Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Open House at Fraser Downs Backstretch on September 19, 2015

Fraser Downs in Cloverdale is holding their annual open house in the barn area on Saturday, September 19, 2015 from 10am to 3pm.

The barn area is on 62nd Avenue, accessed off 176th Street. Turn at the rec centre and drive down a block. The backstretch is on the right side. The parking lot in the backstretch might be packed with cars belonging to the horsemen and women, so park in the lot across the street and walk over.

They do barn tours - come out and meet the horses and the people who work with them. They have rides on jog carts and last year they had a BBQ with hot dogs. No word on snacks this year, but they've always had something in the past.

In the past they've also had a colouring station for kids and prizes, so it's likely they'll have them again this year.

This is a great opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the Standardbred racing industry.

No Leadership from City of Surrey in Emergencies

Huge fail to the City of Surrey in the recent major power outages that plagued much of the Lower Mainland over the weekend and continuing into the week. Our tax dollars at work. Or not. Bad communication from the City to the residents.

Power outages caused by a windstorm that swept through the Greater Vancouver Area on Saturday morning and afternoon, August 29, 2015. 

About 100,000 homes in Surrey lost power, the area greatest affected by power outages in the Lower Mainland. Our power went out on Saturday morning around 11:30am. Shortly after that I used my iPhone to check the BC Hydro outage list to see when it would be back on. Our area was not listed. I tried to check half an hour later but BC Hydro’s web page was down due to being overloaded by many of the 500,000 customers who had no power. I checked the City of Surrey web page  – nothing on there about the power outage, no direction, and no assistance. 

There were lots of complaints on BC Hydro’s Twitter feed about their crashed website and questions about when the power would be back on. There was very little information from BC Hydro but as the day went on, they became better about updating their Twitter feed. No big surprise - there was nothing on City of Surrey’s Twitter feed, though eventually some fool showed up and left a few Twitter comments that BC Hydro is working as fast as they can to restore power. The problem with the BC Hydro Twitter feed was that Twitter got so overloaded with people looking for information that it slowed down and couldn’t reload tweets. Information was slow to nothing.

There was NO leadership from Mayor Linda Hepner and nothing helpful from the Twitter bots managing the City of Surrey feed.

Is this what we can expect from the City of Surrey in future emergency situations?

1.     The City of Surrey handled the power outage situation badly. Epic fail. They need to find a better way to communicate when power is down. Instructing residents to tune into the local TV news station does no good when people don’t have electricity to watch TV. Same with the radio unless they’re in the car. Not everyone has a Smartphone with data to access the Internet. And without a power source, how will these people recharge their mobile devices to get information? 

2.      In emergencies, the City of Surrey needs to get information out to the residents ASAP! This should be done on the front page of their web page and through social media and also through opening up libraries, recreational facilities, and civic centres for people to make their way to for information.

3.      The first thing people want to know is when are they going to get their power turned back on. A rough estimate is OK, but when the estimate is off by 24 hours, that’s a problem. If residents can’t get that information from BC Hydro then that information should be provided by the city leaders. People need to make plans for the perishable items in their fridge and freezer. It does no good for the City of Surrey and BC Hydro and other news sources to say as long as you don’t open the door to your fridge items will stay cool for 4 hours and if you don’t open your freezer items will stay frozen for 24 hours … if the power is going to be out longer than that! If the power is going to be out for several days people will lose a lot of money in perishable items. If people get correct advice on how long the power will be out they can find a hotel with power on that has a fridge and book a room. In many cases the cost of the hotel room might be cheaper than losing a few hundred dollars in perishables. If we get better information on how long the power will be out, then we can make arrangements. The City of Surrey could provide a database relying on people/businesses who do have power to phone in and offer space in their fridge and freezers for others to bring groceries in for storage. What about generators? Someone who isn’t using their generator because they have power could list it available for loan until power comes back on.

