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Coming together in the Pemberton Valley

Hybrid vigour is the term for melding two unrelated breeds and the resulting burst of fertility, good health and growth



This story starts with a dog.

A dog is shot. Everybody has an opinion, a finger to point. A schism erupts in a small community, and people are either on one side or the other of a don’t-look-down crevasse.

In Pemberton, the old-guard and the new kids on the block are squaring off. Veronica Woodruff’s anti-hunting crusade, in the wake of her dog’s killing, has scratched the surface of a deeper conflict. Pemberton is changing faster than anyone can keep up. And that has some people feeling very proprietary.

Long-time locals have been heard to comment: Well, everybody knows it’s a hunting ground in the fall.

But I didn’t know that. And I realize that I don’t know much about Pemberton at all.

What is Pemberton all about? The numbers speak for themselves. In 1993, the population of Pemberton hovered around 300. By 1996, it had exploded to 897. By 2003, it had more than doubled again, hitting 1,997. If you include the population of Area C in the SLRD, which takes in the Pemberton Meadows, the Pemberton to Whistler corridor, the Mount Currie to D’Arcy corridor, and the First Nations communities, that’s another 2,800 people looking to much of Pemberton’s infrastructure.

At the library, they feel the swells and surges of the population first-hand. The library is a front line service provider, and the staff are often the first friendly community face for new residents. Hovering around the check-out desk, I discover librarian Jan Naylor knows everyone’s stories – how long they’ve been here, where they’re headed next, why they’re moving on. She’s like a weathervane for the community, and I check in with her, to take the pulse of Pemberton, just as my predecessor Oona Woods did for Pique , in 1997 in her story "Pemberton’s growing pains."

"In 1980, when the library started," says Naylor, "we had a circulation of 4,000 items. Last year, we circulated just under 39,000." Every year since 1990, library circulation has increased by an average of 10 per cent a year. This season, Naylor is seeing more francophones – "a lot of the young people who’ve come to work at Whistler are coming in to use the computers" – and a baby explosion. "There’s a real need for a new baby time, and story time," she says, noting that the Books for Babies program has served close to 100 babies a year since it started in 2002.

Pemberton is bursting at the seams. Nothing new there. No wonder the old-timers are shaking their heads.

Seed potato capital. Mountain biking out my back door. Organic farms with harvest boxes and farm-gate operations. Cowboys clopping past my house with as much frequency as the cyclists. The touchstone of Mount Currie that keeps us forever looking to the mountains. That’s the Pemberton post-card series.