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Editorial: A stormy hello to the Sunshine Coast

Bronwyn Beairsto moved to the Coast from Bowen Island, where she spent the past three years reporting on small-town life
Bronwyn headshot
Bronwyn Beairsto joined the Coast Reporter as editor Nov. 15.

I don’t believe in omens but it was rattling to walk into a state of emergency on my first day on the Sunshine Coast. 

Rains battered the 6:20 a.m. ferry as it pulled away from Bowen Island – my home for the last three years – Monday morning but the dire consequences of the storm had yet to sink in. 

From my new desk in a new office in a new town, I’d watch videos of a local Bowen lake – and reservoir the island’s largest water system – overflowing; I saw photos of an arterial island road washed away and then rebuilt while small-town support networks worked their magic on either side of the washout. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I was there with them, pulling together with the people I’d gotten to know and love. The gut-dropping reality of emergency tempered some of my great excitement of arriving to this gorgeous, quirky stretch of coastline.

Here on the Coast, reporter Keili Bartlett was on top of updates every couple of hours as conditions changed constantly. Scenes of damage on the Coast – while severe in places – were thankfully far short of the catastrophes unfolding on the mainland. (I note here that GoFundMe has created a hub for those wanting to make donations to B.C. flood victims.)

But the Coast wasn’t entirely spared. From the washout on Day Road that cut off at least seven properties to an evacuation order for two properties on Ocean Beach Esplanade to an ongoing boil water advisory in parts of Gibsons and Elphinstone, emergency crews and local volunteers have worked through the nights to restore services. Though I’m not yet acquainted with them, I’m certain the small-town support networks were working their magic here too. 

Walking into my apartment for the first time Monday evening, I realized that I had no recommended (strongly urged) emergency supplies – food, water, flashlight. I didn’t even have a pot to boil water in. Don’t be like me, be prepared. 

This crisis was at the very least a harbinger of the perpetual state of emergency the climate crisis promises and a reminder that it’s all of our responsibility to have emergency kits ready anytime.

All this to say, hello! I’m the Coast Reporter’s new editor. I’m a relatively new British Columbian, having been raised in the Yukon and then having spent my school years out East. For the past three and a half years, I’ve been the reporter and editor for the Bowen Island Undercurrent – a little paper serving a small community where everyone seems to have a PhD (that sounds sarcastic, it’s not). I have great affection for the wacky, weird and absurd of small-town life and for redundant sentences.

But most of all, I have a great respect for local storytellers and local news. Through the pandemic I’ve watched how communities can use newspapers to maintain social bonds when a pandemic strips them of festivals and casual gatherings. I’ve seen how important it is to have local reporters, on the ground, fact-checking and quelling misinformation. And I’ve seen what a fantastic job this Coast Reporter team has done of that.     

I cannot hope to step into John Gleeson’s massive shoes. Rather, I hope to work with the passionate, diligent and all-too-patient-with-a-bumbling-new-editor team at the Coast Reporter to eventually – together – fill in the hole he’s left behind. 

It’s an honour to be here and I hope to get to know a great many of you. Please do reach out – I’m at editor@coastreporter.net. 

– Bronwyn Beairsto