A jewel on the east coast of Vancouver Island founded as a logging town, Chemainus hosts thousands of visitors each year to experience its community art and village charm. The continued presence of local forestry employers is both a reminder of its rich heritage, and a key component of the economy today.


By the middle of the 19th century, demand for Vancouver Island wood was surging. Already the location of a First Nations village, Chemainus was founded in 1858 as a hub for new central-island logging activities spurred by the expanding industry.

Chemainus’ picturesque coastal location proved ideal for easy shipping access – quickly creating the opportunity to become a major milling player.

A Forestry Hub, Past and Present

The opening of the Chemainus Sawmill in 1862 took local economic activity to a new level, turning Chemainus into one of the most successful forestry communities on Vancouver Island. Succeeding the Chemainus Sawmill after over 120 years of operation, in 1984, a new mill opened on the site. Operated by Western Forest Products, the mill relies on a supply of local Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir. It directly employs 160 workers.

A variety of mid-sized forestry businesses also thrive in Chemainus. Paulcan and Jemico Enterprises operate a planer mill and a saw mill, respectively. Although wholesale producers of hardwood and softwood lumber, they pride themselves on serving all community wood needs – no matter how small the job. Canadian Bavarian Millwork and Lumber is another local success story: a boutique value-added forestry business that employs 20+ highly trained employees producing custom cabinets and other items.

Delighting the World

Alongside the employment base provided by forestry, today Chemainus is known as “Muraltown” for a reason. In an effort to build a vibrant tourism industry, over 40 world-class murals were publicly commissioned – in a town of only 3,900! To this day, the murals are a draw for visitors around the world, with travel companies offering tours specifically to see them.

Despite its compact size, Chemainus is home to hundreds of local businesses, giving the community the feeling of an artisanal village. Tourists, art-enthusiasts, and retirees continue to be attracted to Chemainus for its unique charm and quality of life.

Rooted in Vancouver Island’s forestry heritage, “The Little Town That Did” illustrates each day how a forestry economic backbone can co-exist with a thriving tourism sector and village lifestyle. Chemainus will undoubtedly delight future generations, while maintaining its legacy of supplying the world with Vancouver Island wood products.


About Forestry Friendly Communities BC

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Forestry Friendly Communities was started in 2016 as a way to celebrate the proud history and rich future of BC’s coast forest sector.  The term “Forestry Friendly” is intended to recognize pride in, and an ongoing commitment to BC’s forestry sector. In fact, the forest sector supports 1 in 16 jobs in BC. It also contributes $12.4 billion to the provincial GDP and injects $2.5 billion in taxes and fees to the three levels of government.

For more than a century, the forest sector has fueled our coastal economy and shaped our communities. Today, people and businesses across BC’s coastal region depend on transportation networks and other services developed for our forest sector. Families are able to earn a living while enjoying a unique West Coast lifestyle.

Forestry Friendly Communities is proudly brought to you by companies and associations working in forestry in coastal BC.