Monday, July 22, 2002

Things are about to change on Bowen Island. And fast.

If you look over the documents at the Islands Trust site you will note that lots of by-law amendments are being proposed relating to how development is proceeding on our little island. We cuirrently have two major developments underway, one on Cates Hill overlooking Snug Cove, and one on the southern slope of the island at Cowen Point, which will include a golf course, a dock in pristine Seymour Bay, and a little community services development like the one that hosts the Ruddy Potato and the Post Office in the Cove.

All of these developments will bring a further 200 families to the island which could mean another 1000 people or so over the next few years. Our official community plan caps the carrying capacity of our vessel at 7000, which is about double what we have now. But so far I don't think that any development has happened as quickly on Bowen as what we are about to witness.

It's hard to comprehend it. We try to imagine what it will be like with twice as many people at the beach, in the ferry line up, at Doc's on a Friday night. It still seems manageable, but at a human scale a community of 7000 is a lot different from a community of 3500. And that again is different from the community of 1500 that was here 20 years ago.

My fellow Bowen blogger Richard Smith has written recently:

How big is a community? Seems an odd question, sort of like the famous say, "How long is a piece of string?" But the implied question -- how big should a community be? Is interesting. Especially in the virtual world, where it is possible to build communities at an optimum size. If you knew what an optimum size was. I am thinking about this partly because I live in a small community (approx. 4,000 people) and enjoy it. I also study the social side of on-line technologies, and one of the people I interviewed recently observed that "everyone is trying to build the biggest online community," but the magic lies in having the community that is the right size -- the one that is the most compelling, the most interesting, the most dynamic. And that might not necessarily be the one that is the largest. Especially in the on-line world of virtual communities.

His comments about the optimum size of online communities apply to real ones too. There is a server side scaling issue, as the techies put it, and also there is the challenge of sorting out the circles to find the crowd that you want to run with.

In theory more people, and more diversity, should make for more robust and self-sustaining communities here. And people choosing to live on an island will always share a desire for introspection to some degree. So maybe we'll be able to keep the evensong chorale going with a full tenor section, and the sustainability committee will be able to find a critical mass to create sustainable sustainability.

Regardless it will be interesting to watch over the next few years how this all sorts itself out, and what the implications are for ths potato shaped chunk of volcanic rock poking out of the clear blue waters of Howe Sound.

If you want to see what we could use to becnhmark our progress, I would recommend a tour of the Bowen Island geolibrary which is available on CD ROM, but also in beta form at

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