Conservation Development

In this video we take a look from above at how the Lower Mainland has developed over the past 30 years, and how nature has receded in that time. We pose the question: Will we follow the pattern of development of many communities in the Lower Mainland, or create a new strategy that provides the diverse housing we need but still preserves the natural spaces we treasure? Let’s start talking about Conservation Development for Bowen Island. See our slideshow about Conservation Development for more info.

A permanent greenway network can be achieved if growing it becomes an automatic feature of development on the island. We hope our new Municipal Council will shepherd this idea and customize it for Bowen.

Produced as a conversation starter by John Reid and John Dowler © 2018.


A series of cartoon panels. The first shows a forest with a river through it. Next slides show one property cut into it, then a road, another road, another property then four, then eight, then accessory buildings until the land has very little connecting forest.

Nature evaporates

Two aerial views of Coquitlam show large areas of forest in 1984, and massive expansion of city streets replacing forest by 2016

What makes Bowen different?

We are a small island with finite borders. We cannot reach into the ocean for our green space. But we still have a large intact rainforest and time to plan its future. Our present path will result in a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ if we subdivide over and over like the rest of the lower mainland. We must have a strategy that ensures we are on a path that creates the socially diverse community we want and the natural diversity we love.

as land is
divided over time.

A cartoon landscape, with large areas of open land and most of the forest cut down. Houses are spread apart.

How do we arrive at a solution?

Bowen Island is at a crossroads. Now is a great time for a conversation about how future growth should look.

Historically we have relied on large lot zoning to limit population and preserve our environment.
This strategy, while successful in protecting the environment to some extent, can limit housing options to predominantly single family homes. Prices for these are beyond the means of many islanders.
Our need to provide more affordable and diverse housing options demands a new strategy that can provide room for our inevitable population growth as well as one that can grow our protected natural environment.

But there is an alternative:

An alternative to the previous image: a large forest left about two thirds intact, with a bubble of development featuring 4-8 unit buildings.

Conservation Development

With Conservation Development, developers are encouraged to create clusters of multi-family buildings on a portion of their land while preserving nature in perpetuity on the remainder.

While the density is higher, it provides the smaller, more affordable housing options we need. And rather than endless cutting, it protects significant and connected portions of our island’s forests and waterways forever.