The Many Faces Of Powell River

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

The pulp mill’s woodsy aroma was surprisingly pleasant.

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

The pulp mill, as seen from the residential area – Roy L Hales photo

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.

Looking down Ash street towards Catalyst Powell River – Roy L Hales photo

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 Rodmay Hotel (1911), on Ash street, is the oldest commercial building in Powell River. There are a number of historical photographs in the lobby – by David Stanley via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
The Patricia Theatre (1928) in the historic Townsite district of Powell River, British Columbia, claims to be the oldest continuously operating cinema and vaudeville business in Canada by David Stanley via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
The Mill’s Manager’s house by futurestreet via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
ONe of the houses on Ash street, built in 1931, with the mill behind – Roy L Hales photo

The City Of Powell River

Looking back from the ferry terminal area in Powell River – Roy L Hales photo

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.

The author on one of the many boardwalks, looking out across Inland Lake
The trail around Inland Lake – Roy L Hales photo
Viewpoint on Inland Lake – Roy L Hales photo
Roy L Hales photo

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.

The BC Ferry parking lot below my window – Roy L Hales photo
The Queen of Nanaimo arriving at Powell River on May 8, 2017, as seen from our room in the Marine Inn- Roy L Hales photo
A last look at Powell River – Roy L Hales photo
Catalyst Powell River as seen from the Queen of Nanaimo – Roy L Hales Photo

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.

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