a quiet community lifestyle with best-in-class amenities
Offering the best of both worlds, Elgin County remains a desirable place to call home
Even with all the necessary modern facilities and infrastructure that a resident or business owner could want, life moves at a slightly slower pace in Elgin County, Ontario. That’s what makes it such a wonderful place for people to live, work and play. The 110 kilometers of shoreline with multiple beaches the county has along Lake Erie and its four port communities help as well. As such, the county is an ideal tourist destination especially during the warm weather months, drawing visitors from such large cities as Toronto, Hamilton, and London.
Elgin County has a population of more than 52,000 and is home to such communities as Aylmer, Port Stanley, Dutton, West Land as well as Port Bruce and Port Burwell and more. It also offers numerous provincial and local parks that are perfect for families of all ages and sizes. For those who prefer indoor options, there are a number of cultural and community attractions,including 10 library facilities and multiple historical museums.
However, it is clear that recent initiatives show that the county and its local municipalities are constantly looking for ways to attract visitors and residents to enjoy what Elgin County has to offer. The Lake Erie Waterfront Cycling Trail and the recent launch of the Highwheel Way Cycling Trail, are examples of how the county promotes active transportation while featuring its various settlement communities.
The County’s renewal of its Official Plan sets out ways to conserve cultural heritage and protect environmental areas while planning for vibrant, healthy, safe and fulfilling neighborhoods. Ongoing growth and residential development in the County is projected to reach unprecedented rates in the coming years, bringing great potential to the business community.
Part of that increased population includes seniors, who will benefit from the $36 million redevelopment of Terrace Lodge, the county’s 100-bed long-term care home in the Township of Malahide. This senior care home is one of three county long-term care home facilities and features private and semi-private accommodations with 24-hour nursing care and outdoor areas to relax with families, and multiple living and dining areas for resident enjoyment.
“We’re very excited about this redevelopment project which will provide seniors with high-quality care and wellness services, and will offer engaging social events and activities,” says Elgin County Chief Administrator Julie Gonyou.
Investments are also being made in the county’s main administration building to make it more accessible to employees and the general public, with two new elevators, accessible washrooms, and more.
The recent reconstruction and streetscape improvement within the Village of Rodney facilitates access for special events and festivals, allowing residents and visitors to experience the many activities it hosts each year, including a popular night market.
The new street layout provides shoppers with an increased number of parking spaces and businesses with new commercial loading zones The village of Rodney was recently completed to improve road construction that will simplify traffic flow, making night markets and other outdoor retail eateries even more viable and popular.
There are new roundabouts being proposed in other communities within Elgin that emphasize safety for all road users. These are examples of the various recommendations included in the county’s transportation master plan
“What we are finding is one size doesn’t fit all, which is why we are involved with multiple projects to improve the lives of our residents,” says the county’s Manager of Economic Development, Tourism, and Strategic Initiatives Carolyn Krahn.
The biggest development in recent years is underway as e-commerce giant Amazon builds a new Amazon Fulfillment Center on the site of a former Ford Assembly Plant in Talbotville, within the Township of Southwold.
But there is much more in the development pipeline both big and small, Krahn says. There is an array of top-flight shopping in towns throughout the county, including farmer’s markets and special events with local artisans.
Other noteworthy developments include Terrace Lodge, an existing Long-Term Care Home, housing 100 residents in four 25-bed Resident Home Areas (RHAs). The Terrace Lodge Redevelopment Project includes improvements to the existing building, as well as a 17,300 sq ft addition to the RHAs, and a 1,135 sq ft addition to the core. The completed building will offer 84 private bedrooms, 16 semi-private bedrooms, improved resident lounge, activity, and care spaces, and enhanced staff areas.The project is being carried out in three phases: Phase 1 construction began in February 2021 and was completed in early February 2023. The first phase involved the construction of additions to the RHAs and core areas. The new additions provide 64 private bedrooms, resident showers, program rooms, lounges, and staff areas.
Phase 2 will include full renovation of the existing north RHAs and the main kitchen, as well as improvements to the building core and construction of new amenity spaces. The renovated RHAs will provide 10 private bedrooms and 8 semi-private bedrooms, resident bathing rooms, activity rooms, and large dining areas.
