020 came in like a lion, beginning with dumps of snow causing slick streets in January.

Trans-Canada Highway eastbound at 264th Street was closed for hours due to a jackknifed semi wedged underneath the overpass.

But positive news amid frosty weather emerged when Janda Group’s proposed Aldergrove Town Centre passed first and second reading by Langley Township council.

It was also in that month that Aldergrove-born English teacher Sarah Van Vliet recounted to The Star that “everyone is on edge” regarding the discovery of nine coronavirus cases in Shanghai.

February saw a mother struck at the crosswalk of 272nd Street and 28th Avenue, while walking her child to Shortreed Elementary. It prompted resident Cashmere Roder to kick off a crusade for a safer crossing.

Property taxes were touted to rise between 4.12 and 9.7 per cent in the Township in 2020, while dozens of union members at the Aldergrove-Lynden’s border crossing blocked traffic in a rally drawing public attention to ongoing contract negotiations with the federal government.

One of the largest cannabis operations in the country announced the shuttering of two of its facilities – in Aldergrove and Delta at the start of March. Canopy Growth Corp. closed its 1.3-million-sq.-ft. greenhouse complex on 4th Avenue near 264th Street. A total of 500 people were employed between both locations.

While it may seem like a foggy memory now, the World Health Organization officially announced that the COVID-19 outbreak was a global pandemic on March 11.

Langley Township closed all playgrounds to help stop the spread of COVID-19, as B.C. entered into a continuous state of emergency on March 22 and the Canada/U.S. border closed to non-essential travel.

With distance required, residents got creative to connect in April.

Six-year-old Ariel Seydel, an Aldergrove child battling terminal brain cancer, was treated to a birthday parade, which she described as “the best day ever.”

A convoy of 26 North Otter Elementary teachers drove by neighbourhoods near the school to say “we miss you” and “wash your hands” to the students they hadn’t seen in more than a month.

In a rare moment of expansion for 2020, general manager Serge Lussier announced that the Greater Vancouver Zoo plans to spend up to $20 million on a four-phased revamp to turn its current Aldergrove facility into a “zoo of the future.”

Aldergrove additionally went viral that month when a truck driver was denied walk-up service at one of its Tim Hortons drive-thrus, prompting him to block its entrance for more than half-an-hour.

Jay Daulet, owner of Twilight Drive-In, adapted his business to a maximum of 50 vehicles amidst a boom of patrons who sought big screen entertainment as regular theatres remained shut in May.

As summer weather enticed residents to head outdoors, Georgene VanDelft spoke to The Star about gatherings along Zero Avenue where meeting friends and loved ones in the un-fenced ditch became a popular pastime for in-person cross-border communication.

Though community police offices closed due to COVID, Const. Phil Colter took over for Cpl. Kurt Neuman as the Mountie in charge of local patrol in June.

It was then, neighbours reported nine RCMP cruisers, numerous officers, Lower Mainland Integrated Police Dog Services members and canines, plus an Emergency Response Team at a home on 31A Avenue after a man barricaded himself inside. He was taken into custody after a four-hour standoff and later transferred to hospital.

Class of 2020 had a unique cap to their primary education with grad ceremonies cancelled or moved to virtual means. Lexi Kowalewski of Aldergrove Community Secondary was chosen by faculty as “the kindest Grade 12 student,” while the Greater Vancouver Zoo threw a socially-distanced prom for a team of teens who made up a large portion of their administration crew.

As COVID-19 closures and restrictions continued, Aldergrove continued its long-standing tradition of an annual Canada Day parade on July 1; people took to the streets in socially distant groups as 50 decorated cars travelled down a specially designed six-kilometre route.

The 108th annual Aldergrove Fair kick off with its 11th annual car show, though most of the festivities were virtual. With a 2020 theme of “Be Kind, Have Fun, Be Safe,” ceremonies, presentations, and contests were presented online.

Though Western Canada’s largest charity car show attempted to reconfigure throughout the year, Aldergrove’s biggest annual attraction announced it’s cancellation in early July.

