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COLUMN: 52 ways to slice a Cimarron

It's easy to find neighbourhood, but tricky to navigate it with sea of similar-sounding street names.
FILE-Okotoks Aerial Photo BWC 1174 web
An aerial photo taken from helicopter above Cimarron in Okotoks, Alta. on May 23, 2017.

All I can say is thank goodness for GPS. 

For a few weeks last month my wife and I were in the market for a home in Okotoks, which is actually a pretty good way to get to know the various neighbourhoods of your new hometown. There were some ups and downs in the buying process to be sure, but one of the things that struck me during this exercise is how identifiable, yet utterly confusing, Okotoks’ street map can be. 

When you see an address that says Sheep River or Drake Landing or Cimarron, you instantly know what part of town you’ll be looking in, which can be quite helpful if you have a favourite. However, that initial neighbourhood recognition soon gives way to a sea of similar-sounding street names that can throw you for a loop if you’re not careful. 

We looked at a few houses in the Cimarron subdivision, which not only has a Cimarron Way, but also a Cimarron Meadows Way, Cimarron Grove Way, Cimarron Estates Way, Cimarron Springs Way and Cimarron Vista Way. If my count on Google Maps is correct, there are a whopping 52 roads that begin with the word Cimarron.  

I get the idea of a neighbourhood within a larger neighbourhood, but at some point doesn’t it become a bit too confusing? I guess it’s easy enough to stick an address in the GPS and get there on auto pilot, but does that mean urban planners knew what today's smart phones would be capable of when they plotted these subdivisions 30 years ago? 

Funnily enough, I noticed that more mature neighbourhoods don’t subscribe to this naming convention and that some areas now under construction also aren’t following suit, so perhaps this idea of giving every street in the subdivision some form of the same name was only in vogue for a certain period of time. 

Another oddity I’ve noticed about the town’s road network is the ability to go from one road to another without ever having to turn! I went from Elizabeth Street to McRae Street to North Railway Street in a matter of blocks in Olde Towne Okotoks without ever using my turn signal.  

Before you think I’m being too critical, let me say part of the reason we chose Okotoks is because of the way its neighbourhoods have been developed. The town is full of winding, tree-lined streets and cul-de-sacs, most of which don’t stretch for more than a few blocks, which tend to create nicer, often quieter, homesteads, even if it means coming up with a few more street names in the process. 

Part of its charm is that it hasn’t been developed in a simple grid where 24th Avenue is a block north of 23rd and a block south of 25th. As much as that can provide a leg up directionally, such simplicity has its drawbacks, not the least of which can be unwanted uniformity. 

Okotoks is filled with enviable places to live precisely because of the way it’s been developed, but don’t expect me to get to many of them, at least not yet, without some help from my GPS. 

Edward Murphy

About the Author: Edward Murphy

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