Whereas the population in other parts of the Comox Valley is much older, Cumberland bucks that trend, with a median age more than 10 years younger than that of the Comox Valley as a whole. Photo by Scott Strasser

Cumberland getting bigger and younger

Cumberland is growing at a rapid pace. And it’s getting younger, too.

The latest release of 2016 census data shows that the little village grew by 10.4 per cent over the past five years.

The population in 2011 was 3,398. Now it’s 3,753.

The overall growth in the Courtenay census area, which includes Comox and most of the rural areas, was up 4.6 per cent from 51,787 to 54,157.

The provincial growth rate is 5.6 per cent.

Cumberland is also the youngest place in the Comox Valley, with an average age of 40 years, and a median age of 39.3 (half the population is older than 39 years, while half is younger).

The provincial median age is 43 years.

The rest of the Valley is getting mighty old, with a median age now of 51.5 years.

Real estate prices have skyrocketed in the “legendary” former coal mining village over the past two years.

Once considered a place to buy a cheap starter home, Cumberland has seen a boom in construction of new homes, with matching higher price tags.

If you bought an average home in Cumberland in 2007 you paid $264,572. The current 12 month average price is $433,297, up 26 per cent over 2016, according to July statistics from Marty Douglas, managing broker of Re/Max Ocean Pacific Realty. But the pace of growth hasn’t been enough to overwhelm the village. Mayor Leslie Baird, who has lived her entire life in Cumberland, said there haven’t been any “huge” developments. Rather, it’s been two or three dozen houses at a time. Mind you they’re only on the market one day before they’re sold, she said.

The younger age of the village, though, has been quite noticeable. Baird said the Cumberland school (combined elementary and junior high) is one of the fastest growing in the province.

“There’s a lot of parents with baby buggies on the street,” she said.

“We’re told they come here because of the outdoor recreation, especially the trails.”

Even Sundays aren’t as quiet as they used to be in Cumberland, she said, adding that tourists and visitors overall is “huge.”

All the new construction and residents have increased the village’s revenues, helping them to update old infrastructure. She said planned work to enhance the entrance to the village is going to be “phenomenal.”

Has anything been lost in the transition to a younger, hipster heaven?

Not that she can see, says Baird. A society is ensuring that the traditions of the May Queen crowning and May Pole dancing continue. Next year is the 130th anniversary of the May holiday celebrations in Cumberland.

There was recently a reunion of people from “old Cumberland,” she said, that was a tremendous success. People attended “from all over.”

So the old, and the new, are co-existing at least for now, although “some people don’t like the busy-ness” of the village, said Baird.

Then, she said, they drive down to Courtenay and see the traffic issues there, and are glad to get back to Cumberland.

“We have our issues. We have our problems,” said Baird, noting that all municipalities do. “We’re coming along.”

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