4.      BC Hydro tweets a phone number to call for an update or report a power outage – 1-888-POWERON. The problem when you phone this number they’re swamped with calls and waiting times are huge. People on cell phones with limited battery life don’t want to stay on hold for an hour or longer. Their cell phone battery will probably die before they talk to a real person. An overpaid paper pusher at city hall could be sitting on hold getting updated information for the residents and putting it on their social media. Staff at City of Surrey should be updating the Twitter feed constantly in an emergency situation and answering resident’s questions. The power outage happened on a weekend and there is no on call staff to work on the weekend in an emergency? Why are City staff refusing to work on call in emergency situations? Our tax dollars at work. Or not.

5.      The next thing people want to know is a place with power so they can charge up their mobile devices. Libraries, shopping malls, civic centres and other places should be listed on the City of Surrey website where people can go to power up. The City of Surrey should provide these places with multi outlet power bars so several people can charge up their devices at the same time instead of a line up while people wait for one person’s device to charge. 

6.      The next thing people want to know is what to do with their spoiled perishables. The City of Surrey has garbage pick up every second week. They should schedule an immediate garbage pick up so people can get rid of their rotting food right away so it doesn’t attract raccoons, rats, and bears. Perhaps a dumpster can be set up at city hall where people can drop off their rotting food.

7.      What about traffic? There were some traffic lights out at major intersections. I sent Tweets to the City of Surrey and the RCMP that they needed flaggers immediately at Highway 10 and Highway 15 in Cloverdale on Saturday afternoon. This is the Cloverdale Bypass, where it’s 176th Street a few blocks in either direction from this particular intersection. It was chaos. People do not do the 4 way stop procedure. There’s honking and drivers going or not going whether or not it’s their turn. I also tweeted about the lights out at Fraser Highway and 176th Street, though they’d been working on Saturday, they went out on Sunday. Same with Fraser Highway and 168th Street. The traffic lights were out through Monday. When I came down Fraser Highway on Saturday afternoon the lights were out at 184th Street and traffic was backed up 4 blocks. I tweeted all these major intersections to the Surrey RCMP and the City of Surrey that they needed flaggers and they did nothing. There’s a lot of people out there who are unemployed or could use extra money. It seems the City of Surrey could give interested people a quick course in how to direct traffic and call them in emergencies like this to keep traffic moving at major intersections. The City sending out Tweets telling people to use the 4 way stop procedure at intersections where the traffic light isn’t working is useless. This information was on the driver’s handbook when we wrote our test for a driver’s license. Drivers should know this information, so tweeting about it is stupid. Knowing about the 4 way stop procedure and how to perform it are 2 different things for many drivers – therefore flaggers are needed to keep traffic flowing smoothly at major intersections so they’re not backed up for blocks. Another huge FAIL to the City of Surrey for ignoring my tweets about which major intersections needed flaggers based on me driving through that intersection earlier.

8.      Cleanliness is a big concern to many. No electricity means the water in the hot water tank is going cold and depending on the water system, an electrical pump might be in place for both water and sewer, rendering these two options useless in a power outage. The City of Surrey should be listing places where people can go to shower and clean up – perhaps recreational facilities. The City of Surrey did not assist their residents in finding this information during the power outage.

9.      People also want to know where they can get Internet. People know they can head to their library, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, and other places that offer free WiFi, but there’s no point heading there if there’s no power. The City of Surrey did not list any places with electricity and working Internet on their web page or Twitter feed. I drove past several Tim Hortons, two Starbucks, and several other places with signs on the door saying closed due to power outage. The City of Surrey claims they have free public WiFi spots at hundreds of places around Surrey, and most people know about libraries, but the city also lists free WiFi in parks. Has anyone tried to get this “free” WiFi? I tried at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. The “free” WiFi is only available if you’re a Roger’s customer and you have to log in using your Roger’s account information. There is an option for a guest user but it doesn’t work. People need to access Internet for many reasons in a power outage. They’re trying to find information about the outage and when power will be restored to their area. They’re looking for news updates. They want to check their email. Maybe they run a home business and need Internet to keep up with clients. The City of Surrey gets a FAIL for not providing a list of places where the Internet is working for their residents. And no, we don’t want to hear about the hundred places on city property with “free” WiFi. If we’re not a Rogers customer that “free” WiFi doesn’t help us.

