Gold River still reinventing its economy 20 years after mill closed


Gold River’s workshop days are firmly in the rearview mirror, but decaying buildings from that era down the parkway from the village are a constant reminder that pulp and paper built this township.

The mill is the reason Gold River exists in the middle of Vancouver Archipelago, with road access to Nootka Sound on the island’s west sea-coast. The Tahsis Company that built it back in the 1960s built the accommodates, too.

“It was just an instant town,” says Mayor Brad Unger.

The amble ran as a pulp operation and later produced paper as well. But in 1998 it exclude down, eliminating 360 good paying jobs the village relied on.

It was the start of a new, and much more problem, era for Gold River.

“It didn’t happen immediately, but it wasn’t long after the infantile people were leaving town … house prices plummeted,” Unger orders.

Gold River still reinventing its economy 20 years after mill closed

The town of Gold River was built by the mill and is now largely sustained by the logging dynamism. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

During the boom days, Unger says the citizens topped 2,000 people. Now there are about 1,300.

In the two decades that compel ought to passed since the closure, the old mill site has changed hands some times.

Hopes for a new large-scale industrial business, including one that had a programme to burn Vancouver’s garbage, didn’t take.

But new owners purchased the milieu last year and have started to dismantle the remaining mill edifices.

“I look at this as a positive because if they are spending money to zoom things down, they must be ready to have something in the following,” Unger says.

The deep sea port next to the old mill site on Nootka Balanced is the draw for the new ownership, West Coast Marine Terminals. It is tearing down the edifices to make room for a new marine storage and staging business.

One of the first presents could be storage of construction materials for the new LNG Canada plant further up the B.C. seashore in Kitimat, says operations director  Kent O’Neill.

Gold River still reinventing its economy 20 years after mill closed

The old mill in Gold River is unearthed at a deep sea port on Nootka Sound. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

“I’ve been realize find time in this area for the last 17 years and driving by the old mill, it’s well-disposed of reminder of what was,” he says. “It’s kind of nice to have it taken down and progressed out of the way and let the new stuff come in.”

The new business will provide employment, O’Neill alleges, but not on the scale of the old mill.

Logging in the forests around Gold River is the foremost employer, along with aquaculture. The town council has also write up to secure wood supply for a small sawmill and a cedar shake everyday that provide employment.

Coming technological upgrades such as high-speed internet — and perchance one day cellphone service — are also expected to help attract more home-based matters.

But economic hopes are also pegged on tourism.

Behind the counter at the Clayworks Cafe and Gallery, Anita Lawrence and her mute Neil are part of that new economy. Their cafe is a hot spot for specifics and tourists alike.

“I see an increase in visitor traffic of course every summer,” Anita Lawrence discloses. “People are looking for outdoor adventure, they’re looking for a beautiful view, they’re wanting to do some camping and fishing.”

Gold River still reinventing its economy 20 years after mill closed

Phillip Parkes, a teaching district principal, runs a highly regarded outdoor education program that has been composition new families to Gold River. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

But making the shift from a resource-based curtness is a challenge, she says.

“There’s always these sort of questions close to developing a tourism strategy and what comes first,” she says. “There’s again this fine play between who’s going to come and set up shop, and then who’s prevailing to come and visit if there’s no shop set up.”

Just up the street at Gold River’s piercing school, district principal Philip Parkes is thinking outside the classroom.

A decade ago he started an out of doors education program. It has helped attract new families to town and now it even drags International students from countries around the world.

The program introduces money in Gold River’s economy through homestays for the international swotters and hiring outdoor contractors.

“I think the transition from a resource-based community to a numberless modern community is an ongoing conversation and how we achieve that remains up for cogitation,” he says.

Gold River still reinventing its economy 20 years after mill closed

Logging in the forests around Gold River is the main well-spring of employment. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

But in Parkes mind, the natural beauty best everyone’s front door in Gold River is a key part of the conversation.

“It’s neutral figuring out how we can attract people here and get them into the wilderness and and bear out them how beautiful this area is.”

While work continues on the tourism countenance, construction activity at the old mill site is also encouraging, Mayor Unger puts.

But no matter how that new business takes shape, he says Gold River doesn’t map out to ever go back to being a one-company town.

“Every community now, remarkably your small resource ones, don’t want that one big employer. Now we liking to have three or four, employing 30 people, 40 people.”

And he’s fearless Gold River has a lot to offer.

“One of our slogans is: It’s all here, why aren’t you?”

Listen to the full radio documentary below:

Work continues to diversify the economy in the idyllic but remote Vancouver Island village. 9:20

Mill Towns is a series by CBC Victoria analysing how forestry-dependent communities on Vancouver Island view changes planned by the hick government to revitalize forestry on the B.C. Coast.

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