The Town of Cochrane morphed from a village to a town in 1971. Here we are 45 years later and the population of this community North West of Calgary has just rolled over the population odometre to 25,122. This figure is hot off the press after the 2016 Municipal Census and shows that the town grew by 2,000 souls in the last 12 months. This latest figure shows that growth is slowing down somewhat. The population is up by 8% over 2015 which is down from the 11.5% growth the previous year and 10.4% in 2014. Approximately 25% or one in four people wasn't living in Cochrane three years ago.
The communities that actually lost a few residents in Cochrane are Bow Ridge, GlenEagles, West Valley, Downtown and Cochrane Settlement.
Any growth that occurred in the last year took place in some of Cochrane's new neighbourhoods such as Fireside and Heartland with 340 and 440 people respectively. Heritage Hills gained 190 people, Riversong grew by 460, The Willows had 200 and Sunset Ridge grew by 420 people.
The census figures have been forwarded to Alberta Municipal Affairs, the government body which officially records populations in the province. When the population is officially declared, the Town of Cochrane is eligible for more provincial funding as it's granted on a per capita basis.
Eligible for city status
According to provincial guidelines, a municipality is able to declare city status when it reaches a minimum of 10,000 people. Therefore, Cochrane is eligible twice-over. Airdrie took advantage of this eligibility, so should Cochrane be next?
What's the advantage of becoming a city?
When a municipality in Alberta becomes a city, they have more authority over roads. Last year, a Town Councilor who was concerned about the level of traffic and congestion in Cochrane, called for the Province of Alberta to pay for twinning both highways through the Town – Highway 22 and Highway 1A. After that, city status would allow them to take over including enforcement and speed limits. It was hoped that the bottlenecked traffic, especially where these highways intersect, could be better controlled if Cochrane had the authority to take control of these roads. That includes construction of another bridge over the Bow River and more crossings over the railway tracks.
A transit system within the community isn't the answer to Cochrane's traffic woes according to councilors as a great deal of the traffic is caused by Calgary commuters and tourists.
Several towns in Alberta with the right-sized population have shirked the eligibility card, voting instead to retain the town status. Canmore to the west, Okotoks and High River to the south all have the right to be called cities, eligible for more provincial funding while becoming more autonomous and more attractive for business investors.
Chestermere, just east of Calgary, recently obtained city status after a meteoric rise from a summer village in just a few decades. Strathmore just east of Chestermere has fought hard to remain a town and even gave a mayor the boot when the suggestion was made to become a city.
Chances are Cochrane will remain a town for some years to come.