The City of Surrey and Mayor Linda Hepner need to get their act together and show their leadership when disaster strikes. Engage with the city’s residents and answer their questions. Yes, that might mean giving up your weekend but bank your hours and take time off later on. Disasters strike on weekends too, you know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cloverdale Blueberry Festival 2015

Let me just start off with the sad news. Cloverdale will not be hosting a blueberry festival in 2015.

This news was broken by the Cloverdale business association a few months ago due to lack of sponsors and lack of funds. There has been no update that it's back on.

In the past, the Cloverdale Blueberry Festival is held early August with the main attraction a Show 'n' Shine. I love seeing those classic cars!

It also has entertainers, pie eating contest, and vendors with produce for sale.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for next year.

The Healthy Earth coming to Cloverdale

I noticed a sign up in the former location of King Tut's on 176th Street near 56A Avenue, that The Healthy Earth deli, juice & smoothie bar is opening in July.

Overall a good idea but perhaps a little ambitious for Cloverdale. This is a town with at least one of every fast food restaurant out there. A cowboy town. Check your discerning tastes at the edge of town type of place.

For more information their website is www.thehealthyearth.com

Cloverdale Canada Day celebration July 1, 2015

Once again Cloverdale is hosting a big Canada Day celebration at the Cloverdale Millennium Park which has been renamed Bill Reid Millennium Park. The Millennium Park is located on the corner of 176th Street and 64th Avenue.

The gates open at 10am and the festivities end around 10:30pm with the fireworks.

This year's featured performers are Blue Rodeo at 9pm. More information on the entertainment line up can be found here http://www.surrey.ca/canadaday/42.aspx

In past years over 100,000 people have been in attendance so the big question is where to find parking in a town that's going to become a traffic nightmare. Free parking at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, enter off 60th Avenue, east of 176th Street. They usually open up the racetrack for parking. This usually fills up at some point in the afternoon on July 1 and the lot is closed. People also look for parking west of 176th Street in the subdivision between 60th Avenue and 64th Avenue. There is a park and a school in the area and the gates are open for cars. Lord Tweedsmuir on 180th Street and 60th Avenue has the gates open for parking too and not too many people park here until its time for the fireworks. It's a good spot to sit on the football field and watch them from.

Surrey's fast moving parking enforcement officers are all over Cloverdale on Canada Day making big bucks in fines. Make sure you don't park in a 2 hour parking zone if you're going to be away from your car longer than that. Other normal rules of the road apply. I see cars with tickets because they parked too close to a stop sign or they parked the opposite way from the traffic direction or they parked in a no parking zone. Don't even think of parking in the Cloverdale Crossing Mall across the street from the Millennium Park. They put up big signs at each entrance warning people there is no special event parking. And they hire security guards to watch where people are going when they get out of their car. If you go into a business, no problem. If you walk across the street, they'll call a tow truck. Don't risk parking, going into Tim Horton's and then cross the street with your goodies. The security guards might not see you, but if you leave your car there too long it'll be towed.

So there you have it. Plenty of free parking around Cloverdale, just do it legally.

Now for the big traffic nightmare part around Cloverdale, getting out. If you don't want to see the fireworks, then get moving. If you stay for the fireworks getting out of Cloverdale requires lots of patience. Around 10pm the police close off 176th Street between 57th Avenue and 64th Avenue. This is due to pedestrian safety. The streets will be clogged with people walking back to their cars. For some reason drivers think it's a good idea to head into one of the subdivisions and go around in circles and then end up back where the street is closed. Your best bet wherever you are is to head east to get out of Cloverdale even if its a bit out of your way because most everyone else is heading west. Drive up to 184th Street. From there head to either Highway 10 or Fraser Highway or further along if that suits your destination better. The farther away you get from Cloverdale the lesser the traffic, so don't try to navigate any of the subdivisions close to the fairgrounds unless you like circling back to where you started from.

