Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Plans to establish local shooting range underway

Local shooters concerned about illegal ranges

#westlock #shootingsports

For the Westlock News.

The scene at the Echo Lake-area illegal firing range, located at SW19-TWP59-RGE23-W4M, in the summer of 2015. Plans are in the works to create a legal firing range in the area.
WN File
When Mike Walmsley first saw the illegal firing range that was set up in the Echo Lake area, he could hardly believe his eyes.

“It was terrible,” said the Westlock County Rural Fire Department chief.

“As a shooter myself, I would be bloody embarrassed to see what people had done out there. There was a hole in the ground that looks like it was the side of a big dugout. It was just filled with garbage — old TVs, old appliances, spent ammunition, live ammunition. It was so thick you could walk along the garbage without touching the ground. It was disgusting.”

The range, located at SW19-TWP59-RGE23-W4M became known to authorities in 2015 after a substantial wildfire. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) subsequently shut down the site for 28 days beginning on June 26, 2015.

“When we responded to the fire, we found that it was essentially an illegal shooting range and (it was) improper use of firearms that basically lit this fire,” commented Walmsley.

“They would dump stuff off there and shoot the hell out of it. There were trees cut off from rifle fire. It was a mess.”

Since the debacle, Walmsley and a few others have been trying to figure out a sensible fix.

The solution? Establish a made-in Westlock firing range to fulfill local sport-shooters’ needs.

“I have been in contact with (Alberta Environment and) Sustainable Resources and Development, and they are in agreement with the idea and right now we’re looking at a number of different parcels of Crown land throughout the county,” he said, adding that he was looking at five different locations. “We’re going to try to pick an acceptable one and go forward from there.”

While the range is still merely an idea, Walmsley is hard at work trying to find a suitable location for the range. As a .22 calibre bullet can travel in excess of two miles, the location will need to have very specific features.

“There’s very strict federal guidelines,” he said. “It all has to be inspected at every level of construction and while it’s being operated. The RCMP is heavily involved in the entire process.”

Currently, the nearest firing range is run by the Fish and Game Association in Barrhead, which is a members-only club and has a range of 300 metres.

Walmsley noted that he would like the Westlock range to eventually feature both pistol bays for handguns as well as a 1,000 metre “F-Class” range for long-distance target shooters.

“That’s definitely a dream,” said Walmsley.

“I’ve got some interest from international shooters in something being established locally. Something properly ran and properly constructed, it would be fantastic.”

The nearest F-Class rifle range is currently located in Humboldt, Sask. Walmsley conceded that he would likely have to build up to a 1,000-metre range to start, however.

“Something in the 300 to 400 metres, I think that’s a keyhole,” he said.

“We’ve looked at a couple of locations that definitely would suit the need for a shorter range and would afford expansion in the future.”

Walmsley added the most-likely scenario would be setting up a pistol range to start the project.

“There’s a lot less velocity and a lot less distance, so a lot less area is needed. They are a lot less problematic.”

Walmsley stressed that so far, all that has happened is discussion, and whether the range happens or not would depend largely on the amount of interest.

“Right now, we’re just exploring the options,” he said.

“To say that it’s definitely going to happen or not, I have no idea. The initial decision for usage is up to (Alberta Environment and Sustainable Development.) Once it crosses that threshold, then we need locals’ permission.

“If we get one or two people who say ‘Not in my back yard,’ then it doesn’t happen. To find an area that is suitable, is allowed by the government and to have no people oppose it, that might be our biggest hurdle.”

For Walmsley, establishing an official range is an important step to reducing firearm shenanigans in the county.

“You’re always going to have the small percentage whose idea of a good time is to get drunk and shoot things,” he said. “We’re trying to get away from that mentality, but without a decent place to go, how do you start to get away from that?”

Senior Warriors have rough weekend

Club falls to Daysland and Bonnyville by combined 13-1 margin
#westlock #daysland #bonnyville

 For the Westlock News.

