A Small Community Flourishing as Ottawa’s Neighbour

City of Clarence-Rockland, ON
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

The City of Clarence-Rockland is located on the Ottawa River, only thirty-five kilometres to the east of the country’s capital, and is considered part of Canada’s National Capital Region. The fully bilingual city was formed by amalgamating the Town of Rockland and Clarence Township under the Harris government in 1998.

This city of approximately 25,000 comprises five main communities: Rockland, Clarence Creek, Hammond, Bourget, and Saint-Pascal-Baylon. These are typically farming communities with the exception of Rockland which is the urban core of the municipality, and each region still has its own unique characteristics.

With quality schools and medical care, this area presents a great opportunity for families with children. It offers the freedom to choose a lifestyle in French, English, or both languages. “If families want their kids raised in French, they can raise them in French, or they can choose to raise them in English. They have those choices here, which is great for parents who want to continue their French language,” said Helen Collier, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Clarence-Rockland.

Recreational choices abound as well. The skateboard park in Clarence-Rockland is a fun and exciting place for the community’s youth to socialize. The Joël Gauthier Skate Park was named after a local teen who had ambitions to build a skate park in his hometown but passed away far too young in a tragic accident.

Du Moulin Park on the river in Clarence-Rockland was built in honour of the Edwards family and their historic sawmill, built in 1868. This sawmill was the primary reason Rockland was able to become its own successful municipality.

Recently, a large, year-round park featuring a number of winter activities was built in Clarence-Rockland. Alain Potvin Park has been named in honour of the man who owned a large private business in the area and became an important community builder. The park features a well-lit toboggan hill to encourage safe sledding and an outdoor ice skating rink over five hundred metres long surrounding the park. This winter, the city will host an opening ceremony at the park to unveil an inuksuk statue commemorating Alain Potvin.

The quality of life here is strengthened by the security its residents feel. Based on the city’s very low crime statistics, the Ontario Provincial Police cannot justify having many officers on duty.

The city has a fantastic medical center called the Clarence-Rockland Family Health Team that has equipment for testing such as X-rays and ultrasounds. It allows patients the option to stay close to home for their medical needs rather than travel to the larger hospitals in Ottawa.

Two new fire paramedic stations have been built to serve the municipality for many years to come. One is located in the south end of the city and the other in the north. Prior to the construction of these two buildings, the paramedics had to plug the ambulance into the fire station while remaining parked outdoors because there was no additional space. Both the paramedics and firefighters now have proper facilities and enough space to complete their essential work efficiently. The first fire paramedic station has the capacity to house two ambulances and five fire trucks, and the second can hold four ambulances and eight fire trucks.

Clarence-Rockland also has enough shopping amenities to satisfy any resident, and according to Collier, it is home to the best pizza in the entire Ottawa region. A large multi-use site in the city houses the library that is connected to the local school and features a fitness facility that has been contracted out to the YMCA. The move has been so successful that almost four thousand people now have a paid membership.

The ease of living in Clarence-Rockland is unusual because it offers all necessary services within a local community, yet it is also conveniently located in proximity to Ottawa. “We have all the services that are needed. We have almost all the main banks, and we have legal services in town. We have everything except a shoemaker, but I’m going to work on that,” said Collier.

The time it takes to get from Clarence-Rockland to downtown Ottawa is almost the same as from Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. In addition, the city is only one-and-a-half hours away from the Island of Montreal which offers an abundance of cultural activities.

As the population grows, the city aims to attract more businesses and amenities to broaden the opportunities available to residents. The goal is to create a place where people want to live, work, and play. To support this, an extensive daycare system, capable of serving eight hundred children, was put in place and this is substantial for a city of 25,000.

One of the benefits of operating a business here is that local shoppers tend to be very loyal to area businesses. “There’s a lot of community support for business here, and you can see that in our Christmas parade, because all the businesses participate well, which is nice to see,” said Collier.

The city is also looking to create an economic development department to manage its progress. “I’m trying desperately to hire an economic development officer because I’ve got files two inches thick with things to do,” explained Collier. “Businesses keep coming though because we’re hitting that magic population of 25,000. For example, Starbucks decided they would come and open here now, and it’s been a big addition to the community.”

To attract more manufacturing, Clarence-Rockland has become twinned with a municipality in South Korea. Twin towns, also known as sister cities, are a way to create a bond between geographically separate cities for commercial or cultural exchanges. Clarence-Rockland jumped at the opportunity to establish this partnership approximately two years ago and is looking forward to a formal meeting in spring 2020 to discuss a new Korean manufacturing plant in town.

Clarence-Rockland is growing rapidly, and residential development is booming. Over the last ten years, it has seen the construction of 175 homes a year on average, and last year, 205 homes were built to keep up with the demand. With a population per unit of 2.3, the city is welcoming roughly four hundred to five hundred people every year into its beautiful, newly developed neighbourhoods.

The master-planned, mixed-use community of Clarence Crossing on the river offers a variety of housing options including large five-bedroom homes and efficient adult lifestyle condominium buildings. Clarence Creek, on the edge of the Ottawa River, is much larger than the average-sized creek, and construction plans are in the works to build a pedestrian bridge over the creek to connect the community to other amenities and villages.

Now that the first phase of the site plan for a new neighbourhood in Clarence-Rockland has been approved, Collier has been eager to see the project make headway. “There’s another big development which will be 1100 homes housing around 4000 new residents, and it’s going to be built upon the ridge which looks over the Ottawa River to the Gatineau Hills. That’s starting construction in the spring.” The developer of this project has also provided a dog park that the residents truly appreciate.

By building up the commercial space in residential areas, the City of Clarence-Rockland hopes that it can reduce the amount of traffic on the roads. The road connecting it to Ottawa is currently in good shape, but discussions about widening the road to get ahead of the population growth are already happening. For people who do not drive, a private bus transit system travels back and forth between Clarence-Rockland and downtown Ottawa.

Looking further ahead, the city has plans to create a new community center. It is also working with the federal government on a project that would build a federal hub in the city. Many government workers live in the Clarence-Rockland, and it would take additional pressure off the roads if they did not have to drive in Ottawa more than once a week.

Currently, the city has 225 existing businesses, and that number is sure to grow as more people take notice of its many assets.

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