Community Profiles

The Alberta Energy Corridor has a population base among its member communities of approximately 3,000 and experiences an influx of 4,000 to 6,000 seasonal and project-related residents annually. An additional 30,000 people live within an hour’s drive. Approximately 11,000 vehicles travel Highway 63 daily, predominately industrial/commercial traffic to and from the Fort McMurray region.

Boyle

The Village of Boyle is located along Highway 63, 150 kilometres (92 miles) north of Edmonton. Boyle is centred in the hub of the forestry, agriculture and natural resources sectors and has a population of almost 1,000 people. Located within Boyle is a dimensional lumber sawmill owned by Millar Western Forest Products Ltd. that produces up to 135 million board feet of lumber per year and, 40 kilometres (24 miles) northwest of Boyle, is the largest single-line kraft pulp mill in North America, owned by Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac).

Boyle is located at an important crossroads of the Alberta highway transportation network where a number of regional routes come together: Highway 63, Highway 831 and Highway 663. The Boyle airport is an all-weather facility, with a 3,000 foot by 60 foot runway (900 metres by 18 metres).

The area is also situated in the heart of a vast outdoor playground, home to a number of lake communities offering exceptional recreational and cottage-country amenities.

Several local projects are in progress in addition to already existing facilities and infrastructure:

  • Canadian National Railway Co. (CN Rail) upgrade; rail service includes spur line to Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac)
  • multiple pipeline projects in progress or announced
  • multi-family and single-family residential as well as country residential estates
  • annexation of 80 acres in 2008, 700 acres in the process for 2009 (current or newer info re: number of acres/quarter sections?)
  • new regional water line built in 2009
  • regional water treatment plant underway
  • town-operated natural gas utility
  • local airport
  • northern Alberta headquarters of Alberta Sheriff’s detachment
  • full Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment
  • cost of land is less than in Fort McMurray and Edmonton
  • strong local business community: trading area numbers 100+ businesses and approximately 2,000 employees
  • all municipal services provided
  • well-developed indoor and outdoor recreational facilities
  • local airport
  • health and education facilities and services
  • diversified housing base
  • regional hub and service centre
  • low soil class ratings (class 4 and class 5)

Wandering River

The Hamlet of Wandering River is located along Highway 63, 235 kilometres (141 miles) north of Edmonton. Wandering River has a population of approximately 100 people; all the water and sewer needs of the residents are currently serviced.

Wandering River will be a staging area for logistical and warehousing support for the Athabasca oilsands area and Fort McMurray. Taking advantage of its location as the last community before Fort McMurray, the area’s highway commercial and service sector will grow to serve the travelling public and industrial transport businesses. It is anticipated that residential growth will continue to occur as a result of the increased local business, but also as an opportunity for workers in the Fort McMurray area to take advantage of lower housing costs in an established community.

Several local projects are in progress in addition to already existing facilities and infrastructure:

  • communal water, sewer and utility services are available
  • functional planning for twinning of Highway 63 complete
  • relatively low-cost land available for commercial and industrial development
  • close to Athabasca River
  • located at the southern edge of the Athabasca oilsands area: last community on the way to Fort McMurray and the first community on the way back from Fort McMurray
  • school facilities

Grassland

The Hamlet of Grassland is located along Highway 63, 181 kilometres (108 miles) north of Edmonton. Grassland has a base population of about 115 people, but also sees a significant amount of temporary working visitors to the area. To service the community, Grassland services all the water and sewer needs of its residents. Grassland will continue to grow as a centrally located service centre within the Alberta Energy Corridor. The planned realignment and twinning of Highway 63 will provide an opportunity to develop new highway and service/commercial opportunities.

Several local projects are in progress in addition to already existing facilities and infrastructure:

  • communal water, sewer and utility services available
  • well-developed highway commercial uses
  • functional planning for the twinning of Highway 63 complete
  • relatively low-cost land available for commercial and industrial development
  • school facilities
  • close to Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac)
  • new fire station

Al-Pac Industrial Region

The Al-Pac industrial area provides a remote setting ideal for resource-based, large-scale and heavy industry that serve the forestry and oil and gas sectors. Expansion of this area will take place to ensure industry that it will be well buffered from residential development and other sensitive uses. Industry will be able to take advantage of the excellent transportation system, share resources such as water and power, and recruit its workforce requirements from the expanding regional labour market.

Existing facilities and infrastructure:

  • remote location for large-scale industrial development with very low residential density
  • opportunities for synergy with Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac)
  • power generation/co-generation
  • potable water from the Athabasca River
  • Canadian National Railway Co. (CN Rail) spur line service
  • skilled labour force available from surrounding communities
  • excellent east/west and north/south highway access via the Al-Pac Connector Road
  • within commuting distance of surrounding communities such as Athabasca, Boyle, Wabasca/Desmarais, Wandering River, and Grassland
  • large available land base
  • low agricultural soil class ratings (class 4 and class 5)

The Aspen Regional Water Commission (ARWC) is a utility provider for water to much of Athabasca County, in which the Al-Pac Industrial Region is located. Currently, ARWC provides water to smaller communities and rural residents. There are plans for expansion of this water service to many areas in the region in the future.

Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) is one of the world’s largest pulp mills and is located about 60 kilometres (36 miles) east and north of the town of Athabasca, adjacent to the Athabasca River. Al-Pac manages the country’s largest congruous forest management area (FMA), with 5.8 million hectares under agreement. The area adjacent to Al-Pac has been identified by a third-party land use planning group as one of five priority nodes for industrial expansion. Al-Pac currently has its own water and sewer treatment facilities established in the area, which is also served by a Canadian National Railway Co. (CN Rail) spur line.

Raw land is undeveloped and with few constraints. Excellent visibility exists for commercial development at the crossroads of Highways 63 and 55 — main route to Fort McMurray — and the functional plan for Highway 63 twinning and interchange is complete.

Athabasca County and Town of Athabasca

Situated close to the geographic centre of the province of Alberta, Athabasca County includes the town of Athabasca, nestled in the picturesque Athabasca River valley and with a population of 2,500-plus. The town is 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Edmonton and the largest populated community in the Alberta Energy Corridor. According to the 2008 census, 10,321 people live within Athabasca County’s 6,126 square kilometre (2,365 square mile) area.

The Athabasca region has been experiencing growth from industrial development over the last several years. It has also become a housing destination – attracting workers from throughout Alberta’s oil and gas industry – as an alternative to city living with the opportunity to choose country and lakefront living.

The Aspen Regional Water Commission (ARWC) is a utility provider for water to much of Athabasca County. Currently, ARWC provides water to smaller communities and rural residents. There are plans for expansion of this water service to many areas in the region in the future.

Athabasca County is home to forestry, agriculture, and oil and gas development. Major employers include Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac), Millar Western Forest Products Ltd., Athabasca University and numerous oil and gas service companies. In agriculture alone, there are close to 100 farm enterprises in the region, with alfalfa/alfalfa mixtures, oats, barley, other tame hay and fodder crops, and some canola and wheat as the majority of crops grown. Combination cattle ranching and farming accounts for almost 50 per cent of the farm operations in the county.

In 2009, the value of building permits in Athabasca County reached almost $28 million, the majority of it for residential housing – 91 per cent of residents own their homes versus 73 per cent in the rest of Alberta. And of those, 84.6 per cent own single-detached houses versus 63 per cent in the rest of the province.

The variety of industry in the region is reflected by the workforce mix in Athabasca County; 75 per cent of the labour pool has a degree, diploma or certificate.

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