Warriors’ forward Mike Podruzny fires a shot just past Daysland Northstars’ goaltender Andy Sinclair during the team’s 7-0 home opening loss on Oct. 21.
Eric Bowling/WN
The Westlock Warriors had a rough weekend and posted only a single goal in 7-0 and 6-1 loses to the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Daysland Northstars.

Warriors’ Nathan Brown scored the lone goal of the weekend early in the third period of their Oct. 23 road loss to Bonnyville — the club now sits with an 0-3 record in the North Central Hockey League.
Team manager Joe Kuhar pulled no punches when he described their difficulties.

“Overall we played alright, but the biggest issue we have right now is that we can’t score goals,” said Kuhar. “That’s really the difference in allowing ourselves to pick ourselves up.”

While he wasn’t using it as an excuse, he noted that the Warriors were contending with a greatly-reduced roster.

“We came to Bonnyville with an extremely short bench and missing a lot of our top guys,” said Kuhar.

“Some of our guys are farmers and they’ve got to combine. The weather is little nicer now, so they’re going. It’s one of those things, you’ve got to go with what you’ve got.”

The 6-1 loss in Bonnyville was the second low-point of the weekend for the Warriors, who were also defeated 7-0 in their Oct. 21 home opener by the Daysland Northstars.

In that battle, goaltender Marcus Johnson stood on his head, but he was unable to stop the onslaught. The Northstars opened scoring up in the first period when Derek Wolbeck snuck one past Johnson just after seven minutes in, followed by a goal in the second by Grayson Soprovich.

But things really unraveled for the Warriors in the third period with five unanswered goals.

Despite of the losses, Kuhar noted that the Warriors are not down and will improve.

“We’re working as a team and we’re working together and trying to find that chemistry,” said Kuhar. “It’s a team effort and a team loss and everybody striving and working hard to put those goals in the net so we can move forward.”

Kuhar added it was pretty clear what their focus in practice will be.

“Shooting. A lot of shooting and getting a lot of traffic to the net. That’s where we’re lacking and that’s where we’re going to focus our efforts,” said Kuhar.

“We’ve got to gain our confidence and we’re taking positives from every game.”

The Warriors next hit the ice at home on Oct. 29 in a battle with the Eckville Eagles — the puck drops at 8:30 p.m. The following day the club heads to Whitecourt to face the Wild.

Thunderbirds WFL run ends versus Royals

Locals drop Oct. 22 WFL consolation semifinal 42-20
#westlock #WFL #t-birds

For the Westlock News.

Thunderbird Mathew LeBeau blasts past Cold Lake Royals Anthony Francis and Thomas Kell during the Wheatland Football League consolation semifinal held at Westlock Elementary School Oct. 22. The T-Birds fought hard, but ended up on the wrong side of a 42-20 decision.
Eric Bowling/WN

The Westlock T-Birds left everything on the field, but we unable to topple the Cold Lake Royals in the Wheatland Football League consolation semifinal played at Westlock Elementary School Oct. 22
The T-Birds opened the game with a touchdown, but were quickly answered back by the Royals, who ultimately went on to post a 42-20 victory.

“We prepared hard throughout the week, and felt pretty confident. But they’re a well coached team and they were really mentally tough — they weren’t phased by us,” said head coach John Kramer.
“We just made a few coaching errors along the way and it caught up to us early on in the third quarter.”

The team was able to capitalize on a series of roughing penalties committed the Royals midway through the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown but were unable to complete a two-point conversion and finished with 20 points on the board.

Kramer said that regardless of the final score, he was proud of how his team played.

“We’re just really proud of the boys and the effort that they put in this far in and we rallied too. When the game was clearly out of reach we still put in one more touchdown.”

Kramer noted that while the loss was tough to take, the fact it was likely the last game for a few of his graduating players is the real downer.

“We had six players graduate this year, so that was kind of their last quarter of football,” said Kramer.
The T-Birds future looks bright, however. The team’s rebuilding will continue over the winter and Kramer noted he has a solid veteran core heading into next season.

