Park County population increases, but Powell growth slows

Posted 8/17/21

While the state of Wyoming saw sluggish population growth over the past decade, and the Big Horn Basin shrank, Park County grew.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Friday indicates that …

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Park County population increases, but Powell growth slows

Posted

While the state of Wyoming saw sluggish population growth over the past decade, and the Big Horn Basin shrank, Park County grew.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Friday indicates that Park County’s population rose by 5% between April 2010 and April 2020, largely spurred by more people moving into rural parts of the county and the City of Cody. The new figures put Park County’s population at 29,625 residents — meaning some 1,400 more people live here than did a decade ago. 

Growth in the City of Powell, however, slowed down.

From 2000 to 2010, Powell was one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the state, adding nearly 1,000 new residents for a 17.5% increase. However, the population rose by only about 100 people — a far more modest 1.7% increase — between April 2010 and April 2020. One factor was a steep drop in enrollment at Northwest College — from a headcount of 2,120 students in the spring of 2010 to 1,514 last year. 

Still, Powell jumped up over Douglas to become the 14th-largest city in Wyoming.

As for Cody, it added 500 more residents — a 5.3% bump — to cross the five-figure threshold and hit a new population of 10,028. It is the state’s 11th-largest city.

Meanwhile, the rural area saw the strongest population growth in the county, picking up more than 800 new residents. As of April 2020, the Census Bureau tallied 12,842 people living in the country — a roughly 6.8% increase from the same point in 2010.

In contrast, the Town of Meeteetse shrank, with the population dropping by 5.5%, to 309 residents.

There is some question as to whether the local Census data is already outdated, as the count was conducted in the middle of the most severe COVID-19-related restrictions. In the summer and fall of 2020, Park County saw a surge of people moving in from other parts of the country — a trend reflected in everything from voter registration records to rising real estate sales and property values.

As Park County Commission Chairman Lee Livingston put it in February, “They did the Census right before the COVID rush hit.”

Data from the decennial Census is used to distribute literally hundreds of billions of federal dollars every year in America. Park County Clerk Colleen Renner has said that every person that goes uncounted means losing out on roughly $36,000 over the course of the decade.

The figures also help determine how Wyoming’s legislative districts are drawn up. When the lines for the House and Senate were recrafted following the 2010 Census, the Big Horn Basin’s delegation — from Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie counties — focused on retaining as many seats as possible within the basin.

That could prove more challenging this time around, as Big Horn (down 1.3%), Hot Springs (-4%) and Washakie (-9.9%) all lost population. Worland (population 4,773) was the hardest-hit municipality in the state, losing 13% of its residents to deaths and moves since April 2010.

Wenlin Liu of the state’s Economic Analysis Division said Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie and other small and rural counties all had about as many deaths as births — or more deaths — “due to their large proportion of older population.”

Laramie and Teton counties saw the fastest growth (9.6%). About 12,000 more people moved out of Wyoming over the past decade than moved in, which Liu attributed to the slump in the energy industry since June 2014.

Counties with a smaller proportion of mineral extraction in their economies saw higher in-migration and population growth, Liu said, while the opposite was true for counties with more energy production.

“Nationwide, smaller places tended to lose population but more populous areas managed to grow,” Liu said, “with population growth in this decade almost entirely in metro areas.”

The data also shows a rising number of minorities living in Park County, with 11.2% of the population — or roughly 3,300 people — identifying as a race other than white, non-Hispanic. That included nearly 1,700 local Hispanic residents.

The figures show that Park County is becoming more diverse: In 2010, the Census Bureau counted 2,115 residents who were minorities, making up roughly 7.5% of the population.

Similar trends were observed across the country and in Wyoming.

“Both the nation and Wyoming’s population continue to grow in racial and ethnic diversity,” said Liu.

However, the proportion of minorities in the state remains eighth-lowest in the country. Overall, non-white or Hispanic residents make up 18.6% of the state’s total population, compared to 36.3% of the U.S. population.

Meanwhile, Wyoming as a whole grew 2.3%, while the United States grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020. Nearly half of the state’s 576,851 residents live in the 10 largest cities. 

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