EAT/PLAY/LIVE: REVIEW Port Alberni: More Than Just A Mill Town Jan Peterson/Heritage House, 2014

Perhaps the record-holder for writing books about Port Alberni, a former Alberni Valley Times writer launched her latest book about the Valley recently.

Jan Peterson lived in Port Alberni from 1972 to 1996, when her husband worked for the Alberni Plywood Division. Those decades were what she wanted to cover in what is something of a memoir for Peterson as well.

(Her four previous books were completely historical in nature, researched in archives, covering from the city’s founding in 1860 to amalgamation in 1967.)

“It was a tough story to write.

We went through that recession in 1982 and 1983 .. and MacMillan Bloedel got sold off in that time,” she recalled.

Peterson has two chapters in the book on what would prove to be controversial attempts to log Meares Island.

The media exposure at the time sealed the West Coast’s fate as a tourism destination, she recalled.

She also recalls her time at the Alberni Valley Times, first as a stringer -and the research that became her specialty as a nonfiction writer who wrote half her books about the Alberni Valley and half about Nanaimo. In the Valley,

Peterson discovered a vibrant arts scene, and she and her husband raised three children.

“It’s a wonderful place to raise children -with lakes and rivers to explore -and a wonderful place to live,” she said.

Now a Nanaimo resident, Peterson was not a fan of the recent MoneySense ranking of Port Alberni at the bottom of its top 200 cities to live in.

“I don’t think they looked at the town -it’s a wonderful place to live, the scenery is fantastic, and it has so many things that add up to the opposite side of the equation,” she said.

“That had to do with money and the bottom line, nothing to do with the town -and you can do anything with statistics.”

Jackie Carmichael is managing editor of the Westerly News.

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