Hayley Johnson and Sab Werner with their new daughter Phoebe.

Hayley Johnson and Sab Werner with their new daughter Phoebe.

Young families leading Revelstoke baby boom

When Hayley Johnson and Sab Werner were looking for a place to move to and possibly raise a family, Revelstoke stuck out.

“Part of moving here is there were more facilities and a good community set up for kids,” said Johnson. “We were always planning on having a family.”

Johnson, 34, and Werner, 35, both from New South Wales in Australia, came to Revelstoke two years ago after deciding to make a home in the Canadian mountains, where Warner had been living on and off for the past six years.

“After the skiing it was the town and the community because we actually started off near Valemount,” said Werner.

Added Johnson: “It just looks like a child friendly town… I love the fact that kids ride their bikes to school. It’s a safe, accessible community and everyone’s really friendly.”

The couple recently had their first child, Phoebe Grace Werner and are a typical example of the many young couples new to town who are contributing to Revelstoke’s recent baby boom.

“We’re seeing here at the Childcare Society, lots of new families to the community; new, young families that are choosing to move here for the outdoor lifestyle,” said Linda Chell, executive director of the Revelstoke Childcare Society.

The past two years has seen a spike in the number of children born in Revelstoke. According to data from BC Vital Statistics Agency, 92 babies were born here in 2010 and 88 in 2009. That’s up from 69 in both 2007 and 2008.

Chell attributed the boom to new families relocating here and young people moving here and starting families.

“We have so much to offer families in the community,” she said. “I think it’s the perfect place to raise kids.”

The facilities are numerous – the aquatic centre, the child lending library, Mother Goose, pre-natal classes and a strong childcare and school system all provide good reasons to raise a family in Revelstoke.

For Quebec-native Sarra Dupuis, who met her husband James Trimbee in Revelstoke and gave birth to their son Cobin in December, the number of services played a role in them deciding to stay here.

“We were going to move out of town because of the prices but because of everything that it’s offering, we can’t get that in a small town, so we decided to stay,” she said.

Of course, not all new parents are new to town. Diane Bostock was born and raised in Revelstoke and moved back here after attending Thompson River University in Kamloops, where she met her husband Chris. Their son, Cooper, was born last April.

“We weren’t thinking family but once we did get married we thought this would be a great place to raise our family,” she said. “It also makes a difference that we’re surrounded by lots of friends and family here.”

She also praised the services available to them, including Mother Goose and the child lending library.

“There’s been a few things that we’ve definitely benefited from,” she said. “I’m sure there’s more we don’t partake in but I know there’s lots available to us.”

The baby boom could provide a boost for the city’s schools, which have been suffering from declining enrolment for more than a decade and are struggling with several small kindergarten cohorts, including only 59 students in the 2009-10 school year (this year there are 79 kindergarten students).

“Now that we have two years of cohorts, as long as the kids stay in town they’re going to return our kindergarten cohort to a number that makes it easier for us to deliver some programs,” said district superintendent Anne Cooper. “It will help getting an elementary school organized because it will sustain a bit of the population by offsetting the very small cohorts. If it sustains itself we can begin to return to school organizations that have less a reliance on split or combined classes.”

She said a cohort of 100 students was where the district would like to be. “These two last birth rates are approaching that cohort so its really encouraging,” she said. “It would be nice to see 4 or 5 years at this level because that represents the bulk of an elementary schools organizations.”

The baby boom has forced the childcare society to expand. Chell said that ten years ago they had 20 spaces and now they’re up to 77. There’s also a lengthy waiting list to get in, providing an opportunity for home care providers, she said.

For Johnson and Warner, the support and services available, both from official groups and from friends, has been a huge boon.

“We’ve never felt out of our depth because we’ve always go the support we need,” said Johnson. “[Revelstoke’s] big enough you’ve got the facilities but small enough you’ve got the personal care.”

Revelstoke Times Review