Farmland Commission Grants Exclusion of McLean Mill National Historic Site – Port Alberni Valley News

A new decision from the Agricultural Lands Commission (ALC) means that public events can continue to take place at the McLean Mill National Historic Site.

The ALC has agreed to exclude part of McLean Mill from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which will allow non-agricultural use of the site.

The City of Port Alberni received a Notice of Non-Compliance from the ALC in 2020 after a public complaint pointed out that McLean Mill – which was located in the ALR – was being used for business ventures outside the scope of a National Historic Site (including weddings, camping, and other events).

The city sent a request for non-agricultural use to the ALC, but it was denied.

The Island Committee of the ALC determined that the town’s operations were not “an appropriate use of ALR land” as long as the McLean factory remained in the ALR.

In response, the city banded together and demanded that part of McLean Mill be removed from the ALR.

A new decision by the LAC Islands Committee agrees that the area should be excluded from the RLA due to the site’s historic use as a sawmill, its current use as a National Historic Site and its “limited potential” for soil-based agriculture.

Due to the number of roads, buildings and equipment on the property, the committee adds that there is also a “limited area available” for non-soil farming.

The decision states that “the land was exposed to many years of soil contamination due to the operation of the sawmill which preceded the creation of the ALR”.

McLean Mill was established in the 1920s but ceased operations as a sawmill in 1965. In 1989 it was designated a National Historic Site by the federal government. The steam sawmill, once operated as a tourist attraction, has not been in operation for several years, although activities have taken place on the grounds surrounding the historic building.

For the past two years, the plant site has been operated by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said in a press release that the new decision will allow the chamber to continue operating McLean Mill.

“We want to thank the chamber for their innovation and perseverance during these difficult times,” she said. “We are happy to now have the certainty to move forward and are proud to be able to present this incredible historic site to our community and our visitors.”

The Jake Leyenaar Hatchery (approximately 1.3 hectares of the McLean Mill property) will remain in the ALR.

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McLean MillPort Alberni

Amalia H. Mercado