Health officer bids Terrace a fond farewell

It wasn’t perfect, but its a beautiful and warm place to call home, says David Bowering

Dear Sir:

I write this on my last night as a Terrace resident. My little house is sold and cleaned out and I am moving to a house now under construction at the Three Rivers Co. housing project in Hazelton with my “fabulously impossible” partner, Josette.

I am feeling grateful to Terrace for its many joys and graces and for the shelter and fun I have found here over the years.

I came here first in the early ’60s working as a summer student for the Highways and was blown away by the scenery, the Skeena and its big fish, Lakelse and Skogland hotsprings.

I came here again as a medical student in the late ’60s and got a taste of the legendary parties thrown by a few of the local docs who at that time epitomized the work hard, play hard ethic.

But what hooked me had nothing to do with my career. It was the sense of having discovered a place that held meaning. It was the First Nations, and their presence here and throughout the Northwest that gave shape to a feeling of something sacred as well as deeply rooted and immensely practical running like a current through everyday life. Whether in the woods, on the banks of the rivers, or in the communities, I felt at home in this region.

Eventually I found my way into public health and in 1987 got to be a medical health officer with the Skeena Health Unit headquartered in Terrace knowing I had found my niche.

My kids went to school here, and while I would love to idealize their experiences in this beautiful place, I have to acknowledge the rough edges and the fact that kids here face challenges. Violence, racism, drugs, and bullying which one could say exist everywhere, are especially intense in relatively isolated resource towns like Terrace. But there was also a lot here that was healthy for them and for me at least, it seemed to meet the standard of “a good place to bring up your kids”.

In 2000, I moved to the Okanagan for a few years, then to Prince George while Northern Health was in its infancy and finally back to Terrace as a soon to be retired old fart in 2012.

I have always loved it. The miraculous micro climate that allows one to grow peaches in just the right spot. The perfect terrain allowing for day hikes through the forests into the alpine and back down again. Ferry Island. The farmer’s market. The amazing runs of fish up the Skeena and the ancient and new cultures that thrive on it as people make their annual runs to meet the running fish.

I am grateful for the people here who have created a community that is much more than just a place to work. Terrace has more and better youth sports than it has any right to. It has a tradition of excellence in music exemplified by the annual NorthWest Music Festival which I tasted by playing in the community band for a number of years under the direction of the late and legendary Jim Ryan. It has a growing collection of hiking and mountain biking trails that are truly astonishing and the best part is, that all of these “extras” are due to the hard work and passion of volunteers who also love this place and want to make it better.

Terrace has every right to call itself world class just as it is.

It would be a huge mistake to think that this town has to depend on some giant corporation to come in and build its future. I have watched boom and bust cycles come and go for years and they are never healthy.

Terrace could regain a roll as the food basket of the region if people with vision were encouraged and funded to make it happen. It could remain one of the last refuges on earth where wild salmon can be seen, fished for, eaten, and honoured. Its air could be the cleanest and healthiest on the planet. I have been to places in China and India where the air is virtually unbreathable and can easily imagine a future with people flocking to clean air vacation spots like Terrace.

By comparison to the priceless values that already exist here, LNG plants are a dime a dozen; they and their climate altering ilk will only harm the things that make this place great. Clean air, outdoor recreation, salmon fishing, food sustainability, ancient cultures to teach us, and active community volunteers working to make life better. Most if the world’s people can hardly imagine that such a place exists. These qualities and values, if preserved and developed could sustain a healthy economy for generations.

There is much more that could be said, but not tonight. Thank you, Terrace. I won’t be far away but I will definitely miss this place.

David Bowering

Terrace, B.C.