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Prince George, with a population of 70,981 (census agglomeration of 83,225), is the largest city in northern British Columbiamarker and is known as "BC's Northern Capital". Situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers, and the crossroads of Highway 16 and Highway 97, the city plays an important role in the province's economy and culture.

History

The origins of Prince George can be traced to the North West Company fur trading post of Fort George, which was established in 1807 by Simon Fraser and named in honour of King George III. The post was centred in the centuries-old homeland of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, whose very name means "people of the confluence".

1800s

Throughout the 1800s Fort George remained unchanged, while Fort St. Jamesmarker reigned as the main trading post and capital of New Caledonia. Even during the Cariboo Gold Rush, Fort George was isolated, although Quesnelmarker prospered as the Cariboo Road was built to its doorstep, making it the main staging area for the miners going to the goldfields at Barkervillemarker. Then, when the Collins Overland Telegraph Trail was built in 1865-67, it bypassed Fort George, following the Blackwater Trail from Quesnel and continuing northwest towards Hazeltonmarker.

Grand Trunk Pacific Railway

Finally in 1903, Fort George's fortune began to change when it was announced that the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (later CN Rail) would pass near the fur post. In 1906, agricultural settlement began around Fort George and then in 1909, development of the town began as two rival land speculation companies built the communities of South Fort George and Central Fort George. South Fort George was built on the Fraser River near the Hudson's Bay Company’s trading post and Central Fort George was built two miles (3 km) to the northwest on the Nechako River. Both communities flourished due to the marketing strategies of the land promoter for Central Fort George, George Hammond, who advertised the community all over Canada and Britainmarker, describing Fort George in glowing terms as being the future hub of British Columbia, having mild winters and being suitable for any agricultural endeavor (except for the growing of peaches). Ten paddle steamer sternwheelers serviced the area, coming up on the Fraser River from Soda Creekmarker.

Prince George (1914) Large building in centre is the PG Hotel
Properties were sold in both of the main townsites and many others nearby, such as Birmingham, Fort Salmon, Nechako Heights and Willow City. By 1913, South and Central Fort George each had a population of 1500 and were booming as thousands of rail construction workers came to town for supplies and entertainment. Both communities believed that the Grand Trunk Pacific station and townsite would be built in their town, and both were disappointed when the railway purchased the of land in between them from the Lhiedli T'enneh instead, even though Charles Vance Millar, then the owner of the BC Express Company, was well into negotiations to purchase that property himself. The railway compensated Millar by giving him of the property and, by 1914, when the railway was completed, there were four major communities in Fort George: South, Central, Millar Addition and the railway's townsite, Prince George, where the station was built. And, although George Hammond fought a series of bitter legal battles for a station for Central and for the right to incorporate, the railway won in the end and the City of Prince George was incorporated on 6 March 1915. The actual history of where the city's name is derived from is under dispute, but it is likely that the most obvious name of Fort George wasn't chosen because the Grand Trunk Pacific wanted to take credence away from the two rival townsites. Prince George could simply have been named after the ruling King George V or for Prince George, Duke of Kent the fourth son of King George V.

War years

Aerial view of Prince George (1930s)
With the onset of the Great War in 1914, the local economy was devastated as many local men enlisted and the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway was halted, creating a massive drop in population, a problem that was exacerbated by the ensuing Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Prince George persevered through the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s and did not experience any significant growth until World War II when an army camp for 6,000 soldiers was built at the foot of Cranbrook Hill, bringing new life to the struggling businesses and service industries. After the war, as the ravaged European cities rebuilt, the demand for lumber skyrocketed and Prince George, with its abundance of sawmills and spruce trees, prospered. Finally, in 1952, after 40 years of construction, the Pacific Great Eastern was completed and joined with the CN line at Prince George, and with the completion of Highways 16 and 97, Prince George finally fulfilled George Hammond’s long ago promise of being the hub of British Columbia.

Modern history

In 1964 the first pulp mill, Prince George Pulp and Paper was built, followed by two more in 1966, Northwood Pulp and Intercontinental Pulp.. New schools and more housing were needed and the new subdivisions of Spruceland, Lakeland, Perry and Highglen were built. Then, in 1975, Prince George amalgamated and extended its borders to include the Hart area to the north, Pineview to the south and the old town of South Fort George to the east. In 1981, Prince George was the second largest city in British Columbia with a population of 67,559, narrowly edging Victoriamarker out of the honor, whose population was then 64,379.