“Our hands our tied,”said chair Riccardo Sestito of the Langley Good Times Cruise-In. “We’re calling it quits this year.”

The tumultuous month also saw a Langley mother take to social media after snapping a photo of an emaciated moose during a trip to the Greater Vancouver Zoo that month. The animal, known as Oakleaf, was euthanized several days later when it was determined the animal could not be helped, prompting calls that the zoo should be investigated and even shut down.

Simultaneously, a trio of orphaned bear cubs were saved by the Calgary Zoo and relocated to Aldergrove – to a one-acre enclosure.

After polling the public, the bears were named Scout, Huggy Bear, and Henry – the latter in honour of B.C.’s top doc, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In one the most memorable decisions of the year, Township council declared that the public had voiced its opinion of the Alder Inn’s fate, which had caught fire in late 2019.

Up until July 13, the Township was asking Aldergrove residents for feedback regarding Coun. Eric Woodward’s June 15 motion to knock down the 71-year-old downtown structure.

Council voted to use $250,000 to demolish the building, with councillors Petrina Arnason and Bob Long voting against it.

In August, metal posts were shunted along the Canadian/American border that runs Aldergrove; an action acting chief patrol agent Tony Holladay said was being done for “bi-national safety concerns.”

Aldergrove Star editor Sarah Grochowski, who had been with the publication since January of 2019, announced her departure. Ryan Uytdewilligen was announced as her replacement.

With a multitude of questions and concerns from parents, seemingly split on whether returning to in-class education was the correct response, kids were back in September.

Window replacement was ongoing at D.W. Poppy Secondary through summer into fall, a project that continued well into October.

On the business end of things, Aldergrove Credit Union announced merger discussions with G&F Financial.

And, Langley Township had put the call out for commercial cannabis store applications in May and received a total of 20; eight of them located in Aldergrove.

Election fever spread across B.C. for much of October as Premier John Horgan announced a snap election and hit the campaign trail leading up to voting day, Oct. 24.

Liberal Bruce Banman, Abbotsford South’s MLA elect, took 44.69 per cent of the vote, taking over for independent Darryl Plecas, who announced he would not seek re-election.

In Abbotsford West, which covers sections of North Langley and Glen Valley, Liberal incumbent Mike de Jong held on to his riding, which he’s served since 1994.

A single Asian giant hornet caused alarm when the invasive species was found near Fraser Highway and Highway 13 in Aldergrove in early November – approximately five kilometres away from where one was found in Abbotsford.

The long-standing Alder Inn saw its final day on Monday, Nov. 16 – the Aldergrove landmark was demolished after months of standing empty; a mix of support for the installation of something new and anger regarding dismissal of the building’s heritage value swirled as MWL Demolition Ltd. swept away the debris in a matter of days.

It was an unusually quick and quiet Remembrance Day – restrictions barred attendees from coming to pay their respects at the annual service, with the ceremony being live-streamed on social media.

The delayed construction of a stoplight at 272nd Street and 28th Avenue finally began with Township crews erecting the new safety measure in early November.

While Aldergrove’s COVID count remained generally low, one staff member and three residents at Jackman Manor tested positive for COVID-19.

Fraser Health Authority reported an outbreak at the long term care facility that is owned and operated by Aldergrove Lions Seniors Housing Society, but it was declared over by the end of month.

By December, Township council approved the installation of a 27-foot Christmas tree to go up at the former Alder Inn site. The Aldergrove Business Association encouraged others to decorate the surrounding fence with red ribbons.

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s restrictions on events moved Glow Gardens from the Greater Vancouver Zoo to it’s original location at Darvonda Nurseries in Milner while Christmas in Williams Park was able to squeeze in two weekends that saw thousands come to enjoy the drive-thru-style event.

Aldergrove’s annual Light Up Christmas parade was cancelled, but the local legion branch, Aldergrove Fair, and Aldergrove Elks came together to host a stationary parade that included floats, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and a living nativity scene at branch #265.

Participants were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Aldergrove Food Bank and Ishtar Women’s Society; $42,400 was raised in total, completely filling the food bank’s shelves.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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