Calgary

'Once you visit, you can't help but come back': Sylvan Lake tops list of Canada's fastest growing communities

Young families flocking to Sylvan Lake and area, in part because of the "wonderful, small-town atmosphere," have helped it become the fastest growing agglomeration in the country according to the census, says its mayor.

Population grew by 19.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016

With a population increase of 19.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016, Sylvan Lake was the fastest growing community in the country. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Young families flocking to Sylvan Lake and area, in part because of the "wonderful, small-town atmosphere," have helped it become the fastest growing agglomeration in the country according to the census, says its mayor.

Statistics Canada's latest census data, released Wednesday, lists the Sylvan Lake area as the fastest growing census "agglomeration," a smaller cluster of communities with a core population of at least 10,000.

Over the same time period, Calgary grew by 14.6 per cent, making it the fastest growing census metropolitan area with a population above 100,000.

The mayor of the central Alberta community puts it more simply. 

"People move to Sylvan Lake and love this town, and once you visit, you can't help but come back," said Mayor Sean McIntyre.

Located about 150 kilometres north of Calgary, the population of Sylvan Lake grew by 19.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and now sits at about 15,000 people, according to the census.

And many of those are young families, said McIntyre, noting the average age of residents is 32 years old.

"We see a lot of people starting their families out here, putting down their roots and deciding this is the community they want to call home," he said.

McIntyre described Sylvan Lake as having a "wonderful, small town atmosphere."

Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre says young families are behind much of the town's growth in recent years. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We've got a high level of volunteerism, a very high level of community spirit," he said.

Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce president Joel Johannson said he wasn't surprised by the growth.

"We have a large service segment in Sylvan Lake," he said. "It's really wide-ranging. We have over 500 businesses here in town and 325 of those are commercial-front businesses, the remainder being home-based businesses. It's quite a wide mix actually."

The area is busiest during the summer months, said Johannson, but officials are working to change that.

"That's one of the things we've been working on over the past few years with the town of Sylvan Lake and it's been getting a lot better," he said. "We have Winterfest and lots of winter activities now but summer is the busy season for sure."

With files from Dan McGarvey

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