It is amazing how much numbers and their various meanings and measurements now play a role when people decide where they want to live.
We moved to Okotoks some 5 years ago now, and the decision to move here was not based on the schools in the area, how environmentally friendly it might be, or even how many km’s of pathways there were in town (although we should have probably looked into this at some point). We moved here because we liked the look and feel of this small town.
The latest annual community report however, brought to mind what newcomers to this town may have based their decisions on. As it turns out, our initial feel about this town was proven correct and by looking at some key highlights of said report, we have chosen well I think (just as well, note to self – more research on facilities etc next time!).
So, here is our town of Okotoks in numbers:
– 26,319 people call this home (a 5.4% growth over last year)
– 36th out of 200 communities in Canada in 2013 and 18th nationwide on the Best Small Cities list
– 4th on the Top 25 Best Communities to do Business in Alberta list (our best ever ranking!)
– 18 schools
– 3,400 trees were planted by 222 volunteers at last years annual Arbor Day
– with an average of 273l/capita/day (lcpd) we have one of the lowest per capita water usages in Canada, with the average residential use being even lower, at 177 lcpd
– 700 tons of recyclables collected through the curbside collection program (that’s a 40% increase from last year) (not counting the tons of recycling collected at the center)
-1,083 bags of yard waste collected through the curbside collection program
– 800 tons of organics collected through the grass and leaves drop-off system
– 16 tons of e-waste collected since the inception of the program in late 2013
– 3,000 people follow the Town of Okotoks on Twitter and 2,000 people liked their Facebook page, both media tools were key in communicating with the public during the floods of 2013
– 455,500 visitors to the Town’s website
– Property taxes are lower in Okotoks than almost all municipalities in Alberta with populations of 10,000 and 100,000 (hence it being so popular)
– 51 kms of pathways (here they are, the important pathways)
– 153 kms of roads
– 2 bridges and one railway overpass
– 96 parks (yes, that’s 96!!! – admittedly some are small, but still a park)
– 48 playgrounds
– 14 ball diamonds
– 2 football/rugby fields
– 15 soccer pitches
– 1 of each: outdoor fitness trail, BMX track, competitive swimming pool, family pool, 40-person hot tub, skateboard park, baseball stadium, water spray park, off-leash dog park, wildlife reserve/bird sanctuary, art gallery, performing arts center, museum, library, indoor walking track, outdoor farmers market (summer only), one solar community (with many worldwide awards!)
– 5 tennis courts
– 8 outdoor and 3 indoor skating rinks
– 6 curling sheets
– 4 campgrounds/RV parks
– 1,100 community programs
– 8,700 people learned to swim in lessons last year
– 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide reduction last year (that’s the equivalent of taking 1,600 cars off the road)
So, all in all, this little town of ours is doing very well. Unfortunately the previous population cap of 30,000 has been removed (can you tell that I was in favour of the cap?) and no doubt this small town will not remain small for much longer. And whilst I enjoy having some big box stores closer to home, I am not sure I will like the increase in population, but, growth is inevitable and so I count my blessings: we live in a town that is taking its environmental stewardship serious, that tries to improve year upon year on its public services, and is trying to improve the living quality for us all.
I am sure there are those that will point out that we could do much better when it comes to water conservation, reduction in waste going to landfill, improvements in public transport (we currently don’t have any), and so on, but I think we are doing great when compared to 5 years ago when we first arrived. On reflection, Okotoks has retained its small town charm, which can be especially felt in our town core, where life in Okotoks began all those years ago and really does not feel like a “bedroom community” for Calgary, as it is so often referred to. I really dislike that description, sounds like we don’t actually live here, just sleep in some building, and get up in the morning to live our lives in Calgary. Yes, most of us do work in Calgary or up north in the Alberta oilfields (myself and my husband included), but we are so much more than just a “bedroom community”!