Due to its low-lying location at a confluence of rivers that can freeze, Prince George has suffered flooding on many occasions.In late 2007 an ice jam formed on the Nechako River and soon grew to a length of more than 6 kilometres, causing widespread flooding in the city. Faster runoff due to devastation of nearby lodgepole pine forests by the mountain pine beetle was identified as a contributing factor. A state of emergency was declared on December 11. On January 14, 2008, with the ice jam still present, the Provincial Emergency Program approved an unprecedented plan to melt the ice by piping water from a pulp mill steam plant 2.7 km to the jam area where it would be mixed with well water and poured into the river at a temperature of 15°C. In the interim an amphibious excavator was used for 10 days to move some of the ice.Costing C$400,000 to build and C$3,000 per day to run, the "Warm Water System" was completed on January 29, by which time the ice jam had grown to 25 km long.

Geography & climate

Prince George is located in the Fraser-Fort George Regional District near the transition between the northern and southern portions of the Rocky Mountain Trenchmarker. Prince George proper contains several areas: South Fort George, the Hart, the residential and light industrial neighbourhoods north of the Nechako River; College Heights, the western part of the city used mostly for residence, and the Bowl, the valley that includes most of the city and the downtown. There are also a number of outlying areas that are also part of Prince George. Prince George encompasses two provincial electoral districts: Prince George-Mackenzie and Prince George-Valemount. Prior to 2008, these ridings were Prince George North and Prince George-Mount Robson. The cutbanks of the Nechako River are one of Prince George's many interesting geological features.

Local wild edible fruit include bunchberries, rose hips, blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, chokecherries, strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons, currants, gooseberries, and soapberries (from which "Indian ice-cream" is made). Morel mushrooms are also native to this area.

Temperature

Water quality

Drinking water in Prince George is recognized throughout British Columbia as among the top quality drinking water in municipal systems. Samples from Prince George taps are used as a comparison for other cities because of the quality of the pristine aquifers.

Air pollution

The Prince George Airshed has many local sources of various air pollutants including several major industrial sources (pulp mills, sawmills and an oil refinery), vehicle emissions, locomotives, unpaved and paved road surfaces, vegetative burning and residential and commercial heating. Because the city and its local sources of air pollution are contained within a valley, there are often meteorological conditions that trap pollutants and result in episodes of poor air quality and unhealthy levels of air pollution exposure.

More people die in Prince George every year due to diseases associated with air pollutants than any other community in the province, according to data gathered by two B.C. physicians.

As many as 81 deaths each year in Prince George may be attributed to fine particulate exposure in the air.

Demographics

Population trend, 1976–2006.BC Stats, British Columbia Municipal Census Populations, 1996–2006, 9 January 2007.
Canada 2001 Census
Prince George British Columbia
Median age 33.9 years 38.4 years
Under 15 years old 21% 18%
Over 65 years old 7.6% 14%
Visible minority 6% 21%
Protestant 31% 31%
Catholic 21% 17%
According to the 2001 Canadian census, there were 72,406 people living in 27,605 households within the city. Of these households, 23% were one-person households, below the 27% average provincewide, and 31% married couples with children, above the 26% average. Prince George had a smaller proportion of married couples than the province, 47% compared to 51%, but very similar persons per households. With 90% of Prince George residents being Canadian-born, and 87% with an English-only mother tongue, the city has few visible minorities. However, 10% identified themselves as Aboriginal, much higher than the 4% provincewide. Only 14% of residents between 20 and 64 years of age completed university, almost half the provincial average, and 22% did not complete high school, similar to the 19% provincial average.

Crime rate in Prince George, 1984–2005.
In 2005, with a budget of $15,524,482 ($201 per capita) the 121 officer Prince George Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker municipal detachment reported 13,800 Criminal Code of Canada offenses. This translated into a crime rate of 179 Criminal Code offenses per 1,000 people, down from the previous year's rate of 177, but still much higher than the provincial average rate of 125. In 2005, on the per 1,000 people basis, the city had higher crime rates compared to the provincial averages on all criminal code offenses except impaired driving (2.9 city, 3.1 provincially), theft from motor vehicles (17.1 city, 17.3 provincially), cannabis-related (3.3 city, 3.8 provincially), and business break and enters ( 3.45 city, 3.96 provincially). The city had slightly higher but comparable levels on all other offenses except arson (2.1 city, 0.7 provincially), motor vehicle thefts (12.1 city, 8.2 provincially), non-sexual assaults (17.6 city, 10.1 provincially), and shoplifting (8.5 city, 4.6 provincially).

