Efforts to make Sylvan Lake more attractive to families are starting to pay off, says its mayor.
Susan Samson recently cited the June statistics update from the RCMP detachment as evidence that the beachfront town that once had a reputation as a party spot is changing its stripes.
Acknowledging that statistics can be misleading, Samson zeroed in on the number of violations under the Liquor Act, down to 47 for the first half of this year from 98 in the first half of 2011.
While there has been a significant decrease in liquor violations, the number of incidents in a few other key areas have risen, including substantial increases in criminal harassment, from seven to 33, and assaults, from 51 to 70.
The numbers are still low enough that a single violator can have a dramatic effect on the statistics, said Samson. For example, a single suspect, working alone was arrested, charged and convicted after a series of graffiti complaints.
The number of violations he committed had a significant effect on the total number of mischief charges laid for that period, she said.
Increases in other areas arise from the phenomenal growth the town has experienced in recent years, putting it neck and neck with the City of Lacombe, said Samson.
Statistics Canada’s 2011 census places Sylvan Lake at 12,327 people, on track to reach 12,500 for its 100th anniversary in 2013, said Samson.
Provincial figures place those numbers ahead of population counts in Lacombe, which reported 11,115 people in 2011.
Samson said the need to direct growth in Sylvan Lake has spurred the town to take a number of projects, including the new RCMP detachment building, construction now underway on a new town hall and plans to build a new fire hall next to the RCMP building.
The number of RCMP and bylaw officers in Sylvan Lake now fall in line with the target of one peace officer for every 850 people, said Samson.
A significant factor in creating a more family-friendly environment has been the extensive changes along Lakeshore Drive, including construction of parking lots, raised intersections to slow traffic and construction of two large washroom facilities.
Samson said she and members of the town council have been showered with compliments from people who appreciate the improvements in parking, convenience and pedestrian safety.