Visitors who travel to Port Edward to explore coast’s history at The North Pacific Cannery may also witness the efforts it takes to preserve a heritage site.
The cannery offers more than a blast from the past and mountains-meet-ocean scenery, it has also become a site where job seekers can get hands-on training.
The province announced in late April more than $233,900 in new funding to support 16 apprentices in a 38 week work experience program known as the Job Creation Partnership.
The apprentices are training to be construction craft workers, bridgemen pile drivers, or carpenters under the mentorship of four journeymen carpenters.
The cannery has had 48 participants go through the Job Creation Partnership over the past three years with $335,668 in funding from the province.
Conservation manager Steve Milum said the province’s funding covers the cost of the journeymen trainers and the cost of personal protective equipment and transportation for the workers — the cannery is a 22 km drive from Prince Rupert.
Through Milum’s efforts he’s found more partner funders to provide materials and to cover additional costs for the work program.
“I see subtle changes on a weekly basis — to the buildings, and to the workers — that accumulate into large changes to the site and to the individuals over several months,” Milum said.
There are four main components to the restoration project including rebuilding the working dock, a 1923 addition beside the dock and the reduction plant wall along the water side of the building, as well as white washing the net loft and machine shop. Milum said they have worked with a heritage consultant to find a stain that replicates white wash but with better durability.
Two of the funding partners are from the Prince Rupert area and have donated materials for the restoration. Broadwater Industries has given 60 piles for fixing the dock. Aluma Systems donated scaffolding gear. Participants being trained at the cannery will be a shoe-in for the company after getting hands-on work with their gear.
Another layer to the project is that some project participants have their own history intertwined with the cannery.
Kirkland Gladstone is one of them. He’s preserving the cannery where his father once worked. When he was born, his parents lived in a place called Sunnyside, in between the North Pacific Cannery and Cassiar Cannery.
“My father started working here when he was 13-years-old and later on he started taking fish to this plant after collecting them from the small gillnetters,” Gladstone said.
A couple weeks ago, he brought his father to the cannery to show him the work he’s been doing.
“We’re making scaffolding to take off these old beams and put up new beams. I’m doing stuff I haven’t really done before. I’ve been a fisherman most of my life. I’ve worked for construction companies but I’ve never done this. This is amazing,” he said.
The Job Creation Partnership program started in March and will be completed by mid-November. Milum aims to have the crew finish part of the working dock by the time Port Edward celebrates its 50th anniversary on the site in June.
“The site represents a huge part of the region’s history and therefore supports the local community through preserving its identity and pride while acting as a major tourism draw to the area, so our efforts build and restore the community as well,” Milum said.