Oak Ridges is an unincorporated community in Ontario, Canada, and has been part of Richmond Hill's administrative area since its annexation in 1971. Although physically separate and distinct from Richmond Hill, it forms the northern portion of the municipality's boundary. Located about 44 km north of Toronto, it has a population of approximately 36,000 people(est. 2015). The town developed around Lake Wilcox, the largest lake in the area and a community within Oak Ridges, and has continued to expand slowly since its annexation by the Town of Richmond Hill. In the 1990s, Oak Ridges experienced moderate growth, which spurred environmental action by numerous organizations. Population has grown significantly as a result of development initiatives along Bayview Avenue. The Oak Ridges Community Center was built and completed in June 2012 to accommodate community demand.
Oak Ridges was established along Yonge Street in 1799 by Joseph Geneviève and a group of French Royalists, who were granted land to settle by the British government. They were also provided with rations and agricultural implements. It was originally named Windham in honour of Geneviève's friend William Windham, Secretary at War for Britain at the time. Geneviève soon departed to search for another site to settle, and by 1840 the settlement and the area from the King-Vaughan town line to the 15th sideroad became known as Oak Ridges. This included lots 61 to 70, the western half of which were in King, and the eastern half in the township of Whitchurch.
From 1896 until 1927, the Schomberg and Aurora Railway operated a rail service from Schomberg to Oak Ridges. The Oak Ridges station was located north of Bond Crescent on the west side of Yonge Street, and resulted in the community being split into Oak Ridges north of the station and Schomberg Junction south of the station. The latter name was discontinued sometime after the railway ceased operations.
Oak Ridges was annexed from King and Whitchurch by the Town of Richmond Hill in 1971. Oak Ridges had been in steep decline in the 1960s, largely due to high unemployment, and lack of commercial development. However, in recent years, the Town of Richmond Hill has tried to lure business into Oak Ridges, to try to stimulate growth into the community.
Oak Ridges struggled economically during the 1990s. However, in the last decade a rapid business boom has hit Oak Ridges with a number of businesses opening throughout the community, mostly concentrated around Yonge Street, However strong environmental activism continues to spur growth in some areas. Opposition to development of any kind remains strong.
Until 2008, Oak Ridges cable provider was Aurora Cable Internet (ACI), an independent service provider exclusive to Aurora and Oak Ridges. This is considered a main reason for residents identifying themselves as distinct or separate from Richmond Hill or identify as being from Aurora. In 2008, ACI was purchased by Rogers Cable, who now provide cable and internet services to the area.