ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The results of Census 2000 will be discussed and dissected for months to come, but the preliminary news for Marion County is positive.
Only 48 of Kansas’ 105 counties gained population over the past decade-and Marion County was one of them.
“I’m thrilled,” said Dennis Nichols, chair of the Marion County Economic Development Council. “Psychologically, this is a boost for us. Sometimes we in Marion County wonder what the future holds here, but this is a good indicator for us.”
Census 2000 set Marion County’s population at 13,361, a 3.7 percent gain from the 12,888 people counted in the 1990 census.
Nichols said the county has benefited from economic development efforts in Hillsboro and Marion as well as the attraction of residential opportunities at Marion Reservoir and Marion County Lake.
He said another key may be the county’s proximity to growing cities such as Wichita, McPherson, Newton and Emporia.
“A number of people work in the city but prefer to live in a small-town environment,” he said. “I’m sure that has helped us.”
The breakdown of the population by age group was not yet available, except in one area: children under 18 years of age.
The results for Marion County suggest more younger families may be making their home here-or at least that they’re having more children.
While the county’s total population grew by 3.7 percent, the number of children under 18 grew by 9.8 percent, from 3,013 in 1990 to 3,307 in 2000.
Leading the way for Marion County in this category were several of its smallest communities. Tampa showed a whopping 333 percent increase, from 11 children under 18 in 1990 to 44 in 2000.
Next in line were Lehigh (an 83.8 percent increase), Lincolnville (77.1 percent), and Goessel (38.6 percent).
Of the “Big Three” cities in the county, Marion registered the most growth with a 10.7 increase in its total population and an increase in children under 18 of 35.2 percent. Marion’s total population in 2000 was 2,110.
Hillsboro, the largest city in the county, was credited with 5.5 percent growth overall (to 2,854) and 8.4 percent growth for children under 18. Hillsboro officials have indicated they believe the city’s population was undercounted and will appeal the results.
Peabody, meanwhile, grew by 2.6 percent to 1,384 resident, but the number of children under 18 decreased by 4.4 percent.
Lost Springs suffered the biggest percentage of decline in population over 10 years, falling from 106 to 71 people, or 33 percent. Ramona and Durham were the other two communities in the county to lose population during the decade.
Across the state, 57 counties experienced a decrease in population. Most of them were rural counties and were located in northwestern and northcentral Kansas.
The biggest growth corridors were in northeast Kansas (Johnson County grew by 27 percent and neighboring Douglas County by 22 percent) and in southcentral Kansas (Butler County grew by 18 percent and neighboring Sedgwick County by 12 percent).
Overall, Kansas was credited with a population of 2,688,418, an increase of 210,844 from 10 years ago.