Nestled in the foothills just south of Calgary on Highway 2, Okotoks is the type of community that has a little something for everyone.
Take it’s vision statement for instance, “In the Year 2030, Okotoks is a leader in sustainability, driven by an involved, connected and creative community. Through visionary leadership, citizens are engaged in maintaining a safe and caring and vital community that honours our culture, heritage and environment.”
The community prides itself on sustainability and culture, something that did not happen accidently according to Okotoks Municipal Manager Richard Quail. Quail explained in an email thetown went from a population of about 8,000 in 1991 to about 25,000 today.
“In the mid–1990’s our community had to make a choice about how to manage growth – did we want to continue along a path of continuous growth and expansion or did the community want to go down a ‘road less travelled’ – meaning planned and managed growth that recognized there was an environmental carrying capacity consideration – mainly around water supply and quantity of treated sewage effluent that our river could absorb without damaging the aquatic habitat,” Quail said.
After dialogue with the citizens of the town, The Legacy Plan was created.
According to www.okotoks.ca , the town made the decision in 1998 to establish growth targets for its population, a build-out municipal boundary for 30,000 people.
“Now expected to approach 35,000 population as a result of a number of density bonus policies tied to increased water conservation,” Quail explained.
As well as its sustainability — including extensive recycling programs and the solar community Drake Landing that earned the Energy Globe Award in November 2011 for utilizing state of the art heating technology — Okotoks maintains a rich sense of history and culture.
The town is home to several art galleries including The Boot Hill Gallery, Neumann Gallery and Studio and the Okotoks Art Gallery at the Station that is housed in the local railway station built in 1929. For the theatre and musically inclined, there’s the Rotary Performing Arts Centre which sits on the corner of historic Elma Street and Centre Avenue. The building was originally a Methodist Church built in 1906 and went through several incarnations before officially opening as a performing arts centre in 2005.
As well as maintaining a sense of sustainability and culture, Okotoks also caters to a family atmosphere or outdoor adventurer. The town has almost 50 kilometres of pathways and includes 91 parks, 48 playgrounds, three multi-sport courts and five outdoor skating rinks.
Chinook Honey Company
Buzzing around just south of Okotoks is the Chinook Honey Co. What started out as a small hobby in 1995, turned into a full-fledged business with about 280 hives run by husband and wife team Art and Cherie Andrews. The couple opened a store in 2004, which aside from products including candles, giftware and plenty of sweet, golden honey, also has a learning centre offering group tours or informative visits. Using honey in every form possible, the Chinook Honey Co. is also home to the Chinook Arch Meadery offering mead or ‘honey wine’, the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man. Check out www.chinookhoney.com for more information.
Okotoks Art Gallery
Built in 1929, Okotoks’ Canadian Pacific Railway Station has been transformed into a visitor information centre and art gallery. The station was closed in the ’70s, restored in 1981 and was renamed as the Okotoks Art Gallery at the Station in 2009. With a vibrant artistic community, the art gallery features works from local artists as well as artists from the surrounding Foothills. As well as exhibitions, the gallery runs programs and events from visitors promoting exploration of art.
Okotoks Museum & Archives
Saved from destruction when Highway 2A was widened in the summer of 2000, The Welch House (now located on North Railway Street) is home to the Okotoks Museum and Archives. Built in 1905, the home once belonged to G.A Welch, mayor of Okotoks from 1918-21 and 1923-26. Before becoming a museum, the home went through many transformations including serving as headquarters for the North West Mounted Police and housing a daycare and antique store.
Integrating “Canadian energy efficient technologies with a renewable, unlimited energy source — the sun,” according to the website www.dlsc.ca, The Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks was the first of its kind in North America. The community is heated by a system designed to store solar energy during the summer months, which is then distributed to each home during the winter months. Ninety per cent of each home’s space heating requirements comes from solar power taking a huge chunk out of the community’s fossil fuel usage.
Do you live in Okotoks? What are you thoughts on your community?