“We try to make football a year round thing — we do a lot of volunteering and getting together in the off-season,” added Kramer.

“We’ve got a crew of 35 returning. Our vets are excited; they know what it’s all about now. They’ve had a year under their belts so it’ll be exciting to push forward with this bunch.”

Kramer expressed his gratitude to the community for its support over the season.

“We felt a lot of support from everybody in the community. It takes a lot of funds to make this work and make it affordable for the players,” he said.

“We had 52 players come out in the spring and we didn’t have enough equipment, so we put out a call to the community and the money was there.

“So I want to give a big thanks to the community for their support, whether it’s financial or just coming to the game. It’s an honour for the boys to play in front of people who care about it.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Local support for stroke survivors

Two new programs rolled out at Westlock Healthcare Centre

#westlock #healthcare #stroke #volunteer #goodguy
For the Westlock News.

Bob Way and Kara Rimmer share a laugh at the Patel Room at Westlock Healthcare Centre. Way travels around the county and beyond to help coach stroke survivors through their recovery.
Eric Bowling/WN

Bob Way knows a thing or two about strokes and the long journey of determination to overcome one.

The Westlock man, originally from Newfoundland, survived a stroke on Nov. 30, 2010. His experience was so profound that he has taken up the burden of helping guide fellow survivors through the difficult and often very frustrating road to recovery.

“My left side was like it was over in the other chair,” said Way. “I couldn’t do nothing. It took three full days to be able to move my thumb, and that to me was a big, big movement.

“It’s no fun, believe me,. When you’re wide awake and know exactly what’s going on and you’re lying in the bed and you can’t do one thing about it, it’s scary.

“Really scary.”

While recovering from a stroke can be both frustrating and discouraging, Way said patients have to use that frustration to their advantage.

“Frustration leads to ambition,” said Way. “There’s no use getting pissed off, you’re already in the situation. Getting mad doesn’t help. I found that out years and years ago.

“When the nurse stands there with her arms crossed, watching you, when it takes you 45 minutes to put on one sock, and she doesn’t help, and you’re just stubborn enough not to ask, that’s progress.”

Westlock Healthcare Centre began two new programs for stroke survivors this last week spearheaded by former stroke services coordinator Kara Rimmer.

The first is a peer-group initiative that pairs Way with new patients.

“Bob comes and visits our stroke patients in the hospital for peer support so that they have somebody that has been through the journey as well that can relate to what they are going through,” said Rimmer, who now works in the emergency room.

“He’s so dedicated.”

The second initiative is a stroke-survivor support group that will meet on the second Monday of every month. On average, Westlock Health Centre treats one stroke patient a week.

“(Each session) will be a 20-minute to half-hour education session on different topics every month,” said Rimmer. “Those topics could even be chosen by the group. Then for the next hour or so I’ll be guiding conversation on a different personal growth topic.

“For the first month we’re going to explore the topic ‘Who am I?’ and how impressions of that have changed since the person had their stroke.”

Rimmer added that while the sessions are intended to educate and assist survivors, her main hope is that the sessions lead to lasting friendships.

“If people want to stick around and visit in the cafeteria and have their own personal conversations, that’s what I’m hoping will happen. That people will make connections at this groups.”

She added that the service was not limited to residents of Westlock — patients from as far away as Smoky Lake are expected to join the support group.

Rimmer said that getting the group going is the capstone of her work with stroke patients.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years,” she said. “This is such a huge, huge piece. The patients that I’ve had over the last two years have been such an inspiration. Their strength and their determination have just been incredible.

“The mountains that they have to climb after a stroke are huge. So many people face it one day at a time. I just want to encourage and support them along the way.”

For his part, Way is happy to help however he can.

“I’m available, basically, because I’m too old to do anything else,” joked the 77 year old.

Barn owner vows to rebuild

Cause of Sept. 19 blaze near Busby remains unknown

#westlock #fire #busby #severson #freerun

For the Westlock News.

