After many years of living in the Lower Mainland, Ashley Hanson (formerly Barton-Bridges) and her husband Carl are thrilled to be back in their hometown. They bring with them daughter Georgia, 20 months.
Carl graduated from the former Max Cameron Secondary School, and Ashley, who is four years his junior, graduated from the newly opened Brooks Secondary School.
After completing school in Powell River, Carl stayed for a few years but found it difficult to find a good paying job at the time. He moved to the city when he received a better job opportunity, went to welding school and took courses in heavy duty mechanics and hydraulics.
Ashley left right after graduation and attended McGill University in Montreal.
“I ended up in the investment management industry and did my CFA,” she said.
Although they grew up in the same community, their paths did not cross here.
“We actually met through mutual friends in Vancouver 10 years ago,” said Ashley.
They married in 2015 and bought an apartment in New Westminster. Last year, Carl was offered a job opportunity in Powell River as mechanical maintenance supervisor with Catalyst Paper Corporation.
“We’d always talked about moving back as part of the five-year plan,” said Ashley. “Then this opportunity sort of landed in his lap and we decided to go for it.”
Ashley was able to keep her city-based job. She currently works remotely for a Vancouver-based investment counsel and attends meetings in the city every few weeks.
The couple moved back in December and recently purchased a home in the community.
“The view is as good as it gets in Powell River," said Carl.
Best of all is the family support they gained in the move.
“Both sets of grandparents are here,” said Carl, adding that they are all delighted to get to spend quality time with their granddaughter.
“[Georgia] loves them so much,” said Ashley. “And obviously they do, too, and it's so nice for us to have that parental support.”
In the city, after the couple’s split maternity leave ended, they struggled to find time together.
“I was commuting an hour each way downtown,” said Ashley. “Georgia was the first one dropped off at day care and the last one picked up.”
Now, Georgia goes to day care three days a week and spends the other two days with alternating grandparents. This has allowed the couple more freedom.
“We just joined a softball team,” said Ashley. “That’s not something we could do last summer because we ended up alternating which of us would go to each game. This year we’re able to play together.”
Carl also joined Powell River Villa soccer club.
“I played the last half of the season with them,” he said. “We’re excited for next year because we’re moving up a division.”
When he was first offered the opportunity at the mill the couple was a little apprehensive, but that feeling is gone, he said.
“We were kind of uncertain what the sustainability would be, but it seems like the new company has breathed a little life into the mill,” he added. “I see now working there for six months that it does have a future and seems like it's going in a positive direction.”
Now that summer is coming, the couple said they are really looking forward to enjoying time outside.
“I’m excited to spend every day at the beaches and the lakes that we can,” said Ashley.
Although they loved New Westminster and had a great community there, they appreciate how spontaneous they can be here.
“So many outdoor things you really had to plan,” she said. “You couldn’t do those things on a whim, whereas here if you want to go for a swim or short hike you can just do it.”
Soon, Carl’s older brother, wife and their twin boys will also be moving back to the community from their current location in Prince George, giving Georgia the chance to grow up with her cousins.
“The town’s got a different vibe now,” said Carl. “Lots of younger families are moving here.”
Ashley agreed that the energy in the community feels renewed and optimistic.
“It's always been a cool town,” she said. “But it’s changing for the better.”