Bulkley- Nechako, east to west.

1979 – ’82 I worked as Economic Development Commissioner for Bulkley – Nechako Regional District, with office in Burns Lake. The funding for these positions were 1/3 Federal, 1/3 Provincial and 1/3 Regional Government. I had like 3 bosses, and had good communication with the two senior, and worked locally. A new concept at that time, all over Canada, and it worked. http://www.edabc.com/ I was founding member, and later served as president of this organization, http://www.edac.ca/html/shtml/edac_about.shtml and served as a board member on the National Assosiation.

http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/cities/burns.htm  is the centre of the Lakes District, 78.000 sq. Km. , larger that Holland and Belgium together, larger than Ireland. population at that time, 35.000, in seven Villages, one District and one Town.

My work description; was to encourage industrial development, improve employment opportunities in areas that require special measures, in order to realize their full potential. To promote balanced development throughout the district, and to encourage equitable distribution of the benefits.

Another major job was to get professionals, doctors, dentist etc. to move to these fine Villages, often directly from Europe. That was part of my job, entice them to move to and settle down  in Canada’s northern wilderness. It was not difficult at all.

In other words, work with Mayor and Councils, Chambers of Commerce, industry, with the Native Councils,  work with cattleman association, agriculture, sport and culture interest groups, etc; and co-ordinate their goals with local, regional, provincial and federal governments. I was to work like a superman, right from University of Waterloo, with a briefcase and a blue striped suite, with tie and west to match. My first line at many meetings were: ” A specialist, is a man from out-of-town, with a briefcase”  This was 1979 but it probably still works as a joke.

I was a good listener, and I had the background education to quickly evaluate what was possible, just dreams, or a lot of hogwash. The main thing was to work with all interest groups, get a consensus in every village, and work with them to facilitate their goals. Win some, lose some. The Native Councils and organizations had goals and objectives that did not always correspond with the other interest groups. But I always worked well with native councils, and later was employed by some for many years, and some of my best friends are natives.

From the East to the West we have Fort St. James  http://www.northbceh.com/fort_st_james/index.html  an old village, important to the early fur trade and The Hudson Bay Co. Located on the Carrier Indian trade route.

Strategically located at the end, or the beginning, of the Stuart – Trembleur –  Takla Chain lake system, with 630 km of lakeshore to explore. Fishing and hunting at its very best. Coming from Europe, one can not imagine the wilderness, it is awesome.

The mountains have minerals of every kind, and I have heard of  a remote place where Jade  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jade   is plentiful. Rocks in the open , bigger than you can carry. There is one rock, solid jade, bigger than a helicopter can carry, laying in the open, if you ever find the place. Gold diggers are still everywhere.

The Mayor and Council, and local Chamber of Commerce wanted a ski hill, I found some funding for that. The hill draws skiers all the way from Prince George. Tourism was the next big goal, and we had a fine nature to offer. Most important was to get a dentist to the village. Several european immigrated under the program I worked for. Mostly Germans and Swiss.

Vanderhoof next:  http://stuartnechako.ca/vanderhoof , the geographical centre of B.C. , http://uk.britishcolumbia.travel/en-CA/RegionsCities/Vanderhoof.htm  on the main Highway 16, from Prince George http://uk.britishcolumbia.travel/en-CA/RegionsCities/PrinceGeorge.htm   to Prince Rupert  http://www.princerupert.ca/  .

Vanderhoof have an active local airport, otherwise logging, sawmills and cattle, including Cattle Auction, same as the whole district, and a natural road and railroad crossing. An Industrial park was on their list, they had railroad, but not much industry. One private sawmill  (Groot Bros.)  had done a lot of research on salvaging masses of timber that was flooded by the Ootsa Lake system, when Alcan need a huge artificial lake to feed power to their plant at Kitimat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitimat 

Going west you get to Fort Fraser , famous for trumpeter swans, http://www.ourbc.com/travel_bc/bc_cities/yellowhead_hwy/fort_fraser.htm,   just before Fraser Lake. http://stuartnechako.ca/fraser-lake/ 

  • Summer tours of the Endako Molybdenum Mine and Fraser Lake Sawmill are available by appointment. Endako Molybdenum Mines, which is a large employer of Fraser Lake residents was at one time the second largest Molybdenum Mine in the world, processing between 29 – 30 thousand tons per day. From its humble beginnings in the early 1900’s, Fraser Lake Sawmill has evolved into one of the world’s most modem sawmills, producing enough board feet each day to build 100 homes. 

