An dry land log sort northeast of Kemp Lake.

An dry land log sort northeast of Kemp Lake.

The dry land log sort

Sooke region historian Elida Peers writes about the past

Forerunner to the Sooke Business Park, located at 3220 Otter Point Road, five kilometres west along Otter Point Road from Sooke’s central traffic light, this plot, deep within the forest, was cleared in the 1970s for a dry land log sort. This piece, northeast of Kemp Lake, was on the route to the water from Section 55, Otter District, which had been purchased in a timber sale early in 1946 by the Butler brothers, Claude, Wally, Tom and Eric.

Most of the trees Butlers harvested were Douglas-fir, amabalis fir and western hemlock, with some falling of red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce and white pine.  Logging took place in the watersheds of the Golledge and DeMamiel Creeks, up to the west fork of the Leech River. Superintendent for Butlers during much of this period of extensive logging was Jim Brandon, followed by Ernie Jay.

The company built the road called Butler Mainline and in time the many spur extensions created a logging road system of 1,000 miles. Butlers, and later their successors, employed over 100 workers. While it is not possible to mention them all, Dick Herrling was for some years the well-known bullbucker who worked with a team of up to 20 fallers.

Changes in operational structure and ownership meant it was T.W. McKenzie Logging that built the log sort and shortly afterwards several logging entities amalgamated to become Pacific Forest Products Ltd, continuing the same operations.

According to Joe Zigay, who shared this photo, it took about a year for the 41-acre site to be cleared, the surface paved and readied for use as a sorting site for logs that were trucked down from the uplands. Twenty-two men were employed in the off-loading, sorting and bundling.  Prior to this dry-land sort coming into use in the late 1970s the logs had been trucked all the way down Butler Main to the sea, where they were boomed in the salt chuck.

Visiting the acreage that once rang out with the clang and growl of heavy industrial equipment, the roar of truck engines and hydraulic loaders, today you will find not only a calmer “business park” but the new administration headquarters for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area of the Capital Regional District. It’s a spanking new building, almost completed – how fitting that it’s address is “Butler Road.”

Watch for a photo of Butler Brothers’ behemoth off-road log hauler next column.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum