Accounting for all of Brantford on the west side of the Grand River, West Brant is better viewed as a tale of two neighbourhoods.
There’s historic West Brant, which is the established streets closer to the river banks. This area is much more established, as it was arguably the birthplace of Brantford. Brant’s Ford, where Capt. Joseph Brant crossed the Grand River to find a new settlement in the late 1770s, is located in old West Brant just south of where the Lorne Bridge is now.
And then there is new West Brant, which is the are west of Veterans Memorial Parkway/Colborne Street that stretches either side of Shellard Lane. This newer area started booming in the 1990s and hasn’t really stopped.
West Brant is easily the largest distinguishable neighbourhood in the city, accounting for more than 10 per cent of Brantford’s residents. The area west of the Grand River has the youngest median age in Brantford, which lines up with what you’d expect when driving around streets peppered with basketball and hockey nets in every other driveway.
And West Brant isn’t finished growing – not by a long shot.
Plans for further development west of Conklin Road could add another 5,000 families to the neighbourhood over the next 15 years. City planners have kept abreast with the growth, with plans already in place for a new southwest sports complex and future additional high school in the area.
In addition to historic West Brant and the Shellard Lane area, West Brant also includes another sub-neighbourhood in the form of Oakhill. The quiet subdivision is nestled along the bank of the Grand River off Oakhill Drive, sheltered from the rest of West Brant.
Elementary schools in West Brant include the public Agnes G. Hodge Public School, Ryerson Heights Elementary School and Walter Gretzky Elementary. Catholic elementary schools include St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School, St. Theresa School and St. Basil Catholic Elementary School. Agnes G. Hodge is part of the historic West Brant near Lions Park and St. Theresa is on the outskirts of the city near the airport, while all other schools are in the Shellard Lane subdivision.
Walter Gretzky Elementary and St. Basil are a combined facility in partnership between the Grand Erie public and Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic school boards, which opened in 2012 and is the newest of the city’s elementary schools.
Assumption College is the only secondary school located in West Brant and is a Catholic high school. It marked its 25th anniversary in 2017. Public high schoolers will be bused to another facility, likely Brantford Collegiate Institute.
West Brant is also home to the city’s only Francophone Catholic elementary school. École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys is located next door to Agnes G. Hodge Public School, serving families with both a Catholic and French language background.
PARKS AND RECREATION
West Brant is absolutely blessed with parks, with recreation facilities catching up in the next few years.
From Lions Park to Brant Conservation Area or from Cockshutt Park to the Gilkison Flats, those who like to enjoy the outdoors won’t be lacking for options in West Brant.
At the south end of historic West Brant, nestled among some of the city’s most picturesque trails, Lions Park/Steve Brown Sports Complex is one of the city’s premier sports hot spots. With a hockey rink, professional soccer pitch, multiple baseball diamonds and the Ball Hockey International headquarters, the facility hosts a number of major tournaments. The outdoor ball hockey rinks are packed many nights throughout the year and are at their peak use every June for the Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament (where actor/director Kevin Smith regularly makes an appearance). The Brantford Galaxy of the Canadian Soccer League call Lions Park home, while the Brant Skating Club uses Lions Park Arena as its base facility.
Cockshutt Park is the city’s baseball hub, featuring two top-level diamonds in addition to Arnold Anderson Stadium, the home of the Brantford Red Sox. The Sox are a huge draw throughout the summer, packing the park during the Intercounty Baseball League season.
The Southwest Sports Complex doesn’t exist yet, but will be another feather in West Brant’s cap for sports facilities. With Phase 1 of its construction beginning in 2017, the complex will ultimately include four baseball diamonds, two multi-use sports fields for soccer, football and rugby, as well as basketball and ball hockey courts, and a skate park.
Brant Conservation Area, operated by the Grand River Conservation Authority, is home to over 400 campsites and boasts a massive 1.25-acre swimming pool.
D’Aubigny Creek Park seems like a quiet park tucked away in the corner, but watch out on nights when youth soccer takes over! More than 500 kids flood Gary Foy Fields to learn the Beautiful Game regularly during the summer.
Trails in West Brant are plentiful. Two decommissioned rail bridges connect historic West Brant to Eagle Place and the downtown, with trail loops branching off on both the east and west side of the river, including a branch leading to and through Brant Conservation Area. The Gilkison Flats are a network of trails through an old-growth forest along the Grand River. The TH&B Trail and LE&N Trail encompass the Shellard Lane area, meet in Mount Pleasant and then continue on through Waterford, Simcoe and Port Dover.
West Brant is also home to the city’s only leash-free dog park, with Dogford Park a popular attraction for pooch lovers, just north of Lions Park on Gilkison Street.
The Shellard Neighbourhood Association is one of the more active and established neighbourhood associations in Brantford, offering a range of sports, gatherings and entertainment throughout the calendar year.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Lions Park in historic West Brant is the city’s major events and festivals hub.
June and July are always a blast in the park, with the city’s massive Canada Day celebrations closely followed by the WTFest music festival.
The city brings in popular acts for a free concert to make our nation’s birthday every year, including a recent roster of acts such as the Tea Party, Big Sugar and David Wilcox. The Canada Day celebrations include a fireworks show, midway, food vendors and an array of other activities throughout the day on July 1 – none more poignant than the annual Citizenship Ceremony for our region that welcomes new Canadians.
WTFest was held for the third year in 2017, with organizers Jamie Stephens, Lance Calbeck and Mark Calbeck continuing to raise the bar. The festival has included acts such as Our Lady Peace, Hedley, Billy Talent, Big Wreck and I Mother Earth.
Also located in historic West Brant is the Artisans’ Village and Cultural District. Located in the former Brantford Cordage factory, the space is a rustic, but dramatic repurposing of a former industrial complex. It recently announced the addition of a 30,000-square-foot indoor mall space.
Colborne Street, Veterans Memorial Parkway and Shellard Lane form the major thoroughfares through West Brant, with most streets in the neighbourhood no more than two degrees away from at least one of the three.
The Lorne Bridge on Colborne Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway bridge are the only vehicular river crossings to connect to the rest of Brantford, but are easily able to handle the necessary traffic. A third river crossing is in the city’s long-term plans to connect West Brant to the Northwest Industrial Area, but is more about convenience and highway access than necessity.
Access to Highway 403 takes a maximum of 15 minutes from anywhere in West Brant, and can be gained by heading east through Brantford along Brant Avenue to Paris Road or west to Rest Acres Road outside of Paris.
The No. 5 bus route travels through historic West Brant and the Oakhill subdivision on a 30-minute route, while the No. 6 bus route hits historic West Brant and criss-crosses through the Shellard Lane area on an hourly schedule.
Commuters can be in Paris in 15 minutes, Woodstock in 30 and London in just shy of an hour from West Brant. Highway 24, Pleasant Ridge Road and Mount Pleasant Road will take drivers south to Norfolk County, connecting to Waterford, Simcoe and Port Dover in a maximum of 45 minutes.
Depending on their starting point, some eastbound commuters can choose to drive around Brantford, rather than through it, along Phelps Road and County Road 18 to connect to Highway 403 at Garden Avenue. It takes a little less than an hour to get to downtown Hamilton taking that route.