By Roy L Hales
For many, the most visible aspect is two cloud-like pillars ascending into the stratosphere. Others principally know Powell River from the BC Ferry terminal, which they use en route to other destinations. I recently explored some of the many faces of Powell River.
The Many Faces Of Powell River
Historically, pulp and paper mills are big polluters. They spew out sulphur dioxide onto the surrounding neighbourhoods. Heavy metals have spilled into the waters. This supposedly changed after British Columbia introduced legislation in 1992, but the stench exuding from many mills is anything but pleasant.
Catalyst Powell River
Is Catalyst Powell River an exception?
According to their 2015 report, the mill generated 43 million kilos of greenhouse gases, 79.6 kilos of particulate matter a day and sent 26,000 tonnes of solid waste to the local landfill.
Yet this is reputedly one of the greenest mills in North America.
One of their intriguing features is $24 million G13 Turbine steam-to-energy generator that pumps out 8 megawatts of electricity most days.
Ferns & Fallers magazine asks, “Is it more green to shut down the mill to half local pollution? Or is it more green to encourage Catalyst Powell River’s continuing transformation, as it represents a way forward – a reproduceable example – for dirtier mills globally to transform as well?”[1. “Papermaker bets on greenification”, FERNS & FALLERS, volume 2, #1, p 24]
The town was built by the Powell River Paper Company. Many of it’s 400 heritage buildings are found within the borders of the original 1910 town plan. By 1981, this was the largest pulp and paper mill in the world.
The Canadian government recognized Powell River’s original townsite as a National Historic District in 1995. This is the only Western Canadian district with such a designation.
The City Of Powell River
Powell River is the central hub of the upper Sunshine Coast. The population is close to 13,000. You can find most amenities (shops, restaurants, the new mall) there.
Inland Lake Provincial Park
My wife and I were more intrigued by the 13 kilometre (8 miles) trail around Inland Lake, on the outskirts of Powell River. One of the local residents we met walked this distance in two hours. We took much longer, there were too any “wow” moments along the way.
It seems premature to talk about the end of our trip as there are more articles in this series to come, but we both entered and left the Sunshine Coast via Powell River.
The view from our room at the Marine Inn is one of my favourite memories. We overlooked the BC Ferry Terminal. So much of my evening was devoted to observing the ebb and flow of ferry traffic.
Top photo Credit: Looking from the “new” Powell River towards the old mill site. Harwood (l) and Savary Islands (center) are visible in the distance – Roy L Hales photo.