Boston Bar & North Bend Make Plans to Revitalize Economy

Boston Bar and North Bend have a colorful history. Situated on opposite sides of the rugged Fraser River, they were part of one of the world’s richest gold mining areas in the 1860s, and later became thriving forestry towns. All that changed when a major mill closed in the 1980s; many people moved away, and parts of the community turned into disrepair. Today North Bend is considered part of the Boston Bar community and home to mostly retirees and summer residents.

“The need for commercial activity to create jobs and grow our economy has become critical over the last decade,” says Tom Durrie, Chair of the Boston Bar/North Bend Enhancement Society (BBNBES). “While our residents are mostly seniors, there are many residents who need to work, and young families would locate here with the right opportunities. The cost of land is low compared to many parts of BC and we are less than three hours from Vancouver.”

The BBBNES and Community Futures Sun Country approached the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) for support through its Building Economic Capacity funding stream, to identify the community’s business and tourism assets and opportunities for investment. Consultants MVH Urban Planning and Design were hired to conduct the research and provide recommendations. Advantage Hope, which recently worked with the same consultants on its downtown revitalization strategy, also provided input to the project.

Taking Stock of Community Assets  

The project explored issues never examined before, including available employment, investment possibilities, buildings and facilities that could be revitalized for better use, and the value residents and visitors place on the area’s spectacular natural surroundings.

The Future of Boston Bar was the theme for two workshops held in July and August of 2023. More than 40 people – almost ten percent of the population – attended both workshops. Residents shared their needs and wants plus ideas for improvement. At the second meeting, the lead consultant presented a draft document detailing what could be achieved through short, mid, and long-term actions.

Ten Priority Actions

The new Boston Bar/North Bend Vitalization Action Plan identifies ten priority action items. Topping the list is new gateway signage at the south and north end of Boston Bar. The use of landscaping, murals, planters and other streetscaping is also recommended to create a more attractive environment around businesses and amenities. Sidewalks and access to trails from the town’s core would encourage more walking, biking, and participation in outdoor events. Community efforts would be recognized with award programs for “best block landscapes” and “most improved areas.”

Durrie points out that the BBNBES generates considerable revenue from bingo and fundraisers that will provide capital support for several of these proposed improvements. One such project is restoration of the CN Station House used by CN Rail from 1914 to the early 1990s. The Society owns the building and has completed a business plan and budget for its operation. The restoration includes plans for an improved exterior that reflects its original form and character, museum space that highlights Indigenous, Chinese and railway culture, an artisan gallery gift shop, commercial kitchen, café, and other options.  

“In a community of just 500 people, this project is highly dependent on community buy-in,” says Durrie. “Volunteers are gradually stepping up to work on specific projects and there is a desire to make things happen. With the support of ETSI-BC, we now can look for targeted investments and create a positive future for Boston Bar and North Bend.”

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