“Happy anniversary, Port Alberni!”
Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser’s pronouncement during the kickoff to Port Alberni’s centennial brought a round of applause from close to 800 people gathered at the Alberni District Secondary School Auditorium on Sunday.
“The Twin Cities that began really with some rivalry is a good story to reflect on,” Fraser said. “Because learning from our history makes a better future.”
Port Alberni Mayor John Douglas reflected on what his counterpart, first mayor Arthur Waterhouse, faced in 1912, as the city perched on the cusp of incorporation.
Waterhouse came to Port Alberni to help build a wharf at the end of Argyle Street, so ships would no longer be at the mercy of the tides in the Somass River. Another pioneer, George Bird, moved his sawmill closer to Waterhouse’s wharf despite some people telling him he was crazy.
But Bird had a vision back then, and it is up to the present-day council to develop its own vision, Douglas said. Where pioneers looked to the end of Argyle to develop, perhaps the next place for expansion is across the Alberni Inlet, he surmised.
While Port Alberni and Alberni expanded their boundaries 100 years ago, Port Alberni now is looking west to Sproat Lake and northwest to Beaver Creek. The city could be looking at geographical areas and new boundaries for the future.
That history “gives us a great opportunity to understand our history and use our history as a learning tool,” Douglas said.
Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, awarded the city a $75,000 grant to help make arts and culture part of the centennial.
“One hundred years; that’s a pretty big milestone,” she said. “B.C. communities come in all shapes and sizes. That is what reflects diversity in our province,” Chong said while commending the volunteers who have put the centennial celebrations together.
While Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney was unable to attend, his wife, Helen, praised those who are looking after the city’s history. “Port Alberni is fortunate that others with foresight have preserved through the IHS the McLean Mill, steam train and the port,” she said.
“This is just the beginning. You have a who year of celebrations coming.”