Township of Wainfleet, Ontario
The joys of rural heritage
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Township of Wainfleet, Ontario for our focus on Economic Development in Canadian Communities
There’s a well-kept secret nestled along the shores of Lake Erie – a coveted vacation and recreation spot for the few who’ve discovered the Township of Wainfleet, Ontario with its scenic aquatic views, sandy beaches, and breathtaking sunsets. The township is dotted with a plethora of conservation areas, as well as beautiful hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing offerings in the midst of diverse natural areas full of wildlife and more than 180 bird species. The township has maintained a rural flavor and is 92 percent farmland; something Mayor Kevin Gibson takes a great deal of pride in. As he likes to remind people, “Your daily bacon and eggs come from Wainfleet.”
The small farming community is anything but sleepy, proudly hosting several annual events drawing visitors not only locally, but also from the wider region and beyond. Wainfleet wants people to enjoy the history of the area and gives them a uniquely authentic look into the past that few smaller rural centres have been able to maintain. The Township of Wainfleet is growing, as more people discover the majesty of the Niagara Region and the strong rural traditions the township offers within its close-knit community. Gibson reports, “Our main focus remains our multimillion dollar agricultural sector, though saying that, we also have many other successful businesses. We’re also very fortunate that we’re on the shore of Lake Erie, which gives us all sorts of recreational opportunities.”
The township’s council is bound by Ontario legislation to protect farmland, which means that overall growth is both measured and limited. But, in areas where the township is allowed to grow, council is hoping to encourage smart and sustainable growth, while it maintains Wainfleet’s rural roots and exceptional quality of life. “It’s really important for us to maintain that small town rural charm here,” says Lindsay Earl, Manager of Community and Development Services for the Township of Wainfleet. “A lot of our business that we do here at the township focuses around keeping that small town atmosphere.”
The Township of Wainfleet has about 6,800 permanent residents and is made up of several small villages and hamlets including Beckett’s Bridge, Belleview Beach, Burnaby, Camelot Beach, Chambers Corners, Long Beach, Morgan’s Point, Ostryhon Corners, Wainfleet Village, Wellandport, and Winger. Being ideally situated in the heart of the Niagara Region, there are so many options for tourism and adventure just a short drive away – Toronto is only an hour and a half northeast, and Niagara Falls just a half hour away on the border into New York State. According to Gibson, “People who discover Wainfleet are usually going to or coming from other Niagara Region destinations. The Falls, of course, is a huge draw and from there they scatter out and go to the beaches and go sightseeing at other places, so we benefit from those travelers very much.”
The township’s lakeside villages brim with cottagers through the warmer months and bring Wainfleet’s seasonal population to more than 10,000. In fact, the community has been feeling a lot of pressure from people in the Greater Toronto Area wanting to move to Wainfleet. As Earl reports, “We’ve seen a 19 percent increase throughout the pandemic in building permit applications, with a steady increase in the number of new dwellings built annually.”
While there are concerns about the scale of population growth, the Region of Niagara, which governs 12 lower tier municipalities including Wainfleet, is working on updating its comprehensive official plan to plan and define growth areas. “We need to plan for growth in the future,” says Earl, “and that’s something that our team is going to have to work with the Regional Government on… but we do have several realities that affect the way in which we can address that growth.”
Much of the concern comes from the fact that the township doesn’t have any servicing for water or sanitary sewers. Gibson notes, “Due to the lack of those services, the township must sell off residential land in one-acre parcels to allow space for septic systems and the like. There is, however, one exception to that rule – 41 single detached units in a plan of condominiums on the shore of Lake Erie that will have a communal septic system.” The project, called Lakewood Beach Estates, will begin construction in the spring of 2022. Gibson adds, “There’s been lots of buzz in the community about this kind of development because we don’t really see that happen very often in Wainfleet. The condominium development is on the site of an old Easter Seals camp, so it’s a great use of this underutilized piece of property right on the lakeshore. It’s a very high value project that is very important to us.”
