Showcasing all that can be done with the wood products being produced in this area and offering space for visiting researchers to come up with ideas for the future of forestry, the City of Quesnel’s new Forestry Innovation Centre opened Sept. 18.
In kicking off the grand opening reception, Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said this new centre was made possible by “a lot of guts and determination by a lot of people,” and he particularly thanked Erin Robinson, the City’s Forestry Initiatives Manager, and Taddea Kunkel, the Forestry Initiatives Co-ordinator and the City’s grant writer.
The Forestry Innovation Centre, located on the second floor of City Hall, features offices and research space and many examples of different wood products from the local area, which are showcased in the furniture and on the walls of the centre.
“What you see represented in this room is a partnership between ourselves and industry and our artisans and our community and our contractors and our community,” said Simpson. “The intention of this centre is to become a focal point for our desire as a community … we want to see our forest sector re-invigorated, re-invented and re-purposed. In many cases, when you track the history of natural resource communities when their base economy starts to fail, the natural reaction is to turn your back on it. That doesn’t do justice to the contribution that base economy has done. In the last term, Quesnel City Council made a very deliberate decision that we were going to do diversification work … but we also made a deliberate decision to continue to be a forest-dependent community forever — because the forests can be forever, and extraction of value from those forests can be forever, and the jobs and the benefits to our community from that sustainable resource can be forever as well.”
In May 2017, the City started a Forestry Think Tank process, and Simpson says since then, they have done a lot of work around trying to think about how the landscape could be managed differently than it is today so it isn’t as susceptible to large-scale disturbances and it can be stabilized.
“We’re now turning our attention to the kinds of innovation that needs to occur in our manufacturing sector and in the markets that we need to get into,” said Simpson. “This centre is a place to locate that thinking and innovation. It’s a place to attract some of the investment that we hope to see happen in the research and development, and to date, before we even opened the Innovation Centre, we’ve had queries from Laval University and UBC, we have a Finnish delegation here today, so we’ve already started to get an interest by the very fact that we’ve built this Innovation Centre, and that’s what we hope to grow. We hope this to be a place where people can experience what is possible with wood and see what is possible with wood in the future.”
Doug Donaldson, the provincial Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, was in Quesnel for the grand opening, and he called the centre “a real shining light in the interior of B.C. about how we can do things differently in forestry.”
“We have to re-think about training for the forest sector, the jobs for the future, whether it’s on the management side or in the production side of the kind of products we see here — and the kind of products we see here are maximizing value over maximizing volume, and that’s definitely the direction we need to head,” he said. “That’s our focus as government is the kind of products that are on display here. We always know there will be an important role for the dimensional lumber sector in forestry, and that’s what traditionally we’ve been built on, but we know there’s fewer merchantable logs in the forest, and we’ve got to do more with what we have and ensure we maximize value for every log that’s brought out — and that also involves the training side. This facility is amazing, the way it highlights that, and I know it’s going to be a very cool place to be, and there are going to be people clambering for those offices, I’m sure, in the future.”
The centre cost about $160,000, and Simpson says it mostly came out of the City’s building reserve.