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YEAR IN REVIEW, Part 1: Fugitive pig and a baby born in a car

Looking back at memorable Bradford West Gwillimbury events, people and activities of 2018
Edin and Aubree
Edin Jackson delivered her baby, Aubree, in her car on the way to Southlake Regional Health Centre. Submitted photo

BradfordToday launched at the end of April, offering residents an online news source that was updated on a daily basis. Here are some of the most memorable stories of 2018, covered by Bradford Today.

Fugitive pig: One of the first stories posted on our website was a call received by South Simcoe police, on April 24, about a 200 pound pig wandering down the centre line of Sideroad 10 near the 3rd Line of Innisfil around 4 a.m., posing a safety hazard. For hours, the stubborn pig refused to be driven off the road. It wasn’t until help arrived in the shape of a local farmer the fugitive pig was corralled and eventually reunited with its owner. Responding officer Const. Gerry Crane was muddy, but unhurt. 

New fire hall approved: On April 17, Bradford West Gwillimbury town council endorsed a plan for a new fire station and a public works operations centre that would save the municipality millions of dollars. Rather than looking for a new site, the proposal called for the full use of the town’s property at 75 Melbourne Dr. The new fire hall would be built on the vacant land between the existing building and the police station. Once completed, the old fire hall would be transformed into the operations centre for public works staff. The proposal, based on estimates, would save taxpayers nearly $30 million. 

Three retirement homes: Under its Community Improvement Area Plan grant program for seniors accommodation, the Town of BWG’s incentives attracted not one but two retirement residences – The Elden on Sideroad 10, expecting to be completed by the end of this year, and Holland Gardens on Holland Street West. Then, in April, a third proposal came forward, for a 130-unit independent living facility, with medical office, for the lands immediately beside Holland Gardens. Middleton Retirement Residence even suggested there could be links between the two facilities. The town accepted the application, but pointed out that the grant program, having achieved its goals, had been discontinued. There would be no incentives for a third residence. 

Brian Mulroney comes to town: It wasn’t the first time that a sitting or former prime minister visited Bradford, but the visit by Brian Mulroney (prime minister from 1984 to 1993) was a little different. He was there to promote his daughter’s political campaign. Caroline Mulroney won the provincial Progressive Conservatives nomination as its candidate in York-Simcoe – a seat left vacant by the retirement of MPP Julia Munro. Munro retired just before the 2018 election campaign after representing the area for 22 years, making her the longest-serving female member of provincial parliament. She also endorsed Caroline Mulroney – who handily won the seat on June 7. 

Seniors centre celebrates 20 years: The Danube Seniors Leisure Centre, located at 715 Simcoe Rd., celebrated its 20th anniversary on April 28. Originally the Danube Counties German Club, the building was gifted to the municipality for a seniors centre by Danube club members – just when seniors’ advocate Sylvia Luxton was pushing the town to do more for its older residents. The result was the leisure centre – renovated, with updated kitchen, greenhouse and woodworking shop, thanks to support from both the town and generous donors – that has been operated by the non-profit BWG Seniors Association, providing programs, activities and lunches. 

BradfordToday officially launches: May 2 was also memorable for Bradford Today staff: the fledgling online newspaper held its official launch party at Don Cherry’s Sports Grill, after its late April start, and was overwhelmed by the community response. Thanks!

Scammers: May saw more than one South Simcoe resident targeted by scammers. One Bradford woman had a close call. Police say the 30-year-old woman found a call on her cellphone, purporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, threatening her with jail time over unpaid taxes. She called the number provided, and spoke with the so-called CRA agent, who told her she owed $2,500 and would go to jail if she didn’t make an immediate payment in Bitcoin. Still on the phone, the woman was directed to take a cab to a Barrie convenience store that had a Bitcoin machine. She sent a payment of $200 – then spotted a warning on the machine, stating “The CRA does not use Bitcoin for payment,” and that any such request is a fraud. When she challenged the agent, he hung up. Police say her losses could have been much more, had she not noticed the warning – and they reminded residents CRA does not demand immediate payment, threaten jail, or ask for payment in iTune gift cards or Bitcoin. 

Speeding complaints: Sometimes you can fight city hall. A Bond Head resident took his complaint about speeding on Line 7 to Bradford West Gwillimbury council in May. Bret Foisy told councillors that he had been walking along Line 7 with his wife, dog and newborn son, to visit a relative, when the family was nearly struck by a vehicle. Foisey noted that the lack of sidewalks and the speeding vehicles were a potentially deadly combination. Council responded, asking for action that led to increased police enforcement, and the installation of speed calming bollards on Line 7 and several other streets. 

Missing man found: When 75-year-old Kenneth Armstrong wandered away from his Innisfil home on May 7, his family feared the worst. Armstrong suffered from both dementia and diabetes. For 36 hours, South Simcoe police launched a massive search, deploying an OPP helicopter, drone with infrared sensors, and marine unit to check the shoreline. They also sent out an appeal to the public, to look in their backyards and other areas for the missing man. The story has a happy ending: on May 9, Innisfil resident Sally Schutz located Armstrong in a wooded area near the 9th Line. After being checked out, he was reunited with his grateful family. 

Marsh Mash: The 40th annual Marsh Mash canoe and kayak races on May 12 drew a record number of paddlers to the north canal, at Westside Community Church. The race once again drew some of the top canoeists and kayakers in Ontario, for the 18- and 22-kilometre marathon paddles, some of which were qualifiers for world competition. 

Henderson Memorial Community Park opens: On May 23, Henderson Memorial Community Park, on Line 9 BWG, officially opened to the public – nine years after Cyril and Phyllis Henderson gave the town a 39.25 hectare property, to be used for public recreation. After public consultation and a master plan, the first phase of the new park has been completed, with splash pad, playground, picnic area, soccer fields, and a fieldhouse with accessible washrooms and change areas.

Baby delivered in car: Emergency responders are used to be called out to collisions and fires. The 911 call that came in around noon on May 25 was just something a little different. Edin Jackson, on her way to Southlake Regional Health Centre, had gone into labour on Bridge St., just past Dissette. Her partner Andrew Fagan was advised to pull over on the side of the road. First to arrive were BWG firefighters, who assisted Jackson to get comfortable in the front seat of the SUV. Paramedics arrived just in time for the delivery of baby Aubree Jackson-Fagan. Mom and baby were transported to Southlake, where they were doing fine. 

Community centre master plan: The Town hired MHBC Planning to look at the future use of the old Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre, at 125 Simcoe Rd. At a May 30 open house, the consultants unveiled their vision: transformation of Centennial Park, with an outdoor performance centre, walking trails, splash pad basketball court, plus a $55 million administration centre, and an affordable housing development at the southwest corner. The price tag was $75 million – which did not include the cost of acquisition of private properties along Simcoe Road, or any suggestion of what to do with the old community centre. The plan also eliminated the full-sized Cericola soccer pitch, and two baseball diamonds. The plan was referred to council and is still in the works.