The scene Sept. 19 near Busby as the multi-million dollar Severson Free Run Barn burns. The facility’s owner says they plan to rebuild.
WN File

Muneer Gilani is eager to get the Severson Free Run Barn up and running again after the multi-million dollar, 50,000 square foot Busby-area barn went up in flames Sept. 19.

“Our plan is definitely to rebuild,” said Gilani, adding the insurance company is still investigating the cause of the blaze.

“It’s just that the technology and the bird-welter housing is changing every day, so we want to make sure that we build with the latest technology as well as try to understand what went wrong.

“Once I get the results of that then we’ll make a definitive decision in consultation with our neighbors and the individuals who live around the barn, as well as those who work at the barn to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.”

While the fire put an end to all regular operations at the barn, Gilani noted that his employees are still working.

“Thus far we’ve been able to find activities for everyone else to be involved in, whether it’s working on other barns or helping with clean up efforts,” he said. “There’s a lot to do, you can imagine, with a site that large. So we haven’t had any shortage of work, we’re like most farms, there’s a lot to do all the time. Everyone’s working.”

Gilani noted that the fate of the original building is still anyone’s guess, though he expects he will have to rebuild.

“The walls look a little bit warped and they’re cement walls,” he said. “So I’m waiting for an engineer’s report. Verbally, he told me it looks like it probably isn’t going to work.”

He expressed his appreciation to the community during this difficult time.

“I want to thank the firefighters and the community for all their support. The firefighters came from quite far away, so we appreciate all their support. Maybe down the line we’ll have to get together and buy those folks lunch. They really did a good job for us, trying to contain things.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Warriors fall in Thanksgiving weekend shootout

For the Westlock News.

Senior Warriors’ Jorrey Jensen takes the puck to the net during a 7-6 Oct. 8 exhibition home loss to the Grande Prairie Athletics.
Eric Bowling/WN

The Westlock Senior ‘AA’ Warriors fought to the last second, but were edged 7-6 by the Grande Prairie Athletics in an Oct. 8 exhibition game at the Rotary Spirit Centre.

“It’s always tough to lose, no question, even if it’s an exhibition game,” said Warriors captain Mike Ivey, who had three assists on night.

“But a lot of good things came out of it. We stuck with it which was pretty nice.”

Morgan McLean of the A’s scored a goal early in the first, and the game blew wide open with a goal in the second by Grande Prairie’s Ryan Trudeau before the Warriors’ Mike Podruzny put one past Casey VanBeckveld to make it 2-1 in the second period.

The A’s quickly answered back, however, as Karey Pipes scored a goal 12 seconds later, restoring the A’s two-goal lead. The lead was cut short a less moment later when Evan Kuhar fired a bullet to through the pipes to close the second period at 3-2.

The Warriors took charge at the start of the third period.

Corey Mercier snapped a goal in just shy of four minutes in, which was quickly followed by a second goal courtesy of Evan Kuhar. The A’s were not contained, however, as Mark Stojan responded with a goal just half-way through the third period.

Ryan Trudeau scored a second goal for the A’s before the Warriors’ Nathan Brown answered back with a goal of his own 19 seconds later. The A’s Dylan Moulds snuck a goal in with just under five minutes to go in the game, cementing the A’s lead at seven points. The Warriors pulled goaltender Marcus Johnson and Martin Clausen managed to put a final goal in for Westlock, but the A’s were able to hang on long enough for the 7-6 victory.

“It was a pretty sloppy exhibition game. There’s lots of technical stuff this year for us to work on,” said Ivey, adding that he was impressed with how the Warriors stayed in the game.

“We have lots of time to work on our power play and our d-zone coverage. It’s a really tough league, but if we can battle like that we should be fine.”

The club’s first regular season North Central Alberta Hockey League game goes next Saturday, Oct. 15 in Edson. The team returns to the friendly Spirt Centre confines Oct. 21 when they play host to the Daysland Northstars.

