Top boomtown Milton in ‘unique situation’
Mar 13, 2007 02:44 PM
The fastest-growing town in Canada is not in oil-booming Alberta. It’s right on Toronto’s doorstep in Milton.
Once a sleepy village of 32,000, Milton has exploded to a population of 54,000.
According to census data released Tuesday, Milton is the fastest-growing community in Canada for populations over 10,000, with a 71.4 per cent growth rate in the five-year period from 2001 to 2006.
The town located northwest of Toronto, within an hour’s drive, has overpowered all rivals.
In second place was Okotoks, Alberta, which trailed badly with a 46.7 per cent growth rate over the five-year period.
What’s so special about Milton?
The town, nestled beneath the Niagara Escarpment, has maintained its small-town charm with an attractive main street with shops and restaurants that is the focus of the community.
“We have a healthy downtown,” said Mario Belvedere, the town’s chief administrative officer. “People like the idea that it has a small-town atmosphere but it’s in the hub of the economic engine of Canada. It’s a unique situation.”
An English pub in the heart of the town, the Dickens, attracts a steady core of people, and everybody knows their names.
Another unbeatable advantage is that Milton is so close to Toronto that commuting is still viable for the 1,500 to 1,800 families who move there each year.
“We’ve worked to maintain the town’s charm and character,” says Belvedere, who adds that the municipality’s location is hard to beat, with major highway links to bigger city centres and the Niagara Escarpment right on the doorstep.
With Pearson International Airport a 15-minute drive away, many people who live in Milton work at the airport.
Major highways such as Highway 401 and Highway 407 link Milton to Toronto in the east and other major Ontario cities such as Hamilton, Kitchener, London and Windsor in the south and west.
Although farmlands are disappearing, the country flavour hasn’t.
The town offers easy access to seven conservation areas within the escarpment.
There are also some well-known landmarks such as Chudleigh’s Farm nearby, with its apple-picking orchards, and Springridge Farm, with its strawberry-picking fields.
One of the town’s most famous natives is former NHL player John Tonelli, after whom an arena was named.
Sports are big in Milton.
Three hockey arenas are jam-packed with events for hockey and figure skating, as well as other recreational events.
Where does Milton go from here?
Belvedere, the town’s chief administrative officer, says the town isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
In fact, he expects the town to top 100,000 in population in the next year or so.
This rapid growth will ultimately put a strain on the city’s infrastructure, he said.
Right now, there is only one hospital, Milton District.
This, of course, will make it hard for Milton to maintain its quiet charm. That’s always the price of being so popular.
“We’re working with the school boards and hospital boards to make sure they know what the population numbers are,” Belvedere said. “But this is the same issue with every GTA community. Of course, hospitals and schools are outside our control.”