Living a modern Western life in Cochrane

By Pepper Rodriguez
September 20, 2022

Cochrane’s Western Heritage charm never gets old, but today, this quaint town midway between Calgary and the Rockies is more than just that.

With its eye set firmly on improving the lives of its more than 33,000 residents, the Town of Cochrane has set an agenda on advancing community connectivity as it continues to balance the needs of growth and remaining true to its small-town roots.

Cochrane, just 20 minutes west of Calgary, has become a haven for new homebuyers, taking advantage of relatively lower land costs; its wonderful recreational amenities and opportunities; and its crystal-clear views of the Rockies from almost anywhere in town.

Throw in an ever-increasing variety of new housing options and you’ve got the makings of a great little community to live in. Which makes it easy to understand why its population of 33,399 (as of 2021) has been increasing 24.3 per cent in the prior five years. “It is the fastest growing municipality in the province, and the 11th fastest in Canada,” says Mike Korman, Interim Director, Planning & Development Services, Town of Cochrane.

But despite its rapid growth, Cochrane’s small-town charm and tight-knit community spirit are what residents love so much about it. And it’s only getting better.

“Community connectivity is at the forefront of growth in Cochrane,” Korman tells Calgary New Home + Condo Guide in an email interview.

“Championed by Cochrane’s newly approved 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, community investment is paving the way to establish Cochrane as a hub for active living, exciting innovation, and placemaking,” he adds.


Growing responsibly

One of Cochrane’s challenges is continuing to create efficiencies by matching the investments it is making today with future needs and opportunities of the community, Korman says.

“As an example, Cochrane is nearing completion on The Station at Cochrane Crossing, a transit hub and service point that will allow residents to access amenities through COLT, our local transit program, and expand their access to Calgary Universities and Downtown in partnership with On-it Regional Transit.”

The Station at Cochrane Crossing is all about connection, from the pedestrian link from Historic Downtown to the Quarry, the open park space for everyone to enjoy, and the transit component, literally connecting people to our core, he adds.

“The project includes a community plaza and at-grade rail crossing serving as a connection to Historic Downtown. Knowing the essential role for Cochrane will play in the future of the Rail connection from the Calgary International Airport to Banff, the Station invites the future development of a train platform for regional train service, bringing commuters to and from work or visitors to enjoy historic downtown Cochrane and connect to other local amenities.”

Further connectivity

The completion of the Jack Tennant Bridge in 2020 and the work on James Walker Trail extension are major accomplishments in improving accessibility through the town, and more are to come.

“Investment in the community has been a top priority for Cochrane to support community connectivity, enhancing open space and natural areas and furthering the livability of Cochrane,” Korman says.

The town is in the midst of improving the Highway 1A corridor through Cochrane, with construction set to be completed in Fall 2022. “These improvements are designed to tie into the Province’s Highway 1A and 22 Interchange project, which jointly will expand the capacity of both highways and enhance safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists and accommodate future growth.” He adds. “Residents and visitors will be able to enter Cochrane with ease and pathways along the road will be accessible for all to enjoy.”

New communities

There is no shortage of family-friendly communities offering a wide array of housing types all through the town. The south side of Cochrane has seen plenty of action with vibrant communities like Fireside, the Willows of River Heights (both from La Vita Land); Precedence in Riversong (by Tamani); and the newest is Rivercrest by Qualico Communities and Slokker Homes. Heartland by Apex Development on the west side of town is also growing at a fast clip, and Sunset Ridge by Melcor is seen as a well-established community already.

“Cochrane has 23 subdivision approvals pending in many communities with many new residential and commercial developments underway,” Korman says.

Most recently, Greystone by Burnswest Properties broke ground in June 2022, he adds, with residential living and commercial amenities, rehabilitating a former gravel site into living and community space close to downtown Cochrane. “With a new grocery store and hotel, this development provides more opportunities for Cochranites to live and work in their community.”

Western lifestyle

Cochrane’s Main Street in the downtown is perhaps its most famous landmark, but for those unfamiliar with it, there is more to enjoy in this Western Heritage town than just MacKay’s ice cream.

There’s a vast array of quaint local shops along Main Street, but one of the most easily recognizable is the Horse Creek Heritage Candy and Gifts shop. It is a quaint throwback to the town’s pioneering history. Horse Creek is now proudly serving Enceladus Chocolates! Gourmet Belgian chocolates, locally made in small batches.

A close connection to nature is a big draw to Cochrane, and one of its most beloved landmarks, the Glenbow Ranch, provides just that. It has 3,200 acres of native fescue grassland and is also an active cattle ranch. Enjoy stunning vistas, rolling hills, and spot the occasional cowboy as you explore nearly 40 kms of paved and shale path.

But enjoying nature in Cochrane is even easier. “You can just go out your backyard and hit the pathways and trails around the neighbourhood and you’re already surrounded by nature,” says Cam Hart, vice-president at Tamani, the developers of Precedence in Riversong.

Recreation-minded town

Cochrane has a variety of indoor and outdoor amenities available year-round to residents. Based on feedback from residents, parks and pathways are essential to an active lifestyle, Korman says. Over 80 kms of pathways and 46 playgrounds are maintained by Cochrane Operations, which will soon be connected by Phase one of The Trail initiative, travelling along Treaty Seven Territory connecting Cochrane and Calgary.

“There is also potential connection to Canmore in future phases, connecting several communities for cyclists, pedestrians and all non-vehicular transportation.”

Spray Lakes Sawmills Family Sports Centre is one of Cochrane’s partners in providing recreation to residents. Facility amenities include an aquatic, climbing, and fitness centre, indoor turf and track and multiple ice surfaces for organized and recreational skating, hockey, and curling.

The town never loses sight of its small-town beginnings and various community events serve to strengthen the bond. These include annual local events like the Outhouse Races, Rodeo and Labour Day parade, Bull Riding, Food Fest, Fair, Cochrane Classic Car Show, Oktober Fest, and Christmas Light Up.

During the warmer months, come to Cochrane to enjoy weekly famers markets or resident-led block parties to get to know your neighbours. “Events like these and the hardworking volunteers and businesses that support them are another contributor to the feeling of Cochrane, now and as we continue to grow,” Korman says.

About Pepper Rodriguez

Pepper Rodriguez is a writer, editor of New Home + Condo Guide's Calgary and Edmonton editions.

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