On August 15th, an online survey was posted to the Discover Carleton Place Facebook group. The idea was to get a snapshot of Carleton Place today – who we are, what our families look like, where we shop, what we do for fun and what we hope to see in Carleton Place in the future. Touted as a family-oriented community of ten thousand residents with a variety of social and recreation activities we were interested in seeing how urban sprawl has affected the demographics of our community and what our residents enjoy about living here.
With 80 respondents who have lived in Carleton Place an average of 14yrs (4 months was the shortest and 69 years the longest residency indicated), only 14 indicated that the work in Carleton Place. The majority of these respondents described a two parent household with young children under 13 years (53.85%), the next closest group was Retirees over 55 years (16.67%). It is clear, at least in this small sample that Carleton Place is growing but maintaining its family-oriented identity. But are these families shopping here? Participating in community events?
The survey revealed that the majority shop the big box stores (66.25%) but that they still do so within Carleton Place. Places like Walmart (17 respondents), Independent (14 respondents) and Freshco (15 respondents) received special mention. However 20% indicated that they still shopped downtown and called attention to local favourites like The Granary (7 respondents), Apple Cheeks (5 respondents) and the Farmer’s Market (7 respondents). Despite many rumors to the contrary, it would seem that shopping local, at least among those surveyed was still the norm. Only 5% indicated that they shopped mostly in Kanata/Ottawa or in other area communities (1.25%) like Almonte and Perth. Of these shoppers, 85% answered that they shop in Carleton Place 4+ times every month. It would appear that our young families are shopping for the majority of their needs right here in town.
Of particular interest was that less than half indicated that they participated in local events or social activities, only 42.5% of the total respondents. Those that do participate ranked the most popular items to be The Bridge Street Bazaar (10), Annual Parades (8), Lambsdown Festival (6) and Canada Day at Riverside Park (6). These annual festivals scored the highest in the survey while smaller weekly outings like Movie Night, Cruise Nights, Hockey Games, trips to the legion or Comedy Night were noted but only mentioned once or twice. Scrolling through some of the feedback it would appear that there is a general lack of knowledge about the types of activities that are available in Carleton Place. The new community calendar available on the Downtown Carleton Place website (http://downtowncarletonplace.com/community-calendar/) will hopefully assist in spreading the word on all the great social activities available.
When it comes to eating out it seems Carleton Place is the place to make your reservation. There are dozens of restaurants ranging from food trucks, pub food and pizza to Greek, Vietnamese and fine dining there is an abundance of choice and it seems as though the community is enjoying date night in town. Nearly half, 42.5% eat out at Carleton Place restaurants weekly and 32.5% eat out at least once a month.
Not everything is good when repeated however and many respondents indicated that it would be an improvement to Carleton Place if there were fewer hair salons, barbers, pizza restaurants, thrift stores and tattoo parlours. A desire for new and unique businesses and variety downtown seemed to be the focus for many, stores like a gift shop, an arts and crafts store, book store and boutique hotel. Ironically many of the suggestions were businesses already found in Carleton Place, or ones that had recently closed. Suggestions like a fenced in off lease dog park, a gluten free café and downtown businesses open late once or twice a week are items already found in town. Perhaps, as one respondent indicated, additional advertising for local business may be the solution. The most common items on the respondent’s wish lists for Carleton Place were a Movie Theatre, Music events at Riverside Park, an indoor Children’s Play Place, Farmboy and more clothing options (for young women and men). Some interesting suggestions were paddleboat rentals, riverboat tours, an enclosed winter Farmer’s Market, A Sports Complex with indoor track, pool and squash courts and an OC Transpo stop.
There were many great suggestions in respondent’s answers that while admittedly only represent a small portion of the whole community should be taken under advisement at town hall. Overwhelmingly 20 suggested a focus on downtown with things like guaranteed hours downtown amongst all businesses, cleaner sidewalks, more parking, visual appeal and nicer residential options in the core. Other notable suggestions were to clean up the beach, use the river more, promote Carleton Place to tourists, upgrade the parks and add a new splash pad to the opposite side of the Mississippi. There was also some concerns over municipal affairs, calling for all town meetings to be recorded and transcribed and made available to the public. Also, a request for community groups, Downtown Carleton Place, The Chamber of Commerce and Town Hall to collaborate and work together on bettering our community.
When asked if they felt there were enough family events and activities in our area, 70.13% responded positively. Despite less than half indicating that they participated in these events, they apparently believe that there are enough of them. Perhaps with the lack of apparent knowledge of other smaller events and social activities that don’t involve children, we can ascertain that some efforts need to be made in promoting these events.
Finally, the survey summed up by asking respondents why they moved to Carleton Place. The majority (29.33%) were born and raised in the area and closely at 2nd and 3rd were low housing costs (25.33%) and the family friendly community it offered (24%). So it seems we are exactly who we say we are. A family friendly community. As housing booms our needs as a town will change and whether it’s on a social media group or through an informal survey, a “health check” of what we have, what we need and where we are headed is never a bad idea. Thank you to all that participated in the survey!