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Sustainable Okotoks 1998 to 2012
"Not far from my hometown of Calgary, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there is a beautiful little town called Okotoks. About 10 years ago, the folks there decided they were going to live within their local environmental means. Today Okotoks can fairly call itself the greenest community in Canada".....Prime Minister Stephen Harper
In 1998, Okotoks made a decision about its future, becoming one of the first municipalities in the world to establish growth targets linked to infrastructure development and environmental carrying capacity when it adopted a Municipal Development Plan - 'The Legacy Plan'. In 1998, the town faced an intersection in its evolution. Dependant on the Sheep River for its water and its ability to treat and dispose of effluent, Okotoks could choose to continually "grow without limits" and align with regional development and access to regional infrastructure, or take the "road less traveled" and intentionally choose to live within the carrying capacity of the local environment.
Informed by extensive public consultation, the high cost (a regional pipeline) of exceeding carrying capacity, and a preservation of a small town atmosphere value system expressed in a community survey, a community driven vision was created that chose to respond to rather than manipulate the environment to sustain our standard of living. A population cap at the licensed limits of the Sheep River aquifer (approx. 30,000) became a key feature of Okotoks' development path. A build-out municipal boundary for 30,000 people was established. Sustainable Okotoks rests on four pillars that guide and shape a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustainable development:
1. Environmental Stewardship
2. Economic Opportunity
3. Social Conscience
4. Fiscal Responsibility
The pillars work together to nurture what Okotokians have expressed desire for - a town that is safe and secure, maintains small town atmosphere, preserves and protects a pristine river valley, provides housing choices, employment opportunities and quality schooling, and caters to all ages and cultures.
A comprehensive set of targets and initiatives were defined to ensure that our build-out population would be reached in an environmentally, economically, socially, and fiscally responsible way. Since 1998, more than 100 sustainability initiatives have been undertaken.
The road Okotoks chose to travel was pragmatic, unique, and daring – and about much more than just a population cap. Today, whether it's a more balanced tax base, broader housing choice, a composting sewage treatment plant, a reduction in water use, or the Drake Landing Solar Community, we can all be proud of our collective accomplishment: becoming 'better' not just 'bigger'. Along the way, be it through several awards, acknowledgment by the Prime Minister, or the featuring of our community on CBC National, the sustainability torch we have carried with ambition and purpose has become a guidepost for others to follow.
Town of Okotoks Vision:
"In the year 2030, Okotoks is a leader in sustainability, driven by an involved connected and creative community. Through visionary leadership, citizens are engaged in maintaining a safe, caring and vital community that honours our culture, heritage and environment."