Volunteer-run community newspaper gets funding boost in Belcarra

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A little girl plays in the water beneath Belcarra Pier, her bucket hat pulled low over her face.

That illustration of the last fleeting days of summer greets readers from the cover of the Belcarra Barnacle, a volunteer-run community newspaper.

The issue, printed for September 2022, features the mayor’s report; letters to the editor about road ends and the official community plan; a burning ban notice from the fire chief; Blockparty and Garden Club updates; an archival story; pictures of local fauna; local tide tables; a story about a visiting hedgehog; a memorial; an invitation to municipal candidates to submit promotional materials; and finally, a note from the treasurer that there isn’t enough money to continue printing the Barnacle.


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“Keep this copy,” he wrote, “it could be your last one.”

The Barnacle has been an institution in Belcarra for decades.

It’s a community newsletter made for residents, by residents.

Due in part to a funding disagreement with the municipality, the paper was on the verge of shuttering.

The 44-year-old village publication had run out of money.

“Last year we got to a point where printing costs went sky-high, some major advertisers were a little slow at paying,” said Clive Evans, the Barnacle’s distributor and treasurer. “So we found ourselves in a situation one month where we didn’t have enough funds.”

His typed plea on page 21 was answered ahead of the next issue and the newspaper was back in business.

The quest for funding didn’t stop there. A group of volunteers also submitted a request to the village for $1,500, an amount the Barnacle had received from the municipality annually since the 1990s.

Council was not entirely happy.

Discussion around the request ranged from questions about the amount requested and concerns about what the Barnacle prints, to how the paper is cutting costs. The Barnacle was asked to justify its funding request.

“Our expenses are mainly due to printing,” Evans wrote back. “The number of pages has also dropped although printing costs have increased over the years.”

Ultimately, the funding decision was deferred until the next year. The Barnacle did not receive any funds from the municipality in 2021. Their grant got dropped to $500 for 2022.

This year, they asked for the $1,000. Council voted 3-2 in favour of their request.

Being a barnacle

The Barnacle began in 1979 as a village newsletter. When Nicholas Booth was asked to edit the first edition, he also had to come up with a name. A neighbour suggested the Barnacle.

“I liked the sound of it right away,” he said. “A barnacle is small but hardy, tiny but tenacious, just like Belcarra.”

Many have sat in the editor’s chair over the years. These days, the title belongs to Michelle Montico.

While past editors have often included a note in each edition, Montico opts to remain anonymous.
You won’t find her picture in the paper, nor will you read her words. A resident of Buntzen Bay, Montico prefers to run the paper this way. It allows her to stay unbiased with a clear birds-eye view of the publication.

Printing controversies

The Belcarra Barnacle’s mission is to “inform and involve” and features content submitted by the community. There str letters to the editors about various community issues, archival stories about the village’s history, a column from the garden club, a kid’s section and local advertisements. The submissions are all reviewed by Montico, and more recently by assistant editor Dayna Fitz, who helps the paper meet its monthly print deadlines.

Montico never knows how an issue is going to look until all the submissions are in.

When she first started as editor, the Barnacle didn’t accept letters to the editor. Volunteers didn’t want anyone to find offence in its pages. That changed with Montico.

“My stance was: If you have an opinion, share it,” she said. “So letters to the editor became quite popular.”

The Barnacle is distributed by mail to those who pay for it and is available for free at the community’s bus stops. Digital copies, going back to 2018, are available on the municipality’s website.

While there has been debate over cutting the printed issue completely in favour of a digital PDF, Evans and Montico both say people prefer print.

For the community’s 643 residents, the Barnacle remains the best way to reach them. The publication by the community, for the community, keeps everyone apprised of Belcarra business.

As the cherry blossoms start to bloom this spring, another issue of the Barnacle, small, but hardy, is set to hit the stands.

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