As part of our Estuary Stewardship, Project Watershed has committed to the restoration of the Field Sawmill site. We have been given a name for the site by the K’ómoks First Nation and are now calling it Kus-kus-sum. Our vision is to create vibrant and productive habitat and connect it to Hollyhock flats, which is adjacent to the site and one of the most productive areas in the Estuary. It’s a big job and it’s going to take a lot of work, we hope you will join us in creating this legacy. On this page you can follow our progress through blogs posts and donate to this cause.
Signs of Abundance Tour – The information on this page complements that which appears on the sign that has recently been erected north of the Courtenay Marina on the Riverway Walk. To go to the map of all the signs in this series click here. For more information on salt marsh habitat, the habitat we will be reestablishing at the Kus Kus Sum site visit the Macdonald Wood Park page.
Project Watershed, K’ómoks First Nation announce deal to purchase, restore former Field Sawmill site
Project Watershedand the K’ómoks First Nation have reached an agreement with Interfor to purchase and restore the former Field sawmill site on the Courtenay River near the 17th street bridge.
“After several years of negotiations, we are pleased to announce that we have an accepted offer to purchase the property from Interfor,” stated Tim Ennis, Director for Project Watershed. “Project Watershed, the K’ómoks First Nation and Interfor are all extremely excited to see this project take a positive step forward, but now it is time for the heavy lifting to start.”
Got bats? Kus-kus-sum does! On Monday, July 22nd Project Watershed Directors were joined by Councillor Doug Hillian, Mayor Bob Wells and their families for a tour of the Kus-kus-sum property hosted by the Cumberland Bat Program. Tim Ennis, Project Manager for the Kus-kus-sum project, is also the co-founder of the Cumberland Bat Project (CBP) along […]
The original Fields Mill was started in 1947 on the current site of Arden Elementary school. The Comox Rd site was cleared of trees in the late 1940’s and the mill moved its operation to the Courtenay River location, below the 17th Street Bridge in 1949. The Fields family retired the mill in 1969 selling it to Errol Zinck and Bill Phillips, two employees at the time (“A Look Back into The History of The Comox Valley, Field’s Sawmill”, 2013).
In the 1970’s, the mill owners were filling the marsh area between Courtenay River and Comox Rd, with an assortment of chips, oil cans and wire etc. Concerned residents stopped this and the landfilling was halted. In 1974, the Provincial NDP government paid $95,850 for 25.5 acres to prevent the owners at the time from destroying what is now called Hollyhock Marsh, reports Betty Donaldson (2010).
The owners of the mill sold it to Peter Gregory of Gregory Manufacturing Ltd. in 1973. Gregory then sold the mill to Primex Forest Products. The mill at that time was cutting and selling lumber (yellow) cedar to both the American and the Japanese markets. In the 1970s, the operation employed over 100 people and, at its peak 160.
In 2000, Primex started facing economic problems and began employee lay-offs. In 2001 Interfor bought out Primex and acquired the Fields Sawmill. The Mill experienced hard times again in 2003 – 2004. The mill closed often and in 2003 it operated at a loss of $8 million. The mill was decommissioned and closed officially in 2006.
In 2006, Interfor demolished the mill, auctioned off the equipment, and paid out severance to its employees. At this time, reclamation of the site was also undertaken to safely remove and dispose of industrial toxins. A number of test wells were drilled to determine the quantity and nature of toxic materials in the soils. Concrete was broken up, and toxic soils were excavated and removed from the site. The holes were backfilled with clean soils and the wells tested again to verify the site was reclaimed. The Province issued a Certificate of Compliance, verifying that the site now meets the highest standards.
The property was offered for sale in 2008.
Despite several offers to purchase, Interfor has chooses to work with Project Watershed and the larger community to achieve a conservation vision for the property.