Ballantrae, Ontario

16 Aug

Ballantrae, Ontario (2011 population 1,382) is a hamlet in the Town of Whitchurch–Stouffville. Named after the village of Ballantrae in South Ayrshire, Scotland, the community is centred around the intersection of Aurora Road (York Regional Road 15) and Highway 48. The hamlet was first settled in the early 19th century, and by 1895 it had a population of 300. The town was located on the edge of the vast lumber industry centred in the hamlet of Vivian; a spur-line of the Toronto and Nipissing Railway built in 1877 ran through Ballantrae from Stouffville to Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe. In the early 20th century, Ballantrae’s population declined dramatically due to large-scale deforestation and the erosion of the thin soil of northern Whitchurch Township into virtual sand deserts. With the passage of the Reforestation Act (1911), the process of reclaiming these areas slowly began. The Vivian Forest, a large conservation area on the edge of Ballantrae, was established in 1924 for this purpose.

Ballantrae experienced 300% growth between 2001 and 2006 to 1,278 people, and 8% growth between 2006 and 2011 with a total population of 1,382 people. In 2011, Ballantrae had 105 children age 17 and under, and has one public school of the same name (Ballantrae Public School) with 259 pupils.

A significant issue facing Ballantrae in the coming years is the federal government’s proposed development of an international airport directly south-east of Whitchurch-Stouffville (the Pickering Airport lands); under the current plan, an approach for one of the three landing strips would be directly above the communities of Ballantrae and Musselman’s Lake, with planes descending (or ascending) from 535 to 500 metres. The 2004 plan calls for 11.9 million passengers per year (or 32,600 per day) by 2032. A “Needs Assessment Study” was completed by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority for the federal government in May 2010. After a “due diligence review,” Transport Canada released the report in July 2011, and on June 11, 2013 announced a decision to proceed.

Managing growth will be a key issue for this area of Whitchurch-Stouffville in the future. In 2010 Ballantrae experienced a significant rise in water table levels—a normal result of deforestation on small watersheds–and residents were expressing concerns about wet basements and frequent operation of their sump pumps. Already in 1993, the Whitchurch Historical Committee warned a new generation of “Whitchurch-Stouffville residents” to be ever “vigilant to treat trees and forests with respect … . In the 1990s care must be taken so that urbanization and concrete road-building do not repeat the destruction to our forest heritage.”


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