Last summer, interim Undercurrent editor Martha Perkins started a series called “How I got here,” delving into the fascinating tales of how Bowen Islanders became… Bowen Islanders.
It was a series I hoped to revive upon my return to work, and I still might do so. However, the story these days seems to be one of departure. I feel these stories need to be told as a way to acknowledge the neighbours we are saying goodbye to, and also, incidentally, as a way to put a face to our current housing crisis.
Time for a change
KAT, CAM AND SAM HAYDUK
After 12 years in, and just prior to his family’s departure, Cam Hayduk said he had “all the feels happening.”
So yes, sad to be leaving, nervous perhaps, and also excited to be off on a new adventure.
Kat and Cam came to Bowen when their son Sam, was one year old.
“It was a typical Bowen Island story where you come for the affordable living and you stay for the community,” says Kat. “When we first came to Bowen, we bought our house and the day we took possession of it we were sitting on the deck and we heard the pitter patter of little feet, a sliding door opened on the house next door and a kid popped out, and peed off the deck. And we were like, yep, we’re not in West Van anymore, this is good.”
Cam said he’d always wanted to move to a place like this, while Kat was a little more reluctant.
“I was reluctant because of some of the same reasons why it’s time to go: diversity, both socio-economic and ethnic diversity. I’m done with a monoculture,” says Kat.
The big reason for their departure, however, is to facilitate the expansion of their business. Moving to Vancouver, they say, proved to be a non-option after 10 minutes or looking into both the rental and the housing market. They decided to move East, to Hamilton, Ontario, and since announcing the move, several new contracts for their company, Turtlebox Productions, have solidified.
While Cam and Kat say they are definitely not victims of the housing market, they say their move is putting them in a much healthier financial position.
“Just with the money we’ll save on ferry travel and having an office in our house, that will save us $2,000 per month,” says Cam.
Both Kat and Cam say, Bowen has been the perfect place to raise their son and their business.
“Bowen was a really good move for us. Without living in this community and working on community videos, I don’t think Turtlebox would have ever really taken off. Bowen has been a womb, but it’s time to get real.”
Saying goodbye to the Bowen dream
CHERILYNE AND LESLIE OLSON
After fifteen years and six homes on Bowen Island Cherilyne and Leslie Olson are saying goodbye to Bowen Island.
Cherilyne Olson says living on Bowen was a dream come true for her husband Leslie, who first spent time here at the age of nine at the Vancouver Sun camp.
“He is completely heartbroken at having to leave,” she says. “He won’t even talk about it with anyone.”
Cherilyne says while they’ve been forced to move before (usually because the place they were living in got sold) this time around, they could not find a suitable option.
“Everything was either short-term or outrageously expensive.”
What does outrageously expensive look like on Bowen Island? $2,500 per month for a three bedroom house, she says.
“I could see that being considered reasonable in a community with more amenities, like access to a hospital and all kinds of other things, but not here. That said, we really do like Bowen for it’s lack of amenities.”
Cherilyne says that after this stretch of time living on Bowen, most of her friends are here, and she will also be very sad to leave her job at Alderwood Farms.
While living in the city was not an option, both because of her pets and the high cost of rent, Cherilyne will be moving to Comox where she knows no one.
“We’ve got a beautiful house there on almost an acre of land with beautiful gardens and fruit trees,” she says. “On top of that, the rent is reasonable and it is very stable for the long-term.”
Leslie, because he works in film in North Vancouver, will find a place to stay in the city while he’s working, and commute back and forth on weekends and holidays.
Bowen has lost its luster
A fourth generation Bowen Islander, Adam grew up here, left for a while, came back part time, then returned full time. His current home on Cardena Road sat vacant for 18 months before he moved in, he says, because the owners had dealt with some bad tenants.
“My uncle knew the owners and gave me a reference,” he says. “We worked out a deal that was great for all of us, I had really affordable rent in exchange for the upkeep of their place.”
He moved in 13 years ago. Than, this past year the owners told him they wanted to sell, and offered him the opportunity to buy.
“I couldn’t get the money together on such short notice, and also was about to start a new job so, it didn’t work out,” says Adam. “Also, it just seems like maybe it’s time for me to go. I have a long commute and Bowen has really lost its luster for me lately. People are moving here to get away, but not to become a part of this place. Bowen just doesn’t have the community feel that it used to.”
Adam says that if he had managed to buy his house, he would’ve tried to build some kind of carriage house on the property for his 81 year old father.
“My dad has a house on Dorman road but he wants to downsize, and rent somewhere that’s walking distance to the Cove,” says Adam. “He just can’t find that right now.”
Adam says that he is particularly concerned about people like his father, who have a long history on Bowen, and also the younger generation of islanders whose families go back multiple generations.
“I see my generation, people in their late 30s and early 40s, as the last ones who will actually be able to afford to buy a home here,” he says. “We need to create something different than the standard single family home in order to make Bowen work for these multi-generational families.”
Adam says that he’ll likely come back to Bowen at some point, but he sees himself finding a place in the city and taking the time to figure out what he really wants.