Working waterfront provides employment

Jackie Carmichael / Westerly News
June 4, 2014 12:00 AM

If you ask Tony Winters, there doesn't need to be a conflict between a working waterfront that provides jobs and a beautiful view.

The longtime Alberni Valley resident operates Winters Holdings, providing a hinge in the flow of wood to mills - and jobs and more jobs.

If a working waterfront attracts more industry, all boats will rise with the tide, Winters believes.

"The tax base, some of it's coming from us. If more jobs are being created, there will be more people paying taxes in the city," he said.

Winters and four staffers bring in the logs from waterfront booms out of Sarita, and from the nearby dryland log sort, then haul them off to mills.

"We're probably moving 50,000 cubic metres of wood a year," he said.

That would translate to over 1.3 million cubic feet of wood in a year. "That's a lot of wood," he said.

The work done by Winters Holdings at the waterfront translates to 182 direct jobs in the forest and at mills, he said. While some of those jobs are at mills over the Hump, at places like Errington, Cedar and Riverside, some of the workers in those places live in the Alberni Valley too, he said.

He operates with a month-tomonth lease on the City of Port Alberni's lot to the right of Canal Beach, the one the Port Authority is going to rent out - and he's hoping to get a longtime lease on a couple hundred feet of the property. There's room for longterm big buildings and other businesses, he said.

The wood industry isn't what it used to be, he acknowledged.

"Port Alberni was built on the logging industry. I know there's getting to be fewer and fewer woodworking jobs, but if we can hang onto them. The forest industry is not what it used to be, but if we can, hang on as change happens, we can adapt to change," he said.

"Everyone is adapting to what's going on now. There's a little bit of export - not as big as it used to be, but we're still hanging on to the jobs," Winters said.

That change, for a guy who has "been in the woods [his] whole life," means moving over to make a bit of room at Canal Beach for residents seeking a spot where the view can be enjoyed.

And why not? The working waterfront is a picturesque thing, he said.

"The park part of it is a good idea. People want to come down and watch the water, it's

soothing to look at - watch the tugboats doing their work, see the big ships coming in and out - and that goes right back to the logging industry," he said.

Winters sees a quest for a shipbuilding industry and the Port Alberni Port Authority's bid for an LNG container port as great ideas, a touch of diversity for what has been, for much of a century, a one-industry town.

"The way I see it, this big facility wants to put in containers, that's a huge thing for this Island. It will be a big hub... we are on the West Coast, it makes more sense to drop it here, rail them up and down the Island. It would be great to have some more different industries here," he said.

That said, the forest industry runs in Winters' bloodline.

Winters' father was a faller, his father's father was a faller. (His great-grandfather was a Ukrainian immigrant who had booked passage on the Titanic, but gave his ticket to someone else - but that's another story.) Winters worked eight years at the plywoods, 35 years in the wood industry.

Once a Ucluelet resident, Winters has lived in the Alberni Valley for 28 years.

He said many people don't stop to consider the work that goes on down at the waterfront, and the jobs related to it.

"Nobody knows what we're doing down there - it's always the other side," he said.

He sees the Alberni Valley as one of the best places to raise a family.

"I've spent my life here, raised all my kids here," Winters said.

The Valley is wide enough to balance environmental considerations with the natural resources, he said.

"We could co-exist. Why shouldn't we?" he asked. "Everyone can co-exist, if we all get along."

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