York Urbanist

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

The Oil Sands has made the news for environmental and economic reasons.  But the curse of its success is the difficulty with controlling the growth and change of its demographics.  This was no better realized than in its bid to provide recreation services to this behemoth municipality (largest in Canada by land area).

The shear size makes providing facilities to all its constituents more difficult and less equitable than in any other jurisdiction in which I have worked. During the course of the two years of work on the Recreation and Arts Master Plan, Don Gedge, Virginia Hackson and Mark Inglis were given updates to the population quarterly.  By the time we completed, the population had changed by 25%…..and that is quantity only.  The transient population creates a changeover in the racial and sex ratios as well. An influx of South Asians has created a demand for Cricket.  The aboriginal population was the most stable of the demographic statistics as they dominate some of the villages within RMWB.  Workers on “Camps” are difficult to quantify, but we do know that their populations are concentrated in trailers outside the urban villages and they are predominantly male.

As a cold climate, winter activities can dominate, but you would be interested in understanding that the Miskanaw Golf Course gets almost as many rounds as those in Southern Ontario.  This is due to there being tee times well into the late evening hours.

We dug deep for Cultural activities, most of which surround the Keyano College and led by Councilor Russell Thomas.  Very much cultural activities take place within small groups, a phenomenon created by the need for the municipality to staff up.  The growth again is a challenge as the limited number of staffers is not growing with the increasing population.