With the decline of many of B.C.’s renewable resource industries, many communities, including Lake Cowichan, have been forced to generate new sources of revenue. Over the last 10 years, Lake Cowichan has seen a lot of change. Driving through town it is apparent, even to a newbie like me, which buildings are new and which have been here for quite some time.
When change occurs, community members seem to have mixed feelings. In some cases change generates excitement and gives hope. In others, it creates debate and even a divide between family members, close neighbours and friends. It has been interesting to watch this phenomena once again unfold before me as I come learn about Lake Cowichan and its people. Everywhere I go, the construction of the new Tim Hortons location is on everyones’ lips.
When I was in my early twenties Salt Spring was just starting to experience a real estate boom and was adjusting to the growing numbers of tourists who invaded the island each summer. New buildings were quickly being constructed, and new businesses were opening. These changes were sometimes hotly debated between the public and the Islands Trust. Though I never participated in these debates, I was affected by them and definitely had opinions of my own.
My favourite memory of this occurred on an April fools day sometime in the early ’90s. On the hill heading south out of Ganges, towards Fulford, someone had put up a sign in the night that read something like “McDonald’s, Coming to Salt Spring this August!” The person who had erected the sign went through a lot of time to make it look genuine—I could not tell it was fake unless I got out of my car and really looked. Well the town went into an uproar for about a day, myself included. There was no way Salt Spring was going to get a McDonald’s. We liked our island just the way it was, thank you very much!
Since that time, Ganges has grown exponentially. Thrifty Foods has come to the island, Country Grocer has renovated and upgraded their store, Mark’s Work Warehouse has bought up one of the old buildings in town and built a new, two story establishment. Dairy Queen even tried to make a go of it for a while, but they only lasted about a year. (It seems that Salt Springer’s really don’t want a fast food joint on the island.) Each one of these changes was met with resistance and eventual resignation, and each one of them has contributed to the economic viability of the island even if they have also changed, to some degree, what many of us saw Salt Spring to be. I have come to think that when it comes to this kind of growth or change in our little communities, we must pick our battles wisely and not be afraid to try something new when old methods and ways of thinking are no longer a viable option.