As Grimsby’s population grows, community connection will be more important than ever

As Grimsby’s population grows over the coming decades, resident groups and the municipality will play a vital role in building a community that welcomes everyone.

In August 2021, Niagara Region updated its population growth forecasts, predicting a growth in the region’s population to 694,000 people by 2051.

As part of that, Grimsby is expected to accommodate 7,000 more residents by 2052, placing an increased demand on services and a potentially increased need for community groups.

Harry Schlange, chief administrative officer at the town, said that, in order to accommodate the new residents, the town is directing money into improving community facilities.

That includes investing $21 million in upgrades to the Peach King Centre and building new pickleball courts, according to Schlange.

The construction of the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and the improved health care that will come along with that will also help convince people to come and settle in the town, he said.

Once people do move to the town, community groups will play a role in welcoming and connecting residents.

And the Newcomers and Neighbours Club of Grimsby and Area aims to do just that, connecting both those who are new to the area and longer-term residents.

Sandi Ward, president of the Newcomers and Neighbours of Grimsby and Area said it can often be difficult for people to meet others when they move to a new community, especially when they have retired or don’t have existing connections in the community.

“If they haven’t moved around a lot, it’s very difficult (to meet new people),” she said.

But the club is there to connect newcomers with the community, and it has a host of activities, from hikes on the Bruce Trail to card games and wine tastings.

“You can do as much or as little as you want,” said Jocelyn Geoghegan who joined the club after retiring.

All of a sudden, Geoghegan had much more time on her hands, and realized she needed to be social, so praised the club for filling that gap.

“Being part of the group gives me a sense of community that may have been lost,” she said.

The club is part of the National Newcomers Association of Canada (NNAC) but bucks the trend by allowing long-term residents to stay in the club, when usually there is a cut-off date, usually three years after a member moves to the area.

According to Ward, the NNAC saw a reduction in member clubs during the course of the pandemic, from 87 to 55 clubs.

However, the Grimsby club was one of the few that grew during that time, growing from 75 members in 2019 to 95 in July 2022.

Ward puts that down to the move to virtual activities and meetings, such as a virtual book club.

Then, when restrictions allowed, they would meet in small group in the park.

“On the very coldest of days we’d be sat in small groups,” said Ward. “And (we’d) look at each other and say ‘we must be crazy! But because we did that we stayed together and stayed connected.”

To find out more about the newcomers club, visit grimsbynewcomers.ca

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News