Staff and council are also excited and proud to start work on a new, centralized, 5,000 square foot fire hall in Chambers Corners. “It’s an absolutely major build for us here in Wainfleet and will position the Township for increased safety and fire coverage for the next 50 to 75 years,” says the Mayor.
The township is also allocating $1.5 million for upgrades to its recreation complex, including improved drainage on the soccer fields, parking lot improvements, a new walking trail and pavilion, renovated tennis courts and upgraded washroom facilitates with enhanced accessibility features. Richard Nan, Wainfleet Manager of Operations, adds, “This is a very large and intense program that also includes upgrading lighting facilities for the baseball diamond. We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from both the federal and provincial government, so that’s one of our big projects going on this year.”
Serving the region for more than 70 years, Ben Berg Farm and Industrial Equipment Limited is one of the township’s largest employers and is currently building a 25,000 sq ft building to include a warehouse, showroom, and service area. Gibson notes, “They sell equipment way further abroad than just in the Niagara Region. And it’s not just farm equipment. They sell everything you need for your home, as well, like riding garden tractors. They are a huge business here and in all of Niagara and Southern Ontario.”
Quick Mix Materials, on Highway 3, has also served the community for more than 50 years – manufacturing high quality premixed concrete, mortars, and related repair products and also offers specialized services such as custom toll blending, packaging and small and large scale rotary kiln drying. The company is now starting to build a 14,000 sq ft expansion for a new warehouse, silos and dryers. Another important business, D & D Diamond Cutting and Coring, employs about 40 people in their industrial concrete cutting operations. Gibson states, “They are all excellent companies and we’re so pleased to have them in Wainfleet.”
The township’s administrative buildings are located in Wainfleet Village,, which was known as Marshville until the 1920s. The village is also home to the Marshville Heritage Village that hosts an annual Heritage Festival drawing more than 10,000 people from around the world to take a look into life in the 1850s. The Heritage Village boasts a working blacksmith shop and weavery along with buildings and working artifacts actually built in the 1800s and moved to the location. . The Heritage Festival takes place every Labour Day weekend.
After two years on pause due to COVID-19, Mayor Gibson is hoping to see the township light up with people and community events again in the next few years. Gibson admits, “The pandemic really put a lot of things on hold for everybody – Wainfleet included – and it would be really nice to get the community back to normal, where we can have those festivals and events and our farmers’ markets. The Marshville Heritage Festival and the Wainfleet Fall Fair are just what we need to bring the community back out and back together again. We’re so looking forward to that happening soon!”
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AT A GLANCE
Township of Wainfleet, Ontario
What: A rural, lakeside township; seasonal population over 10,000
Where: The southern Niagara region of Ontario
Lakewood Beach – LakewoodBeachEstates.ca
Lakewood Beach Estates is located in the Township of Wainfleet on the northern shoreline of Lake Erie in Ontario’s Niagara Region. The site was formerly an Easter Seals summer camp from 1954 to 2005 and was purchase by the current owners in 2006 when Easter Seals decided to sell the Lakewood and other Easter Seals camps in Ontario.
Niagara Region has for many years been considered one of the most attractive destinations to reside in Ontario due to a range of cultural and recreational activities, as well as good health care, proximity to the Greater Toronto Area and other Canadian and U.S. cities, including, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo New York and also its moderate climate which is characterized by its mild winters and warm summers
Lakewood Beach Estates is set on one of the most beautiful long sandy beach fronts on lake Erie, surrounded by ancient beauty and natural features unique to this part of Ontario and designed as a master planned, exclusive community that will consist of 41 custom built, fully detached beach homes with shared common amenities in a plan of Condominium, that takes advantage of its natural white sandy beach and spectacular south/southwest sun set views of lake Erie,
Along with the excellent opportunities for boating, beach and water sports the site is also located within a five-minute drive of the Port Colborne Golf & Country Club as well as 40 additional golf courses within a half hour drive, including the Pete Dye designed Grand Niagara Course.
With a lack of quality waterfront properties both locally and regional and the future ability of working from home and peoples desire to be inspired while doing so, this sites exceptional beach and sunset views and excellent range of area amenities within a 90-minute drive, make it a very rare life style opportunity.