Chemainus is a well established small town with its original economy mostly based on forest and sea. There was full time tree harvesting and a humongous saw mill. When first I had moved to this area I spent a few winter nights putting in shifts at the green chain. To me this was definitely worse than any type of work I was aware of at the time. At any rate this mill belonged to a small operator in this area (when compared to the big internationals that run the show). The family name was Doman. The first Doman here was Herb. Initially he was a trucker. The US likes to take from Free Trade but never give. As a result the “sought lumber” debate between the USA and Canada has been going on since way back in the 20th century and every time it seems to be settled the US Lobby starts all over again. This has caused some hardship north of the Canada US border and Domans Industries went in with Western Forest Products (WFP). WFP was a partnership of three companies including Domans. When finances became a real mess Domans was completely taken over by WFP. Meanwhile brand new state of the art mills had replaced ancient wooden contraptions like the one I worked in for two nights. The original mill here closed down after dismissing the workforce, and later rebuild after which a very small crew (in comparison to the old saw mill’s crew) was rehired.
Another industry that played somewhat of a role in Chemainus is the mining industry. It dwindled to nothing as resources were as good as depleted and economic extraction was not feasible. With the logging industry boats also played a role. Freighters of course and work boats such as tugboats were very much involved as the tools for organizing and distributing all this timber from our “forests forever”. The boats still are very much part of the scene.
While I have lived here the forest industry has gone from full blast to being a much smaller part of the local economy. Chemainus had to adapt or die. A Chemainus business man Karl Schutz became an inspiring drive behind the necessary rejuvenation plan. Tourists became the new economy. The town’s looks changed Bistros etc became part of the scene and a main attraction was figured out. The idea was to make this town a town of murals. The murals were to depict the area’s history. This was in the seventies. It must have been the next twenty years that saw the appearance of most of today’s murals. Some years ago they were old enough to need restoration which consequently happened. Here are a few of these colossal works of art:
In the days that the old mill made Chemainus a mill town, it was a very close knit community and much of this community structure still exists. A friendly and hospitable people live here and as soon as spring arrives with visitors, Chemainiacs are ready to make these visitors feel welcome and make sure that they leave with very fond memories.
A few links: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2010/04/17/herb-doman-understood-the-challenges-of-the-vancouver-island-logging-business/