The New Century Has Arrived
Red Rock is still alive and thriving- changed- but going strong. The community has had many ups and downs but it is still standing and a great place to live.
The optimism that prevailed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Norampac became the managing company at the mill, that did not last very long. Several unforeseeable circumstances took place that had a devastating affect on both the mill and the community. Energy costs skyrocketed, the Canadian dollar rose in value, the U.S.market declined and wood costs rose. September, 2005 saw the first big round of lay-offs when 90 jobs were cut when one of the kraft machines was shut down permanently. The mill continued to operate with one machine. Management and union workers worked together to try to come up with ways to make the mill work more efficiently, however, shutdowns were longer and lay-offs continued. All this had a devastating effect on Red Rock; young families left the community looking for employment elsewhere. In some cases, families were split up when dads went away to work and moms and the kids stayed behind– not an ideal situation. The uncertainty took a toll on everybody and a sense of gloom and doom hung over the town.
On November 23, 2006, after more than sixty years in operation, the paper mill in Red Rock closed its doors. Many people will tell you they never thought they would see it happen; secure employment and good paying jobs in Red Rock were taken for granted. Residents were in shock, unsure of the fate of the community they call home. Would there even be a Red Rock? Not only did the closure of the mill mean no jobs; it also meant a huge loss in tax revenue for the town and on top of that, house values plunged.
To add insult to injury, fire destroyed the major industry in Nipigon when the plywood mill burned to the ground in February 2007; two towns reeling from disaster. Later that year, the decision was made not to rebuild the Nipigon mill.
Early in 2008, it was announced that a new company named the Red Rock Mill acquired the rights to produce the “Multiply”” brand of plywood which the Nipigon mill had successfully produced for many years. The plan was to retrofit the former pulp mill in Red Rock to make the engineered wood. It would have been the first plywood mill built in North America since 1996. Even though this endeavor would not bring back the hundreds of lost jobs, it was expected to create about 100 jobs in a state-of-the-art facility. Once again, there was a sense of optimism in the town.
Even though some negative things were happening in Red Rock, many positive things were happening as well. Late in the 90’s, a group of like-minded citizens who loved music, hosted coffee houses featuring local talent. When that was successful, the group expanded and became Live From the Rock Folk and Blues Society. The Society brought live entertainment to the community and even sponsored a children’s series called Entertainment 4Kidz. In August 2003, the society hosted the first Annual Live from the Rock Folk Festival. The festival is held the second weekend in August each year and is the highlight of the summer. The festival takes place at Pull-a-Log Park and the Red Rock Marina. It has something for everybody, music – lots of music–, food, an artisan’s village and most importantly good fun and fellowship.
Following the shutdown of Norampac, the Town Council realized there was a need to develop a strategic plan for the town– a where-do-we-go-from-here? plan. With consultation from the citizens of the community, a plan was formulated and presented to the public. Several recommendations were made in the report, probably the most significant was hiring an Economic Development Officer who could put the plan into action, and in 2008 such a person was hired. Since then, many positive things have been happening. Thanks to a website highlighting all Red Rock’s assets, many For Sale signs have been taken down as several houses have been sold. People are returning to the community they grew up in and lots of people are moving here from all over the country. They are drawn by the beauty of the area and, of course, the lake.
The Beautification Committee had been hard at work transforming the town. With the help of a grant, a vacant lot on Salls St. became a green space complete with benches and lighting. To supplement the grant, citizens made donations for the purchase of trees, benches and hanging baskets; the response was overwhelming and the results, spectacular. In 2009, the Committee revitalized the park between St. Hilary’s Catholic Church and the Red Rock Inn. A beautiful gazebo now graces the space and plans are in the works to put in the fountain that used to be in the park.
In 2007, the historic Quebec Lodge was sold and restored as a Bed and Breakfast. The Nipigon River Adventure travel company will be operated from the Lodge and will focus on ecotourism. This business will be a perfect fit with National Marine Conservation Area of which Red Rock is a part. In the next few years, the park which stretches from Sleeping Giant Park in the west toTerrace Bay in the east, this will mean development in each of the communities on the shores of Lake Superior. In Red Rock, this will mean further development of the Marina. Improvements to The Nipigon River Trail system continue each year and the trail continues to be a popular tourist attraction. Each year, the trail is the used for the Hike for Health, a fundraising event that raises money for local charities.