Shanon Young and Mitchell Mowbray are living their dream life on a tiny island of wilderness within the borders of their home community in Terrace.
Along with their children Carter (14) and Gracie (11), the couple are the caretakers of Ferry Island Campground, spread across 150-acres within city limits.
“Even though you’re in the heart of downtown Terrace, you’re in the wilderness,” said Mowbray.
“This was an idea Mitch and I talked about at times, but never really got to it until 2020,” said Young about getting the contract from the City of Terrace to be caretakers of the 103-site campground just before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“The city liked the idea that we were a family,” she said about how the family of four has since then looked after the island day in and out.
When camping season begins in May to its end in October all four of them are on site throughout the day. With the pandemic, 2020 had a slow start with fewer people coming in and giving the family time to adjust and gradually prepare for a full-house setting come 2021.
Since then, they’ve managed and maintained the area, met thousands of people, exchanged stories and taught a lot of campers how to fish.
Carter and Gracie are especially famous, said the proud parents about their children who have taught numerous people how to fish on the Skeena River.
“We have had people call us back during winter to check how the kids are doing,” said Mowbray. On another instance, a camper couple brought jars of honey for the kids in exchange for fishing lessons from them, he added.
In that sense, it has been one of the best experiential learning experiences for their children, the couple said about the exposure they get not only in terms of helping out with the campground or learning the value of money, and also learning by interacting with so many different people.
And that is the best part about the job – getting to meet new people and having meaningful conversations with them.
“We enjoy meeting people,” said Young.
Counting the pros, Mowbray said, “If we weren’t doing this job, we wouldn’t have met all these people with super interesting stories … It’s great to be a part of everyone’s lives.”
“For the most part people are good, you meet all different types of people and we’ve met lots of people that have left a good impression on us,” said Young. When dealing with people, the couple said that every camper has a different attitude. “You learn to take everything with a grain of salt,” said Young.
And it’s not just about getting acquainted with people who are camping but there are also the local residents from the area who use the campground for their daily walks. “We may not know their names but we enjoy waving out to them,” said the couple.
But while it is the dream job, it is not a “sugar coated one,” said Young.
“There’s pros and cons,” said Young, and added, “the pros outweigh the cons.”
There’s a lot of hard work involved everyday from the time the doors are opened at 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., making sure the outhouses are clean, garbage is disposed of, rules are followed (dogs are leashed).
Even after the gates are locked they make sure they are around in case there is an emergency. “There’s a routine and we all tackle all the chores together.”
“Some days are overwhelming and you’re exhausted,” she said and added that the family is tapped out by the time the season comes to an end.
“But as soon as it’s time for the next season we are excited all over again,” the couple said.
Prior to becoming the campground caretakers, Young and Mowbray were a “regular Terrace family” that were deeply invested in the hockey minor team and baseball. Mowbray coached at one point. Young has lived in Terrace since she was 13-years-old and Mowbray who works in the logging industry moved here when he was 19.
“But now, we prefer this to be our normal,” said Mowbray as the family enters into the second term of their five-year contract. “We enjoy being a part this community,” he said about living in Terrace.
Young said that in some ways the job was a good opportunity for them as they’ve always been a tight knit family that loves to fish and spend time outdoors.
“It is an adventure for us everyday,” said Mowbray.