An aerial shot of the clearing at Barrett Fort, on southern Kaien Island, in early April 2018. (Submitted)

An aerial shot of the clearing at Barrett Fort, on southern Kaien Island, in early April 2018. (Submitted)

Port authority clears land surrounding WWII fort

Barrett Fort was the largest built in Prince Rupert during the WWII — and public access is restricted

Just south of Prince Rupert, World War II structures still stand, but the question now is for how much longer.

Currently, the Prince Rupert Port Authority is clearing the land surrounding the WWII Barrett Fort structures, removing trees and overgrown vegetation as they prepare to begin rock excavation for the connector corridor road and rail sidings between the Fairview Container Terminal and Ridley Island.

When the clearing operation was noticed and photos posted online, there was concern expressed on social media as to the potential fate of — what many are calling — a heritage site. Although public access to the site has been restricted for years, the WWII fort had been a popular place to retrace the footsteps of men long gone.

“Part of why that clearing is happening right now is to ensure that when the rock excavation work begins, that we know exactly where we’re digging into and, as it happens, that area does not impact the structures,” said Ken Veldman, the director of public affairs for the port authority.

The project, Veldman said, is critical for the continued expansion of the terminal and intermodal trade. Once it’s complete, container-related truck traffic will be redirected through the corridor, bypassing Prince Rupert’s downtown core.

READ MORE: New road coming for Fairview Terminal

The first time the land was cleared was 80 years ago.

Phylis Bowman’s book, Second World War Memories, states that between 1937 and 1938, British military officers chose the southern tip of Kaien Island and across the harbour on Digby Island’s southwesterly end to build gun batteries. In 1939, the gun turrets were built — not yet armed with weapons — before the onset of the Second World War.

What came to be known as Barrett Fort, or Second Fort, was the largest station to guard Prince Rupert Harbour.

Barrett Fort was made up of several structures. Sitting further back on Mount Hays is an observation post, outfitted with a six-room planning station. Closer to the water, but camouflaged to passing vessels, were searchlights used to scour the deep, dark waters of Prince Rupert Harbour for enemy vessels. The three gun turrets sit between the mountain and the harbour. Underground storage held ammunition, which would be raised to the surface by a pulley system.

At one point, the men stationed at Barrett Fort built a gymnasium and opened it with a dance party on July 8, 1941. The men from different Canadian regiments would rotate through the fort, where they would stay for six weeks at a time.

When Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Empire of Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, Prince Rupert was identified as a strategic location for protecting Canada’s west coast. The population of the city is estimated to have tripled with the influx of wartime personnel from approximately 7,000 people to nearly 21,000.

READ and WATCH: Rangers restore hidden monument to fallen WWII soldier

Prior to Fairview Terminal’s Phase II expansion, potential impacts of the development were investigated. In the 2012 report, the port authority and CN were aware that Rupertites still visited the historic landmarks, but considered it trespassing on Crown land — and that nothing would be done to protect what is left of the WWII fort.

Veldman told the Northern View that the port’s most recent project isn’t likely to affect the WWII structures.

“It won’t. It’s important to note that while it’s in the vicinity, the rock excavation work is not planned for the specific area that the WWII structures are specifically located.”

The 2012 study, however, states: “Site investigations indicate that five sites are likely to be removed during project construction. These include … the Fort Barrett Searchlights. An additional four sites will potentially be affected.”

Still, the report concludes impact from the port’s activities in the area will be “negligible.” It points to years of damage already done by the railway and the City of Prince Rupert. It determined, in a chart on Page 305 of the document, that any impact on the WWII military fortifications caused by work by the port would be irreversible, yet not significant.

When asked if the Prince Rupert Port Authority has any plans to catalogue what’s there or create a display at the Port Interpretive Centre, Veldman said, “No, we don’t and we never have. For that matter, we don’t currently have any projects being considered that would specifically impact those former military structures.”

He continued that, if the structures were to be impacted, the port wouldn’t do it “under the cover of night.”

Fairview Terminal PhaseII Expansion Project Report.Oct2012 by Newsroom on Scribd

READ MORE: ‘Secret garden’ undisturbed by potential breakbulk facility

Second World WarWorld War II

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Underground storage held ammunition at Barrett Fort. (Jean Eiers-Page photo)

Underground storage held ammunition at Barrett Fort. (Jean Eiers-Page photo)

Maps from 2013 show the gun range from Barrett Fort (left) and the different guns stationed near Prince Rupert during WWII (right). (Submitted)

Maps from 2013 show the gun range from Barrett Fort (left) and the different guns stationed near Prince Rupert during WWII (right). (Submitted)

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where one employee is still currently isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
54 positive COVID-19 cases associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

There’s been a two-person increase in positive cases since Tuesday (Dec. 1)

K-J Millar/The Northern View
8 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northern Health Authority

Since Nov. 27, there have been 191 new cases reported in NHA

Five to six years of log accumulation at Diana Lake Provincial Park is currently being cleaned up by a District of Port Edward and Parks BC partnership. (Photo: Supplied by District of Port Edward)
Diana Lake Provincial Park clean up underway

Port Edward District spearheaded the park clean up securing $80,000 in funds from Ridley Terminal

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Most Read