In 1933, a violent windstorm blew down thousands of trees on the hills behind Ladysmith belonging to Rockefeller’s Western Canadian Lumber. They were the parent company of Comox Logging and Railway Co., who were already working in the Courtenay/Comox area.
They had moved to Ladysmith in 1936 to start a salvage operation. They set up offices and accommodation for their workers in the old Abbottsford Hotel, but by 1947, these had become inadequate, so they built new offices across the highway opposite Roberts and Baden-Powell streets.
At the same time, Fred Mulholland, Chief Forester of Comox, supervised the building of an arboretum close by.
Exotic trees came from Loritz Nursery in Saanich, some were donated, and some native trees came from local forests. A greenhouse, nursery and workshop were also built. There were extensive flower beds, lawns and rockeries, and people came from far and wide just to view the display.
In 1953, Comox merged with Crown Zellerbach, who moved part of the offices to their offices in Vancouver and the rest to Vancouver in 1982. The Ladysmith office closed for good, but before they left, they established a logging museum on the grounds with Comox’s equipment.
In the 1980s, there were a large number of mature trees, but due to inadequate maintenance and thinning, there was overcrowding and some were in poor shape.
In 1983, Crown Zellerbach sold their assets to Crown Forest Industries, and they employed a caretaker to maintain the building and grounds.
In 1985, the Town of Ladysmith leased office space in the building and maintained the grounds, and in 1986, much of Crown Forest land was transferred to the Municipality of Ladysmith.
In 1999, the highway through town was widened, with the loss of an appreciable area of the arboretum.
Later, the area was landscaped, and about 12 new trees were planted.
On Oct. 14, 2001, the re-dedication of the arboretum was held, with Robert Selkirk Wood’s family and other interested townspeople present.
Robert Wood was born in Ladysmith in 1931 and lived here for 17 years before moving away to a career in forestry. He was awarded the Distinguished Foresters Award from the B.C Professional Foresters in 1980.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled by his grandchildren and a tree planted by Mrs. Donna Wood, who presented copies of Robert’s book The Creek, the Beach and the Bush to the Historical Society and council.
— Written by Kit Wilmot of the Ladysmith Historical Society