Valley News – Census data shows outward spread of Upper Valley population
Grantham and West Windsor, towns long considered to be on the outer shores of the upper valley, have each seen double-digit percentage increases over the past 10 years, surpassing the growth rate of large towns in the heart of the upper valley, according to new data. from the 2020 U.S. Census.
But the new census results came as little surprise to the people who live there.
“We kind of got that,” said Peter Garland, chairman of the Grantham Selectboard, when briefed on the town’s large population increase.
Grantham added 419 people, or 14%, to 3,404 in total. This follows an even faster growth rate of 37.7% between 2000 and 2010.
Garland said Grantham, which includes the planned Eastman community of 1,400 units, has become a dormitory community for people who travel to Hanover and Lebanon for work.
“Housing costs have risen so much in the Upper Valley that people working in Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College find it an attractive and more affordable place to live. I saw this even before COVID.
Although central cities like Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover have also experienced significant growth, census data reveals how residential communities in the Upper Valley are moving away from the traditional axis along the Connecticut River, as the housing prevents people from living closer to their jobs. Cities like Plainfield, Grafton and New London in New Hampshire and Barnard, Tunbridge, Sharon, Fairlee and Weathersfield in Vermont have all registered population gains.
In percentage terms, West Windsor was the fastest growing Upper Valley city, adding 245 people, or 22.3%, for a total population of 1,344, according to the US Census.
Glenn Seward, executive director of Ascutney Outdoors, credits the multi-year project to transforming the once-bankrupt Ascutney Mountain Resort into a year-round public recreation center, helping to evolve West Windsor from vacation destination to one bedroom community.
Along with a “serious enough effort” to bring high-speed internet to the city, allowing people to work remotely, Seward said, “We have seen people who had second homes go from part-time residents to residents. full-time, ”a trend he says predates the coronavirus pandemic.
A sure sign of gentrification is the Brownsville Butcher & Pantry, which has transformed a tired and failing general store into an upscale market and a cafe that serves ricotta pancakes and kale and cereal salads.
And in line with national trends, data shows the Upper Valley is blacker, more Hispanic and Latino, more Asian and less white than it was ten years ago.
At the same time, people of color, despite large double-digit percentage increases, continue to represent only a fraction of the population of the Upper Valley, reflecting a historically low presence of non-whites in the north of New England, ranked by the US Census Bureau. the background in diversity.
For example, in Sullivan County, the white population decreased by 7.1%, or 3,001 people, while the black or African American population increased by 9.7%, or 38 people. The Asian population grew by 49.4%, or 134 people, and the Hispanic or Latino population grew by 66.7%, or 329 people.
Significantly, the population gains do not include people who moved to the upper valley during the pandemic, as the census was taken before pandemic migration was largely underway, according to Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
“COVID is not (reflected) in the data because the count was completed in April 2020,” Johnson noted, well before urban and suburban families began to migrate to less populated areas of the country.
Johnson pointed out that while New Hampshire’s population grew by 61,000, or 4.6 percent, to a total of 1.38 million, immigration – people from elsewhere in the state of Granite – accounted for 86% of the population gain. In fact, Grafton County’s population growth was due solely to migration, as more people have died there than they were born in the past 10 years.
This shouldn’t be surprising, Johnson noted, given that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth College attract employees, many of whom are young and from elsewhere. But these institutions also have ripple effects beyond their workforce.
“The way things work in Dartmouth-Hitchcock is going to have a big effect on Grafton County. A large medical center and a college make it a pretty attractive place to live, ”he said.
The new census data also shows a picture of opposing demographic trends in the upper valley, with communities in education, technology and health services growing while the old mill towns in the southern part. of the valley decrease.
(The “Upper Valley”, although technically not a place name on a map, is defined by the Valley News as comprising 24 towns on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River and 20 towns and two towns on the New Hampshire side, stretching from Charlestown in the south to Haverhill in the north and New London in the east and Bridgewater, Bethel and Randolph in the western part of the valley.)
Three of the four counties making up the Upper Valley have seen their populations increase – only Sullivan County has lost residents – although all lag behind state-wide growth rates of New Hampshire and Vermont .
In Grafton County, the largest county in the Upper Valley in terms of population, the general population increased 2.4% to 91,118. Windsor County is up 1.9% to 57,753 and Orange County increased 1.2% to 29,277.
Sullivan County, which since 1950 has risen “well below” the statewide average rate, fell 1.6% to 43,063, its first decadal population reversal since at least 1970 and one of only three New Hampshire counties, 10 counties, to lose population in the 2020 census.
Claremont fell by 406 people, or 3%, to 12,949, and other Sullivan County towns such as Charlestown, Cornish, Newport, Springfield, Sunapee, and Unity all had lower populations than in 2010.
The decline of Claremont, in particular, was painful: once the largest town in the Haute Vallée and the center of retail trade, Claremont’s population peaked in 1980 at 14,577.
But, like many old towns in towns that were manufacturing economies in the 20th century, Claremont has never recovered from a wave of factory closures a generation ago.
Claremont was surpassed in the 2020 census by Lebanon, which now has 14,282 people after New Hampshire’s side of the Upper Valley’s largest 10-year percentage increase: 8.6%.
Other Granite State cities with big percentage jumps include Hanover, up 5.4% to 11,870; Croydon, up 4.8%; and Plainfield, up 4%. Sunapee, Cornish, Haverhill, Enfield and Canaan have all lost people, but the biggest drop was Orange, down 16.3%, or 54 people, from a decade ago.
In Vermont, Hartford’s population jumped 7.4%, or 734 people, to a total of 10,686, making it one of 14 cities in Vermont where the population grew by more than 500 people.
The population of Thetford increased by 7.2%, Corinth by 6.4% and Norwich by 5.8%.
Eleven towns on the Vermont side of the river lost residents, including Strafford, down 0.4%; Royalton, down 0.8%; and Woodstock, down 1.4%.
The biggest drop in Vermont was in Vershire, which fell 7.9% to 672 people.
Seward, for his part, said he knew West Windsor had turned the corner when a yellow school bus appeared.
“It has always been a second home community and we have never seen a school bus. Now we have a school bus line to pick up the children. It was a telltale characteristic that things had changed, ”he said.
Contact John Lippman at [email protected]