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Smart Growth is Saving Rural Ontario

Written by Land Ark


October 13, 2022

A fall view of Westport from Foley mountain during the fall.

Once you lose the cornerstone businesses, the downtown is done. It’s either slow, steady growth or you lose the heart of the town.

That’s what a local business owner in downtown Westport told me the other day. He has experience living in a small town that relied on tourism revenue but didn’t do enough to encourage year-round residential development to balance it out. His theory is born out in study after study. Local businesses need customers year round to maintain the services they offer to the public.

Many communities are turning to smart-growth strategies to encourage resilient economic growth that supports the local economy and brings greater wellness. The Environmental Protection Agency in the US published an article, “Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities.” Smart growth strategies can help rural communities achieve their goals for growth and development while maintaining their distinctive rural character.

Smart-growth is an idea that we talk about a lot at Watercolour. Before the advent of the automobile communities consisted of people with walkable access to daily needs. Walking to the butcher, grocery store, baker, hardware store and other necessary amenities was normal

That’s one of the precious things about Westport. It boasts a wide variety of goods and services including a grocer, medical centre, pharmacy, brewery, skating rink, trails, parks, and a school all in a walkable village core But none of those services and businesses can survive on the summer population alone. At least not over the long term.

We want Watercolour to be an economic engine that contributes to the resilience of the culture and life in Westport. I strongly believe that most people in our society live with dis-ease. Most people are disconnected from nature and neighbours. The smart growth at Watercolour gives people an invitation to pause, live in the present, connected to nature and to each other.

This connection to nature and each other is what is drawing people to Watercolour, even young families. People young and old long for connection. Young people bring needed and valued vibrancy to a community.

In 2018, The Federation of Canadian Municipalities published a study, “Rural challenges, national opportunity.” The study notes that retaining youth in a community is critical to the long-term economic vitality of rural Canada. The population of youth aged 15 to 19 in rural Canada declined by 10 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

“Limited services in rural communities and greater access to learning and employment opportunities in cities have drawn young people to Canada’s metropolitan areas,” say the authors. “When young people finish training at Canada’s colleges and universities, they are less likely to seek employment opportunities in rural communities, where the population of youth aged 24 to 29 has grown just three per cent between 2011 and 2016. Attracting more young and talented workers will be essential to ensure rural Canada continues to thrive.”

We look forward to being part of Westport’s thriving by providing a holistic approach to home buying. Smart, sustainable and connected – we believe young families and younger people will choose Westport, rather than urban living

People have told me that one of the things that delight them while walking around Watercolour are the baby carriages. Young families are finding a home at Watercolour and more will follow. Phase 2 includes townhomes and other styles of homes that are attractive to younger people. Without the next generation we’ll lose the arena, the bank, the post office and other services that need stable economic growth.

Slow, well-planned smart growth is critical to maintaining the health of a community. Please come by our model home and have a chat with me about smart growth in Westport.