A new decision from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) means that public events can continue to take place at 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-farm use of the site.
The City of Port Alberni was served a non-compliance notice from the ALC back in 2020 after a public complaint pointed out that McLean Mill—which was located within the ALR—was being used for commercial ventures outside of the scope of a National Historic Site (including weddings, camping and other events).
The city sent an application for non-farm use to the ALC, but this was denied.
The ALC’s Island Panel determined that the city’s operations were not “an appropriate use of ALR land” so long as McLean Mill remained in the ALR.
In response, the city regrouped and applied to have a portion of McLean Mill removed from the ALR.
A new decision from the ALC’s Island Panel agrees that the area should be excluded from the ALR due to the historic use of the site as a sawmill, its current use as a National Historic Site and its “limited potential” for soil bound agriculture.
Because of the number of roads, buildings and equipment on the property, the panel adds that there is “limited area available” for non-soil bound agriculture, too.
The decision states that “the land has been exposed to many years of soil contamination as a result of the sawmill operation which predated the establishment of the ALR.”
McLean Mill was established in the 1920s, but ceased operation as a sawmill in 1965. In 1989, it was designated as a National Historic Site by the federal government. The steam-driven sawmill, once operated as a tourist attraction, has not been active for a number of years, although activities have taken place on the grounds around the historic building.
Over the past two years, the mill site has been operated by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said in a press release that this new decision will allow the chamber to continue operating McLean Mill.
“We wish to thank the chamber for their innovation and persistence through these difficult times,” she said. “We are happy to now have certainty in moving forward and are proud to be able to showcase this incredible historic site to our community and visitors.”
The Jake Leyenaar Hatchery (approximately 1.3 hectares of the McLean Mill property) will remain in the ALR.