Census: Pitkin County has grown 17 percent since ’90 | AspenTimes.com
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Census: Pitkin County has grown 17 percent since ’90

John Colson

The perception that the population of the Roaring Fork Valley has mushroomed in the past decade was confirmed this week by numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

At least one local town, Basalt, has doubled in size in the past decade, while other population centers have seen remarkable growth.

Pitkin County has grown by more than 17 percent over the past decade, according to newly released U.S. Census figures, and the city of Aspen’s population increased by roughly the same amount.

The county now is home to 14,872 people, the census reports, up from 10,338 in 1980 and 12,661 in 1990. That’s an increase of 17.5 percent over the past 10 years.

Aspen, according to the figures released this week, is up to 5,914 people, from 3,678 in 1980 and 5,049 in 1990. That translates to an increase of roughly 17.1 percent.

Of those total numbers, according to the U.S. Census Web site (which can be reached at factfinder.census.gov), 12,394 are adults, aged 18 years or older.

The numbers in neighboring counties and towns, however, were far more startling than those for Pitkin County.

According to published figures, Garfield County’s population exploded from 29,974 in 1990 to 43,791, an increase of more than 46 percent.

That growth was not reflected in the numbers for Glenwood Springs, the Garfield County seat, however. According to the published numbers, Glenwood grew by just under 18 percent, from 6,561 to 7,736. Over the 20 years from 1980 to 2000, Glenwood grew from 4,637, an increase of just under 67 percent.

But other towns in the county experienced considerable growth.

For example, Carbondale exploded by a margin of 149 percent over a 20-year period, from 2,084 in 1980. The town grew from 3,004 in 1990 to 5,196 in 2000, an increase of 73 percent.

Similarly, Rifle grew from 4,636 to 6,784, an increase of 46 percent. But over 20 years, Rifle jumped from 3,215, an increase of 111 percent.

In the Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley, the city of Basalt grew from 1,128 in 1990 to 2,681 in the year 2000, a jump of more than 137 percent. No figures were available for the El Jebel area, which is in unincorporated Eagle County.

The census Web site also contains a wide range of other information, such as details of the racial makeup of local populations.

For instance, in Pitkin County, Latino citizens make up roughly 7 percent of the overall population. A little over 90 percent of the population is white, just over 1 percent is Asian, and the remainder is listed either as Native American, African American or as “some other race” or “two or more races.”

In Garfield County, nearly 17 percent of those counted are listed as Latino, about 81 percent of the population is white and other races are each well below 1 percent.

In Colorado as a whole, Latinos make up a little more than 17 percent of the total population of more than 4.3 million, with about 82 percent white, 4 percent black and 2 percent Asian.

Local government officials said they have not seen any official numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau yet and were unable to comment yesterday on the figures.

However, Aspen city manager Steve Barwick noted, “It’s difficult to take these figures completely seriously in the mountain towns.”

He said certain peculiarities of resort economies such as Aspen’s and Pitkin County’s, including the time of year that the census takers are in the valley to conduct the count, and “the difficulty of determining who is a local resident and who is not,” make the numbers suspect.

“I don’t think it’s a direct reflection of economic activity up here, like it would be in a normal town,” he said.

Still, Barwick said, the numbers will be “useful in terms of planning and other things,” as soon as local officials are able to decipher and extrapolate the meanings hidden in the numbers.

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