Inspired island

Get a taste of British Columbia's idyllic, eccentric Salt Spring Island

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A delicate balance

For all of this island's idyllic qualities, it has its fair share of growing pains too. "It's hard to balance the demands of the tourists and the local community," says farmer and author Michael Ableman, who moved to the island from California six years ago to start Madrona Valley Farm, an organic farm and bed-and-breakfast that he owns with his wife, Jeanne-Marie Herman. The quandary is one of development: concern that new vacation homes standing empty for most of the year detract from the sense of community and that looming resort development will test the island's already-stretched water resources.

Yet despite the challenges, both Ableman and Hartnett are optimistic about the future. "It's an unusually committed group of people on this island, and most of them share a very strong belief in protecting their natural environment," says Ableman. "There's an enormously high level of civic involvement."

Artists Paul Burke and Anna Gustafson, the couple who own the Blue Horse Folk Art Gallery, do their part to tread lightly on the land. Next to the hillside gallery, which is filled with Burke's acclaimed wooden sculptures and Gustafson's raku-fired ceramics, their home is built over a 39,000-gallon cistern because water is scarce on their drought-prone part of the island. "There are lots of people on the side of conservation on Salt Spring," says Gustafson. "We all rally together to protect the land."

Musing on how she and Burke decided to settle here after five years of searching for a place to put down roots, Gustafson says, "There is truly something amazing about Salt Spring. Most people who come here and stay feel like this is the home they've been waiting to go to all their lives."


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