Cumberland, B.C. is Hip to Growth

The tiny village on Vancouver Island has big plans for its future.

Cumberland, BC. Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet

When Douglas sent writer Andrew Findlay to find out what makes Cumberland cool, we could have predicted his article would become one of the most-read pieces ever on our site. The tiny town whose downtown you could walk in 15 minutes is a prime example of what happens when you put local first. It’s packed with businesses unique to the area, including a brewhouse that’s making a name for itself across the country.

Andrew’s article profiles several of the people and businesses that make up the unique personality of Cumberland. He also described the community in February 2019 as at a crossroads “as it ponders how to maintain the quaint heritage character and access to recreation that is its calling card. Core issues involve how to manage the influx of people and how to avoid bland suburban sprawl of the available land on its outskirts and around the Inland Island Highway interchange.”

A year later, we’re back to see how Cumberland is faring – pandemic notwithstanding – when it comes to achieving the goals set out by its residents, Mayor and Council. Not surprisingly, it continues to see an influx of lifestyle-seeking professionals, with residential building almost keeping pace with increasing demand. Now it’s important, says Mayor Leslie Baird, to ensure there’s a lifestyle for them to enjoy.

To do that, Cumberland is creating its version of a Business Improvement Association to support the retailers, pubs and restaurants in its downtown core. They’re finalizing a conceptual plan to promote and develop their Industrial lands, which are among the only available lands left for development in their region. They’ve completed an Investment Attraction Strategy to attract entrepreneurs and support local business start-ups and small business development. And, this summer (2020) they’re launching an economic development website to promote and encourage investment in Cumberland.

The Village is also committed to maintaining its status as a world mountain biking mecca, hosting approximately 200,000 riders over the last year.

Perhaps what Mayor Baird is most proud of today is the newly opened Ginger Goodwin Medical Clinic. While other towns across the Island and BC struggle to find and attract doctors to serve their residents, the Village now boasts several doctors in a clinic developed by local family physician Dr. Stephen Fox.

Ginger Goodwin Medical Clinic, Cumberland BC
The Ginger Goodwin Medical Clinic, Cumberland BC. Photo courtesy of Kaelin Chambers.

“For a Village of 4,000 people, attracting new family doctors is not a luxury afforded to many communities, and we think our success here can be attributed to the lifestyle brand of living in Cumberland,” says Mayor Baird. “The old Cumberland General Hospital was built in 1895 and, of course, over time service-delivery adapts and changes and it closed in 1977.  At the time, the community rallied and the hospital was replaced by the Cumberland Health Centre and long-term care facility. The new doctor’s office adds to this strength of community and we are grateful to them for their investment to provide good community health care.”

Baird feels Cumberland’s continued hip factor is also due to the ongoing collaborative efforts of its elected officials and staff, citing their commitment to collaboration rather than competition as key to their ability to maintain their infrastructure and grow their community.

Mayor Leslie Baird, Cumberland BC
Mayor Leslie Baird, Cumberland BC. Photo courtesy

The Village may be a destination community now, but it wasn’t always so, remembers Baird. “Cumberland has had some hard times,” she says.  “For many years we were unable to properly maintain our roads, sewer, water systems, and our fire department. But Cumberlanders are resilient – we made it through those tough times and now we are working to upgrade and properly maintain our infrastructure for our residents, old and new.  It may not sound exciting for most people, but that’s what is really exciting for me – to be able to invest in our community for the future of our Village.”

Visit Explore Cumberland to learn more about the little village with a big heart.

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