Potholes in Paradise, a Book about Orcas Island

Order a digital copy from the author. $8.95 for a pdf file (201 pages), or order an ibook copy for $9.95 via the iBookstore.
Potholes in Paradise, published in 2009 by Centripetus and authored by Joe Symons, looks at Orcas Island beginning in the early 1970s, when Joe first arrived, onward to today, and then into the future.  It looks at the people, the places, and the issues facing the island, celebrating the beauty and community aspects while focusing a weather eye on the undesirable changes that accompany a four-fold increase in population (so far, with much more to come.)

Joe has lived on Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands in Washington State, since 1972. During that time he has spent 20 years as a volunteer firefighter, has served on the boards of several community non-profit organizations (currently board president for Island Stewards), ran a small full-service computer business, started a crystal-glazed pottery studio, wrote a book of essays, designed and built a guest space (the Garden House on Orcas), created OLPC-Orcas to promote the use of XO laptops for Orcas kids in need, and helped write and then challenged San Juan County's non-compliant comprehensive plan.

It was while working on the comp plan that Potholes in Paradise first began taking shape.  Feeling that islanders were in either ignorance or denial of how quickly things were (and are) changing and concerned about where he saw things heading, he felt the need for a serious, action-oriented conversation about growth and the future. These in-your-face issues are challenging Orcas, as well as most communities, to wake up and smell the coffee, drink several cups, roll up sleeves, imagine a better relationship with the community, land and nature each wishes to call home, and make it happen. Potholes is intended to kickstart this conversation.

While looking to the future, Potholes in Paradise does not ignore either the past or the present.  Full of anecdotes and characters many will recognize (as types if not individuals) Potholes captures the Orcas Joe loves, complex though that love affair may be.  The book is for “people who love Orcas, people who are curious about Orcas, people who are curious about what it is like to live on an island, or anyone concerned about growth and the environment”.  Richly illustrated by Anita Orne, a multi-talented artist, musician (Olga Symphony) and author, Potholes in Paradise is full of lively under-the-hood stories about life in a small town, and while it may be any small town, the fact that it is Orcas make it an entertaining, eye-opening, thought provoking, and conversation-starting read.

 A few of the comments by early readers of Potholes in Paradise:

“It is extremely well written”
“The author’s insight and obvious research are truly impressive”
“I really learned a lot about Orcas as a community, and this book opened my eyes”


From someone involved with land use issues on Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands off Vancouver BC:

"I am a neighbour of Bill B -- he lent me your book as I too am involved in steering our island's Official Community Plan. Reading your book was so timely-- not to mention inspiring and helpful! I'm on our library board and have just ordered a copy for the library. Everyone should read this! It helped me enormously and brought home the fact that the issues we face in our small communities are the very same BIG issues facing our planet.

Thanks for Potholes. It gives me hope!"

To get a flavor, read chapter one, "Following Your Heart" or visit the Potholes in Paradise blog.

Potholes in Paradise can serve as a case study for those interested in environmental conservation, land trusts, and how to begin to protect small town life from growth pressures. Other gateway communities (e.g., Nantucket, Aspen, Bozeman) experience similar pressures to consume rather than conserve. Land Use planning is the battleground for creating a sustainable and livable community—Potholes in Paradise (and the related web site "doebay.net/appeal.html") touches on the challenges of maintaining one of the best places to live.