Seemingly, it's the Promised Land; a virtual paradise who's charm captures you from the minute you board the ferry at Horseshoe Bay. The salt air brushes off city grime and elevates you as you travel aboard a ferry towards Bowen Island, British Columbia, Canada.
To sail in Howe Sound is to bask in the delights of tiny islands dotting the Tony Onli canvas that paints your arrival to an oasis of hope and dreams. After docking, a stroll up Snug Cove enchants you with quaint buildings and picturesque wanderings amid local characters and all the trappings that cry, "Where's a postcard, I have to send several!".
But wait. Can life here be that good? What is it like to live in Shagrila? Talk, listen, learn. I set out to do all.
Island living is all about the ferry. Hundreds of commuters race the clock daily to jockey for position and ensure their space on the boat. The ferry line up system is wracked with flaws, the ferry itself is often late or broken down. What does one do when one has to be in the city ontime? I asked several commuters and some were just plain angry, others were resigned to the fact that this is part of island living and you just have to deal with it.
These converstaions were the first indication of the polarization that exists amongst the population. You are either an islander and accept things, or you hang on to your city attitudes and play a game of survival that's full of stress and worry.
The polarization extends to governance and politics. As the first island municipality within the Islands Trust, Bowen is frought with a defisivness that rivals any organization or political standpoint. Where does this leave the citizens? Clearly, lost. With a population boom to 4,000 , bringing it up by a thousand in only a few years, the impact on community is stiffiling.
And what has that boom brought? Along with weather pattern changes there is a water shortage. Do you want to buy a house on island where a ferry commute is unassured and you have to buy drinking water, hydrate your garden periodically, keep abreast of household use of water such as showers, laundry and dishes? One can only assume you would have to dedicate oneself to a vital community to live here.
What of the community? It functions, but put "dys" in front of that word. Power struggles to vie for "top group" create an hierarchy that destroys any possibilities of a circle of power that can serve all. "Big fish in a small pond" is what one local used to describe how organization leaders use ego and self-interest to destroy the potential of a great community.
Potential. A key word to describe Bowen Island. But what potential and who's potential? A closer look at the polarization and municipal government reveals the "Them versus Us" tactics to pit Devoloper against dyed-in-the-wool islanders. Such a shame when all could be working together with the Island's charm and grace as a common goal.
Move to Bowen Island? Not in my dreams! Visit to hike the mapped out trails, eat at several good restaraunts and take in some music, paintings and poetry? By all means!
Bowen Island does have potential. Unlike many of the other small communities and islands I have explored, this particular community has too many denizens holding onto city values and styles. There are those who want to beautify Snug Cove. Why? It is beautiful. There are those who want to undertake an expansive village to house and to build, build, build. Why? Why destroy the possesive charms that abound?
Bowen Island. A destination for hikers, bed and breakfast types (there are SEVERAL good ones) and those who just want to stroll along and breathe in a relaxed air for the visitor. It is not for those who want the stress of ferry timing or the hours added on to an unassured commute.