Look out Glenwood, Rifle right behind | AspenTimes.com

Look out Glenwood, Rifle right behind

Heidi Rice
Rifle correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE ” The population of Rifle, Colo., where gas drilling and development are going full bore, could eclipse that of Glenwood Springs by this summer, according to some estimates.

Most certainly Rifle’s population will overtake Glenwood’s within a few years, city officials believe.

“I think there’s going to be a dance on population over the next two years,” said Matt Sturgeon, Rifle’s assistant city manager. “I think we’ll go back and forth, but we’ll exceed them by 2010,” he said.

Glenwood Springs is the county seat of sprawling Garfield County. Rifle is located about 24 miles west, along the Interstate 70 corridor/Colorado River corridor.

According to the state demography office at the Department of Local Affairs, Rifle’s population trailed Glenwood’s in 2005 by 500, with 8,100 to Glenwood’s 8,600.

Rifle was behind by nearly 1,000 residents in 2000 with a population of nearly 6,800, compared to Glenwood’s 7,700.

In a socioeconomic study conducted by Garfield County last year, projections estimated that the city of Rifle and its surrounding areas would have nearly twice the population of the Glenwood Springs area by 2030, with more than 22,000 people in Glenwood compared to nearly 44,000 in the Rifle area, the Citizen Telegram noted.

Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said it’s inevitable that the city’s population will eventually exceed Glenwood’s.

“Because of the growth of the Rifle community and the availability of space and land, it’s inevitable that Rifle will be the biggest municipality in the county in the next few years,” he said. “It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just a fact.”

What does the growth mean for Rifle? Well, for one, Sturgeon said he would like to see more local jobs.

“Our major objective is to have the opportunity for people to work where they live,” he said. “Definitely, the more rooftops we get, the more we’re likely to attract additional retail business to our area and more jobs.”

Sturgeon added with a laugh, “It will also help us with our argument to move the county seat to Rifle.”

While said in jest, that idea has actually been tossed around in the past.

Longtime resident and former Rifle mayor, John Scalzo, said there have been several attempts to move the county seat from Glenwood to Rifle.

“Rifle has never been the county seat ” people have talked about it, but never been able to do it,” Scalzo said.

The Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood Springs said that back in 1883, Garfield’s county seat was in Carbonate, up on the Flat Tops north of Glenwood Springs. But that lasted only a few months, when Carbonate was a silver boom town. Carbonate no longer exists.

Whether or not Rifle should ever become the county seat, city officials still want to have a party when the town’s population tops Glenwood’s.

“The feds do a census (update) every 10 years, so we’ll wait until 2010 and then we’ll have a celebration,” Sturgeon said.

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