Crofton, British Columbia, Canada, is a small coastal town that is part of the District of North Cowichan on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The population is estimated at 2,500 people. It is about 74 km north of Victoria.
According to tradition, the first people to live in the area around Osbourne Bay where Crofton is now situated were Native peoples
known as the 'Tliyamen.' This was interpreted as meaning 'People of the mountain,' resulting in its origin in the Japanese yama
or 'hill.' The Tliyamen died out many hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived in the area.
In the mid-19th century, the area was cleared and settled by several homesteaders. They farmed the land and cut lumber, as provided by the government. In 1873, what would become Crofton was incorporated as the District of North Cowichan.
Founding of the Town
Crofton was founded in 1902 by Henry Croft
, who owned the nearby copper mine
in Mt. Sicker
. He built a smelter on the coast, to send the refined copper away. In 1906 Henry Croft sold the smelter to Britannia Mine
. The smelter closed in January 1908, and instantly, rumours began that a large sawmill would be built. However, nothing ever happened, and when Henry Croft died in 1917, his namesake was struggling to survive.
After the Smelter
This stagnation lasted until the mid-1950s. British Columbia Forest Products Ltd. saw the potential of the area with its deep sea, stable workforce, abundance of lumber, and began construction of a pulp and paper mill in 1956. It opened in December 1957, and continues to work today. Owned until 2001 by Fletcher Challenge
, it is now owned by Catalyst Paper Corporation
In 1955, a wharf was built and began a ferry service to cross the water to Saltspring Island. BC Ferries now controls the route, which has in recent years had to improve the local roads due to backed up traffic.
Early in the 1990s a vision was conceived by the Crofton Community Centre Society to create a scenic walkway along the Crofton shoreline. In 2002 phase one of the seawalk was completed on Crofton's 100th anniversary. When completed, the seawalk will stretch from the wharf and ferry terminal to Crofton Beach, a distance of over one kilometre. Currently
, the first two phases have been completed, with the third phase in the planning stage.
Crofton has retained its small-town status after 100 years of existence. In 2000, it was hooked up to the Cowichan River
for water supply, a great improvement over the previous supply, Crofton Lake. Crofton Lake has for years been rumoured to be used as a dump site by local residents.
In September 2006, Crofton was given a regional bus system. A bus travels between nearby Duncan, Chemainus and Crofton. Before this was introduced the only public transportation was a bus that travels from Victoria and Nanaimo, without regional stops.
Due to the location of a BC Ferries terminal, Crofton continues to have small amounts of tourists in the town each year, mostly on their way to Saltspring Island.
Crofton has a Saturday morning market from the first weekend in May to the first weekend in October, located in the green space next to the ferry terminal.
Future of the Mill
The pressing issue of the town is the pulp mill, which has operated for over 50 years. There is no time frame for the mill, although it is likely it will be the last operating pulp mill on Vancouver Island by 2015. Nothing is being planned to replace the mill, which is estimated to contribute nearly half of the District of North Cowichan's
taxes and the source of employment for around 1,000 people in Crofton and the surrounding area.
Clean Air Concert
Concern about mill emissions prompted a Clean Air Concert
on September 17 2004
, organized by Randy Bachman
, to raise money for a study of those emissions. Among the groups participating in the concert was the Barenaked Ladies
, Neil Young
, Tal Bachman
, and Randy Bachman
himself. It was staged in nearby Duncan, which held the only venue suitable for the concert.
While a success about raising concern over the mill, drawing nation-wide coverage due to the participants, some local residents had other beliefs about Bachman's intentions. As a resident of Saltspring Island, Bachman was in a direct line of sight of the mill from his property, prompting some people to accuse him of wanting to remove the mill in order to raise his property value. Bachman would deny these accusations, stating he only wanted a study done to ensure the mill was following emissions standards.
Randy Bachman's Clean Air Concert highlighted the problems of the mill once again and the need for change. In 2001 a layer of ash fell upon the town, staining nearly every house. It was determined to be a result of improper burning, a practise stopped after it was discovered. Due to its fault in the incident, the mill paid the expenses to have everything affected in Crofton cleaned.
The Elementary School
The first Crofton school was a one-room school house built in 1905. Henry Croft himself donated two full lots for the school to used; that land is in use as of 2006
. The original school continued to serve the town until 1950. At this time it became an annex class room to the newly built elementary school.
In 1985 the then derelict original school house was moved four blocks down the hill and located near the shoreline where it was restored and is now used as a museum. Also of concern to the local population is the aging school. The current elementary school was not built in the 1970s, and is in poor condition. . The school serves students from Kindergarten to grade 7, from where they then go to Chemainus Secondary School in nearby Chemainus for grades 8-12.
On September 11, 2006, the District of North Cowichan decided that a new school would be built in Crofton. It is expected to be ready to open in 2009, and will be located in a different area that has served as the school grounds since 1905. A former farmer's field owned and operated by the Community Centre has been declared the new site of the school.