Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Future is bright for Port Edward: Mayor Bjorndal to Rotary

District of Port Edward Mayor Knut Bjorndal provided the
Rotarians of the North Coast a short history lesson and a snapshot of the future
for his community last month

Port Edward Mayor Knut Bjorndal took the members of Prince Rupert Rotary on a trip back in time last month, along with a glimpse to the road ahead for the community on the sunny side of the North Coast Mountains.

The District's top elected official was speaking at the October luncheon for the service club and provided the members with an update on some of the plans that are coming together due South of Prince Rupert.

His opening remarks included a short overview of the growth of Port Edward from the mid 1880's through to the shutdown of the Pulp Mill, a period mixed with boom times and challenging times for the community.

He highlighted the growth of the thriving canneries and the settlements that they spawned, the arrival of the US Army during the Second World War, the growth of the fishing industry and the development of the pulp mill of the 1950's.

Making note of the incorporation of the District  in 1966, Mr. Bjorndal also paid tribute to the work of the first mayor of the community Allan Sheppard, noting that his vision is still relevant in the District to this day.

He also tackled some of the challenging times and the impact that the decline of the fishery and the closure of the pulp mill had on his community, noting for the audience that they were the same economic factors that had impacted on Prince Rupert.

Taking some co-ownership of the vision of Charles Hays from the last century, the District's Mayor also made note of the importance of the Port of Prince Rupert to the region and how the District of Port Edward would be developing strategies in the New Year which they believe will expand the industrial/commercial base in the community.

"The last 25 years of the 20th century was doom and gloom for this region. However, Port Edward and Prince Rupert are seeing a resurgence, the vision of Charles Hays has finally arrived. We need to embrace this vision as the world has changed and there is no going back"

As for the future the need to address the rail crossings in the community appear to be high on the mind of the Mayor and Council with Mr. Bjorndal noting how the marine docks and facilities on the waterfront are separated from the townsite by the rail line and how they hope to mitigate some of those negative effects.

"We have some challenges to overcome in one goal. Access to waterfront development is severely hampered by rail traffic, only to increase over time. The Port Edward harbour authority which operates all the docks in this region, has the only two drive down docks in this region, in Port Edward. They are key to the remaining commercial and recreational fleets for maintenance and loading. They also provide the owners of boat maintenance services access to do repair work. Rail traffic threatens some existing businesses, but we should be able to mitigate some of the negative effects."

Mr. Bjorndal noted for his audience that working with Regional District and Prince Rupert will serve to enhance the ability to compete for opportunities related to Port and Industrial development, observing how further development on Ridley Island, South Kaien Island and Watson Island is in the best interests of the region.

The Mayor also reminded the audience that Port Edward currently supplies water and sewer services to Ridley Island from its infrastructure and how those services can be expanded to meet any growing demand around the District.

He also put some focus on future planning, with the Port Edward Council looking to grow the population of the community, with commercial and housing among their themes for future expansion.

"Growing the population in Port Edward is a goal which will enable us to attract small service companies such as restaurants, upgraded store and other businesses.  To attract people, we are developing a housing strategy to cater to new people coming to this region. This is partly driven by the Port growth. The Port Authority sees over 5,000 people coming to the region in the next 5-10 years. Our motto "clean, neat and green" and our quaint rural atmosphere makes us an ideal bedroom community close to Prince Rupert"

Other notes explored in his presentation to Rotary were thoughts on the District's infrastructure base which was considered in good shape and to source funding for continued work at the North Pacific Cannery Historical site, with the District working on an initiative that with the help of Regional District will lead to securing more long term permanent funding.

Recreation development is also an area where the District will be putting some attention towards, with Port Edward working with BC Parks to coordinate efforts at Diana Lake Park, with Bjorndal making note of a recent 80,000 dollar donation from Ridley Terminals that went towards clean up and restoration work there.

He also outlined that the District has plans for Kloya Bay, which he observed was a "gem in the rough", noting how it had once been used as a popular attraction in the past, with the District looking towards a vision of returning it to is former glory, towards that the District has plans to outline the plans for that recreation area in the near future.

You can explore the full presentation to Rotary from the District of Port Edward Facebook page.

For more items of note on Port Edward see our archive page here.

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