Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Little Bay Islands

Let me just start by saying that Little Bay Islands is a treasure. The whole community could be turned into a living museum. It is beautiful, warm, colourful and friendly. If it were on the British Columbia coast people would be paying hundreds of thousands just to have a tiny summer cottage there. You simply must go.

But be warned: the community will almost certainly not exist by this time next year. It seems the majority of people are simply ready to leave. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to say that the vast majority of Little Bay Islanders have already, of their own accord, left over the past couple decades, and that the majority of those remaining are going to be "helped" to leave by the provincial government.

The government sees nothing but a moneypit - operating a ferry that runs 5 times a day and a school that sadly (pathetically even) has only one student. So the government has offered each household $300000 to leave. Well, not to leave exactly, because anyone is welcome to stay, but rather to relinquish any expectation of access to government services of any type.

And the townspeople, not all but certainly most of them, have given up as well. There are a few fishermen, and one bed and breakfast, but no store, or restaurant, or pub, or post office, or library, or other business of any sort. It is a town with no incentive to keep existing, but plenty of incentive to not. There will be a referendum in a month or two, and if enough votes are cast for resettlement the community will be no more.

They are in a bad situation, but with a little change in attitude this could so easily be a glass-half-full scenario. There are plenty of opportunities if the government wasn't so gung-ho to erase this town from the map. Properties are cheap, and many of them have been bought up by wealthy mainlanders who come up for the summer months (who, crazily, don't get to vote - they are the only ones who have invested anything in this town in the past decade). There are plenty of seasonal tourists as well, and, perhaps miraculously, the town still manages to hold a summer songwriters festival. I can't help but think of the type of businesses that could really thrive in that environment - not your regular crappy fish and chips shop, but a cafe selling gourmet coffees, for instance. Any simple, creative idea could really turn this place into a destination. And I keep thinking that if there were an excellent potter in town he/she would quickly meet some excellent customers.

Sadly the residents there don't seem to have the skill set to deal with these opportunities, and the government is just itching to shut it down rather than deal with the problem. With this community perhaps it's too late anyways - once there are no children it is hard to recover. But I think there are lessons to be learned here, that there are alternatives to resettlement, and that they must be explored long before the question must even be asked. The case of Little Bay Islands represents a failure in the past, and other shrinking communities, who aren't even considering resettlement at the moment, would do well to look at them and prepare for the future.

Well, enough with the ranting. There were some amazing shards in Little Bay Islands. The harbour is mostly rocky, and I had trouble finding shards to work with at first. But on the southeast side of the community and at low tide I found these beauties:

There was this lovely piece of old rusty iron on the beach which I covered with shards:

And I did something I'd been wanting to do for a couple weeks but didn't have the opportunity - I lined a slipway with shards. I couldn't do this in Grand Bruit just because there were so many fisherman on the go and I didn't want to get in their way. This slip was quiet enough I figured I could get away with it (and it had the lovely blue plastic which meant I could make a sort of blue and white composition):

Across the harbour I also made this simple pile on a rock:

And this is what happened over the next couple days - the shards on the iron simply sat there (it was a very sheltered part of the harbour):

The shards on the rock were scattered by the tide:

And the shards on the slipway just disappeared. I don't know if they fell on their own, but a boat appeared and when I asked the skipper he didn't have any idea what I was talking about.

The thing that really struck me about Little Bay Islands were the for sale signs on the houses. Most of the signs were pretty old, but they still conveyed a sense of simultaneous hopefulness and desperation. I put a shard on each one I could:

1 comment:

  1. a rich person could buy it for a private exclusive island. or someone turn it into an expensive resort island and the place be booming. i wanna go all these places . nl i could explore this island so many places i havnt been. very interesting stuff . love your beach life what youre doing i love it.