Blackfalds is making a name for itself as a population growth leader.
Two years ago, the town was not only Alberta’s population-growth champion, but No. 1 among the 25 fastest-growing communities in all of Canada with a population of more than 5,000 people outside of a metropolitan area, according to Statistics Canada.
The numbers showed the town had grown 48.1 per cent between 2011 and 2016, reaching a population of 9,328.
A year later, the town had another reason to celebrate when its population topped 10,000.
While the pace has slowed, population projections in a new intermunicipal development plan anticipate the town’s population could double by 2026.
An analysis by Stantec projects two scenarios for population growth based on current trends. At the high end, a population of 23,708 by 2026 is projected. An alternate estimate suggests 19,918.
In either case, it is significant growth for a community that had fewer than 4,000 people 15 years ago.
“The primary factors generating Blackfalds’ anticipated high population projections are the town’s relative youth and substantial net in-migration in the recent past,” states the plan.
“These factors are expected to form a scenario not commonly seen, wherein the population is expected to continue at a very high rate.”
“It’s exciting,” said Mayor Richard Poole, who added the numbers were run through a number of different scenarios to get the projections.
“It may not happen in the next five years. We may be greater, we may be a little less. But in 10 years time, we figure things will have evened out,” which would mean the town’s population would be close to the 28,121 to 36,286 projected for 2031.
Poole said the community has a lot going for it: a good location, lower housing prices and a growing number of the kinds of amenities and businesses that attract newcomers.
The town’s arena is being twinned, a new library is being built and a new Grade 9 to 12 high school is coming that will allow local students to begin and finish their schooling in town.
In anticipation of continuing growth, the town is also revamping its transportation systems and making sure there is land available for residential, commercial and industrial growth.
The plan acknowledges a variety of factors could slow or stall growth — a scenario many Alberta communities have experienced during the economic downturn.
As an example, Red Deer — with 101,002 people counted this year — lost its position as the province’s third largest city to Lethbridge.