By Penny Sidor
Some people value the convenience and perhaps slightly lesser expense that would come with a toll bridge and a 40 minute drive from Gabe to Nanaimo via Mudge and Cedar. Some people value the amenities available in a large urban centre. Some people value the excitement and business opportunities that a fixed link to the Lower Mainland might bring, if the BC Liberals decided to do away with a large chunk of the ferry program, and create a Florida Keys type of causeway/bridge system.
Do we value our children and want a good life for them? Of course. Would a bridge really provide that and keep them here with us? Of course not. Kids will go to university, they’ll travel the world, they’ll settle where they wish. All kids leave home eventually.
Will a bridge create jobs and a new island economy? Our economy is tied to the rest of the province, country, world. Big money and careers happen in cities and mainly in resource extraction. Manufacturing has gone to third world countries. Island life means cottage industry, working from home via computer, the odd lawyer, doctor, dentist – like anywhere else in rural BC. A bridge is not going to change that.
So, as a person who is vehemently opposed to a bridge, what do I value?
As a resident of Gabriola – 16 years now – I thoroughly value the little bit of isolation and removal from the urban sprawl that is Nanaimo and a good chunk of the rest of the world. The ferry maintains that. I really don’t want the ‘wide world’ intruding. That’s a big reason why I moved here. I like the separation – a lot. I value having the choice to come home to the fresh air, the sound of the waves, the trees, the trails and beaches, the slower pace, the different ‘energy’ of the island. I feel such a sense of relief when I get on that ferry and come back from ‘over there’. We would lose a lot of that with a fixed link.
We talk about getting from Gabe to the Big Island more easily with a bridge. But what about movement from the other direction? It’s hard to foresee exactly what would come over that bridge to us? Development, industry, many more people, condos on the beach? There is already so much pressure to develop these islands. I have no doubt that a bridge would increase that pressure exponentially.
Here on Gabe we have a proliferation of artists, writers, musicians, fabric artists, sculptors, potters, amazing farmers and gardeners, builders, carpenters etc. etc. etc. We made our own Community Hall, Commons, Medical Clinic, Public Transportation. I believe this amazing energy, the times we come together in community, the dazzling flowering of creativity comes out of that extra little bit of isolation. We have to be self-reliant, we have to make our own fun, we have the space to be artistically creative, and to create what we want, because nothing is quite so ‘handy’ as it is in town. We’re on our own, and we’re wonderfully different because of that.
We are ‘contained’, as it were, and we are thus our own ‘starter-culture’ fermenting in the ‘island vat’ like a good wine, or beer, if you prefer.
I place huge value on the natural environment here. I can sit at my kitchen table and see 20 different kinds of birds in 45 minutes. I can count 50 different grasses and wildflowers on the way to the mailbox. The beaches are throbbing with life. The woods, even though the island has been clearcut twice, abound with plants, insects, fungi, animals. This bio-diversity is unbelievably rare in the world. That alone makes me want to protect Gabriola from over-population, traffic, industry, development of all kinds. It’s so very precious. And so easy to take for granted. Most of the rest of the world is not like this at all. We are so, so, so lucky to have this around us.
If we don’t hold the line, we will lose it. Of that I have absolutely no doubt. The bridge is a breach. The ferry system is part of that line.