Traffic rolls through downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon. Numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Routt County's population has increased by 3 percent from 2007-08. In the latest count, 22,980 people live in the county.

Photo by John F. Russell

Traffic rolls through downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon. Numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Routt County's population has increased by 3 percent from 2007-08. In the latest count, 22,980 people live in the county.

Routt County population increases 3 percent

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Routt County population

2000 Census: 19,690

Annual estimates as of July 1

2001: 20,171

2002: 20,406

2003: 20,802

2004: 21,059

2005: 21,281

2006: 21,682

2007: 22,302

2008: 22,980

Elbow room is shrinking steadily in Routt County, according to new Census estimates.

The county population increased 3 percent from 2007 to 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday. Routt County was home to about 22,980 people as of July 1, 2008, compared with 22,302 in 2007.

Population growth can help the economy, Noreen Moore said. She is the business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative. The recently released Community Indicators Project, a collection of data produced by Yampa Valley Partners, confirms that household income is increasing.

The area median income for Routt households was about $75,700 in 2008, according to the indicators.

"What we're losing is people who earn less, and what we're gaining is people who earn more," Moore said.

The Community Indicators report showed that in 2006, people leaving Routt County had an average household income of $47,462. People moving to Routt had an average household income of $63,376.

But that influx of more affluent people presents pros and cons, Moore said.

"On one hand, having people with that much more household wealth is actually good for us because the spending patterns are higher. : On the other hand, that kind of wealth coming in tends to escalate the real estate values," she said.

The city of Steamboat Springs publishes its own population estimate each July.

"The Census figures that came out last time showed the city of Steamboat Springs' population going down, which we didn't think was accurate," said Tom Leeson, planning and community development director.

The city has worked out those concerns with state demographers, he said. The July 2008 population estimate was 12,130 people. That represented an increase of 634 people from 2007, or 5.5 percent, according to city figures.

Steamboat monitors the countywide figures, Leeson said.

"We use the county numbers just in terms of trending and making sure they're consistent," he said. "Roughly 50 percent of the county population is the city of Steamboat Springs' population, so it is data we utilize."

Routt County's 2008 population increase is larger than those of previous years. The population increased nearly 3 percent from 2006 to 2007, 2 percent from 2005 to 2006 and 1 percent from 2004 to 2005.

The U.S. Census Bureau will perform its next official survey in 2010. The estimates released Thursday showed that 23 of the fastest-growing counties were in the West. Most, 71, were in the South. Those figures represent only counties with populations of at least 10,000.

Greeley was one of the five fastest-growing metro areas.

Moore said she was pleased with the growth, adding that she wasn't sure what the region's carrying capacity was. But for now, she said, Routt County seems to be prepared to sustain some expansion.

"The West is growing, and I think that's kind of good," Moore said.

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