UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban development of central Vancouver Island Forrester, Elizabeth Anne Marshall


The thesis is a study of the urban development of Central Vancouver Island, an area which lacks economic homogeneity. Throughout the period of settlement, agriculture has been second in importance to coal mining and later to the forest industry. Much of the settlement in the region has been as a result of the utilization of three natural resources - coal, forest and land suitable for cultivation. Access to a means of transport was the early factor limiting expansion of settlement, in particular access to the coast and steamers from Victoria. As transport facilities on land improved, occupation of inland areas took place. The first urban settlement in the region was associated with coal mining in the Nanaimo area, and later farther north at the Cumberland-Union mines. The second phase of urban growth occurred from 1900-1930, a period characterized by decreasing profits from -coal mining and greater importance of forest industries. This phase is marked by the growth of Duncan and Gourtenay as service centres for their respective agricultural hinterlands and by changes in the location of mining centres. A rapid increase of population occurred as a result of advances in the forest industry, and of concurrent increase in the service industries, between 1931 and 1961. This third phase of settlement is characterized by an improved and expanded highway system which greatly facilitated the growth of a hierarchy of urban centres, both service and industrial, along with the expansion of the settled area of the Island. A statistical analysis of the population and number of central functions and functional units present in the urban centres of Central Vancouver Island was carried out. Comparison of the results obtained with those published for a similar study in South West Iowa, indicates that most of the relationships present in the latter agricultural region are also present in Central Vancouver Island, but to a less marked degree because of the presence of a larger number of industrial centres. Another conclusion.is that the study of trade centres through this period illustrates the fact that those centres which are of a high order in a hierarchy tend to increase more rapidly than lower order centres. Five centres, Nanaimo, Duncan, Courtenay, the Albernis and Ladysmith, were selected for detailed study of their changing functions and morphology. This revealed the importance of transport facilities, wharfs, railways and highways, which have resulted in industrial expansions and, in some cases, increase of service functions. The central and port location of Nanaimo has led to its growth as the major wholesale distribution point for the area and it is as the tributary area to Nanaimo that the region attains unity. Despite the variety of economic backgrounds to which the urban centres owe their existence, and the early growth of settlement in widely separated locations, the development of a network of communications has allowed the evolution of a hierarchy of urban places within the region.

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