The story is the same no matter which small town or rural area in this region: fewer minor hockey players, students at desks and dance rehearsals.
Numbers contained in detailed census data released Tuesday by Stats Canada show the number of children declined in every village, town and city in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, save Kamloops.
While the youth population in Kamloops remained unchanged between 2006 and 2011, there were declines in all surrounding towns ranging from -1.4 in Chase to -36 per cent in Wells Gray country.
One of the largest was in Cache Creek, which saw nearly a 14 per cent decrease in the number of kids.
Mayor John Ranta said his community is suffering the same decline in children as other rural communities, compounded by a drop in tonnage, and jobs, going to Cache Creek landfill.
“The type of person who generally gets a job at the landfill is child-bearing age. When you have a child, you want a decent job. (But) people with children need to move to support their family.”
The number of people directly employed by the landfill has fallen by two-thirds from about 120 at its peak.
The city of Merritt continues to be home to a high percentage of children, 17.4 per cent, compared to the rest of its population. The number in Kamloops is 15.6 per cent.
But that number shrank by more than seven per cent in the region’s second largest community for reasons unknown to Mayor Susan Roline.
“We have a lot of young families here. I see it each year in our community Christmas parade — they’re lining the streets.”
But Roline acknowledged classrooms are emptying. The local district recently scrapped a middle school.
Ranta said his community continues to emphasize facilities and programs for children. It developed a cover for its outdoor court several years ago, has an outdoor pool set amid a park in a desert landscape and hired a program co-ordinator on contract.
“In a lot of rural communities, people 20-25 years want to see the bright lights of the city. Lots of times they move. Sometimes they don’t come back.”