It’s easy to be distracted by the beauty of Squamish. With adventure surging throughout the Sea to Sky and bikes, boards and boulders dominating the landscape and conversations, it’s not hard to forget about the industry that founded the town (and it’s not Tourism that I’m referring to). The forestry industry was the bread and butter of Squamish for many years, was a catalyst for settling the town and was the source of prosperity for many families in the community in the early years.
In a town where the identity is shifting as quickly as the home prices are rising, it’s a grounding experience to reflect on the logging history, and there is no better way to do this than at Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, which happens every BC Day long weekend in Squamish.
A History of Logging in Squamish
This year’s Loggers Sports Festival is celebrating its 60th year. This long standing event is over two decades older than the average person in Squamish. Logging began in Squamish in the late 1800’s and was initially done by rail, a cumbersome and difficult process. As the mid 1900’s approached the rubber-tyre logging trucks surpassed trains as logging transportation and the chainsaw became the dominant tools used to fall trees. Squamish’s forestry industry in the mid to late 1900’s helped settle the town, provided a livelihood for many families, and supplied the world with an abundant amount of timber to help fuel development.
The Downfall of the Logging Industry
At the turn of the century the forestry industry took a blow due to global economic conditions, land use changes and regulations, and environmental conditions. Interfor, Squamish’s largest employer, closed its sawmill and logging operation, and in 2006 Squamish’s pulp mill shut its doors too. This left hundreds of displaced workers, who had spent their careers in the forestry industry, faced with finding work in Vancouver or Squamish in order to support their families. At this time Squamish was undergoing a massive shift. The 2010 Olympic hype was beginning to build, a new highway was under construction, and big box stores were popping up all over the Squamish landscape.
Logging Today in Squamish
To date logging still contributes a significant portion to Squamish’s economy. You’d be hard-pressed to ignore the gigantic logging trucks carrying enormous trees along the Sea to Sky highway during your commute to Vancouver or ski weekend in Whistler. No doubt you’ve seen the log sorts at the mouth of the Howe Sound and I’m sure many people have pondered on that big burly ax-wielding statue standing outside of Chances Casino. Over 200 Squamish locals are employed in the forestry industry and after years of decline, the industry is beginning to show signs of recovery.
The Importance of Loggers Sports Days
It is important in a town that is growing so quickly to reflect on its founding roots, and for new people moving to the community to appreciate the history as well as embrace their new future. Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate an industry that did so much for the community. However you like to spend you time and whatever your beliefs may be, Loggers Sports is the oldest, most beloved and best attended community event in Squamish that brings all corners of the town together providing good old fashioned family fun for all.
This year’s Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival is August 3-7 at the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds on Loggers Lane. Make sure to check out the event website for full details and event programming.