Economy

The economy of Prince George in the 21st century has come to be dominated by service industries. The Northern Health Authority, centred in Prince George, has a $450Mn annual budget and is investing more than $100Mn in infrastructure over the coming years, as Prince George builds the radiation therapy and associated buildings for modern cancer care.

Education is another key dominant part of this city. With the University of Northern British Columbiamarker, and its medical school, the College of New Caledonia and School District #57, education adds more than $780 Mn into the local economy annually.

Forestry dominated the local economy throughout the twentieth century, including plywood manufacture, numerous sawmills and three pulp mills as major employers and customers. The Mountain pine beetle epidemic of the late 1980s and 1990s resulted in a short term boom in the forest industry as companies rushed to cut dead standing trees before the trees lost value. Sawmill closures and the creation of 'supermills' is already being seen in the area and more closures are expected.Mining exploration and development may become the future of Prince George. Initiatives Prince George estimates that the Nechako Basin contains over 5 million barrels of oil.

Other industry includes two chemical plants, an oil refinery, brewery, dairy, machine shops, aluminum boat building, log home construction, value added forestry product and specialty equipment manufacturing. Prince George is also a staging centre for mining and prospecting, and a major regional transportation, trade and government hub. Several major retailers are expanding into the Prince George market, a trend expected to persist. In recent years, several market research call centres have opened in Prince George.

Heritage, College Heights, Hart Highlands and St. Lawrence Heights are prime residential areas, both commercial and residential development are growing at an accelerated rate and more subdivisions are planned for St. Lawrence Heights, West Cranbrook Hill and East Austin Road.

Education

Prince George's education system encompasses 37 elementary, eight secondary, two junior secondary, one middle school and eight private schools. The public schools are all part of School District 57 Prince George. It is also home to a public Francophone elementary and secondary school, both of which are part of School District 93 Conseil scolaire francophone, a province wide Francophone school district. Post-secondary education choices include the regional College of New Caledonia (CNC), which offers two-year university courses plus vocational and professional programs. Several BC universities, British Columbia Institute of Technologymarker (BCIT) and the Open Learning Agency have integrated their local programs with CNC.

The University of Northern British Columbiamarker (UNBCmarker) is the second new university to be built in Canada in over 25 years. A total of 55 undergraduate programs, 15 masters programs and two PhD programs are now offered at UNBC as well as the new Northern Medical Program,a joint program with the University of British Columbia intended to alleviate the shortage of physicians in the north. A degree-granting institution with regional teaching centres in nine BC communities and a sponsor for several research institutes, UNBC has recently completed the construction of the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab. UNBC's hilltop campus overlooks the City of Prince George and offers spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains to the east. In 2005 and 2006, UNBC was ranked by Maclean's Magazine as being the best small university in Western Canada.

The College of New Caledonia (CNC) is a post-secondary educational institution that serves the residents of central British Columbia. It was established in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada in 1969, and has since expanded across central British Columbia, with campuses in Quesnel, Mackenzie, Burns Lake, Valemount, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof. CNC enrolls about 5,000 students each year in approximately 90 distinct programs in business and management, community and continuing education, health sciences, adult basic education / upgrading, trades and industry, social services, and technologies. About 75 of these programs are available at CNC Prince George. As well, CNC offers university classes leading to degrees and professional programs in more than 50 subjects, with excellent transferability to universities in BC, Alberta, and elsewhere. All university classes are available at CNC Prince George, and many are available at other campuses.

Sports and recreation

Club Sport League Venue
Prince George Cougars Ice hockey Western Hockey League (WHL) CN Centremarker
Prince George Spruce Kings Ice hockey British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) Prince George Coliseum
UNBC Timberwolves Basketball British Columbia College Athletic Association (BCCAA) Northern Sports Center
Prince George Fury Soccer Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League (CMISL) CN Centremarker


Prince George's teams include the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Youth Bowling Club (YBC) bowling teams (Nechako Bowling, 5th Avenue, and also a ten pin team), and Prince George Curling (Prince George Golf and Curling Club). Recently, the Duchess Park Secondary School Senior boys basketball team won the provincial AA title for the first time in 26 years.

The Spruce Kings hosted the RBC Royal Bank Cup May 5-13, 2007.

Prince George has been home to several NHLers including Murray Baron, Turner Stevenson and Darcy Rota. Eric Brewer and Zdeno Chara were teammates on the Cougars in 1995 and 1996.

Prince George Citizen Field opened in the spring of 2006. The baseball facility has established itself as one of the most unusual diamonds in British Columbia.

