Meaford, Ontario – Niagara Escarpment, Southwest Ontario

April 5, 2023
Meaford, Ontario - Niagara Escarpment, Southwest Ontario

Meaford, Ontario

a vibrant community primed for growth


Offering top amenities and providing the economic projects to accommodate expansion

Meaford, Ontario is poised for development. The Municipality of Meaford, Ontario is located on some 227 square miles of land where theBighead River meets Nottawasaga Bay, a sub-basin of Georgian Bay, about 110 miles northeast of Toronto. First inhabited by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, its first European settlers arrived in the early 1800s.

The new émigré community’s growth exploded in the second half of the 19th century due to its water, road, and railway connections. By the time Meaford became a town in 1874, it was already home to a library, six churches, several small factories, mills of all kinds, a dozen general stores, and ten hotels.

Today, Meaford is a municipality of approximately 11,000, having gone through the 2001 “amalgamation” process, which combined St. Vincent Township, Sydenham Township, and the former Town of Meaford into the new designation.

Former Mayor Barbara Clumpus describes the Municipality of Meaford as both “a small rural agricultural community” as well as “a charming example of small-town Ontario,” and, in fact, she’s entirely correct in that assessment because Meaford does encompass both features. There are two townships within the urban part of the Municipality, plus three small villages and 26 crossroad communities throughout its large rural expanse.

Indeed, agriculture has always been the lifeblood of the area. Because Meaford is situated within the micro-climate of the Niagara Escarpment, which provides perfect growing conditions for apples, pears, cold hearty grapes, and hops, it was once dubbed the “Apple Capital of Ontario,” and, today still supplies a quarter of the province’s apples.

Recent growth has occurred in organic farming and the development of local wineries, breweries, and cideries. And because the Niagara Escarpment also offers some of the most beautiful and unique natural environments in the province, tourism has become another economic driver with Meaford advertising itself as a four-season destination with numerous outdoor activities and adventures awaiting its visitors.

Another reason to visit, live, or settle in Meaford is its historic downtown, home to the only functioning opera house in the southern Georgian Bay area. Originally completed in 1909, the Meaford Hall Arts and Cultural Centre once housed the town’s government, its police department, a courtroom, and a library, while the Opera House on the second floor was the site of traveling shows as well as local productions and concerts.

In 2006, a $6 million renovation project was completed, and today, all the former tenants are long gone, and the new 330-seat theater in the century-old venue now hosts live performances, cinema, and art displays, while also offering food services and educational programs for its 55,000 yearly visitors.

Then there is Meaford Harbour, a beautiful marina on the Georgian Bay Waterfront that features parkland, a pavilion, and parking for cars, boats, and RVs. The Municipality has had a long-standing interest in developing the Harbour to enhance economic development through tourism activity while encouraging the establishment of new businesses to support it.

Over the last two decades, Meaford has invested in plans to shape the development of its waterfront lands. The most recent was the Waterfront Strategy (2014), which identified strategic actions to ensure that the harbor lands were developed and managed according to the vision, goals, and values outlined in the Meaford 2005 Official Plan.

The Community Improvement Plan (2022) reinforced the need for strong physical and visual connections between the downtown and harbor, and the Meaford Economic Development Strategy (2019) recognized that seasonal tourism traffic in Meaford should be better connected to the waterfront lands. “It’s the prettiest harbor in southern Georgian Bay,” Clumpus exclaims.

Meaford is considered to be a relatively affordable place to live in comparison to many communities in southern Ontario, but Clumpus admits that, recently, housing prices have surged upwards.

Meaford, Ontario - Niagara Escarpment, Southwest Ontario

“Housing is probably the largest issue we face,” she declares. “Since the pandemic, the price of housing has just skyrocketed in this area. We’ve also had an influx of people who had second residences here and now have become permanent residents because they were able to work from home. And through the pandemic, they decided that it was very safe to recuperate here. It means that our transient residents have become permanent residents.”

While acknowledging that that change in population has been “a good thing, as well,” she notes that the downside of price inflation is the fact that prospective employees in the growing tourism industry cannot afford to live there, thus starving the sector of local labor.

One of the directives from the Provincial Policy Statements is for places such as Meaford to promote “intensification” within its urban core, i.e. re-developing, expanding, and/or repurposing existing areas, buildings, or vacant lands with the intent to increase population density. This could mean more infill housing, more multi-story buildings, and/or turning former

commercial/industrial spaces into residential ones.

