An April 2011 letter to Jeff Garrett from Dave Culberson

Jeff,
Thanks for asking me to give you some insight on the original Brickyard Creek Vision. It is always good to occasionally take stock of where you are, how you got there, and where you are going. It has been almost 15 years since Bob and I started thinking about what to do with this property. It didn’t take long to develop the vision. That part was easy. However, the learning process of trying to fit this vision into a northern climate and the effects of the mercurial nature of development were a different story. Bob is probably too old to remember much of this and there are things I don’t really care to remember. That said, this is what I have to contribute. It is more of a development philosophy than a history of Brickyard.

Having a vision for a development is important. It gives the developers and the ultimate homeowners a passion for their investment. Too many projects lack vision. They are simply copies of mass produced projects and lack character and identity. No single development can or should be everything to everyone. Whatever attraction existed that helped form the vision and create the neighborhood needs to be preserved. We have all seen places around the world where over-development or changes in buyer demographics destroys the very thing that brought people to its location in the first place. These are examples of a lost vision or, more often, lack of understanding the vision.

Brickyard was envisioned as a model of environmental sustainability. The density driven model didn’t work for us then and the world is now learning that these types of models don’t work in areas where nature is the attraction. We needed to create a model based on exclusivity and preservation. We wanted to set the bar for other developers and local government by creating a model that was environmentally thoughtful, economically profitable, and totally livable. Part of this seems to have worked. Ultimately, and with tremendous help from the home owners, placing a cottage style resort in an outstanding natural environment and implementing preservation and restoration concepts as part of everyday life, Brickyard has become a good example of how humans and nature can easily co-mingle, with no short or long-term damage to either. You might even say that both have benefited from this co-existence.

Brickyard has become a leading example environmental co-operation. This is a concept that I was working on before we created Brickyard and one that I continue to work on with a 12,000 acre island in Mexico that is home to the world’s largest congregation of whale sharks and is the Atlantic’s and Gulf of Mexico’s most important nesting area for the Carey (Hawks Bill) turtle. It also has over 540 species of birds and some of the most endangered plant species in Mexico and the Caribbean. I am implementing several Brickyard Creek concepts to help create a new resort destination model, one that relies entirely on nature-based travel. No golf courses, no multi-story buildings, a 350 foot setback from all beach front, and total development impact of less than 10% of the land. Just as with Brickyard Creek, on a smaller scale, this very large version will have one main amenity – Mother Nature. Hopefully, and critical for its success, the investors and homeowners will involve themselves with environmental awareness the same way you have at Brickyard Creek.

Taking these concepts a step further, one could argue that the conventional application of environmental preservation removes humanity from nature. We can put a fence around a forest and call it preservation, while it is still being heavily impacted by the surrounding community. We can read books on the subject and feel good, or visit natural protected areas for a few hours, and governments can offer broad policies that help protect the environment. But we cannot teach and we cannot learn about the importance of our natural environments unless we personalize the experience. With thoughtful design and building practices firmly in place, one has to touch, smell, taste, and live with their natural surroundings in order to learn how to respect it. Brickyard is a perfect example of this concept. As this type of environmental understanding and hands-on education continues to grow around the world there will be less need for “preservation”.

When project construction is complete developers usually move on, leaving the neighborhood in the hands of the owner’s association. Brickyard Creek owners have done a wonderful job expanding the original concept by implementing many successful partnerships with local NGOs and government agencies and promoting environmental awareness through on-site programs and newsletters. This is a time consuming process and difficult for developers to implement. As developers, Bob and I are very grateful that you have created this kind of pride in our neighborhood by continuing with and expanding upon the original vision.

As Brickyard continues to grow and as individual ownership of cottages changes and a new generation of “Brickguardians” moves in, it is even more important to understand and adhere to the original vision. In order understand the details needed to preserve the original vision Brickyard owners simply need to look around. The template is everywhere. Ask your neighbors why they own part of Brickyard. Walk the nature trails. Count the number of plants and animals you see that you would never see in a less natural environment? Why is a boreal forest thriving throughout a developed property? Could conventionally designed homes provide the same light footprint that allows the natural environment to literally live within inches of your doorstep?
Assuming Brickyard Creek owners plan to preserve this vision, there is a potentially superb challenge for this stewardship, a challenge that could place Brickyard in the front of the pack on a national level.

We have created an environmentally sustainable development but complete sustainability also involves social and economic sustainability. It could be easily argued that Brickyard, because it is primarily a second home community, meets anybody’s definition of economic sustainability. Brickyard requires much less public infrastructure and services than it contributes to the community through taxes and tourism dollars. Social sustainability involves relationships and networks that facilitate collective action. It is the glue that holds communities together. It influences individuals within the community and can ultimately influence government policy and social programs. Most importantly, it is not limited to material scarcity.

Brickyard cannot be viewed as its own “stand alone” community. Where does the community end – at the entrance? Or does it include the immediate area or the entire region? The community exists as far as its sphere of influence. In this case it includes not only the local area (Bayfield, Redcliff) but reaches as far as every one of you keeps your primary residence. Human capital is an important part of sustainability. Use your knowledge and skills to help teach other people and communities how to live with and respect their natural environments.

With all of the necessary tools in place, the Brickyard community could package its model of sustainability into a concise message and export it or pieces of it throughout its sphere of influence. You have a great story that needs to be heard so that other communities and developments might follow your example.