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July 21, 2009

Home buyers bullish on Strathmore

Growth boom on the horizon as this small prairie town reaches for the skies

Pepper Rodriguez

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The feeling in Strathmore is bullish, not just because it is the only Canadian town that holds a Bull Run similar to the one in Pamplona, Spain, but also because it has weathered the global economic downturn much better than expected. Now the town founded some 126 years ago is spurring further growth through a number of ambitious projects — including annexing more land as well as going ahead with several infrastructure improvements.

This small farming town, about 30 minutes east of Calgary, is the third fastest growing town in Canada with more than 11,000 residents, a spectacular jump from the 1,300 local population it had in the 1990s.


The wide open prairie land is an open invitation to people who feel too confined in the urban areas but, so far, the growth spurt hasn’t endangered their small town way of life.


“The neighbouring towns of Chestermere, High River and Okotoks have all grown so much these past few years and so has Strathmore, but here you can still feel real freedom and not so much the big city,” says Aztec Realty’s Lorna Phibbs. “It is, in the truest sense, a small town with big city amenities,” she adds.


The town does indeed nurture family values, with plenty of parks and green spaces, recreation centres, twin hockey arenas, at least eight baseball diamonds, and several soccer and football fields. It is the Golden Hills school division’s headquarters and, as such, has the most number of schools in the area. It’s also the location of Strathmore General Hospital, the biggest and most well-equipped health care facility in the area.


“People love it here because they can get a sense of belonging, a true Western spirit with an emphasis on strengthening family values,” says The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Dwight Stanford. “This community has spirit, excellent recreation, business opportunities and a strong education system,” he adds. “Strathmore offers all the benefits of living in a safe, small community but also has the advantage of being a satellite community to Calgary — which is just 40 kilometres down the road.”

Farm roots
Strathmore officially came into being on July 28, 1883, when Canadian Pacific workers manually laid down 6.38 miles (10.27 kilometres) of track across the gently rolling prairies. The line ended on the south side of what was later to become the unloading point for the thousands who settled the area.


In 1905, what was then the hamlet of Strathmore moved some four miles (6.4 kilometres) north with the development of the irrigation system. This relocation to its present location earned it the moniker “the town that moved.”


Today it still is very much a farming community and celebrates its agricultural roots with the annual Heritage Days festival held every August long weekend. The five-day party has everything from rodeo events, chuckwagon races, barbecues and a livestock show. Aside from the small town flavour, what really distinguishes it from Calgary’s Stampede is the Running of the Bulls. Now in its sixth year, participants test their bravery and foot speed as they race ahead of a herd of charging bulls at the rodeo grounds. 


“It’s one of the more popular events at the Heritage Days and people from all over the country come here to watch and even join the spectacle,” Stanford says.

Gaining ground
One of the major undertakings the town is preparing for is an ambitious — if somewhat controversial — plan to annex some 18.5 quarter sections of land from Wheatland County that would almost double the town’s current size. The Town’s request, which needs the recommendation of The County before going to the Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs, is currently in limbo as the two sides still cannot see eye-to-eye.


“The (County’s) Municipal Development Board doesn’t think we need as much land, but we are looking at a 50-year window where we can use that land to grow,” Stanford says.


But that hasn’t slowed the town’s progress. Plans to improve a local wastewater plant and connect the town’s water supply to Calgary are going on as scheduled and Stanford expects Strathmore to start drawing water from its big brother to the west later this year. With the addition of the expanded $20 million wastewater plant and $51 million water pipeline, Strathmore gains the potential to serve a population of 50,000, he adds.

Outdoor activities
The Strathmore area provides residents with a wide range of recreational activities to enjoy, all year round. There are three golf courses located within a convenient distance, including the Strathmore Golf Club, which has been operating for nearly a century.


Phibbs says Strathmore is a very young town in terms of its population demographics. “There is a large population of children in Strathmore and many of the town’s efforts go into providing recreational facilities and playgrounds for the youth,” she adds. “Owners of Strathmore real estate also enjoy taking part in the many town festivals and events that occur each year. From the Spring Festival in late May to the Heritage Days Rodeo at the end of July, to the December’s Christmas Market, there is no shortage of exciting events to attend,” says Phibbs, who grew up in the area and continues to live here.


“Strathmore is an ideal location for anyone wanting to live in a tranquil and scenic location that is close enough to the city to provide convenient access to its many amenities,” she adds. “There’s a wide range of home styles available; from condos, apartment-style living, single-family homes of all sizes, and even gated community homes.” CL

 

Strathmore Fast Facts
Population: Approx. 11,300 in 2008

Schools:
Brentwood Elementary
Westmount Elementary
Wheatland Elementary
Crowther Memorial Junior High
Strathmore High School
StoreFront School
Sacred Heart Academy
Holy Cross Collegiate
Golden Hills Virtual School
Montessori Preschool
Covenant Bible College
Strathmore and District Playschool

Home Builders:
Copper Rock Homes
Crystal Ridge Homes
Douglas Homes
Excel Homes
Lifestyle Homes
Rich Lee Custom Homes
Strathmore Homes Ltd.
Trilogy Homes

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