Nelson’s population has cracked the 10,000 mark for the first time.
The additional 972 residents represent a growth rate of 10.5 per cent.
“It’s great,” says Mayor John Dooley. “It’s a good indicator people find it a desirable place to live.”
Dooley says he wasn’t surprised with the city’s growth given the number of new housing units added in the last decade, and adds that he welcomes the increase.
“You have to have growth. It stimulates revenue for the municipality. It creates vibrance. It’s good for our rec complex and library. It’s very positive.”
The city’s headcount was fairly stable between 1996 and 2006, after recovering from a dramatic drop in the 1980s due to the closure of Kootenay Forest Products and David Thompson University Centre.
Previously Nelson’s highest recorded population was 9,585 on the 1996 census.
Dooley attributed the recent growth spurt in part to the “tremendous amount of positive coverage for our community in the last 10 years. People see Nelson and the whole region as a good place to live. I wouldn’t be surprised if this growth continues.”
He said people who move here typically do so for lifestyle reasons, not because they are forced to.
“I don’t mean this with any disrespect, but people will move to a place like Edmonton strictly for work,” he says. “They probably wouldn’t even research what’s available. But we find a lot of people who come to Nelson have researched it quite well. I meet a lot of those folks. They’ve done their homework.”
He said the city was “ahead of the curve” in offering healthy lifestyle options, from food to medicine to recreation, and added many are attracted by outdoor opportunities such as skiing and others by the cultural scene.
“People that live here love it and know what we have, and those who come here have found out what we have and want to be here,” Dooley says.
He also said Nelson is blessed with “a stable population base of all ages. Some communities are either very young or very old, but we have a terrific cross-section.”
Dooley added the rate of growth has been slow enough to be manageable.
“In fact, we could probably grow a lot faster and it would still be manageable, if you look at the community’s footprint. It’s difficult to end up with sprawl in a place like Nelson.”
NEIGHBOURS ALSO SEE POPULATION RISE
Nelson’s growth was in keeping with a general trend that saw most West Kootenay Boundary municipalities grow.
Castlegar’s population was 7,816 compared to 7,259 in 2006. Trail was up 444 residents to 7,681. Creston topped 5,000 for the first time — it now sits at 5,306 compared to 4,826 in 2006, and will have to pick up a much bigger portion of policing costs as a result.
Percentage-wise, Salmo’s growth led the way at 13.1 per cent. The village gained 132 residents for a total of 1,139.
Village administrator Scott Sommerville said it may be the result of any number of factors — from affordable housing to a new medical clinic.
“It isn’t being driven by local jobs, as most people are commuting to work in neighbouring communities,” he said.
Sommerville says many young families are moving to Salmo, as demonstrated by an increase of 20 students at the village’s elementary school this year.
Silverton mayor Kathy Provan says she’s not sorry to give it up, since it means the community is growing again after declining sharply in the previous census.
“We increased, which was nice to see,” she says. “I would prefer it [grow], although I guess we got on the map for being the smallest.”
Provan, who has lived in Silverton for almost 11 years, figures she knows “a good majority” of her constituents personally.
“The more seasonal ones I don’t. But when I was campaigning, I probably knew close to 90 per cent.”
She adds that seasonal residents swell the population in the summer. Even so, there are challenges.
“It’s kind of sad that our grocery store just closed and the village has a lot of older facilities as well, so just engaging people is tough.”
The store, which shut at the end of December, is for sale and Provan says they are hopeful someone will be interested in re-opening it. While New Denver is only a five-minute drive away, not everyone has transportation.
“For some seniors, it’s been really nice for them to walk to the store. I think it’s going to have an impact in the summer as well.”
Greenwood would appear to remain Canada’s smallest city despite growing from a population of 625 five years ago to 708 last year.
Grand Forks shrank slightly from 4,036 to 3,985.
Area F of the RDCK, which includes Beasley, Taghum, Bonnington, and much of the North Shore, grew by 246 people to 3,976.
On the flip side, Area E of the RDKB, which encompasses the West Boundary, fell by 264 to 1,970.
The two regional districts combined — which effectively constitute West Kootenay Boundary — had a population of 89,579, compared to 86,625 five years ago.
The Kootenays as a whole — East and West — showed a population of 146,264, up 4,154 from the previous census of 2006.
The census is conducted every five years.