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Letter: So long, Squamish

May you one day be that great place I once dreamed of.
Sarah Bulford is moving away from Squamish.

Squamish, the place that pushes you so far outside your comfort zone that before you know it, you’re paying $1,000 a month for a parking spot.

Let’s rewind.

I moved to Squamish in the fall of 2011 — just before “the cool era” hit.

My first morning here, I walked around downtown with a, ‘What have I done’ feeling in my stomach.

Having never been to Squamish before, I truly didn’t know what to expect.

To my surprise, there was more than just a small strip of shops down Cleveland Avenue.

My arrival to Squamish was prompted by a quick Google search: “Somewhere on the B.C. coast with mountains.”

Instantly, a beautiful gallery came up with images of eagles, wintery peaks and stunning rainforest views. Even after finding an article stating Squamish was one of the Top 10 worst towns in Canada to live in, I knew I had to go.

Had I known at 18 years old when I first moved to Squamish that I should invest in real estate, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this.

But, alas.

For the next 12 years, I worked a variety of local jobs and I spent seven years of my life with Squamish Search and Rescue. I gave my heart and soul to my work and volunteer contributions to this town.

For a brief moment, I almost felt like a “local.”

My housing journey was the tip of the iceberg for my eventual move away from Squamish.

Many days, I wanted to write an article titled “Ode to the Squamish Landlord.”

A truly whimsical piece paying homage to the absolutely outrageous things I have put up with to have a roof over my head.

The experiences over a decade were extremely strange, uncomfortable, random and even violent at times. The unfortunate part was the long list of tenants waiting to rent from these folks.

A list of working professionals who just wanted stability while managing life in the Sea to Sky. It seems to deserve housing in this town you need to be perfect.  

Tell the landlord you’re vegan with no pets and no children.

Tell them you’re quiet, smart, professional; you won’t move.

And never bring up that the 30-year-old washing machine broke or they may threaten to evict you. Don’t complain, and don’t make paperwork.

Now I am aware of the fact that there can also be monster tenants.

But it seems that in this particular town, the latter was rarely the case.

Squamish is the place we all go to “find ourselves.” To create the life of our dreams. It’s the place we push our limits as far as they can possibly go. It was a massive milestone for me in my life and development. I learned hard lessons here and did my best to be a positive part of the growth.

But the lack of affordable housing and regulation of rentals is totally out of control.

My decision to leave Squamish wasn’t an easy one but I’m moving away because I simply have to. I can’t afford to rent here. Not only that —I have a dog,

I have hobbies, eat meat and drive a vehicle that needs a parking spot. I have belongings and a life. And because of that, I am last on the long list of applicants waiting for housing.

The lesson I’ve learned from this is that Squamish isn’t the greatest place on earth.

It’s beautiful and full of opportunity, but it isn’t great. To be great, it would require a society that cares about the people who want to work and contribute here. To have a mayor and council that says “enough is enough” to gentrification and instead does the work to make real, sustainable change.

Good-bye to the people I love here, the mountains I climbed, skied, hiked and dreamed of.

Good-bye to the rivers and forests I spent so much time in. And goodbye to the friends I lost along the way.

Good-bye, Squamish.

May you one day be that great place I once dreamed of.

Sarah Bulford


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