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The rise of Squamish culture

As a younger demographic moves into town, a sea change in arts and culture is taking place

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But the mayor doesn't see it that way. No, for Greg Gardner, a beginning would imply some kind of end and there is no end.

"I guess I'm not a subscriber to this theory that all of a sudden Squamish has been discovered and exploding," Gardner says, sitting in his spacious office at his car dealership along Highway 99. "I mean, the people that moved here 50 years thought it was discovered and exploding. And the people who discover it 50 years from now will probably think the same thing. It's just a continuum where we just keep getting better, hopefully."

The good news for Gardner and others who believe that "better" equates "growth" - and there are many - is that Squamish's population is set to double by 2031, according to a municipal study conducted before the 2010 Olympics. With the hype surrounding that event, Gardner took little stock in those numbers but now, a year and a half later, he says they're still on target for that.

"Squamish will continue to grow. I don't know how it won't given its location," he says.

Real estate agents have been targetting Vancouver's Yaletown residents, appealing to young professionals who want to start, or have already started, families and are seeking a different quality of life. This is largely an educated demographic with urban tastes that will invariably shift the look and feel of the town.

"This bodes very well for Squamish," Gardner says. "That's exactly the demographic you want to hit, whether it's for community events or for social issues or for economic development, young people are the people making it happen."

Plans are in the works to develop the town's waterfront, owned by the District of Squamish, into a community with strong arts focus. Council has given considerable thought as to how to facilitate a strong arts and culture community on the peninsula by constructing a Granville Island-inspired boardwalk with condominiums, public art displays and a performance art venue.

"It encapsulates our vision for Squamish," Gardner says. "All the units out there might have a portion - three dollars a month, whatever it is - going toward arts and culture, and we think people would be happy to do that because having a vibrant arts and culture scene down there will increase the value of the land. We've put a lot of thought into that."

Krisztina Egyed, chair of the Squamish Arts Council (SAC) and lifetime Squamish resident, says council support for the arts has been pivotal for its successes over the last three years. She's been with the SAC since 2004 and says they've come a long way since then in establishing a strong support system for local arts and culture.

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