Small Town Stories: Ashcroft & Cache Creek

By Jill Sperling
March 2, 2017 - 7:00pm Updated: March 5, 2017 - 9:42pm

ASHCROFT / CACHE CREEK, B.C. — The neighbouring communities of Ashcroft and Cache Creek have lost a number of residents in the past few years. Many, heading for larger centres.

The two villages have had their fair share of difficulties in recent years. Cache Creek lost its landfill, and the jobs that it provided, and Ashcroft lost its elementary school. 

Despite these challenges, the communities, and the resilient community groups that live there, continue to seek growth and job opportunities. 

Reporter: Jill Sperling | Video / Editing: Kent Simmonds

Some new businesses are starting to pop up in Ashcroft. 

"There's construction on a new gas station, and across the street is construction on a new restaurant," Ashcroft Mayor Jack Jeyes said. "There appears to be confidence in the local business industry in Ashcroft."

There are also signs of growth at Ashcroft Terminal, the unique rail logistics hub, that can see upwards of 60 trains a day pass through on its lines. 

"The real growth has come in the last four or five years as we've added some additional infrastructure and sort of critical access infrastructure off the main line to better serve our customers and our users," said Managing Director Kleo Landucci. "The growth has come in the last five years to get it to this place, and certainly there's a terrific opportunity for us to keep on growing it for years to come." 

The company employs around 35 people on site. Jeyes says those are important jobs for his community.

"The jobs that do come out of it and usually come from the people that lease the land from the terminal are nine times out of 10 well-paying jobs. They're good to support a family and, in turn, help support the local business community."

When Ashcroft's elementary school closed its doors to students in 2015, the community wasn't prepared to let the building go to waste. 

"We formed a society, Ashcroft Hub Society," said the Hub's Executive Director, Vicky Trill. "We officially took over the lease just shortly after the school closed."

The Hub has leased out classrooms for small businesses, those that promote recreation, arts, and wellness.

"We still have what we had with the school, actually I think we have more with our K-12, and then we have more now because we've got this community centre-like building where people are gathering and connecting and being well," Trill said.

The Ashcroft and District General Hospital also plays a vital role in maintaining the community's wellness. While it has been a struggle to recruit and retain doctors, two physicians moved to town a year ago upon completion of the practice-ready assessment program. 

Dr. Amgad Zake is originally from Egypt. He says he has enjoyed practicing medicine in the village of Ashcroft. 

"Practicing in a rural community is always a challenge for the physicians, but I enjoy it because I have the opportunity to practice the full spectrum of medicine," Zake said. "We have the work to do everything, starting from doing ultrasounds to managing people in the Emergency, and we have the opportunity to follow up with our patients." 

Just a few kilometres from Ashcroft, the Ashcroft Indian Band has plans in place to open up a Tim Hortons inside the community's Esso. 

"It's huge," said band manager Jodene Blain. "It's a huge economic development, so this is one of our biggest ones. We're looking to be a huge employer in the area, so that's why we're very excited about the prospect." 

Further up the highway, Cache Creek has also experienced the loss of residents. 

"Part of the reason, I think, our population dropped by 77 people in the last five years is because the landfill industry - there's a linear relationship between the amount of waste you accept and the number of employees that industry creates," said Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta.

The landfill shut down in December. While the TNRD continues to operate the Residential Drop Off location, the closure has had a big impact. 

However, a liner system for a new landfill is expected to be installed when the weather warms up.

"That system we expect to be installed sometime during the summer and the landfill to be available for accepting waste from anywhere in the province, up to 750,000 tonnes a year, we expect that to be available sometime in the fall."

Ranta hopes that means jobs will come back to the community. 

He also hopes to start growing the service industry back to where it once was, placing emphasis on hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. 

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