Get a seat at the next Mayor’s Breakfast

For the Westlock News.

This year’s Mayor’s Breakfast goes Oct. 26 at Memorial Hall. Tickets are $15 and available from the town office.
WN File
 Local businesspeople are being invited to join the Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger for a morning of breakfast and bonding.
The second annual Mayor’s Breakfast, which goes Oct. 26 at Memorial Hall, is intended to bring local businesses together for both networking and to organize an economic strategy for 2017.

“It’s an opportunity to work on our relationship with the entire community, especially the business community,” said Leriger.

“Last year we laid our council’s strategic plan, and all of the goals and steps involved. As well, we have a number of companies make presentations.”

Presenters for this year are still being ironed out.

“Our theme this year is economic prosperity as a regional responsibility. So we’re really emphasizing that for an entire region to prosper you need to have common goals and plans and pull the same direction. You need to lay out what the municipalities are trying to do as part of their collaboration efforts.”

The breakfast will also be an opportunity for residents to provide input on an upcoming regional collaboration study that will be conducted between the municipalities of the Town of Westlock, Westlock County and the Village of Clyde.

“(The study) will look at six areas of studies and make recommendations on if there are opportunities to have more efficient delivery of services.

“(It will) look at other areas, how they’re doing things, and then make recommendations to councils. Areas like recreation, protective services, economic development, our commissions and the airport.

“The people that will come (to the breakfast), those are the people that are driving things happening in our region. So it’s a good opportunity to introduce our consultants to our stakeholders.”

Tickets are $15. Last year about 80 people came out for the breakfast and Leriger hopes that number climbs to 120 for this edition.

Savage gets national team nod

For the Westlock News.

Tawatinaw’s Zach Savage has been named to Hockey Canada’s National Sledge Team.
Photo courtesy Todd Korol
Zach Savage is one of the best sledge hockey players in Canada.

That fact was confirmed last week as the Tawatinaw teenager was named to Hockey Canada’s National Sledge Team in preparation for the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, P.E.I., in the first week of December.

It’s an honour the 16 year old is still coming to grips with.

“It’s a great feeling. I’m still running off the buzz of making the team, like two weeks after. I’m stoked,” said Savage, who’s one of 18 named to the roster.

Team Canada bench boss Ken Babey said Savage is a great fit for his club.

“We think Zach is a good player now and has a very bright future,” said Babey. “He competes hard as a young player.”

Babey said that his organization first spotted Savage at a 2015 prospect camp in Toronto.

“He played on our development team last year,” he said. “He performed well there, so we invited him to our selection camp. He played smart, fast and that’s the kind of players we’re looking for in our team.

“He’s not shy and he has a lot of courage.”

In addition the club will play in the 4 Nations Cup in Italy next February and then head to the 2017 Sledge Hockey World Championship in PyeongChang, Korea in April.

“Every one of (the guys) to a man wants to win the World Championship,” said Babey. “There’s a lot of work to be done in reaching that goal, but I think we have the guys that want to work towards it.”

Canada is currently ranked second in the world, right behind the United States.

Sledge hockey is for players who are unable to skate normally due to disabilities.

Players use their arms to propel themselves across the ice while riding a small sled. It’s a full-contact sport, with players checking each other into the boards —though because they are riding sleds, they hit each other into the lower wooden parts of the rink.

“It’s the same (as stand-up hockey) but very different,” said Babey. “There’s a lot of physicality to the game. In sledge hockey, your shoulders and arms do all the work. It’s a high performance sport, like any other paralympic sport.”

Savage, who’s an above-bilateral amputee, has been playing sledge since he was five.

While he is still completing his high school diploma at R.F. Staples, he also helps his family out on the farm on the weekends.

“I’m ready to put all the work in that they want me to do,” said Savage. “I’ll do anything. I’m really focused on getting stronger. If you look at the roster, all those guys are 10 years older than me and much stronger than me.”

For Savage, playing for Team Canada is both an honour and a privilege.

