About Forestry


The forests of the Okanagan and the surrounding area are comprised of many species such as Ponderosa Pine, Douglas fir, Lodgepole pine, Balsam, Englemann Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Western Larch, Trembling Aspen, Black Cotton Wood, White Birch, and Willow [1]. The presence of these forests has historically provided a means of economic development for the region through logging and sawmilling.

The forestry industry in Westbank can be traced back to the opening of the town’s first sawmill by brothers Lewis & Curtis Hitchner, who began operating Hitchner Brothers Sawmill in 1903. The mill was located where the Glenrosa Firehall stands today. In those days, teams of horses were used to pull wagons filled with fir and pine to and from the sawmill. The mill specialized in the logging of massive trees, which were used for the production of long dimension bridge and wharf lumber. While this was the primary purpose of the sawmill, it also provided the wood, which was used to build the Glenrosa Schoolhouse in 1911 and the farmhouses of early Westbank families. The mill’s operations ceased by 1913 due to no availability of lumber accessible to the horse-drawn wagons used by the mill.[2]

Arthur Dobbin was an additional pioneer of the industry. After returning to his homestead from serving in the First World War, Arthur began logging in 1919, then building a sawmill a few years later.[3] Mr. Dobbin’s sawmill was first located on the old Stevens property, an area which is now the present-day north field of Bylands Nursery.[4] The mill would then go on to be relocated twice. The first time it was moved to just north of Shannon Lake and the second time to an area along Smith Creek north and west of Westbank.[5] Arthur eventually gave up sawmilling and traded the mill for a 320acre parcel of land.[6]

The commercial forestry industry in Westbank expanded most dramatically after the opening of the Gorman Brothers Lumber Company. After an exceptionally cold winter in 1949-1950 decimated the Gorman family’s fruit orchards and put them in a financially precarious position, brothers John and Ross Gorman decided to peruse a new endeavour [7]. The two men initially began making and selling fruit boxes in their father’s shed, but by 1953 they had built a small sawmill[8]. The company quickly grew, and by 1956 it was operating year-round.[9] Much of this growth can be primarily attributed to their willingness to harvest and use the Lodgepole pine, something the provincial government classified as a useless weed at the time [10]. It was around this time that it became the largest employer in Westbank, a title it held onto for several decades [11]. While the mill has faced several challenges since such as an internal fire in 1969, which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and barely avoiding destruction by a forest fire in 2009[12], it continues to operate today as Westbank’s only sawmill.

[1] https://www.ntityixresources.com/history [2] All information regarding the Hitchner sawmill was provided by Gordon Ficke.  [3] A bit of Okanagan History, 182.  [4] Ibid.  [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid. [7] https://www.gormanbros.com/about-us/family-history/ [8] Ibid.  [9] Okanagan Secret Surprises, 161.  [10] Okanagan Secret Surprises, 161 [11] Loggers and Lumbermen, 31.  [12] https://www.gormanbros.com/about-us/family-history/