REF road show: Prince George & Mackenzie
Back in 1793, explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie camped near a site now known as the municipality of Mackenzie, located at the south end of Williston Lake in central BC. I highly doubt his accommodation back then came close to the comforts of my hotel.
Driving 185 km north from Prince George, the first thing that caught my attention when I arrived at Mackenzie was a massive piece of machinery at the edge of town. A gigantic LeTourneau G175 Tree Crusher sits as a welcome to a town carved out of Rocky Mountain Trench wilderness.
Mackenzie saw the gold rush come and go, and eventually became a service centre for the large pulp and lumber manufacturing industry. The damming of the Peace River created the largest man-made reservoir in BC and, due to its location at the southern end of Williston Lake, Mackenzie is a recreational hub with trail systems providing access to many year-round outdoor activities. Mayor Stephanie Killam’s commitment to her community and region was evident in our conversations as we spent the afternoon driving through town and to the shores of nearby Morfee Lake. She understands that balance between environmental concerns and economic development is required.
I also took the opportunity to meet with Mark Fercho, the District’s Chief Administrative Officer, and learned more about Mackenzie’s long-term community planning project, “Mackenzie in Motion”. After receiving community input, council and staff are now working on an action plan to deliver on the top priorities for the next three years.
I explored the Mackenzie Museum, which was converted from a hospital, to learn about the town’s historical roots. The museum’s curator, Jim Wiens, amused me by telling stories of each old photo and map on display. This stop is not to be missed if you visit Mackenzie!
The highlight of the day was after dinner when Mayor Killam and her husband Don took me for an off-road experience in their 4x4 truck. Experienced in the bush, Don spotted a pair of blue grouse and a juvenile moose along the way, before we ended at the summit of Mount Morfee (5800 ft/1800m). To me this was one of those “Super, Natural BC” moments as I watched the sunset from this perch. The grouse and moose were too quick to photograph, but Don wasn’t.
I drove back to Prince George the next day, and met up with Foundation Governor Charles Scott to visit the BC Northern Real Estate Board (BCNREB). The REALTOR® members of the BCNREB serve the real estate needs of the communities as far north as Fort Nelson, as far south as 100 Mile House, and from the Alberta border to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Executive Director Alexandra Gosletine, along with Board President Joni Brown and Director David Black, shared their optimism for their region, in addition to discussing two recent Foundation grants in their board area: $20,000 to Custodians of the Peace Society and $10,000 to the District of Wells.
This trip once again reinforced my understanding that non-metropolitan communities like Mackenzie and Prince George are committed to transforming themselves through economic diversification—moving away from dependency on one type of resource or industry and finding alternative uses for the land.
I believe the Real Estate Foundation can play a pivotal role by supporting efforts in these regions to build resilient, healthy communities and conserving natural environments.
- Jack Wong