Routt County population grows 19 percent in past decade; rate slightly outpaces state
February 23, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Routt County's population growth from 2000 to 2010 slightly outpaced statewide growth rates and was focused in Steamboat Springs, moderate in Hayden and minor in Oak Creek.
In a tumultuous decade that saw a boom and bust real estate cycle and ended amid a crippling nationwide recession, Routt County's population ultimately grew, from 19,690 in 2000 to 23,509 in 2010. That's a 19 percent increase of 3,819 people, according to 2010 census data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau through Colorado's State Demography Office.
Colorado's population grew from about 4.3 million in 2000 to just more than 5 million in 2010, an increase of nearly 17 percent.
Steamboat Springs grew at a faster pace than both the state and the county overall.
The city saw by far the greatest growth in the county, by raw numbers and by percent. Steamboat grew from 9,815 to 12,088, a 23 percent increase of 2,273 people.
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Hayden's population increased by nearly 11 percent, as 176 net new residents over the decade brought the West Routt County town from 1,634 people in 2000 to 1,810 in 2010.
The growth rates were much slower in South Routt County municipalities.
Oak Creek grew by a net of 35 people in the millennium's first decade, a 4 percent increase, from 849 people to 884.
The town of Yampa saw a net decrease of 14 people — tongue-in-cheek analysts might wonder if they moved to Oak Creek — as the rural town's population dropped from 443 to 429, a decrease of about 3 percent.
Phippsburg's population was not measured in the 2000 census, but the town registered 204 people in 2010.
"That doesn't surprise me in any way, shape or form," Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said Wednesday about growth rates across the county. "I think a lot of people had a feeling that the outlying areas are growing so much faster, and I never bought that."
For comparison's sake, the Moffat County city of Craig saw a population increase of about 3 percent over the decade, reaching 9,464 people in 2010.
Kremmling's population decreased more than 8 percent, and Aspen grew about 13 percent, Vail grew about 17 percent and Durango grew about 21 percent.
In addition to population figures, the mountain of census data measures demographics ranging from ethnicity and race to age and housing statistics, broken down by municipalities, counties, political districts and more. The numbers can have tangible impacts for communities and residents by influencing choices such as political legislation, public policy or funding allocations to nonprofit groups. Population figures also will be used to determine congressional seats in this year's redistricting process.
The census number-crunching accelerated with Wednesday's data release and will unfold in weeks and months ahead.
"I think that we all — citizens, elected officials, businesspeople, everyone — need to get together and think about how this is going to affect us, and are there policies that need to be changed," Mitsch Bush said.
Census data also can provide hard numbers to illustrate economic trends.
While Routt County's population grew by 3,819 people from 2000 to 2010, for example, the number of housing units in the county grew by 5,086. That 45 percent increase in housing units is, by percent, one of the largest such increases in Colorado over the past decade.
The I-News Network, a Colorado-based nonprofit investigative news collaborative, provided initial comparisons of 2000 and 2010 census data that showed that as Steamboat's growth in housing units outpaced its growth in people, the city's number and proportion of vacant homes increased, as well.
While 2000 census data classified about 36 percent of Steamboat's housing units as "vacant," that percentage rose to nearly 48 percent in 2010.
Data also shows that Steamboat Springs is becoming a more diverse community.
The city's Hispanic population grew from 307 in 2000 to 1,025 in 2010, representing an increase from about 3 percent of the city's total population to nearly 9 percent — growth evident in increasingly busy English Language Learner programs in Steamboat public schools, for example.
In 2000, about 93 percent of Steamboat children were white, compared with about 82 percent in 2010.
Tatiana Achcar, executive director of Integrated Community, said the numbers reflect her experience working with the region's immigrant population.
"We see minor changes and ups and downs, but the big picture is that the entire demographic of the country is changing, (including) in Colorado and ski resort towns," Achcar said. "Hopefully, people recognize that when coming to the table to talk about policies that affect the community."
—To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com