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Smithers: A Town for all Statues

Tom goes digging for a little historical context for the town’s gateway statues
Smithers gateway statue of grizzly sow and cub. (Tom Roper photo)

Have you ever looked around and counted all the statues in this town?

Outfront and dominant of course is Alpine Al on Main Street.

Next is our goat statue just kittycorner on Highway 16. The goat and the caribou (in front of Canadian Tire) were donated by the Guide and Outfitters Association.

We have a cougar down at the Chamber of Commerce and a couple of private business statues. The moose at Heartstrings and the bear at North Central Plumbing & Heating.

We seem to have a penchant for wild animals, no doubt.

Then we have our gateway statues on either end of town.

Did you ever wonder how these rock-sculpted monuments came to be?

I have, so I went down to the Bulkley Valley Museum and asked Holly Peterson, our assistant curator if she could dig up some info for me. Well, she did, and it is interesting, no doubt.

In 1999, ICBC conducted a study into traffic calming as vehicles enter a community. It discovered that if a set of gateway statues were placed at the entrance and exit of a town it would remind drivers to slow down. Interesting, right?

So, by 2001, town council had accepted the idea and contacted the Guides and Outfitters to use their experience in statue building for possible designs. The association suggested depicting valley trademarks signifying the importance of tourism and community building.

In December of 2002, The Interior News reported the statues would be a fisherman netting a steelhead, a rider and packhorse, a black bear cub in a tree and a faller cutting a tree.

On December 18, 2002, Barbel Schroeter wrote a letter to the paper asking if any of the planned statues will depict a woman.

I like this stuff, history is interesting, isn’t it?

And just like that, council pulled the tree faller and replaced it with a woman carrying a rail tie. Mayor at the time, Jim Davidson, stated, “the new choice salutes not only the important role of women in Smithers past and present but First Nations and new settlers working side by side building critical infrastructure such as the railroad.”

So, in February of 2003, council went ahead with the $20,000 stone statue project funded through the highway improvement budget.

Artist Elmar Schultes of Delta B.C. ( who has since passed in 2015) designed the statues and they were contracted to a statue supplier in Vancouver and built in Asia.

By November of that same year the support bases were put in place and the statues were mounted. The final decisions produced a Grizzly and cub and a pack horse on the west entrance to our fair town and a female sawmill worker alongside a fisherman netting a steelhead on our east entrance.

There you have it, a little history bite to make your day.

Thanks to Holly Peterson at the museum and thanks to The Interior News archives posted on

Smithers goat statue at the corner of Main Street and Hwy 16. (Tom Roper photo)
Smithers cougar statue in front of the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce. (Tom Roper photo)
Smithers caribou statue in from of Canadian Tire store. (Tom Roper photo)
Smithers gateway pack horse statue. (Tom Roper photo)