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Paradise under threat

Paradise under threat

Gabriela (Schilling) Grabowsky, Artsci'78, and her partner make their home in the mountains of BC's scenic interior, "off grid" and 15 km from her nearest neighbour, yet the future of their wilderness paradise is uncertain. With nowhere else to turn, Gabriela is making a desperate appeal for help from the only family she has -- her Queen's family.

My copy of the latest Alumni Directory arrived the other day, and I can’t count how many hours I have sat nostalgically trying to remember the last names of many of my Queen’s University classmates.

I was originally a member of Arts’71. When I began my studies at the University in 1967, I lived on Ban Righ Three in “the tower room.” I recall my first purchases in my new-found freedom from parents and home to be Jefferson Airplane’s classic 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow and a carton of Rothmans cigarettes. I no longer smoke, but I still dig the old tunes.

On the same floor I lived on was Suzy Morison, Arts’71. She had a great collection of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan records. We’re still in touch, once in a while.

I was never one of the mainstream in-crowd. Money was never my first consideration in life; it was adventure. So in 1970, I dropped out, got married, and emigrated to New Zealand, where my son Jesse was born.

Gaby and her partner Mick Gaby and her partner Mick are determined to fend off a proposed hydro development that would despoil the quality of life in their remote B.C. home

I returned to Queen’s in 1977 as a single parent, graduating as a member of Arts’78 with a degree in English, Art History, and German. I worked at the John Deutsch University Centre for a year before buying a VW van and driving across Canada to connect with Suzy Morison, who by then was living on the west coast. She now runs a dance school in Surrey, BC.

I eventually ended up in the Kootenays, where my new partner, Mick Grabowsky, and I started a business called Happy Trails Outfitters and Packers. We took people out on horseback adventures. It was hard work. We moved between the Kootenays and the Boundary Country before purchasing a remote 40 acres on Glacier Creek. We called our property Rainbow’s End Ranch because of the amazing river that runs through it. The area is scenic and unspoiled, and our house is off grid with no telephone or electricity. We chop all of our own firewood and live a simple, but healthy lifestyle.

Our property is mortgage-free and we love it here. But we now have a problem: a developer called AXOR Corporation – acting through its “green power subsidiary”, Purcell Green Power – wants to dam the river 13 km upsteam from our property and tunnel it six km through the mountains, the water never to return.

Mick, and I are desperate to raise awareness of what will befall our sacred wild waters if enough moral outrage is not aroused and this project goes ahead. SFU Professor John Calvert has written a book called Liquid Gold (Fernwood Publishing) that exposes the politics of this not-so-green (except for the money) idea of generating for-profit power using public waterways.

The web site www.saveourrivers.ca will also give you some idea of the situation. I’m no actress, but I spoke from the heart in several videos that are posted on the site. This is a true David-and-Goliath battle. I have truth, right, and a disability pension to sustain me in my battle against AXOR and the power of BC’s Liberal government, which is backing the power projects. Mick and I may have our riparian rights, but we have no funds to prove or assert them in a court of law.

Glacier Creek is unique, and I believe it’s a resource for future generations to enjoy, not to exploit and destroy.

I raise horses, and I’d be happy to trade some of the animals or to trade horseback holidays to any fellow grads with a legal background who might be willing to get involved and to help us in our battle to preserve Glacier Creek.

Being an only child and an immigrant from Germany, I have no immediate family, other than my Queen’s family, and so I’m hoping some of my classmates, friends, and any other alumni who feel as I do will lend a helping hand. The mainstream media hasn’t paid much attention to what’s happening here or with similar projects proposed for other creeks and rivers in the BC interior.

I’m also in urgent need of financial donations to cover court costs in challenging AXOR on the riparian rights issue. Any and all help will be much appreciated. 

You can contact Gaby via snail mail at RR 1 Site 5 Comp 8, Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0. To view “Rivers at Risk: Glacier & Howser Creeks”, one of the videos in which she is interviewed, please visit the Save our Rivers web site.