From POW Camp to Tourism Destination

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With the new development of its eco-friendly tourist centre, the town of Red Rock, located in Northern Ontario, is re-positioning itself as a tourist destination for the adventurous type. NatureBuilt teamed up with local builders to create this stunning building which is set to open April 2013.

BioSIPs, Prefabricated walls, eco-friendly

Red Rock Marina Building

This building is really coming together and is already getting rave reviews

During the Second World War, the deserted town site and remote setting caught the eye of the federal government. A prisoner of war camp opened there in 1940, guarded by Canadian First World War veterans and encircled by barbwire fences. At its peak, Camp R held more than 1,145 German PoWs, including members of the German military, merchant seamen and Jews. Prisoners were kept in the old construction workers' bunkhouses, while the guards took up residence in the abandoned homes and officers lived at the Red Rock Inn. A few of the prisoners attempted escape: one dug a tunnel leading outside the camp and another made it to the United States (both were caught and brought back), while a third prisoner was shot during an escape attempt. Camp R was closed in October of 1941 and prisoners were transferred to other camps.

A year after the PoW camp was abandoned, the Brompton Pulp and Paper Company bought the Lake Sulphite Pulp and Paper mill and existing buildings. The news of a running mill brought people to Red Rock. About 100 homes dotted the landscape and businesses began popping up. By 1949, with the help of the mill company, the town had a bank, a theatre, a public school, a grocery store and several social clubs. The mill added another paper division when the original machine was converted to produce newsprint.

The first blow came in 1992 when Domtar shut down the newsprint machine and reduced its workforce from 750 employees to 400. Houses were put on the market and some people left town. After studying the potential for tourism in the area, the Waterfront Development Committee opened a marina along the lakeshore in 1994 with a lighted boardwalk, picnic area, boat service, a playground and camping facilities.*

The town got together and fundraised to put together a plan to build an eco-friendly tourist building with the goal of diverting Thunder Bay-bound traffic off the nearby Trans Canada highway. Over the past 18 months a group of 14 recently laid off ex-mill workers have been put to work to construct this amazing building. The building will house a restaurant, tourist booth, offices, and more. The building’s shell is constructed using an engineered timber frame and is enclosed with BioSIP wall panels, an eco-friendly wall system.

The original plan was for the walls to be constructed on site by the workers stacking the bales like bricks and applying a finish coat of plaster. It became apparent early on that this wasn’t going to be feasible for two reasons: Firstly, there wasn’t a source of straw to be found locally and secondly, they didn’t have the skilled labourers to put it all together. NatureBuilt’s prefabricated system seemed like the perfect solution since the walls came prefinished and were installed in a matter of days, greatly speeding up the construction of this large building. The walls were built in Welland, ON and shipped up on two transport trucks. The crew on site, along with supervisors from NatureBuilt, placed all the walls into position and fastened together. In a short period of time, the shell of the building was completed.

“This building is really coming together and it is already getting rave reviews. Every one of these guys has come a really long way and each one is now very employable”, says Bruce Atkinson, the building’s Site Foreman.

The RedRock Marina Building will be open to visit in April 2013.

*CBC News Interactive

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Neeraj Jain
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