The third phase will include full renovation of the existing south RHAs, and further improvements to core areas of the building. Similar to the renovated north RHAs, the renovated south RHAs will provide 10 private bedrooms and 8 semi-private bedrooms, resident bathing rooms, activity rooms, and large dining areas.
As well as providing a variety of eating and drinking establishments in the county, raft breweries and wineries are also increasing in quantity. As Krahn puts it, “the Niagara region is not the only one that has great wineries that can draw tourists.” The county’s Warden Ed Ketchabaw says that Elgin is known as the “banana belt” for its proliferation of producing vegetables, fruits, and high volumes of livestock. Ketchabaw adds that the county’s strong agricultural community should not be overlooked for its impact on the county and throughout Canada.
These developments lend credence to the idea that Elgin County has evolved into a growing community that is attractive to commuters, professionals who work remotely, and retirees. While the county does not have hard numbers to support this assumption, Gonyou says it is apparent that the number of people working remotely has increased since the start of the pandemic as people sought new living arrangements outside of big cities.
“One of the reasons we believe this is true is based on the number of broadband internet inquiries we receive,” Gonyou says.
Workforce development is part of the equation as well. Elgin County has partnered with the city of St. Thomas, St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce, and its member municipalities in hosting job fairs that attracted more than 50 employers and several hundred attendees. These and other efforts are being made to attract employees to the county, with a focus on workers to fill long-term care sector positions.
The county is engaged in several environmental, health, and safety initiatives to support resident needs. A number of charging stations are being installed at strategic locations across the county. Some of its new developments have included renovations and repurposing rather than new buildings given the environmental benefits. The fire hall in Port Stanley is also a net zero carbon facility.
Elgin County partnered with the Ontario Fire College to offer fire training for the fire service personnel in the region.These departments are required to send their professionals through mandatory training courses.
All municipalities in Ontario are also required to develop community safety and well-being plans. Elgin county’s includes some details related to education and skills development, housing, mental health and well-being service, public safety investments and policies, and substance abuse and addiction support. This plan was developed by service leaders and professionals working in community health and mental health, social services, and other groups.
A comprehensive community paramedicine program is being launched by the county and its contracted service provider Medavie EMS Elgin Ontario. This community-based health care program will support seniors by offering the most appropriate care available outside the emergency department allowing patients to remain in their homes. “We know that senior care and healthcare, in general, can be a challenge today and we’re committed to providing these services needed to support our residents,”Gonyou says.
COVID restrictions have had a significant impact on all county residents, including the cancellation and postponement of many traditional festivals and events. But all of that is changing, with many restrictions having been lifted starting in 2022. Krahn is looking forward to the full first year of festivals since 2019. She expects that these community events will draw a large number of local residents and tourists, bringing more revenue to the county’s hospitality industry.
Krahnalso says the county will ramp up its marketing effort to promote county events and initiatives, thereby attracting new residents. She expects this to include digital and traditional market efforts as the county looks to support its tourism industry.
According to Ketchabaw, “we also want to make sure we have enough attainable housing available for existing and new residents. Many families and couples are searching for a more laid-back lifestyle.
Finally, Ketchabaw emphasizes the need to make strategic, sustainable investment in required infrastructure such as broadband, water and sewer, in order to meet the needs of residents and the business community.
“We always are focused on moving forward and staying up-to-date on the county services we provide,” he concludes. “It’s one of the many things that makes Elgin County so attractive.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A community centered county offering modern amenities and welcoming new business and residents
Where: Southwest Ontario, bordering Lake Erie
Spriet Associates – www.spriet.ca
Spriet Associates works for many clients. Some are very sophisticated and some less so. Our experience working with the County of Elgin and their internal Municipalities over the many years has been very straight forward and a pleasant experience. We enjoy the nice people we work for and they become good friends.
Medavie Health Services – www.medaviehs.com
Elgin EMS proudly provides emergency ground ambulance and pre-hospital care to communities across Elgin County. Together with our team, we are committed to delivering innovative healthcare solutions and bringing high-quality care to people when and where they need it.