LETTER: Port Alberni’s industrial land can be reclaimed

Clearly it is possible that Port Alberni could convert these lands to a lovely park…

To the Editor,

I was delighted to watch Kevin Wright’s video concerning the industrial lands on the waterfront of Port Alberni. particularly the Mill site. As a person, like many, who dreams that one day the mill will go away and the waterfront will be developed into something else, I was quickly enlightened as to why this is not possible. The video is playing in Kevin Wrights wonderful Steam Punk Caffe’ up top of 3rd avenue. A space from which He has championed entrepreneurship and uptown revitalization for the last ten years.

Kevin Wright’s video, well-researched with maps and vintage photos and comparisons and historical information and details from those who actually built the mill, seemingly proves nothing can be done. He reaffirms at the video’s end that these lands must always remain home to heavy industry. There is no equivocation or variance.

Fortunately, after digesting the depressing reality this video presents, a little voice in me said, “Where’s the other point of view?”

There have been so many times in all of our lives when we are presented with strong evidence that something is so, can’t be changed and that’s that. Yet there are so many times when facts, research and opinions become disproven, whether battling cancer, or fighting an injustice or just managing to get through any situation. Sometimes we do it! That, it could be argued, is human nature.

I wonder what Kevin Wright would have said to a video ten years ago that proposed the uptown area of Port Alberni was unsalvagable, unchangeable, always destined to be a place of crumbling vacant buildings, drug addicts, and economically unviable?

The Empress Hotel was build on marshlands and pilings; buildings all over the world are built in similar terrain. Port Alberni’s marshlands were filled in many years ago, and have become terra firma. Building and engineering science has progressed worldwide with huge expertise on converting industrial spaces into useful and vibrant alternatives. Even Chernobol, after the worst nuclear accident in history, is now slowly being reclaimed. It is amazing how the earth heals itself, and the creatures come back after polluting events. Not that we should foster them by any means.

This Kevin Wright video has nothing positive to say about any attempt to do anything with these lands other than leave them alone. A critical mind might say part of this video’s message is aimed at weakening the platforms of other mayoral candidates platforms, who speak of a future for Port Alberni’s waterfront which precludes heavy industry. To paint them as dreamers. Unfortunately, it only covers one half of the story.

Clearly it is possible that Port could convert these lands to a lovely park, similar to Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, with trails and only a few amenities.

Perhaps first it could be left in fallow to grow over with a few bicycle and walking tails going through it down by the water. Something very interesting might develop in the unused buildings, such as market or art space, that would be great for locals and visitors alike.

In short, one should not give up when presented with what seems overwhelming evidence of something being not possible. Its often the case that it is very possible with a different attitude and enough support.

No one is saying condos and urban development will instantly replace the mill. However, bit by bit, land can be reclaimed and natural growth may be encouraged. Slowly, the topography can be changed if people put their minds to it. A hundred square feet at a time is a good place to begin.

Perhaps Kevin would be kind enough to produce a new video showing the advances in engineering and building and reclamation processes that might be employed to revitalize this area and enable change to take place—including some of the many similar successful projects from around the world.

Michael Wright,

Port Alberni

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