Census numbers show a slightly smaller Columbia Valley

The Columbia Valley's villages and towns are about the same size they were five years ago, but rural areas experienced sharper declines.

The Columbia Valley’s villages and towns are about the same size they were five years ago, according to 2011 census figures released by Statistics Canada today.

Most of the valley’s communities grew or shrank by no more than six per cent, while rural and incorporated areas posted slightly steeper drop-offs in population. Of all the communities identified by Stats Can, the Shuswap First Nation posted the most dramatic growth numbers in the area, with a 73.4 per cent population change since the last census in 2006.

According to the new census data, the District of Invermere’s population declined by 47 people, bringing it from 3,002 in 2006 to 2,955 today.

Radium Hot Springs grew by almost the same amount, going from 735 to 777, while the village of Canal Flats added just over a dozen to its numbers, growing to 715 from 700 in 2011.

Fairmont Hot Springs also declined slightly. Its population now stands at 476, down from 501 at the last count.

The Windermere area (which includes homes between the Invermere crossroads and the Windermere Valley Golf Course) also lost more than 200 people between census counts, falling from 1,259 to 1,019.

Falling populations were a trend throughout the unincorporated parts of the valley, with Electoral Areas G and F losing more than 400 people between them. In Area G, which includes communities such as Wilmer, Edgewater and Brisco, the population shrank from 1,563 to 1,412. In Area F, it’s down to 2,635 from 2,939 in 2006.

The valley’s reserve lands, meanwhile, moved in opposite directions. The population of the Akisqnuk First Nation dropped slightly, to 131 from 153 at the last count.

The Shuswap First Nation, meanwhile, posted the highest growth numbers seen in the valley, adding 124 people to its tally for a count of 293.

As in the valley, changes for the region as a whole were minimal over the last five years. Overall, the East Kootenay grew slightly between 2006 and 2011, though only by a little more than 1,000 people.

This round of census data also included population density numbers for each of the communities— the percentage of private dwellings in a community that are actually occupied by permanent residents.

Not surprisingly, portions of the valley known for their second-homeowner and snowbird populations tended to have the lowest figures here. Windermere led the pack, with only 23 per cent of its more than 1,800 dwellings occupied, while Radium and Area F both posted occupancy rates around 30 per cent.