Friday, June 26, 2015

▶ A Day Trip to Bowen Island BC Canada - YouTube

▶ A Day Trip to Bowen Island BC Canada - YouTube

North Shore Tourism has produced a video of a day trip to Bowen.  It's full of a lot of adjectives.

But one thing I like about it is that it has a brief glimpse into Artigiani Milanesi, an outstanding small cashmere tailor that relocated from Milan to Bowen last year.  They make outstanding quality clothing from incredible cashmere wool.

Dave Witty on our OCP

LETTER: First understand the law, Mr. Long

Dave Witty, a Bowen resident and nationally respected planner, outlines what our OCP is, how it was made and amended, and why it works.  It's a good read to put into perspective the mechanics of designing an OCP for a community.

And if you want to read our document, so so here.

Making the full potential internet a reality

“It would become essential...”

Great article about Ken Simpson's recent talk at Collins Hall.  A truly broadband community run internet connection, with superior upload speeds would make shift Bowen Island's economy to a more local one quicker than almost anything else I can think of short of stopping ferry services.

It would be a powerful attractor for home based businesses and creative professionals and could be a powerful way to talk about the way our community invests in itself.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Belonging on Bowen

I've been really enjoying the work we have been doing on the Bowen Island Economic Development Committee.  I'm sitting on the Business Retention and Expansion working group and we are about to embark on a project to host a few dialogue circles with local businesses.  We want to test out a few assumptions about the way the local economy functions before embarking on strategies to retain and expand it. 

In most municipalities, BRE committees publish data and try to attract investment and industry to their communities.  On Bowen, my hunch is that we need a really different approach to this work for a number of reasons.  First of all, we are an island, and we are not on the way to anywhere.  It is very hard to attract business to a place that automatically costs them extra for being here.  We suspect that most business people who live on Bowen are in business here because they want to live here.  That is in contrast with many other places, where people are in business because the market conditions are good.  Evidence of this is simple to see: of the 500 or so businesses on Bowen you would be hard pressed to find a single one that is owned by an absentee owner.  It could well be true that every single business on Bowen is owned by a Bowen Islander.  That is a remarkable statistic.

The nature of community here supports businesses.  And it's also an inhibitor.  You have to want to live on Bowen to work on Bowen.  But when you become a part of the community it makes it easier to do business, or work jobs.  Belonging becomes not only the reason you live here but the way you can stay.  

For visitors, belonging is a key aspect to their experience as well.  Our current community branding initiative is interesting in that our visitor's survey has shown that people feel a sense of connection and restoration when they come to Bowen.  And when my little company hosts groups here, we ensure that the entire village is involved, taking our people out to Rustique for dinner, having The Snug cater, getting provisions from the Bowen Wine and Beer Store and spending a night out in the community living room up at The Pub.  I love watching people from our groups experience Bowen, meet local people and make connections while they are here.  They can feel the belonging that we know.

Belonging is a key indicator of the quality of our relationship to this place.  For me this really informs our BRE work, because we are looking at the role that belonging to Bowen plays in the attractions nd retention of business here, despite thin profit margins and staffing issues.  If it wasn’t for that sense of “belonging on Bowen” I think a lot of businesses might have relocated elsewhere.

Vancouver Coastal Health did a survey in 2013 looking at community wellness on the North Shore and Bowen island, and not surprisingly we came out at 82%, the highest by far of all the areas surveyed. This is an important feature of community life here and is a big reason why we are a unique community within Metro Vancouver.  It is also a big reason why strategies tailored to business retention and development on Bowen need to uniquely fit our context.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Loons calling

There big spring bird migrations are in full swing.  We have had warblers around here for a month or more and vultures moving north as well.  In the last few days the snow geese have been moving by the thousands as well, have fed or overwintered in the Fraser estuary, and flying high at night on the still air, heading to Alaska.

This morning, a rare sound from Mannion Bay.  A common loon has been warbling on the water.  Once in a while we hear them, but not for a few years.  For anyone born in Ontario, this is a strange noise to hear on the ocean as we associate loons so strongly with interior lakes.  But they move up the coast every year too, with all of the other birds.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Oil spills and dock fires

A week of environmental accidents that have only heightened the story that Howe Sound and the waters around Vancouver are at risk.

A 2700 litre spill of bunker fuel in English Bay took hours to be discovered and dealt with.  As a result, the beaches around English Bay have been exposed to highly toxic bunker oil, and while the visible damage may not be all that impressive, the microscopic damage could be much much worse.

Following that, a fire at the Squamish Terminal destroyed the creosote coated pilings at the freight terminal, releasing noxious smoke into the air shed and endangering 30 dock workers, all of whom escaped safely.  The response to that fire included fire fighting boats from Vancouver.  The damage from the fire has probably killed all or most of the 100,000 chum salmon fry that were being raised nearby, and it's unknown how it will have affected the herring spawn.  Herring spawn on those pilings which have been wrapped in fabric to protect them from the chemicals in the creosote.  That intervention has led to a record herring population resurgence in Howe Sound and that in turn has brought back dolphins and orcas (a family of which were seen off Deep Bay this week).  This spring, a heavy herring spawn on kelp took place near the Woodfibre site and on the pilings at the Terminal and Nexen Beach.  The hope is that these herring are already hatched and gone, but we won't know for sure until the science is done.  At any rate, the replacement pilings will almost certainly not be creosote soaked wood, and that will be good news for the future, which is pretty much all we have right now.

Industrial accidents, are inevitable in industrial societies.  But the way we respond to these accidents is what matters.  In the case of the oil spill, the federal government was largely panned for the fact that cuts to local Coast Guard resources, and the privatization of spill response has led to an erosion of oil spill response capability.  There are now danger signs posted up along the Vancouver and West Vancouver beaches, just as summer begins.  The federal government has largely been praising it's own efforts to respond to the spill, in the face of evidence, reason, or citizen demand to do better.

In the case of the Squamish fire, absolutely heroic efforts got everything under control, but the dock will need to be taken down and replaced and the damage to the environment may be long lasting.  The inlet is at a crossroads, at which we can decide whether or not to pursue an aggressive agenda of risky industrial activity in the Sound, or choose a restorative approach to the inlet, which could include some development activity such as renewable power generation and tourism, but which eschews extractive resource activities and the processing and transportation of dangerous cargo.

If the last week has meant anything, it will push a sharper awareness of the future of our inlet to the forefront, and stimulate a deeper conversation about what is appropriate for this place.