 

    As you see, a small Village up north, with world major industries. Fort Fraser, a place on the highway one could miss, if you did not need gas. Nice people, and I got some good friends. A hunting guide is famous for his skills. The traditional salmon fisheries for the natives was an issue everywhere, and often difficult to protect. The Stellako river is famous.

Burns Lake next, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burns_Lake,_British_Columbia   my office at The Regional District was there. From Burns Lake one can drive to South Lakes area, passing Tchesinkut (clear lake) Lake. Burns Lake is the geographical centre of the Lakes District, and the crossing road to the Tweedsmuir Park.

The District office consisted of the administrator; Gordon Sinclair, Planner …., Dave the assistant planner, building inspector Joe Lerch, one lady … and a girl  … assistant, and that was it. (But I still remember the phone number, 604-692 3195 and the postal code: V0J – 3A0) after all these years, Why ? 

Their goals were more services at the airport, some facilities for the cattleman association, a hiking/horse trail through the Tweedsmuir Park, an industrial park, and more tourism. In all these we had good progress.

This whole district produced masses of railroad-ties, 6 x 8″, 8′ long. Switch ties were 10′ long. Through the program I worked with, I generated government funding for 28 new small and larger local sawmills, for ties and other products. This actually broke the Government program funding, and I had to cut back, but it generated a lot of economic development in the whole area, jobs, supplies, transport, finance, sales and management.

http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/lake_north/tchesinkut.htm to the landing at Francois Lake http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/lake_north/francois.htm  , where a free ferry cross every 30 minutes. Hugh Neaves General Store was a major gathering point. A post office, gas station and the center for all social activity at the Francois lake.

http://www.ourbc.com/bc_maps/yellowhead_hwy/bc_maps_francois_lake.htm  From there you get to Southbank, Takysie Lake, and to Ootsa lake, gateway to the Tweedsmuir Park. I lived there for three years, 6 miles east of Southbank, on the Uncha Lake road.

West of Burns Lake, before getting to The District of Houston, you can turn right to Granisle on Babine Lake. http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/lake_north/babine.htm  http://www.ourbc.com/bc_maps/yellowhead_hwy/bc_maps_francois_lake.htm 

Hatcheries: Visitors are also welcome at the Pinkut Creek and Fulton River Hatcheries, the largest of their type in the world, holding up to 180,000 adult sockeye salmon. The best viewing is during the summer, in late August and early September

Look for fascinating First Nations’ petroglyphs (Indian rock face carvings) on the cliffs at Babine Lake, almost directly opposite the Pinkut Creek spawning Channel.   

Granisle is another one industry copper mining town; only interested in tourism, but with some of the finest hunting, fishing and salmon spawning grounds,  that was natural.

 The District of Houston http://www.houston.ca/siteengine/activepage.asp was another one industry town, he sawmill.

But the Council and Chamber had ambitions. A large industrial park was funded, and started filling up very fast. New industry created new jobs. New jobs needed more schools, more shopping, more services. In these situations we could safely figure that for every main industrial full job created, the spin-off would be 4 full-time jobs in the service sector. Sometimes up to 7 jobs, all spin-off factors considered.

Telkwa. http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/cities/telkwa.htmTelkwa was ment to be a main stop over of the Pacific Trunk Railroad, from Montreal to Prince Rupert. But, The planners sat in England somewhere, their maps were not so good. They did not always show hills, mountains and other natural obstructions.  Because of the Bulkley River, and the hill that was not on their map, the railroad station could not be constructed in Telkwa. It was moved to Smithers.  The map and lay out have still  place for many thousands citizens. http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/cities/smithers.htm 

Telkwa however, have a coal mine http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geoscience/PublicationsCatalogue/Fieldwork/Documents/1990/399-406-ryan.pdf,  a traditional coal mine, I could drive up there and purchase a few sacks of coal, take it home, and burn it in my stove or fireplace.

