The City of Port Alberni wants to see an historical landmark return.
A carved cedar sign, 25 feet wide by 11 feet high, has been stored in the city’s Public Works Yard for the past few years. The sign dates back to the 1980s, when the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce moved into their new offices on the Alberni Highway.
A fundraising campaign was organized by the chamber at the time, and hundreds of people donated funds to what would become the “Focal Point Sign.” Local artist Kim Schroeder designed the sign, which encompasses the history and activities of the Alberni Valley, while Elmar Schultes was hired to carve it. When the sign was erected, a bronze plaque, emblazoned with the names of all contributors, was mounted on the face of the sign’s concrete footing.
However, when the Chamber of Commerce built a new visitor’s centre on the highway in 2011, the sign was taken down and put into storage. It was stored over the years at the Port Alberni Port Authority and Western Forest Products, until the chamber donated it to the City of Port Alberni in 2015 and it was moved to the Public Works Yard for repairs.
In the last few years, city council has discussed putting the sign up at Millstone Park on Victoria Quay, but this comes with a steep price tag to construct a foundation for it to sit on.
The topic of the focal point sign came up again at a meeting of council on Monday, April 27.
“I remember when Kim Schroeder designed this sign, and I would like to see it go back up,” said Councillor Cindy Solda. “A lot of the public would like to see it go back up.”
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed.
“It’s never really to me been a [welcome] sign,” she said. “It doesn’t really welcome you to Port Alberni. But it is a beautiful piece of art that we should be very proud of. I would love to see it reinstalled in our community in some way.”
The city will be seeking input from the public about potential locations to reinstate the sign. Some potential locations include Millstone Park, McLean Mill, city hall, Canal Waterfront Park, the Rollin Arts Centre and the Chamber of Commerce.
“[The sign] was lost in just a drive-by where it was located previously,” suggested Coun. Ron Paulson. “It needs to be located where people can actually get out of their vehicles and enjoy the artwork.”
There is still a price tag. The sign can either be attached to an existing concrete structure (at a cost of $10,000), or the city could construct a new foundation (at a cost of $40,000). Although the sign has been refurbished by public works staff, it will also need a fresh coat of finish prior to installation (approximately $2,000).
“This is probably a sign that needs to be refinished every second year,” said Paulson.
Also on Monday, council requested some cost estimates and design concepts for a new welcome sign. A report of the findings will be brought to a later meeting of council.