Recreation facilities include 116 playgrounds and parks, baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields, eight golf courses, plus tennis courts, ice rinks and roller rinks, a new modern Aquatic Centre as well as an older swimming pool and the CN Centremarker, which is a 5,995-seat multi-purpose arena. For hikers there is an 11 kilometer riverfront system of urban hiking trails called the Heritage Trails. Four provincial parks in the region provide downhill, cross-country and heli-skiing.

Parks include Fort George Park, Paddlewheel Park, Rainbow Park, Connaught Hill, Foot Park, L.C. Gunn Park, Ginter's Property, Eskers Park, Forests for the World, and Cottonwood Island Park. North of Prince George is the Huble Homestead and Giscome Portage. The Otway Nordic Centre, operated by the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, is home to one of the largest Nordic ski clubs in the province, and boasts more than 40 km of groomed trails (5 km of lit trails for evening skiing), a biathlon range, and a 1400 sq. ft. day lodge.

For race fans, the Prince George Auto Racing Association (PGARA) offers a variety of racing events at the PGARA Speedway including the locally famous hit-to-pass races.

Prince George offers several nightclubs, sports bars, pubs and fine dining facilities.

The Treasure Cove Hotel and Casino is located at the junction of Highways 16 and 97.

Moviegoers can choose between the Famous Players six-plex or the Park Drive-in Theatre, which also offers mini-golf facilities and a go-kart track.

Arts and culture

Mr. P.G.
The official mascot of Prince George is Mr. P. G., an anthropomorphic assortment of logs who greets newcomers to the city at the intersection of Highways 97 and 16. Mr. P.G. will be one of four roadside attractions featured on the first series of the Canadian Roadside Attractions Series to be issued by ‎Canada Post stamps on July 6, 2009.

Museums and libraries

  • The Exploration Place at the Fraser Fort George Regional Museum is located in Fort George Park and offers a wide variety of galleries and exhibits, including a paleontology exhibit, First Nations exhibit, children's gallery and the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
  • The Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum opened in July 1986, coinciding with Expo'86 and 150 years of rail travel in Canada. The museum has one of the largest vintage rail collections in the province, including vintage rail cars, locomotives and historical buildings. Most of the museum pieces are located outdoors on the lot. Some historical buildings include a building showing the advancement of the telephone and a building that was once a train stop. There is also old firetrucks and forestry equipment. As well, there is a mini-train that goes around the museum lot for the kids.
  • The Prince George Public Library has two branches in the city, the Bob Harkins branch in the downtown area and the Nechako branch in the Hart.


Art galleries and studios

  • Two Rivers Gallery, which opened in June 2000, has two exhibition galleries named the North and South Canfor Galleries, a gift shop and a galleria. It offers guided tours and art classes for both adults and children.
  • Studio 2880 houses the Artists' Workshop, the Quilters', Potters', Weavers' and Spinners' Guilds. Its sister building, Studio 2820, is a Ticketmaster outlet and houses the Artisan Gift Shoppe.


Live theatre and symphony

  • Theatre Northwest is a professional theatre company producing stage productions throughout the year.




  • The Prince George Playhouse (originally built by the Prince George Theatre Workshop Society, now owned by the City of Prince George) has many different uses such as amateur and professional theatre, musical events and major plays put on by local small businesses.


  • The Prince George Symphony Orchestra (PGSO) is a mixed professional and semi-professional orchestra. The orchestra plays a number of concerts each year at venues around the city and occasionally tours other communities in northern British Columbiamarker. A majority of its concerts are held at the Vanier Hall, which is attached to the Prince George Secondary School.


A 2005 cultural project that involved Prince George had 'Spirit Bears' placed throughout various locations around the city. The 'Spirit Bear' is a fiberglass statue of a bear that has various sceneries painted on it.

Notable residents



Transportation

Located at the intersection of Highways 97 and 16, Prince George is the hub for northern British Columbia. Considerable truck traffic passes through Prince George, which also has extensive facilities for maintenance of trucks and heavy equipment. Greyhound Bus Lines provides daily bus service south to Vancouvermarker, west to Prince Rupert, east to Edmontonmarker, Albertamarker and north to Fort St. Johnmarker.

There is an inland port to Prince Rupertmarker in Prince George which is served by CN Rail.

