The lumber industry has been the lifeblood of Slocan, B.C., for more than four decades, but the municipality and its residents are now hoping to redefine their own identity, rezoning the waterfront left behind by a demolished sawmill.
Springer Creek Forest Products was the biggest employer in the Kootenay town of less than 300 people until its closure in 2013 and demolition the year after. Following passage of a bylaw in late July, the Village of Slocan is purchasing the mill's nearly 20-acre lakeside land for $1.5 million, subject to the province's approval by Sept. 15.
Should the deal be successful, Slocan residents will decide how the promenade will be used.
Slocan Mayor Jessica Lunn said it's important for people to have a say in their own future.
"The whole community is hungry for a conversation of what comes next for the community or what are the possibilities for this piece of property," Lunn said.
Huge development potential of waterfront
Springer Creek Forest Products initially put its land up for sale for more than $2 million, but several offers to purchase fell through. With the property's price drop after one of the firm's owners died in mid-June, Slocan council convened an emergency meeting and passed a resolution in early July to buy the industrial land.
The village will have to borrow about $840,000 and increase taxes by about five per cent. But Lunn is confident in the municipality's finances. She thinks it's worth the money to put the land back into people's hands.
"It has huge social, environmental and economic potential for the community," said Lunn. "It's such an important piece of property for the future that public sector initial investment really makes sense."
Village residents want rezoning
The mill site is legally still private property, but locals use it regularly. Council already transformed parts of waterfront into a white sand beach with a public dock.
Long-time Slocan resident Mark Krastel owns a cabin on the lake. He wants the promenade to be kept pristine and reserved for recreational purposes.
"[I] don't want to see a marina or anything like that on the lake," Krastel said.
Resident Brenda Brown is hoping the land will be re-purposed for parks and housing.
"We don't want heavy industry here," she said. "This [Slocan Lake] is one of the last clean lakes."