A small-scale wood chipping trial took place at the University of British Columbia Alex Fraser Research Forest near Williams Lake the last two weeks of June.
Last year the research forest purchased 55 acres on Fox Mountain – a property previously used for a sheep farm.
For several weeks two researchers from FP Innovations tried chipping Douglas-fir using three different types of tractor-mounted chippers.
“There are a lot of people involved in large scale grinding programs for pellets and the power plant, but those are huge machines and huge operations,” said Stuart Spencer of FP Innovations. “For someone that doesn’t want to go out and buy a $500,000 or million dollar machine they can buy a tractor for $100,000 and a chipper for $20,000.”
It provides opportunities for woodlots, community forests, research forests or Indigenous communities, he added.
Marian Marinescu, senior researcher with FP Innovations, said the system can be used to provide heat and power to a home even.
Ewen said they bought the property for $900,000 with money made by selling burned timber from one of their research forests. In 2017, about 20 per cent of the productive forest land burned, so they increased the harvesting to salvage the dead timber.
“We wanted to invest that money into something that would help better establish ourselves here in the Caribooand create some more diversity in our revenue stream.”
They will now work on a strategic plan for how they are going to use the property and on July 14 will have a meeting at the site with people from the forest industry to talk maybe doing some training programs there.
On site there is a larger building with potential classroom space, there is a six-bedroom house where some UBC forestry students are staying this summer, another out building and lots of forest.
“Overall I’d like to see more extension and educational programming at the property here. I have also hired someone who will start in July to develop some youth programs,” Ewen said. “We have a proven model for a program down in Maple Ridge called ‘Wild and Immersive,’ and we’re going to hopefully bring that program here.”
She envisions them working either with the city on some of its summer and after school programs, as well as with School District 27.
Williams Lake Studio Theatre will be presenting an outdoor theatre event at the site in August and Ewen is hoping for more in the future.