On Saturday, Oct. 28 at noon, the City of Port Alberni will celebrate the 50th anniversary of amalgamation—the moment the ‘Twin Cities’ of Alberni and Port Alberni merged into one large city.
The two communities of Alberni to the north and Port Alberni to the south incorporated within 13 months of each other, and were connected by a single road—the Gertrude Street/ Stamp Avenue corridor. The cities were built on each side of the natural dividing line of Rogers Creek, however, they were worlds apart according to their respective residents.
There are still people present who remember living in ‘Alberni’ or ‘Port Alberni’, and it’s ironic that 50 years on, the division is still there, albeit faint. We hope in time that will fade altogether, with both sides of the city working together for mutual benefit. History, and local historian Jan Peterson, says this can be a difficult task.
The first time amalgamation was discussed, according to historic reports, was around 1943—and it was about water, utilities—and the confusion over two cities with similar names, within kilometres of each other. The arguments weren’t strong enough, however, and discussions died.
In the early 1960s, with water again at the forefront, the issue of amalgamating government services was introduced—and failed—again, with both cities spending millions of dollars building two water systems. In 1963, both cities finally realized it would be their benefit to work together on a number of initiatives, and amalgamation was back on the table.
While those supporting amalgamation said money wasn’t the sole reason for the cities to merge, the late Fred Bishop—mayor of Alberni in the 1960s—said prosperity in the region was a good enough reason for him. Author and historian Jan Peterson in her book Twin Cities: Alberni—Port Alberni quotes Bishop as saying ‘I am optimistic about the future but not if we continue as two cities. There was nothing wrong with having two cities 50 years ago, but industrial growth has changed the picture.’
Politicians in both cities worked for nearly four years to bring amalgamation to fruition, and it is this work we will celebrate on the weekend.
Fifty years later, water again has a starring role in amalgamation talk—this time between Port Alberni and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District. Only time will tell whether 50 years from now we’re celebrating another expansion.
— Alberni Valley News