“I just love the game of hockey in general,” said Savage. “I love being on the ice, I love the team atmosphere. I’m excited. It will be a learning experience, that’s for sure.”

Train derails south of Pickardville

For the Westlock News.

No injuries were reported after 12 rail cars jumped the CN Rail Westlock Sub-Line just south of the Hamlet of Pickardville at approximately 9:30 a.m. Oct. 7.

According to CN Rail spokesperson Kate Fenske there were no dangerous goods spilled in the incident, only salt, grain and lumber.

Main access to the hamlet, which is Range Road 585, was closed until the early afternoon as crews worked quickly to open the line.

A large contingent of backhoes, bulldozers and assorted heavy equipment were dispatched to the site and were able to have the line open for train traffic by Saturday, Oct. 8.

“The guys have been working around the clock trying to get it cleaned up,” said Fenske Saturday, adding that the investigation into the derailment is underway.

She noted that as each investigation is unique, there’s no timeline as to when it will be completed
The derailment follows another one near Camrose on Oct. 5, where eight cars left the track. No injuries or dangerous goods were reported in that derailment either.

According to the Transportation Safety Board’s website, as of Aug. 31 there have been 66 reported train derailments in Alberta this year, not including the two incidents last week.

This is the second derailment to occur within the borders of Westlock County this year — a train derailed near Westlock on Feb. 14 with no reported injuries or dangerous goods spilled.

There are approximately 310 industrial railways in the province, according to the Alberta Transportation website.

Under the federal Rail Safety Act, trains moving through areas with populations of 10,000 people or more have a maximum speed limit of 40 m.p.h. or 64 km/h. The speed limit for trains outside of populated areas is 50 m.p.h. or 80 km/h.

The 130-mile Westlock Sub-Line runs from Smith, through Westlock and terminates in Edmonton.

Thunderbirds decimate Pacers

For the Westlock News.

Thunderbird Aiden Marshall prepares to bowl over Pacer Adam Koons during the club’s 40-0 Oct. 6 home win. The victory was their first of the season and means they’ll face the Vegreville Vortex in the first round of the WFL playoffs on Oct. 15.
Eric Bowling/WN

After a challenging season, the Westlock Thunderbirds zapped the Athabasca Pacers 40-0 during a frigid Wheatland Football League finale in Westlock on Oct. 6.

The win is the club’s first defensive shutout of the season, as well as their first victory.

“This group has just been working really hard week in and week out, so we knew the wins would eventually come,” said head coach Jon Kramer. “We had a real good week at practice and we told the players that the game was going to be won in what we do in practice.

“They played their hearts out, as always, but this week they shored up those little mistakes, tried a few new things and came away with the win. So they were really excited.”

The game was a series of firsts for a number of players. Karstan Kingma caught an interception late in the third quarter and ran the ball across the field to score his first career touchdown.

“He’s a first-year player for us. He was really excited to get the interception and then also return it. It was two firsts for him.”

In the fourth quarter, first-year quarterback Aiden Walker threw a long pass that found tight-end Mark Strach, who carried the ball into the end zone to score his first touchdown.

“That was (Mark’s) first touchdown, and he has been with the program for about four years. So there was a lot of firsts for a lot of players that night. It was a long time waiting for him, so he was pretty excited too.”

The T-Birds now go on to face off against the Vegreville Vortex Oct. 15 in the playoffs. If they can get past them, they will be back in town for the semifinal against a yet-to-be determined foe.

“If we find a way to win that, we’ll be hosting the next weekend here in Westlock. The guys are excited, especially if we win this first one, to come back home for one last playoff game. It’s a pride thing to play in front of your friends and family.”

He added that to get there, the coaches will continue to drill basics and fundamentals.

“We know that the work-ethic is there, but we need to keep practicing. As we get into the playoffs, it’s going to be better and better opponents. There’s a good shot that if we make it into rounds two or three we’ll be facing teams that beat us by 20 points or so. So we need to be ready.”