Clumpus relates that maintaining Meaford’s small-town atmosphere in a time of rapid growth, along with the provincial mandate for intensification “is causing some concern with existing residents. They think that it is going to destroy that small-town charm that brought everybody here,” she proffers. “But there are ways to deal with this and we’re working on it.”

Rob Armstrong, Meaford’s Chief Administrative Officer, as well as CEO of the Meaford Public Library, agrees. “We have designated our downtown as a heritage conservation district, so the purpose is to manage change to make sure that whatever happens doesn’t detract from that feeling,” he offers.

In that pursuit, he notes that the Municipality is working to establish some urban design principles that include, for example, where multi-story buildings might be permitted and where there might be some limitations on their height. “We’re going to work together with all the municipalities in the county on how we can facilitate it.”

As Meaford grows, its infrastructure will need to be upgraded, as well. “We’re just finishing up a major upgrade to our water booster pumping station that will provide a lot of water pressure to the northern areas of the Municipality,” Armstrong reports.

“We are currently designing the next stage of our sewage plant. We’re updating the environmental assessment that was done in 2007. In addition, being an old heritage downtown, we’ve had some inflow and infiltration issues with some buildings. So, we’re working with a lot of building owners to try to divert stormwater from the sedentary system, which can then allow the capacity of the plant to increase its ability to treat stormwater. We’re aggressively trying to work on that.”

“The municipality has a significant number of bridges, a lot of which require significant rehabilitation,” Clumpus adds. “So, we have a focus on fixing a lot of our bridges. We received funding from different sources to do some of them, and we’re currently designing the bridge along Highway 26. We’re also finalizing some other bridges in the rural area. Our bridges are vital to the agricultural community in providing linkages for the delivery of goods.”

Meaford, Ontario - Niagara Escarpment, Southwest Ontario

Clumpus reveals that over the past three years, the repair and maintenance of three bridges in the downtown area have adversely affected its economic growth by stymieing local truck and tourist traffic. “Since then, we’ve rebounded and that has been welcome to see. There have been significant new, independent entrepreneurs coming into the area and that is creating some much-needed buzz downtown.”

In fact, Meaford has some local successes to brag about. A former dairy business downtown was converted into a bicycle repair shop with apartments for short-term accommodations, and a a new boutique hotel is coming. “That will bring traffic into the downtown core and provide local jobs,”

Clumpus notes. “About a year ago, we finished up and moved into our new library facility. And there was a very exciting redevelopment of a former grocery store on the main street. It’s now a very vibrant space that’s used significantly by the community. It provides a real anchor to the downtown area of the Municipality.”

Another recent plus was the December 2022 expansion of peopleCare Meaford’s Long Term Care facility. The finished home now provides 51 new and 77 upgraded beds for a total of 128.

The operator, peopleCare Communities Inc., is planning to construct additional housing at this site in the future, such as retirement living and assisted living to be part of a “campus of care” to ensure that residents can continue to live in the same location as their care needs change.

“They have a very innovative approach to senior care and I think that this is something that is going to bode very well for our small community, going forward,” says Clumpus. “We have a very large senior population in our community.”

Understanding the needs of the greater Meaford community has been the mission of the Municipality’s Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan, which has been working throughout 2020-21 to gather community perspectives on important items through resident feedback and local data.

“The Plan, which is unique to our municipality, has made a huge impact in our understanding of the social infrastructure of our community,” Clumpus explains.

“We are paying attention to the health and welfare of all of our residents to see what needs we have, which may have gone under the radar when you’re faced with so many overwhelming infrastructure challenges. There are a number of really vital and exciting tasks coming out of that Plan, to create an even more age-friendly community, encourage more vibrant shops to come in, create opportunities for employment in all sectors, and ensure the appropriate housing to accommodate those new workers coming into our area.”

The Municipality of Meaford is a vibrant community that offers a strong health care system; an emerging, creative, rural economy; community events; arts and culture; quality educational institutions; a well-established farmers’ market; and year-round, world-class recreational opportunities in its rolling countryside, charming historic villages, sandy beaches, and unspoiled natural amenities.

In short, Meaford, Ontario is an attractive place in which to live, work and play. “There is just a wonderful future ahead here,” says Clumpus, “and it’s very exciting to be a part of it.”

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Meaford, Ontario

What: An historic, vibrant town offering unlimited outdoor activities against a beautiful natural


Where: The Niagara Escarpment, Southwest Ontario



The Miller Group –

GSS Engineering Consultants Ltd. –

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