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ICET says World’s Largest Burl move will enhance tourism in Port McNeill

‘We feel that salmon and the burl are what put Port McNeill on the map’
Port McNeill’s “World’s Largest Burl” went up in flames in May of 2023. The cause of the fire was determined to be the improper extinguishing of a cigarette. (Derek Koel photo)

The World’s Largest Burl is on the move, says the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).

According to a news release from ICET, the Town of Port McNeill will be creating a new public space closer to the main business and tourist areas to showcase its iconic attraction. The town and local volunteers aim to complete the project prior to the busy 2024 summer tourism season through an investment with Island Coastal Trust.

“We feel that salmon and the burl are what put Port McNeill on the map,” stated Lorraine Landry, a 30-year local resident and volunteer, via the release. “I’ve always been amazed at how many tourists came to see it, and the new location will be more visible to anyone walking through town. Moving it to a new location will bring life back into this piece of Port McNeill’s history.”

The burl has always been a source of great community pride, connecting the community with its deep roots in the forestry industry. Although volunteers maintained the current site on the western entrance to the townsite, it always felt disconnected from the rest of the community. When a recent fire caused damage to this site, the community voiced their commitment to showcase the burl in a more meaningful way.

Port McNeill council voted to move the burl to a new permanent space at the gateway of downtown.

ICET noted in the release that relocating the burl is a key element of Port McNeill’s tourism attraction plans.

“Further efforts to revitalize the waterfront and downtown are already underway, with investment through Active Transportation funding and the BC Government’s Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program.”

Connecting the new location along the active transportation trails is expected to disperse visitors along the waterfront and towards the museum and local businesses. Because of the infrastructure improvement, the World’s Largest Burl is anticipated to be highlighted as a site of regional interest by both the BC Ale Trail and 4VI.

ICET says it is investing with the Town of Port McNeill in the World’s Largest Burl Public Space project through the Community Placemaking Program.

“The Trust will contribute $32,000 which includes $16,000 from 4VI, who have partnered with the Trust to fund projects through the Community Placemaking program. The program provides one-stop funding, up to $50,000 for as much as 100% of project costs, for communities to collaboratively reimagine and revitalize public spaces across the coast.”

The trust has previously invested in similar projects, including the Campbellton’s Bridge Viewpoint and the Revitalization of Bamfield’s West Park.

“A common characteristic among the folks on the North Island is to put in more than you take away,” said Mayor James Furney. “The volunteers behind our World’s Largest Burl resurrection and relocation exemplify that ideal. This undertaking is a great example of what can be done when hard working people share a vision.”

“There are so many things to see and visit in Port McNeill and I admire all the hard work by volunteers to showcase more of this amazing town,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island. “I am excited to see the burl move to a place where more people can enjoy it’s natural beauty.”

Brodie Guy, CEO for ICET, stated that “Port McNeill is reimagining how this natural and historic landmark can connect tourists with local businesses. We’re investing in this project to support a community-led initiative that will create a vibrant and inclusive public space in the heart of town.”

“This type of volunteer-led initiative highlights Port McNeill’s engaged community and showcases the local support of the town’s revitalization plans,” noted Anthony Everett, President and CEO, 4VI. “Connecting important tourism attractions with local restaurants, retail stores, and supporting businesses in this manner is a proven strategy that can be replicated in many communities.”