small town windermere

by underswansea

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Sometimes the valley can be a weird place to call home. It doesn’t resemble the same place growing up. It has become a tourist trap. The business people are scraping over every dollar inflating prices for everything from a loaf of bread to a liter of gas. And they inflate it more come high season. If you live here you endure it.

For me it is a trade off. The tourists speed in with boats, motor homes, ATV’s, motorbikes, pedal bikes and jacked up shiny trucks. The prices go through the roof while the local business people bitch it’s not enough. It’s never enough. They fight over every hotdog and rubber tomahawk. It is a pain in the ass to watch it go down. The only thing that makes it bearable is the bush. I still know a few roads the tourists don’t. That is changing too. But for now I’m safe. In the morning I try to leave the valley bottom early before the tourists and second homeowners flood in.

I visited the cemetery at Windermere. My grandfather and then my mom and dad dug graves over there. It is a beautiful spot overlooking the islands off the beach. It is completely surrounded by large vacation homes.

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Windermere is an old heritage town. It was settled by many of the first pioneers to the valley, including my grandparents.

Today it is 23% occupied, with the rest of the residences being vacation homes, occupied for only six weeks of the year. To drive through it in winter is strange. The unoccupied mansions rising like tombstones resemble an empty upscale ghetto.

The Windermere School has remained open. But not without being creative. There are probably fewer school age kids in Windermere today than when my father attended classes in a one room schoolhouse in 1930. Today the school bills itself as having an excellent staff and curriculum. Parents bus or drive their children to the school.

Most of the full time residents live in the trailer park or small houses in need of a new roof.

When the few remaining long time citizens move or die, the old houses, along with gardens that fed the entire family are bought up and demolished, and replaced by large second homes that occupy the entire lot from property line to property line.

The old lots become investments. Property doesn’t go down, not like stocks and bonds.

To watch it happen is tough.

The cemetery is out of space. I’m surprised an over zealous realtor hasn’t lobbied local government to move the deceased to a nice gravel pit somewhere, and sell the voluable land, making room for more mansions.

Change and progress is good. That’s what everyone says. I think what people mean is that you can’t stop it. We live beside the richest city in Canada, containing 1.2 million people. Many are affluent and feel entitled.

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While walking the perimeter of the cemetery I noticed plenty of people have been burying their pets on the slope beside markers dating back to the early 1900’s. I love my dogs, but I’d have to get an ‘A’ okay from my father if he wanted to be buried with them.

Lisa and I will be pushed out one of these days. I don’t expect my ashes will ever fall near the shore of the lake I’ve grown up beside, and love with all my heart. It belongs to others now. It has for a long time. That’s progress.

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