Winter Harbour, the quaint West Coast village located at the mouth of Quatsino Sound, is a community that has seen its fair share of changes over the years.
It is currently suffering from the loss of W.D. Moore Logging, a family-run business that has been operating in Winter Harbour for over 90 years.
“The harbour is continuing to survive and operate as normal, despite major changes and challenges,” said Andrea Vance, who owns the general store, marina, and fuel dock known as the Outpost at Winter Harbour, with her husband Greg.
She said despite the challenges the community is facing, the Outpost remains open, especially for the 2018 season, providing access to food, fuel, accommodation and moorage.
“The town itself has revitalized substantially over the last 15 years via the sports fishing industry supported by the logging industry,” said Greg, explaining that the village has seen its fair share of ups and downs.
Winter Harbour was hit heavily by the loss of the commercial fishing industry in the late 1990s.
The village used to see roughly 1,500 boats come throughout the season and was home to a multitude of fish buyers, but after reduction to the commercial salmon allowable catch, the industry completely disappeared.
Now with the closure of W.D. Moore, coupled with the impact to sports fishing from recent changes to the Fisheries Act, which reduced size quota and allowable catches, Winter Harbour is going through another transition.
“I think what Greg and Andrea want to do, and the people who are trying to hang on here, is getting some tourism of some sort back into Winter Harbour,” said Mike Lawrence, who has been doing maintenance work in Winter Harbour for the last 15 years.
“We have beaches up and down the outside of the coast, surfers come here, kayakers, divers fisherman – lots of fishermen,” added Lawrence.
He said with the loss of income from W.D. Moore Logging, doing any maintenance work on the village has become nearly impossible.
“I’ve been building docks and trying to keep up to a little bit of it here, but you just can’t keep up to it all,” said Lawrence, adding, “It’s a sad thing because it’s such a beautiful place.”
“Winter Harbour is in quite a transition right now with us downsizing the camp,” said Jon Moore, whose great-grandfather Albert Moore founded what became W.D. Moore Logging in the late 1920s.
Jon’s grandfather Bill Moore was a notable fixture in the logging industry as he was the former President of the Truck Loggers Association and founder of the non-profit organization called the Festival of Forestry.
He even financed three ‘Downtown Winter Harbour Music Festivals’ in 1967, 1969, and 1971, bringing his love of jazz music to the village during its heyday.
“The Moore’s will always remain up here, we will have houses up here, but as far as business is concerned, that is sort of done for now,” said Jon, adding, “We have been a big part of the community for a long time.”
Jon said he sees new life being breathed into the place as one of the local guides has purchased a set of cabins and increased his operations, and that there is still a lot for people to see and do in the area.
“The store is still open here, it’s a great place to view wildlife and whale watch, there is a museum people can go to, and there is a beautiful boardwalk that lines the whole harbour,” said Jon’s wife, Sarah Moore.
Sarah noted that they even spent part of their honeymoon in Winter Harbour, where they watched a humpback whale teach its baby how to feed for a week straight.
“It was doing full breaches out of the water and everything,” she said.
“If you like the outdoors, this is the place to come,” said Jon, noting that one of the more popular activities for tourists to do is paddle the Mackjack River to Raft Cove.
Normally to access Raft Cove, tourists have to hike for an hour to get to the beach, but a five-minute walk from Winter Harbour allows tourists access to the river where they can instead canoe or kayak there.
“It’s like a meandering stream down old growth forest,” said Sarah, pointing out, “It’s probably one the best things I’ve done in my life.”
Sarah said that her greatest hope for Winter Harbour is to see the infrastructure brought back to life, because “There is so much history here — we need a little boom of people and we need the new generation to come visit.”
Sarah noted with year-round accommodation and close proximity to many beautiful beaches like Grant Bay, hikers can easily stay in Winter Harbour and extend their West Coast day trips into longer adventures.
Jon said he hopes that people continue to keep visiting, but he also hopes people continue to respect the industry that built the community.
“The only way you are getting here is by logging roads, and the main thing you are coming to do here is fish,” said Jon.
“I think this is the kind of place that people come and still understand that.”