In Telkwa there was a large metal building, from a bankrupt mill of some kind, before my time. Robin … came to me with a suggestion that I felled for, and supported from day one. Produce root vegetables in Bulkley Walley, a fantastic growing area, consisting of old sandy river bottom, perfect for all root crops. Robin got a few farmers involved, and they produced, great crops of carrots, kale, broccoli, cabbage and several other root crops, suitable for warm summers and cold winters. The large wholesalers were not amused at this small co-op that took over one of their traditional markets. Robin did a great job, so did all the other producers, but after a few years, the trade kings broke the back of this small growers co-op. That really hurts, Bulkley Valley can grow some of the finest root crops. But first one must break the big trade monopolies.

Smithers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithers,_British_Columbia

http://uk.britishcolumbia.travel/en-CA/RegionsCities/Smithers.htm

Smithers became the main railroad station, because of a large flat area under the Hudson Bay mountain. From here it was all downhill to Prince Rupert. And it thus quickly became the local and regional service area. 

On my very first day, of this new job, I found myself in Smithers, addressing the City Council, and then the local Chamber of Commerce, and at last, an appeal on the local radio station.

The issue was created before I come to town. To go for a new down town revitalization plan, or not. The merchants had to give some, and to pay some more taxes. The main street would be planted, park benches, wooden storefronts installed, like a Tyrol Village . Smithers was a mountain town. The Hudson Bay Ski area was ok. But with combination with the revitalization of the down town, I could promise to try to get federal grants to build the ski hill into a major resort.

My presentation at City Council was so and so. I was nervous as hell, probably stuttering in Norwegian and English, but I knew the subject, and I was convincing about the positive results.

The speech at the Chamber of Commerce, was really my first public speech. I later have made a lot of public speeches, but I am always nervous as hell. The assembly hall was a dancing floor at a local hotel. In front of me I had just an empty dancing floor. All the guest sat in the back. I could nor get eye contact with any of them. It was a nightmare, I was speaking to a dancing floor. If it was now, I would grab my speech notes, leave my desk, and walk up in front of the group, and deliver my presentation.

I was well prepared, I knew my subject, I had memorized the speech, but fuck, I had nobody to speak to, just an empty floor. I stuttered, sweated, fumbled, worked myself through a well prepared speech, but shaky as hell.

Later in the evening it was the live radio show, one of my first direct radio interviews, no problem, just one person to address, cool.

That same evening we got the result of the business owners vote. YES ! They all wanted the Downtown Revitalization Plan. Smithers have never been the same. The Government liquor store was the firs to rebuild. They build a really nice Tyrolian style store. The main street was not to recognize. They all spruced up the store fronts, and from then on, Smithers was like an European Mountain Village.

The Hudson Bay Ski Mountain got some serious government financing, making it a major destination. A new Hotel got financing, The Hudson Bay Lodge was build, the largest, newest hotel in town, could accommodate any size convention and travel party.

I knew a nice Swede, can’t remember you name, working at Western Pacific Airlines, he actually got daily direct jet flights from Smithers to Vancouver. That was a major step for a small town. That also ment, that when it was too foggy at Prince Rupert, the planes would re-direct to Smithers, and it soon became a major hub in the area.

The other big move I was able to do, was to get the diary moved from Kitimat to Smithers. 25 years earlier Kitimat was established as an Alcan Industry Town. But not a single cow. Not a drop of milk. All the cattle were in The Bulkley Valley, but the diary was built in Kitimat. For the next 25 years, all the milk was trucked to Kitimat for processing, and the back to Smithers for sale.

I managed to stop that insanity, and get a new diary build in Smithers. But the Milk Board is one of the worst “mafia” I have ever worked with. For a long while, all the milk in Bulkley Valley and the Lakes District, as far as Vanderhoof, had to be trucked to Fraser Valley. A few trucks every day. At the same time, several trucks from the Fraser Valley, drove to Prince George to deliver milk from Fraser Valley.

A 10 – 15 hour trip. Each way. Fraser Valley Milk-board. I do not expect that they have changed to the better. I did my best.

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