William Penn once wrote, “He that does good for good’s sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end.” With respect to the good bit of work going on in one Canadian community, town leaders are seeking to ensure that residents and businesses alike not only experience a greater quality of life, but more greatly reap the rewards to be found from living in a community striving to be a Paradise for everyone.
Located amidst the lush Avalon Peninsula in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the town of Paradise has historically serving as a starting point for one of the oldest annual road races in Canada, the Tely 10, a ten-mile dash from Paradise to Mount Pearl and St. Johns which has been attracting runners to this area since 1922 (that also makes it one of the oldest annual races in all of North America). Yet when it comes to the posting of fast times, in more recent years, Paradise has proven especially speedy in securing distinction as the fastest growing municipality in Atlantic Canada. Not so many years ago, as a small bedroom community on the outskirts of the Provincial Capital of St. John’s, Paradise was made home by a population comprised by a little more than 4,000 people, but today that number has grown to more than 20,000. At the same time, when considering its proximity to communities such as Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl as well as St. John’s, Paradise is tied to a regional population that equates closer to 200,000 people.
Paradise Chief Administrative Officer Rodney Cumby credits growth in Paradise to industrial advances affiliated with the oil and gas industry, as well as constraints to growth in other communities which has basically forced expansion into Paradise. The community has capitalized on increasing residential construction, and Cumby notes that much of that housing is made home by young families. While the average age here is only 35 years old, Cumby says Paradise also has a growing senior population. And as to be expected, as the residential sector has grown, so too has the commercial sector with growing retail operations as well as manufacturing firms which support the energy industry. Paradise has several advantages that make it particularly attractive to business, not only in terms of its growing workforce, but also due to its proximity to major highway systems, port facilities and a nearby airport. As Cumby says, “We’re in a beautiful area right off the Outer Ring Road and positioned to accommodate good access in and out which is a major advantage for Paradise. The other thing is that so much industry has moved to Mount Pearl, there’s hardly any vacancy left so companies are looking more to Paradise for expansion.”
Paradise has been dealing with increasing demand for housing, commercial development, services and infrastructure to support business and residents alike, but as Cumby says, a proactive and progressive city council has moved to advance a strategic plan geared toward ensuring that Paradise remains a paradise for everyone.
The Perfecting of Paradise
The 2013-2017 Strategic Plan for Paradise (actually entitled “To Create a Paradise for Everyone”) addresses a number of goals with some that are quickly coming to fruition. Among the most significant work involves construction of a new hockey arena. In addition to the dressing rooms, canteen, fitness and skate sharpening facilities, the arena will boast two NHL-sized ice rinks which encompass some 5,700 square meters. Collectively, the rinks will accommodate fixed seating for more than 1,400 spectators, but Cumby says this state-of-the-art site will also be essential to staging tradeshows, conventions and other community events. The arena equates to a $22 million investment in Paradise, with 70% of those costs provided by Provincial authorities. Cumby notes Paradise successfully secured another $3 million which it is using to redevelop a site near the arena where an old steel mill was once located. He says the site is being redeveloped to create a new park with trails and gazebos which will complement an existing recreation center. The city has saved costs by partnering with developers in a design/build team approach which Cumby says has resulted in everyone working together to find ways to save money without compromising on the quality envisioned for the development. Cumby sees this development as the realization of a major goal, saying “Residents have lobbied for a new arena for years … they want recreational opportunities for their children and for themselves, so this is a significant advancement for us.” He adds that the facility is anticipated to be completed by next summer, in time for a new hockey season.
Whether coincidental or intentional, it deserves note that only minutes away, similar facilities are being constructed in Mount Pearl and Conception Bay South. The collective development of this infrastructure will certainly add to Newfoundland’s draw of hockey players and fans, not to mention commercial opportunities for the future.
Highways and Byways
Cumby says other initiatives involving improving upon access in and out of Paradise. For example, he says the present access between Conception Bay South and Paradise often leads to issues of traffic congestion. The long term plan seeks to facilitate greater traffic flow along this artery, as well as others. At the same time, Paradise has developed more trail systems which garner appeal with bikers and hikers. In this northern Avalon region, Paradise is unique in that it is more of an urban centre than rural community, yet it is part a major trail network. One connection between three urban areas is known as the Grand Concourse Walk, 100 kms of walking trails spanning three municipalities. The Grand Concourse is complemented by a network of lakes, ponds and rivers, as well as a boardwalk, which all provides an excellent opportunity for encountering birds, native flora and outdoor enjoyment. Three joined sections of the walk run right through Paradise. The first section is known as Paradise Walk, part of the Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park (a rail bed route that extends for more than 880 kilometers that links urban, rural and wilderness areas). The T’railway Park forms the Newfoundland section of the Trans Canada Trail. The remaining two sections are respectively known as Neil’s Pond Walk and the Octagon Pond Walk.
Paradise has also progressed in providing greater public services through a range of initiatives. Water and sewer lines have expanded into rural areas which previously lacked such service. There are two brand new elementary schools to complement an older school, but Cumby says another new school will soon be added to the mix. While there are high schools in nearby Mount Pearl, Paradise currently has none. Cumby says the community is currently lobbying the government for development of a new high school as this would be beneficial to the growing number of families in Paradise. Affordable housing is another important focus. Cumby says the community recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity to develop a couple of new homes, but says studies are underway to identify new sites for future affordable housing projects.
In terms of other vital public services, an agreement with St. John’s Regional Fire Department is lead the expansion fire safety services in Paradise. Cumby says having adequate fire fighting capabilities is crucial for residents and businesses alike. Whereas fire trucks previously had to travel from St. John’s to Paradise when emergencies struck, dedicated units will soon serve the community through operations of a new fire department. Cumby says design stages have been finalized and construction of a new state-of-the-art facility should be completed sometime over the next 16 months.
Paradise has taken even more steps to create an environment for business to thrive. Industrial sites have been established at Octagon pond as well as a site known as Paradise Business Park, but Cumby notes there are yet sixty more acres the community can develop in the future. That land may indeed be necessary because Cumby anticipates occupancy rates in existing sites to be filled as early as the next 18 months.
“We’ve been talking to several major oil companies, particularly in Houston and Norway … and we’ve heard some interesting proposals that may lead to substantial development or maybe the creation of a major safety training facility here, and more … we’re confident that we’ll see further growth.” Cumby acknowledges that the region’s oil & gas deposits are crucial economic drivers. As energy industry has grown, Paradise has experienced success in attracting dynamic companies such as Score Group and Weatherford International, both are international manufacturers and suppliers of products and services crucial to the industry.
Cumby says having successful companies like Score and Weatherford sends an important message to other companies, that they too may find a happy home in Paradise. At the same, town leaders continue to market the community, field calls and visits with companies far and wide to promote all that Paradise has to offer. Cumby expresses optimism that Paradise will continue to prosper, and he says that the economic benefits gained from industrial development have already contributed to the town’s ability to provide greater recreational opportunities and increased public services for resident. More will come in following the strategic plan. As Cumby says, “We’re much different than what we were a few years ago recreational facilities, schools, affordable housing, highways, the whole picture has changed … we’ve got programs in place that think of everyone, programs for seniors, programs for youth, programs for children, programs to improve commercial development … we’re trying to ensure that Paradise can be a paradise for everyone.”
For more information, please visit their website at Town of Paradise
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