As a trained biologist, Robin Jenkinson is well versed in the study of life. After spending years restoring salmon streams and working as a stream ecologist in the Pacific Northwest and Lyon, France, Robin moved to Salt Spring Island to set down roots with her family. It was there that the opportunity not only to study in her new surroundings—but to actively change them—emerged.
“One would think that urban design and salmon stream restoration might be really different but actually they’re not,” Robin explains. In fact, restoration often involves being able to plan and work with municipalities and urban developers; without this skill, the result can be disappointing. “I’ve seen a few places that I have worked very hard [on] that haven’t been protected,” she says.
The Urban Design Certificate program at SFU Continuing Studies provided her with a way to become more integrated in the process. “I wanted more planning-oriented education and to be able to speak the language of the people I wanted to work with to complete community projects,” Robin says.
She also saw the program as a way to engage with her new neighbourhood. “Because I was new on Salt Spring, I thought I would use the chance to connect with the community.” Hands-on assignments allowed her to gain the tools she needed, such as how to conduct site assessments and draw building plans, to address local issues.
“As of last year, all of the schools in the Gulf Islands had school gardens except Salt Spring Elementary,” Robin explains as an example of a local project. Using her Visual Communication homework, she was able to recruit community volunteers, teachers and local experts to help bring her vision to life.
“If we can get along with our neighbours and work constructively to make a place better, then maybe we can work together with people all over the world,” she says. This urban design concept, creating connection between people and the space they live in, is one that Robin continues to try to achieve.
After earning her Urban Design Certificate, Robin joined the Salt Spring Island Green Services Business Incubator project. She is one of four eco-friendly entrepreneurs working with local mentors to create a business plan to pitch to local investors. “SFU is a really well-regarded institutional organization, and by doing a professional certificate there, it opened doors.”
“SFU is a really well-regarded institutional organization, and by doing a professional certificate there, it opened doors.”
More about Robin
Best place you’ve travelled to?
Best way to spend time with friends and family?
Playing yard games and barbecuing in our front yard.
The last book you read?
A Place of Refuge: An Experiment in Communal Living – The Story of Windsor Hill Wood by Tobias Jones. It’s pretty amazing. This man and his wife in Northern England bought a forest and basically invited all of these people, war veterans with PTSD or recovering addicts, to live on the land with them and find peace in very basic carpentry, forest management and gardening.
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
It’s better to fail in something than to succeed in nothing.