When early settlers arrived to homestead land on Saltspring Island in the mid-1800’s from England, Ireland, and Scotland, they found a veritable paradise. First Nations people had co-existed for millennia with the local flora and fauna. The streams were filled with salmon runs scarcely believable today. In autumn, the skies were darkened by thousands of waterfowl heading south and the forests teamed with wildlife. The woods gave up a bountiful harvest of berries and medicinal herbs.
By the 1960’s almost 2000 people had settled acreages on Saltspring Island; a hearty mixture of loggers, farmers, and fishers. They cleared the land, built homes and planted orchards, gardens and fields of grain. They imported sheep, cattle and built a large number of barns and buildings to house a vast trade in chickens, eggs and turkeys which were shipped off to Vancouver Island by boat and barge.
The early ’70’s brought hundreds of hippies, back-to-the-landers and draft-dodgers looking for homes on Saltspring Island and the island ‘vibe’ was forever changed. House prices here were of course, a fraction of that on the Mainland, encouraging an alternative kind of lifestyle. This encouraged poets, writers, artists and musicians to move to Saltspring Island, which soon became famous for the eclectic, talented and creative folk who make this island home.
The ‘80’s brought a huge increase in tourism, and many fell in love and began looking for real estate on Saltspring. Word soon spread that the sailing here was comparable to the Caribbean and soon the harbours filled with sailboats from as far as L.A. and further south and the sailing community flourished. Kayakers say the area is a heaven for paddlers, and the weather is suitable for canoeing and paddling almost year round.
An amazing network of old logging roads ran through our old-growth forests, and soon hikers were coming from as far as Europe to experience some of the tallest trees on planet earth. Wildflowers and the happy chirping of birds offered adventures of a lifetime in the hundreds of acres of nature conserved by one of the most environmentally-friendly communities in Canada. We have collectively saved and protected almost 10,000 acres of public greenspace.
A vibrant Trail and Nature club promotes walks, hikes, and rambles for differing levels of fitness, and connects nature-lovers with tall, hidden waterfalls, vast meadows of wildflowers seldom or never seen elsewhere. The Seven Summits on the island have attracted a youthful, energetic group of climbers who scale their summits with rope and crampons, while the rest of us can wander quietly through hundreds of kilometers of trails lined with mosses, ferns and early spring wildflowers, while autumn brings a vast array of colorful fungi, both delicious and otherwise.
Today, our small community boasts the most published authors in Canada and we’ve recently added a world-class library in downtown Ganges, where locals enjoy poetry night, and visits from famous authors and poets. Countless artists also abide here, having found land and homes on Saltspring Island that feature incredible views of forest, farmland, mountains and water to inspire them.
Over 10,000 active citizens now live on this island, creating a vibrant and unusual community. Concerned islanders have promoted and built many kilometres of walking and biking pathways, connecting different areas to our busy downtown district with pathways suitable for people of all ages, including walkers and scooters to accommodate our valued senior citizens. People of all ethnicities now live in harmony together, and we’ve recently celebrated our indigenous heritage and the cultural values they represent on our land by installing new totems in Burgoyne Bay.
Small farms dot the pastoral Fulford Valley, and newcomers drive along its length marvelling at its still rural atmosphere with sheep grazing and orchards blooming. Many acreages on Saltspring Island have preserved the heritage apple orchards that were planted here a century ago, and the island boasts over 450 apple varieties, the most on the North American continent.
Farmland on Saltspring Island has recently been acquired to create community gardens and islanders are now growing more local, healthy and organic foods and raising livestock in environmentally-conscious and ethical ways. Our famous Saturday Market provides a venue for both the artists, growers, farmers and craftspeople that make the island home, and the countless visitors that come to experience the amazing, unusual and artistic atmosphere of a small island that has now become well-known throughout Canada and beyond.