A Page of Island History

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A Page of Island History

If you live on Hornby or Denman, odds are that in a drawer somewhere in your house is a cleverly folded piece of sturdy paper with a map of Hornby on one side, and of Denman on the other. Ads for local businesses sprinkled about, and a bit of island philosophy: The Hornby/Denman Visitor Guide.

Paper? How retro. But hey: No battery or reception problems, no trying to see the world on a screen smaller than your hand. And there’s history here: the Guide is a long-standing inter-island project.

It all started sometime in the mid-1980s, when Isaac Kramer of Bradsdadsland, Suzie Bishop from Sea Breeze Lodge, Karen Ross from the Thatch Pub, and Mike Comeau from the Denman General Store decided to pool their advertising resources.  Other participants came forward and a single-colour, home-grown brochure was produced (on recycled paper, of course).  Candidates for the byline included “Hawaii of Canada” and “Crown Jewels of the Gulf Islands”, but “Undiscovered Islands” won out.

Each island got one side of the Guide. The Denman map needed more space, though, so the front and back covers for the folded version fell on the “Hornby side” (as is still the case).

Eventually, Mike Comeau took on the whole project.  Under his able leadership, and with the growth in our communities, the Guide flourished, gaining more advertisers and wider distribution. Every summer visitor seemed to be carrying a copy, and every island household had at least one, to use for the local business contact info it provided, plus the ferry schedule on the back.  Somewhere along the line, “Undiscovered Islands” was dropped.

When Mike retired, Margie Gang picked up the baton.  

In 2014, when Margie decided she had done enough, Donna Tuele and Gary Manzer on Hornby stepped up.  They took the brochure modern, going full colour on good-quality print stock, with a professionally enhanced map.  

In 2015, the Tuele/Manzer duo turned production of the Guide over to the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation (HICEEC), with continuing support from Denman Works.  In 2017, in the interest of securing more revenue to help with the costs of adding another fold, the geographic boundaries were extended to include the seaside communities of Buckley Bay, Fanny Bay, and Deep Bay. 

Before COVID hit, annual production of the Guide had reached 55,000 copies.  Distribution of the brochures extended beyond the islands to BC Ferries and across BC.  In 2020, out of respect for limiting visitation during COVID, the distribution was reduced.  The Guide’s focus shifted to education of guests already on the islands.  

COVID went from pandemic to endemic, and the Guide adapted once again. Now it provides information to people already on their way here—visitors receive a copy at the Buckley Bay Ferry ticket booth—and to those already here. Focused distribution has helped keep the advertising costs for our local businesses well below normal market rates, so ads are very affordable, and nicely targeted.  The interesting ads, local contact information, island maps, Denman Events calendar, and the summer ferry schedule for both routes continue to make the Guide a “must have” and “must hold”.

After almost 40 years of production, the Guide has grown, but it remains responsive to the needs of those earning a livelihood, those visiting, and those living in our communities. Thank you to the advertisers for their contributions in keeping the Guide alive. It remains a living example of an island ideal: good neighbours working together for a common goal.

Submitted by Karen Ross, HICEEC