EDITORIAL: McLean Mill’s fragile history needs special care

Every little piece is important

A building was demolished by mistake at McLean Mill National Historic Park, and it could threaten the 20-year-old national heritage status of the park.

The mill received its heritage status because it was a complete sawmill with accompanying village. It is “a rare, surviving example of an early- to mid-20th-century logging and lumber operation in B.C.,” according to the mill’s statement of significance.

Every little piece was important, no matter if it was one of the McLeans’ homes, or a small first aid shack, as is the case of the building in question.

As Jean McIntosh, former executive director for the Alberni Valley Museum, noted in a comment on our website, “Like a jigsaw puzzle, every piece is important to tell the whole story, our history. Once we lose a piece of our history, we can’t replace it.”

The people that are mandated to protect our heritage at the mill site have done some amazing work in sprucing up the site, attracting new events and thinking outside the box for bringing in people—think campsites and welcoming the 5-Acre Shaker music festival. But they must also take greater care in protecting that heritage, especially the pieces that are within the boundary of the national historic site.

There should have been checks and balances in place to ensure the integrity of the site was maintained, even if the building was falling down. The McLean Mill Society is a relatively new board, and therefore more care should have been taken in asking more experienced people how to deal with the first aid shack.

City Councillor Ron Paulson, after taking a trip to McLean Mill on the weekend and hearing that Port Alberni’s steam donkey is the only working example in North America, said “when I heard that, it really struck me how fragile our history is and how easy it is to lose it.”

This was a hard lesson for the McLean Mill Society to learn. We hope it hasn’t threatened the site’s national historic status and that all are able to move forward in a more purposeful manner—together.

— Alberni Valley News

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