LETTER: Time to look at alternatives to McLean Mill, and move it closer to town

McLean Mill is the focus right now of some concern…

To the Editor,

McLean Mill is the focus right now of some concern, seeing it is taking a lot of tax money to keep going, or even stabilize. One idea I have heard is to just shut it down. A new venue could be created much closer to town that would have more spinoff economic benefits for Port itself.

The train is a great thing a good marketing tool for the town, however its just too darn expensive to ride on….Everyone seems to say this….Now if the train had a much simpler and shorter route and was coupled to another attraction closer in, the person, thought a whole new era in interactive tourism could begin.

For example: If there was an interactive logging site, an outdoor live museum, placed down about where the Somass Sawmill yard now is, or even over in the rail yard area not far from it: Then the steam train just ran back and forth between it and the station it in might be a lot less expensive to maintain and operate.

The displays could show donkey engines, steam saws and maybe a small operation set up. There could be a bunkhouse or caboose wagons where tourists could actually stay overnight; perhaps a mess hall with coffees or teas.

Safety equipment and clothing could be provided or rented, and visitors could partake in lumber grading, specs identification, sorting, and other non-dangerous lumber work such as practice setting chokers, form static yarder lines. There are many things that could provide an interesting interactive show. Local businesses could cater to it in many ways.

Of course heritage equipment and steam machinery would be on display and interpreters in period costume could be on hand, similar to Barkerville. This could be a boon for small business in the area and also increase the use of Tyee Landing and Harbour Quay.

Naturally it would mean finding an area, designing what is to go there and how it is to be displayed, and linking it to a shorter train ride. Then a disciplined business plan.

A name like Dockside Camp, or Loggers Landing, or a name from a past enterprise at the location could be used. The point is to use the land down there to make a visible interesting interactive tourist attraction that is actually in Port Alberni—a boatbuilding demonstration could be part of it, as well as many many other things: a blacksmith shop, post and beam construction, log home (shed) building.

There is a lot of potential.

The main point is make it close in—not 10 miles out. Young people and old seem to want amenities, flexibility, online connections, restaurants and a fun atmosphere. Can another similar attraction be studied and evaluated?

Moving machinery, setting up and planning all need to be considered, yet with a positive attitude the area down by Tyee Landing, the train station, etc. could be turned into the new attraction for Port that is more accessible, more marketable, less cost, and more manageable.

Mike Wright,

Port Alberni

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