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Dawn Titus – Defining The Envelope



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But back to Dawn's story. By the next spring, the young family was well and truly established in the valley. "Through some of the members at the club, Kevin had been offered the caretaker's job at Adventures West," she explains. "And that provided free rent AND a salary." She can't help herself. She has to smile. "Everything was working out for us. How could we leave? There were young couples with kids all over the place. So we decided to stay another year."

The clincher came when Martha Heintzman contacted them with an intriguing proposal. "She phoned us up one evening and said 'there's a lot that's come up for sale in Tapley's Farm. You should go for it.'" She shrugs. "I didn't even look at the property. Kevin came home. We talked about it a little. And Kevin said: 'yeah we should go for it." A long pause. She draws in a slow breath. "You know, that's still the place I'm living in now. It feels strange too because I'm in the process of selling it..."

The new development at Tapley's Farm - a neighbourhood referred to as 'Moms, Dogs and Children' - came about when a posse of local Whistlerites decided to take ownership of their housing woes in 1980 (yes, there were housing issues even back then) and do something about it. The result was the creation of the legendary Mountain Development Corporation (MDC) - and the first iteration of affordable resident housing at Whistler.

And it was quite a revolutionary move. Think about it. Here were all these young people willing to address their housing problems without turning to government for help. Realtors, lawyers, ski bums, artists, coaches, teachers - everybody got involved. As for the municipality, it got a big return too. In fact, it could be argued that the Tapley's Farm experiment became a model for Whistler's subsequent resident-housing initiatives.

Not surprisingly, the Titus family fit right in. "Back then it wasn't about waiting for someone to do it for you," explains Dawn, "You just got up and did it yourself."

Remember the Dandelion Daycare Centre? "That's a perfect example of the can-do attitude in those years," she explains. "And it came about because a small group of strong women got together and made it happen. We didn't need a lot of help from outside. We got materials donated and work-time offered for free. And people like Sue and John Paine, Dave and Connie Cathers and Debbie O'Mara put in countless hours on it."

Meanwhile, the young family was still living at Adventures West while Kevin slowly built the house that would become their home. "That was a pretty exciting time," says Dawn. "I remember going down to MDC with the boys and watching Kevin and Peter Xhignesse hard at work on the new house. Our plan to go back to Ontario was fading."