The pulp and paper industry came to Dryden, Ontario, in 1910 and became one of the small town’s main industries. Domtar bought the Dryden Mill in 2006 and embraced the community. Through our corporate citizenship efforts, we promote education, especially when it involves learning about natural resources and sustainability practices. We also proudly promote careers in the industry, and we’re always looking for the next generation of top talent and minds. Now our community involvement has led one college student to a career in forestry.
Alexandra Cooper moved to Dryden when she was 4 years old when her father, Kent, a maintenance planner at the mill, accepted a job with Domtar.
Dryden’s remote location in Northern Ontario provides its residents with a variety of outdoor activities. Cooper, like most of the children in the town, spent her childhood playing outside. She learned how to fish, hunt and camp at a young age.
“Nature and forests are just a huge part of where we live,” Cooper said. “I would say that my passion for forestry kind of just grew organically from the hobbies I had while growing up.”
Dryden’s Conservation Camp
Cooper’s interest in forestry continued to grow after she attended Dryden’s Conservation Camp, a three-day program sponsored by Domtar in which local high school students learn about the responsible management of natural resources. Established more than 60 years ago, the camp introduces students to many aspects of forestry, including harvesting and renewal, seedling production, inventory, soils, and fire management and protection.
“The camp was a great experience for me,” said Cooper. “My favorite part about it was on the second day when we saw trees being harvested and prepped for the mill. We saw them go through the chipper and get loaded up for transportation. It was cool to see the real first step in the process of turning a tree into something else completely.”
Domtar’s Forestry Co-Op Program
A few years later, while in her final year of high school, Cooper signed up for a co-op program through Dryden High School, which allowed her to work at the Dryden Mill. During the program, she gained even more forestry experience by conducting forest surveys to calculate the growth of the trees. She also observed trees being harvested, culverts being repaired and roads being built for Domtar production purposes.
“The co-op further solidified my desire to spend my life outdoors in the forests, surrounded by nature,” said Cooper.
Once Cooper completed the co-op program, she applied to study forestry management at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. She was accepted and will begin her studies this fall. Cooper hopes that, after completing her two-year forestry management studies, she will be able to transfer to a university to finish a degree in forestry and be on her way to becoming a Registered Professional Forester.
“I feel like my career path chose me,” she said. “Growing up in a community so heavily influenced by nature, forestry and Domtar, it was inevitable that this passion of mine would grow into a profession.”