Township of Wainfleet
A Hidden Gem in Ontario’s Southern Niagara Region
Nestled among the awe-inspiring beauty of the Niagara region, the Township of Wainfleet offers its residents a recreational playground
As the second largest community in Ontario’s Southern Niagara region, the Township of Wainfleet is a hidden gem. With an abundance of recreational opportunities for all seasons, this rural community boasts 4 beaches, and several parks and trail areas, including a portion of the Talbot Trail, which extends from Windsor to Fort Erie, spanning 200 kilometers.
Visitors to Wainfleet will be charmed by the nostalgic ambiance of the on-farm shopping, events, and traditions of this idyllic rural township. For the 6,800 people who call Wainfleet home, the township is a tight-knit community deeply rooted in agriculture, celebrating the past while moving towards a vibrant future.
Mayor Brian Grant shares, “Wainfleet is definitely community-oriented, you do not live in Wainfleet without knowing every one of your neighbors, or the majority of the township. It’s centered around our arena and our community hall with our fire department, and basically, everybody is an extension of that. Everybody comes out to our Marshville Heritage Festival, our Wainfleet Fall Fair, our farmers market, and our Christmas Market. Even just this year, we did our grassroots Christmas parade, and it was just massive. The turnout from the community is always amazing in Wainfleet.”
With farmland making up 92% of the township, Grant notes that this number is locked in through provincial designation, adding that the community takes great pride in its agricultural strength. Wainfleet is seeing more diversification in farm offerings, with owners finding creative and innovative ways to expand or change their offerings. “We have some interesting projects happening, things that we don’t necessarily see throughout the rest of Niagara,” relays Lindsay Earl, Manager of Community and Development Services.
“For example, an adaptive reuse of an old poultry barn to be used as a new mushroom growing facility, expansions to bee farms, and a lot of proposals for on-farm diversified and value-added uses, where people are adding roadside stands and coming in for approvals for wedding/banquet facilities in underutilized agricultural buildings. A lot of people are now attracted to that rural environment, that country kind of lifestyle, so we’re seeing a lot more gatherings of such nature.”
Although the township does not have specific incentive programs to help with these growth and expansion efforts, helping owners get through the planning and permit process is of utmost priority.
“We recognize the importance of our agricultural community,” she asserts. “Oftentimes, those in the farming community have a lack of knowledge on the planning and development process. So, we are helping them through the permitting process for building permits, or if there are any other Planning Act applications that are necessary, really providing a high level of customer service, because those are the types of uses that we know are going to make our community flourish.”
Tourism is also a draw for the township, with festivals like the Marshville Heritage Festival attracting a large crowd every labor day. “In the past, we’ve seen up to 100,000 guests,” says Mayor Grant.
The event itself has been around since 1989, taking place at the Wainfleet Heritage Village, which consists of beautifully restored 19th-century buildings. “There are many, many historical buildings that are not only just from Wainfleet, but around Niagara and even Haldimand, giving a feel of what it was like living in the late 1800s era,” he portrays.
During the summer months, visitors flock to the shores of Lake Erie to enjoy Long Beach, which Grant says is a popular area of the township. Chippawa Park, and Wainfleet Bog conservation areas are other sought Wainfleet destinations being offered by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
One of the challenges for any rural community is broadband connectivity, and the township of Wainfleet is no exception. CAO William Kolasa recounts, “We were inundated with public requests and concerns from the community about the absence of stable high-speed connectivity, especially as we were going into the pandemic and more people were doing remote work, remote schooling, all that sort of stuff.”
He reports that in 2022 Rogers Communications pledged to bring fiber lines to all of the underserved areas of the municipality, addressing the major gaps that have been a long-time concern.
He adds, “Our operations department has been working very closely with Rogers in doing all the necessary permitting and providing all the necessary assistance for them to get those fiber lines laid within our road network. With those lines in place, which is an ongoing project, we will actually be seeing all areas of the township having access to high speed internet connectivity, fiber right to the house, which we’re really excited about and very pleased to see finally happening in Wainfleet.”
Severe weather events have been another significant issue for the township, impacting municipal infrastructure and private residential property. “We’ve had some serious fall storms. Most recently, we declared a state of emergency over the 2022 Christmas holidays due to a major blizzard that affected most of the southern Niagara region. We were very hard hit,” says Kolasa.
“As part of our efforts to address that; we’ve identified, this year, a major capital project that involves undertaking restorative work to the most heavily damaged areas, as well as making improvements to make sure that any future issues that we might have can be appropriately dealt with, with correct drainage, improved road conditions, everything necessary to keep the public safe.”
As for other major projects, Wainfleet is in the process of amalgamating 2 public schools and one Catholic school under one roof, a unique situation in the region. Describing the reasoning behind this new larger building and the amalgamation, Earl says, “A lot of the schools, the physical buildings, and structures, are aging. Also, there has been a decline in attendance for the school boards. So, the amalgamation seemed to fit well with their proposal to merge together.”
Kolasa believes this will bring opportunities to build relationships with both school boards. He says, “Their new school is going to be located just a stone’s throw away from our municipal complex, which includes Town Hall, our library, our arena and our sports fields. We would certainly want to provide the students that are in the area an opportunity to take advantage of those facilities we have.”
On the housing side, the township has just approved the Bunz Lane Development, which will bring 8 new single-family homes to the community. In the approval stages, the Petit Road subdivision will add another 15 units. With no municipal water and wastewater servicing, developments in Wainfleet tend to be smaller scale, in the range of 15 to 20 units. However, growth is happening throughout the township.
Earl acknowledges, “The largest one that we’ve seen as of late would be the Lakewood Beach condominium development, which is 41 condo units. It has received final approval and has currently begun construction. We have a number of additional proposed subdivisions coming online or have had formal pre-consultation meetings, and they’re just getting their applications and required technical studies in order before they can submit for those.”
In conjunction with the recently approved Niagara Region Official Plan, the Township of Wainfleet is also working on an Official plan update to designate additional lands in hamlet areas, especially those in Wainfleet Village Hamlet, to allow for future growth and development.
Moving forward, the mayor conveys that he would like to see some alternative revenue streams for the township.
He elaborates, “We are locked in at 92% farmland, and the other 8% is basically residential. We don’t have a lot of commercial, as of right now. That means the burden of all the costs throughout Wainfleet really just falls on all of its residents. As a township, I would like to see us grow revenue streams, and come up with alternative ways to bring more money into Wainfleet. I’ve got lots of ideas planned.”
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AT A GLANCE
Township of Wainfleet, Ontario
What: A rural lakeside township with a growing tourist industry
Where: Southern Niagara Region