Blackfalds leads the nation in population growth among smaller communities.
Statistics Canada census results released on Wednesday shows Blackfalds population has soared 48.1 per cent, growing to 9,328 people last year from 6,300 in 2011, an increase of 48.1 per cent.
That gives the community bragging rights to top spot out of the top 25 fastest-growing communities over 5,000 people outside census metropolitan areas.
“It’s pretty exciting actually, and kind of rewarding,” said Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol on Wednesday.
“It kind of says some of the policy decisions we have made over the last 10 years have proven successful and made Blackfalds an attractive place to live.”
While there are always challenges coping with rapid growth “it’s a good problem to have,” said Stol.
The community has met its growth by building a major recreation facility, the Abbey Centre in recent years. A regional sewage line is also in the works after years of lobbying the province. While perhaps not a glamorous project, it is critical infrastructure for future growth.
Stol said the kind of exposure the community will get from its impressive growth will go a long way to attracting more commercial and industrial businesses.
Another rising population star in Central Alberta is Sylvan Lake, which was ranked seventh in the same top-25 list.
Sylvan Lake’s population hit 14,816 last year, up from 12,363 five years earlier, a growth rate of 19.9 per cent.
Mayor Sean McIntyre said the community has been growing steadily since the 1990s and he is not surprised by Statistics Canada’s tally.
“It’s nice to see the census numbers quantify that growth, specifically the numbers outlined that showed we maintained (an average annual) a growth rate of four per cent through 2016, which is positive news for us considering Alberta’s economic circumstances.”
McIntyre said the town has been working hard to make sure growth is managed in a sustainable way and the community is geared to meet the needs of its residents and the more than one million annual visitors.
Key plans have been updated, land has been annexed so the town has room to grow and significant efforts made on business attraction and retention.
On the recreational front, a $33.5-million recreational complex is weeks away from opening.
The province has recognized the pace of local growth with a new school and $2 million has been announced to go towards expanding medical care at the community’s health centre.