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There’s a photo of me taken about eight years ago on the Bowen Island Golf Course. Now, I don’t play golf. Although I like the outdoor part of it, my body would rather be singing and dancing.

There’s a photo of me taken about eight years ago on the Bowen Island Golf Course. Now, I don’t play golf. Although I like the outdoor part of it, my body would rather be singing and dancing.
Why volunteer to improve a facility I will never take advantage of? Because I think the golf course is an important community asset. So when they asked for willing hands to help spruce up the grounds, I volunteered. I love gardening and I respect Bruce Russell. I admire him for keeping the dream of a 9-hole community golf course alive with energy and puns galore (FORE in 2004!) inspiring others to share the dream and work with him toward it.
Bruce also supported the Voices in the Sound Festival in 2005. He appreciates that art and culture have an important role to play on Bowen. When I was fundraising and awareness-raising for the festival, I aspired to be “the Bruce Russell of the art world.” I never managed to achieve that lofty position but I enjoyed trying. A gardening stint on the golf course would be a good way to say thanks to Bruce. So I grabbed my gardening gloves and went to work. That’s when Bruce took the photo. I’m holding a shovel rather than a five iron. And if you were also on the golf course that day, you would have heard me singing.
Last week, Bruce invited me to come to the golf course again. First thing I noticed was the sign: Bowen Island Golf Club. And then another sign above it: “Everyone Welcome”.  As I took a photo, a robin landed and perched upon the sign, making it quite clear that everyone is welcome here. Bruce insisted upon the sign. ”The word ‘club’ is very misleading,” he said. “It has a connotation of private.” He wanted people to know that anyone was welcome to play a round on a course he describes as “challenging but not daunting.” and that it was “accessible to the community at large whether for golf, or an enjoyable experience at The Cup Cutter.” And that’s where we were headed for lunch.
The Cup Cutter – named after the tool used to cut the holes in the putting greens - is one of many examples of the club’s ingenuity. They needed a clubhouse, and all they could afford was a small used portable classroom. Their renovation won first prize for the re-use and restoration of a used structure from the Modular Building Industry of North America. They should also have won awards for the views – spectacular - and for the number and variety of trees preserved and planted on the grounds.
Over a yummy salad on the porch of the Cup Cutter, Bruce and I chatted about the club. It was formed in 1988; he joined in 1996. “We needed a recreational amenity like a golf course. It’s listed in the OCP, and enhances the sense of social wellbeing. People tell us they’ve met more people in one year on the golf course than they did in 30 years on the island.”
There were challenges. One of the main environmental concerns about golf courses is their exorbitant use of water to maintain the grounds. To ensure water sustainability, they built their own 10.8 million gallon reservoir, complete with a sophisticated computer irrigation system. That amounts to enough water for 120 days with no appreciable rain. “We also had to educate our members that a lighter shade of green is okay,” he quips.
“I’ve been given too much credit,” Bruce says. “I was only the Pied Piper.”
He credits the success of the course on the financial and “sweat equity” of hundreds of people.
“Almost 550 people donated money for the initial construction and another 200 donated money so we could have our debt-free, Bowen appropriate clubhouse,” he says. The benches, the artwork and the plants have also been donated. “As of today, including the $750,000 of land donated by Bowen Island Properties, we have approximately $4 million invested in this public amenity, not one cent of which is taxpayer’s money.” Bruce suggests that supporters of other community initiatives on the island might explore a similar debt-free option.
As for the quality of our collective conversation on the island, Bruce says: “We need tolerance. Life is filled with disagreements. It’s how you handle it. Hope is something we may well have to rely on, along with patience as we try to work ourselves through the current divisive situation. I won’t give up. As long as my health permits, I will continue to do my small part.”
I’m with you Bruce, and willing to follow the “Pied Piper” in this direction of tolerance and patience combined with a healthy dose of respect and humour.