Fading towns of coastal British Columbia
August 18, 2009 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Land's End: Photographer and writer Christopher Grabowski documents the fading industrial towns of the British Columbia coast. Interview, and some of his other Photo Essays at Geist Magazine.
posted by Rumple (11 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I really like his photos. Thanks!
posted by mudpuppie at 2:01 PM on August 18, 2009

Poignant stories and photos. I lived in a resource-dependent town on Vancouver Island for a couple of years, so this hits close to home. Thanks.
posted by smably at 2:18 PM on August 18, 2009

for a long time, i figured it was good news that these towns were going in the toilet. everybody knew the forest industry was going to flame out and disappear, but nobody cared. it was all about the money. as an environmentalist, i figured a complete collapse was good for the environment, and would wipe out the gold-rush mentality.

but then i saw what shallow, low-paying jobs do to a community that turns itself into a tarted-up caricature to attract wealthy tourists from away. i wish the forest industry would come back; that people could have healthy, good-paying jobs that actually produce something of value for a legitimate purpose. and now that we're far enough along that it could (trees grow fast here, even though the giants are gone for good), we're still stuck with a government and cultural prejudice (progressive organic agrarians, these loggers are not) that would rather sell off land for urban sprawl or ship raw logs out of country than learn the obvious lessons.

this is a cycle that will repeat.
posted by klanawa at 3:10 PM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

See, with the hot summers and cold winters we have been having in Washington, I figure BC is where the old Washington climate is headed. That means Washingtonians are too, probably, and I would guess that you'll see a real estate boom gather steam over the next twenty years east and north of Vancouver. Maybe not as far north as Ocean Falls, but I would guess the remoteness of BC is destined to lessen greatly in my lifetime.
posted by mwhybark at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2009

My mother grew up in Ocean Falls in the 50s and 60s, so she'll be interested in these.

Ocean Falls people have reunions every year or two where they all get together -- somewhere that's not Ocean Falls, naturally, with one recent exception of a camping trip into the Falls arranged for the 2000 reunion -- and catch up, reminisce, etc. They have a listserv, as well, for planning events and general conversation. It's interesting how they've remained a community even in the absence of their actual community.

My favorite story that my mom tells about her days in Ocean Falls is about Fairy Rock. Fairy Rock was a large rock on the shore between the main town and 'the valley' which was, I guess, as close to a suburb as a town of 4000 people gets, where her family lived. The rock had a large crevice in it, and it was customary for children passing Fairy Rock to check it and see if there might be a coin or two hidden in the crevices, left there, you see, by the Fairies (or older brothers and sisters who happen to walk home from school a little faster and got there first, one of the two). But when I first heard that story, I assumed it was Ferry Rock, since I knew the Ferry was the only way in and out of town, and I racked my 8 year old brain for the longest time trying to figure out why the Ferry Captains would go around leaving money in rocks.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:39 PM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

About 5 years ago (or so), there was a whole mining town north of Prince Rupert for sale. Most of the buildings, including a shopping mall, bowling alley and hospital, were in pretty good shape, and as I recall, the asking price was around 6 million dollars.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty cheap.
posted by Relay at 6:05 PM on August 18, 2009

Kitsault. I remember it because, well, because I posted it.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:17 PM on August 18, 2009

Kitsault, yeah, that's the place jacquilynne. Wonder what ever happened to it?
posted by Relay at 9:47 PM on August 18, 2009

mwhybark; I've thought about that possibility too. Only, though the climate may change, the sunlight available in winter is still damn little up North!

The water temperature in parts of Desolation Sound this summer (about half-way to Alert Bay from Seattle) was 77 deg F!
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:12 PM on August 18, 2009

Beautiful photos, poignant article.

I did some work this past year with a few struggling forestry-dependent communities up here in northern BC, and I often privately wondered if some of them would become ghost towns soon. It was sad to see the deterioration between visits, when the visits were only a few months apart.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:28 AM on August 19, 2009

My recollection is that Kitsault was sold to some millionaire who is hoping to develop it into an eco-tourism restort, but in the meantime, he leases it to movie companies as a set.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:14 AM on August 19, 2009

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