When Al Richmond moved to 108 Mile in the 1970s, he envisioned a quiet life on the lake.
His wife Jan, it seems, had other ideas.
The volunteer fire department needed members, so she suggested he sign up – a role he held for nine years before running the Fire Commission. When Block Brothers were selling off the land in the 108, his wife insisted he get involved with the then-108 Mile ratepayers’ community association “because she wanted to protect all this property.”
One night, he left for a ratepayer’s meeting and came home as the chairman. “I said ‘well, now we’ve really done it. I picked up this responsibility,’” he said.
”People don’t believe it. I’m quite a quiet person. I like to do my thing and be alone. I sort of got this foisted on me by my wife to get out and do some things. That’s how I got involved and it steamrolled from there.”
Richmond was recognized Oct. 6 with a 108 Community Lifetime Service and Achievement Award for his decades of work in the community.
108 Mile Community director Sandy Foster, who presented the award at the community’s Annual General Meeting, said the award was the first of its kind and Richmond’s recognition is “long overdue.”
“He’s been involved in so many capacities and so many committees that it will be a high bar. I can’t imagine anyone else will be able to win this award,” Foster said, listing off Richmond’s accomplishments over the years. “I’m beginning to wonder how Al manages it all.
“He’s a mover and a leader in this community and just a great guy. Nobody is going to be able to fill his shoes. We wanted to create an award just for Al and let him know how much we appreciate him.”
Richmond said he was “humbled” by the award, but credited Foster and other community members for also playing a part in the 108 Mile development.
“It’s a credit to a community that develops, a community that moves forward and I’m just privileged to be a part of it,” he said.
A former technician with the then-BC Tel – Richmond bought his property in 108 Mile in 1971 when he was “still quite young.” His wife’s parents had a cabin in the area and he came up to help build it, which led him to buy his own property as an investment for the future. He and his wife initially moved to Williams Lake in 1974, but moved to the 108 two years later, figuring it would be a great place to raise their two boys.
To Richmond, who grew up rafting on Burnaby’s Still Creek, the South Cariboo offered the idyllic childhood he himself had experienced with cross country skiing and the great outdoors.
‘We moved here for the lifestyle because we didn’t want to raise kids in the city,” he said. “We were tired of city attitudes and wanted more time to spend time with family.”
As a member of the ratepayers’ association, Richmond helped to preserve the 108 Mile Greenbelt by working with the Cariboo Regional District to manage and preserve the land, through covenants, for the community. He and others also “worked and worked” for five years to get Block Brothers to turn over the South Cariboo Regional Airport to the CRD, as well as the water system, paving the way for the community to go from being development-controlled to more local involvement.
Richmond downplayed his work in the community in an interview with the Free Press, saying there were others who did so much more. He cited those who helped to preserve and develop the Nordic ski trails or were part of the business development bank.
“People just got out and did it,” he said. “I’ve done a little bit but some have done a tremendous amount of work and some of them have passed on. They were vested in the community.
“I can remember when there were only 500 people living here full time. I could get more volunteers in 10 minutes than I can now with 3,000 people.”
Richmond, who held off getting into politics until 1993 – he is a CRD Electoral Area director – said his volunteer work makes me feel good. He is particularly happy about the work done on fire-smarting the greenbelt – work that began in the early 1990s with B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations. Half a million dollars later, the community has only three large sections left to do before it’s completed.
Foster said Richmond is a “little bit too modest.” He noted in the 1980s, Richmond was calm in the eye of a storm when there was controversy brewing between residents and snowmobilers in 108 Ranch. The 108 Wheel Room was packed to the rafters but Richmond managed to calm them all down, Foster said, and “bring people together.”
In his spare time, Richmond and his wife split their time between their home and cottage on Chimney Lake.
“It’s a good place to live.”