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Ghost Ridge is no more in Maple Ridge

Ghost Ridge has run its course, and will be no longer. This fundraising haunted house was run for 12 years at the Albion Fairgrounds. - TIMES files
Ghost Ridge has run its course, and will be no longer. This fundraising haunted house was run for 12 years at the Albion Fairgrounds.
— image credit: TIMES files

Ghost Ridge is “dead in the water,” but it’s not something to be sad about, said one of its founders.

It’s had a great run and generated close to $270,000 into non-profit organizations in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows during its 12-year run, boasted Lorraine Bates.

While Bates was hoping to announce the end of Ghost Ridge in conjunction with the unveiling of some new or different Halloween events in town – including the potential shift of the community fireworks display (in past held in conjunction with Ghost Ridge) to downtown Maple Ridge, or maybe the addition of a few other seasonal festivities – word got out sooner than she had hoped.

So, as it stands, Bates can only confirm that Ghost Ridge is no longer.

“It was time,” she said, citing a number of different reasons for the decision.

There’s been the issue of increasing age and deteriorating health for herself (she had a health scare last year), co-founder Tom Cameron, and construction boss Les Granholm in recent years. Plus the availability of Ghost Ridge’s creative director Joan Granholm has shrunk due to an need to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Without that core group of organizers available, and no obvious willing volunteers stepping up to take over, Bates said there was no sense in trying to continue.

“It’s been a long haul for us,” she said, adding that organizing this fundraiser each year has “taken its toll” on many.

Ghost Ridge was started in 2004 as a fundraiser for a few key community organizations – the fair being one of them. A couple thousand thrill-seekers a year would attend the haunted house, which was typically operated for five to seven nights every October but took at least six weeks to prepare.

While the fair has been the consistent entity in the equation ever since the event’s inception – primarily because the event had always been hosted at the fairgrounds – dozens of different charities have also participated and benefited through the years.

She noted, for instance, that members of the Women’s Rugby were involved for several years, as were the Live Action Role Playing members. Other participating groups included the Ridge Meadows Canoe Club, Society for Creative Anachronism, ringette, Friends in Need Food Bank, and the Association for Community Living.

“It was a lot of work,” Bates said. “It really tested your volunteer base – ours included… we couldn’t do it anymore.”

She and the rest of the fair volunteers would wrap up with the Country Fest about mid-August each year, and almost immediately have to start preparing for Ghost Ridge.

Then, within days of Ghost Ridge shutting down, she and many of the same volunteers would have to turn their efforts to the next project – the Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.

“It’s great to do this community work – and we absolutely love it,” Bates said. “But, at some time, you have to say stop… and while some people hate change, I absolutely love it. Change is good, and this is the right time for this change.”

There were other reasons as well that dictated the demise of Ghost Ridge, Bates said, in her capacity as manager of the annual Country Fest.

For years now, the 4-H dairy component of the fair has been growing at what she calls an alarming rate.

The dairy barn has always been the storage facility for all the Ghost Ridge props – many of the stalls and all the rafters filled with backdrops and decorations.

Renovations to the barn kept being put off. But with those upgrades mandatory now, and a further hike in dairy registrations for this summer’s fair, Ghost Ridge and all its accoutrement had to go.

“We desperately needed the extra space,” Bates said. “We had to get rid of the stuff that stopped us from growing the agricultural components of the fair… after all, that’s what we’re all about.”

She also noted that when Ghost Ridge first came into fruition, there were only a few significant haunted houses operating in the Lower Mainland. Since then. That has changed.

As well, even though most guests attend Ghost Ridge for the scare factor, the reality of their fear has resulted in a number of the volunteers actually being attacked and hurt in recent years.

While there’s been nothing “too serious,” in the way of injuries, Bates said, Ghost Ridge brought with it some increased risks to the students involved – and she was not comfortable with that.

So what is that going to mean for the fair moving forward? Bates said she’s going to have to hone her grant-writing skills, and seek out a few more sponsors.

In the meantime, many of the Ghost Ridge props have deteriorated and were thrown out, while a few of the larger backdrops and decorations were donated to an agricultural-based non-profit operating Fantasy Farm each Halloween in Chilliwack.

“It seemed fitting,” said Bates, who like the idea that the funds raised by the Halloween project in the Valley would help children who are pursuing agriculture.

And now, the Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows Agricultural Association, can begin refitting the dairy barn and moving on, Bates said.

“Yippee!”

When a volunteer may need to step away

One of the Country Fest volunteers occasionally jokes with Bates, asking if has every really looked at her own driver’s licence.

“Yes,” she replied.

Of course she does. She scans it every time she has to get a new picture taken during renewal. And, every time, she thinks to herself the number of grey hairs are increasing.

But, her volunteer laughs at her every time this conversation comes up.

He’s not suggesting she look at her picture as much as at the numbers on the licence. He’s asking if she realizes her age, and the fact that she’s now coming up on 70.

Bates, the manager of the community’s annual fair – CountryFest every July – and co-chair of the Christmas Hamper Society, is realizing her age and the ages and health concerns of many of the key volunteers – who she has been working with through many decades.

Only speaking for herself, Bates is unwilling to every give up her volunteer duties with the hamper and the fair, and thankfully she has an understanding family.

Nevertheless, she’s had to face a very “tough realization” that she’s no “spring chicken anymore” and both she and some of her teammates have to scale back on the number of projects they are undertaking.

In addition to closing down Ghost Ridge, for instance, she’s stepped away from Raise-A-Reader, Golden Harvest, and a number of other volunteer endeavours.

“I can’t do it any more,” she said, knowing she needs to slow down a bit and spent more time with her husband and granddaughter.

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