Happy Canada Day!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Free Rodeo Pancake Breakfast Saturday May 16, 2015

I have seen the sign!

That would be the sandwich sign in front of the Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church (17473 60th Ave.) once again serving up a free pancake breakfast before the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade. Come between 8am and 10am for pancakes, eggs, sausages, and a morning beverage.

Thanks to the church for offering this special breakfast again this year!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cloverdale Rodeo weekend May 15 to 18, 2015

It's only a few days away! The Cloverdale Rodeo hits town again on the May long weekend, May 15 - 18, 2015.

The rodeo and country fair is held in the Cloverdale Fairgrounds on the corner of 176th Street and 60th Avenue, also home to Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino. Same parking lot but due to the special event pay parking is in effect - $10 and main parking lot accessed off 60th Avenue. If the lot is full, there is free parking on the residential streets surrounding the fairgrounds. Before you park in the downtown shopping area of Cloverdale, along 176th Street, pay attention to the parking signs, especially if it says 2 hour parking. The City of Surry parking enforcement is out in full force on the rodeo weekend. They make a lot of money. Make sure you don't park within 6 metres of a stop sign, block a fire hydrant, or park facing the opposite direction of traffic. I've seen parking tickets on cars that do this. The old Cloverdale Mall parking lot is blocked off with fencing, so don't head there if you haven't been in Cloverdale in a couple of years. No parking access. Also don't think of parking in the Cloverdale Crossing shopping plaza, corner of 176th Street and 64th Avenue. They have signs up warning there is no event parking and they hire security guards to keep an eye on people exiting cars to make sure they're going into one of the shops and not crossing the street to the fairgrounds. And they quick call tow trucks.

Things kick off on Thursday night, May14, 2015 with the bed races. Held on 176A Street between 57th and 58th Avenues starting around 6pm. They usually last for an hour.

On Friday, May 15, 2015 go to the Clover Square shopping mall on the corner of Highway 10 and 177B Street for the chili cook off between 4:30pm and 6:30pm. Many businesses and individuals compete and its free for the consumer as long as they're voting on the favourite chili. Each station gives out a small cup of chili. Sometimes there'll be extra goodies like a bun or tortilla chips or something to drink. There's a stage set up with live country music.

The fairgrounds opens at 4pm on Friday. Check their website for operating times and rodeo performances. http://www.cloverdalerodeo.com/rodeo-and-country-fair/

The parade (free) gets underway Saturday morning May 16, 2015 around 10am depending on where you're at on the route. The parade staging areas are on all the avenues from 56A to 58A between 176A and 177B Streets. There is no public parking on these areas on Saturday morning until the parade has ended. The rest of the weekend its up for grabs. The parade starts off along 177B Street while all the participants get ready, heads south to Highway 10 where half the lanes have been blocked off up to 176th Street. The parade heads north along 176 Street and this is where most of the spectators take up viewing spots. If you plan to watch on 176th Street, be sure to arrive by 9am for a good spot. When the parade reaches 58A Avenue, it turns east and at 176A Street, turns north and goes to the fairgrounds. However the parade always seems to peter out at this spot, and instead of continuing all the way to the fairgrounds, the participants turn back to the staging area.

Various pancake breakfasts happening all weekend for around $5 at the Cloverdale Legion on 57th Avenue just west of 176th Street, and the Lions holding a pancake breakfast at Hawthorne Square on 176th Street, between 57th and 58th Avenues. I haven't seen a sign in front of the church that usually does a free pancake breakfast on Saturday morning before the rodeo. I'll do a quick update if I see that one's going ahead.

Have a great weekend!