In its beginnings, Elkford was a little mining camp. It was a series of trailers set up by the river that flowed through, near Teck’s Fording River operations.
In the 1970s, during the early days of the municipalities incorporation, Elkford was a multicultural community, heavily connected to its wilderness surroundings.
It was the days before internet, and for fun, people would drive over to the dump to watch the bears.
Dump bears aren’t a source of entertainment in Elkford anymore, but many things stayed the same.
“Elkford has been quite a multicultural town from the beginning,” said Heather Potter, a staff member in the District of Elkford’s Planning department, who is heading up a project to capture the oral history of the community.
The District of Elkford received a $20,000 Canada 150 grant to record and preserve stories about the development of the young mining town, and what life was like in its early days.
Elkford was incorporated as a town in 1971, as a settlement directly supported by the nearby mining operations.
A decade later, the town began moving from predominantly mobile homes by the river, to building established houses up on the side of the mountain.
“Elkford is not super rich in physical historical objects, but there’s a lot of intangible historic value,” said Potter, who has just finished the first round of video interviews with longtime residents of the town.
She says that the men and women who came to Elkford in its early days are beginning to retire, move away and age.
“It’s a great time to collect their stories before we lose them,” said Potter, adding that it’s a unique approach to history, “because we can still capture the voices of people who were here at the very beginning of the town.”
So far, she has interviewed 16 people, including Mayor McKerracher’s family, which is four generations who have lived in Elkford.
“We’re hoping to get a few more of those,” said Potter.
“A lot of people said they’d stay here for a year or two,” said Potter, recalling some of the main themes she heard over the course of interviewing residents. “But stayed for life.”
She says that the passion people have for nature and wilderness is unparalleled, and is why people fall in love with the area.
“Everyone really, really loves nature…I think it’s probably the reason why they stayed,” she said.
Along with that, being a mining community, residents always remembered what it was like to be new to town. Potter says that as a result, Elkford has grown to be a welcoming place, set on establishing a tight-knit community.
She is putting out a call for nominations—anyone who knows a long-standing member of the community, who has stories to share, is welcome to nominate them for the project.
The project will be unveiled and showcased at the Community Conference Centre in the spring.
“It’s going be an ongoing project,” said Potter. “We’re hoping that it’s the seed for a long-term heritage preservation project with the town.”