Prince George Airportmarker, located from the city centre, is an airport with customs facilities. The primary air connection to the rest of the world is provided by multiple daily flights to Vancouvermarker on Air Canada and Westjet. Westjet's service also includes a weekly direct flight to Puerto Vallartamarker, Mexico during the winter months. Central Mountain Air and Northern Thunderbird fly to regional and smaller centres. Horizon Air provided daily service to Seattlemarker for a few months in 2008, but the service no longer exists as of 2009. Charter services provide flights to outlying areas primarily by float plane though helicopter service is also available. An expansion study is currently underway will allow 747s to land and take off.

CNR freight lines operate out of Prince George as well as VIA Rail passenger service the Skeena.

Local public transportation consists of the PG Transit bus service.

Annual events

  • The Prince George Exhibition, also known as the PGX started in 1912 and is the city's largest summer event. The four day show is held each August and attractions include a large midway, food fair, trade show, art and horticulture exhibitions, 4-h exhibitions and many other attractions.
  • The Forest Expo was started in 1985 and provides a showcase to educate the general public about the importance of our forests, while displaying the latest in forestry technology, supplies and services.
  • The Prince George Folkfest is a national folk music festival held annually in the summer at historic Fort George Park on the banks of the Fraser River. Past artists have included John Denver, Bruce Cockburn, Sarah Harmer, Janis Ian, Alpha Ya Ya Diallo. 2006 saw Matthew Good, Fred Eaglesmith, The Paperboys, and many others.. Local musicians include: The Goat Island Extrapolation, The Lines We Drew, Versus, DJ Frozen IceCube and Young, Rich & Free.
  • Canadian Northern Children's Festival is held in Fort George Park and features many hands-on activities for children, roving performers, face painting and clowns.
  • Prince George celebrates BC River's Day on the last Sunday in September at Fort George Park with a live free music festival. 2006's performers included Marcel Gagnon and Fear Zero among many others.
  • The Father's Day Show and Shine is held in downtown Prince George and features street vendors, live performers and both vintage and modern cars. 2007's event saw an estimated 25,000 visitors and 365 cars were on display.
  • The Snow Daze Winter Festival is held each February. Some of the featured events include the Mr.PG pageant, curling, bed races, OTL (over the line) baseball, Texas hold'em poker tournament and snow golf.


Media

Government and politics

The City of Prince George's council-manager form of municipal government is governed by a mayor and an eight-member council; these positions are subject to at-large elections every three years. Dan Rogers was elected mayor in November 2008, after Colin Kinsley, who had been mayor since 1997, decided to retire. Rogers, who had been a perennial top vote-getter in the races for council seats, narrowly lost to Kinsley in the 2005 race.Prince George holds four of the fourteen seats at the Regional District of Fraser - Fort George. School District 57, which includes not only the city of Prince George but a large, sparsely populated area to the East and North, is governed by seven elected school trustees.

Prince George is divided into three different provincial electoral districts: Prince George-Mount Robson represented by Shirley Bond, Prince George North represented by Pat Bell, and Prince George-Omineca represented by John Rustad. All three Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbiamarker belong to the British Columbia Liberal Party with Rustad first being elected in 2005 and Bond and Bell in 2001. Bond has been serving as the Deputy Premier of British Columbia since 2004 and the Minister of Education since 2005, while Bell has been serving as the Minister of Agriculture and Lands since 2005.

Federally, Prince George is divided between the Cariboo—Prince George and Prince George—Peace River ridings. They are represented in the Canadian House of Commons by Conservative Party Members of Parliament Dick Harris and Jay Hill. Harris and Hill were both first elected in 1993. Harris defeated the New Democratic Party incumbent Brian Gardiner in the Prince George—Bulkley Valley riding. Hill succeeded Frank Oberle who held his riding since 1972 for the Progressive Conservative Party and served as the Minister of Science and Technology and the Minister of Forestry.



Conservative Dick Harris 7452 41% 45%

Liberal Simon Yu 5005 28% 24%

NDP Alfred Trudeau 4287 24% 23%

Green Alex Bracewell 933 5.2% 5.5%

Christian Heritage Chris Kempling 133 0.7% 1.2%

Canadian Action Bev Collins 117 0.7% 0.6%

First Peoples Don Roberts 40 0.2% 0.2%

Marxist-Leninist Carol Lee Chapman 35 0.2% 0.2%



Conservative Jay Hill 4441 46% 60%

NDP Malcolm Crockett 2170 23% 17%

Liberal Nathan Bauder 2120 22% 16%

Green Hilary Crowley 748 7.8% 6.4%

Independent Donna Young 76 0.8% 0.9%




Bibliography



See also



References

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