Written by Noel Edey Thursday, Jan 09 2020, 5:00 AM
Cochrane is charging forward into a new decade, built upon a foundation laid in the transformative 2010s.
Tara McFadden, the only member of the council who served through all of it, stopped and collected her thoughts on what has transpired in the last 10 years.
One of the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada, Cochrane’s population has practically doubled in size and remains an appealing place to call home.
Yet those who have moved here recently may not recognize the Cochrane of 10 years ago.
“Looking back at how much Cochrane has transformed over the last 10 years, it has been a pretty exciting time,” says McFadden. “It has created some really exciting opportunities for the future. We’ve had so many huge wins for Cochrane.”
McFadden was first elected in 2007 as part of a rookie council. Like many councillors of the day, her major focus was to make Cochrane a complete and sustainable community.
“In 2009, there was a shortage of doctors, urgent care wasn’t around, and pretty much everything south of Railway was this huge contaminated site that was Domtar, just this barren rock landscape,” says McFadden.
The Quarry tops her list of game-changer of the decade.
“It’ has made Cochrane a commercial centre, providing many services and hundreds of jobs. It’s a huge win.”
“It has allowed our community to be less and less of a commuter community. Cochrane is becoming more complete and more sustainable.”
“You never as a municipality get the opportunity to redevelop your downtown from scratch, and that’s what we’ve been able to do both with this site and Greystone.”
Growth in the service sector has largely fuelled a huge in the number of business licences issued. In 2019, the town processed 1,356 business licences, 450 more than in 2009.
The town used to get $128,000 from the Quarry when it sat dormant, she says. Now the 45-acre shopping district provides the town with $1.4 million in tax revenue to invest in infrastructure.
For residents, it has reduced the dependence upon Calgary for services. You can venture out late at night to pick up necessities as small as socks for young children until 10 p.m. Being a mother, that’s important to her.
She also points to the important role played by our Historic Downtown and the revitalization projects undertaken over the years to keep it vibrant.
“There are a lot of innovative and exciting things happening, and a lot of respect for our past as well,” she says.
High on the list is the opening of the Cochrane Urgent Care Centre in February 2011.
“When I first moved to Cochrane, you didn’t find a family doctor. If something was wrong, you had to drive into the city. So now we have the Urgent Care Centre. It has been here long enough that people maybe think it’s always been here, but it was another huge recent win for Cochrane.”
An advocate for green space and trails since first elected, she ranks the creation of the Riverfront Park and expansion of the trail system in her top 10.
With growth has also come a larger police force, a full-time fire department, new schools, expanded transportation corridors, and the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge, scheduled to open this fall.
A 12-year battle came to a close with the launch of transit in the fall.
She was among those who have reservations when transit was first discussed.
“I was reluctant. I was very stressed out about supporting transit at the time. I found the finances scary, even though it seemed to be the right thing to do.”
She believes now is the right time.
“Transit is leading us to great opportunities,” she believes.
There have been challenges and tough decisions along the way, and some feverish election issues. Transit versus the rec centre expansion took centre stage in one. Then, when the rec centre expansion got the go-ahead, many said it would lead to the downfall of the municipality.
Vivid to her is the most unlikely election issue–branding.
“Some of the scariest discussions of my career were about branding, which taught me to avoid brands,” she can now say light-heartedly.
She believes Cochrane has been fortunate to have innovative leadership throughout the decade.
“I really think, in measuring that out, thanks to a lot of great visions by many councillors over the years, and some great administration, this has become more and more of a complete community. You don’t have to leave here so often.”
She looks forward to the next steps, including the establishment of the innovation tech centre, the redevelopment of the other downtown tri-site public properties, and the destination sports park that will take recreation to the next level.
“I think it’s everybody’s dream to live, work and play in Cochrane,” says McFadden. “A lot of these things are coming together to allow us to do that.”
“It has been an exciting time, and is only matched by Cochrane’s exciting future.”