This week I was invited to Kitimat to participate in the grand opening of the Delta Spirit Lodge, a cruise ship moored at the Rio Tinto Alcan dock that will provide housing for approximately 450 workers.
While the ship itself was quite spectacular and a site to behold as a solution to worker housing, two things that also caught my attention during my whirl-wind trip to my childhood home were how much things had changed and just how quickly those changes were taking place.
For those who may not have made the turn down Highway 37 in the past several months, you would almost have to see it to believe it.
As soon as you get past the Skeena Landing building, which has undergone major renovations, you’ll see the trees have been cleared to make room for a lodge to be constructed by the PTI Group. Keep moving south, past the airport, and there is another large clearing with Atco trailers beginning to line the horizon — the start of a 450-person work camp for the Pacific Trail Pipeline that will flow liquefied natural gas to the proposed Kitimat LNG terminal at Bisch Cove.
The rest of the trip to Kitimat is fairly familiar, unless you count the multitude of new billboard signs along the highway advertising everything from engineering firms to apartment rentals to telecommunication options.
Driving past the Hirsch Creek bridge and up near the cemetery, the entry to the town of Kitimat, the true impact of potential development becomes abundantly clear. The trees behind the cemetery have been completely logged to make room for one of three new subdivisions. From the lookout point you can see the cruise ship at the dock and the work camp that houses hundreds of modernization workers and the drive down the hill gives you a perspective on a second new subdivision and land cleared for another PTI Lodge to accommodate up to 2,100 workers.
That is to say nothing of the two new hotels ready to begin construction.
It’s a testament to the impact industrial development can have on a community and, perhaps, a glimpse into what awaits the North Coast in the very near future.