Clark County population lowest since 1962

Local leaders say efforts to reverse trend are working but take time.

Clark County population decline since 2010

138,333 – 2010

138,760 – 2011

137,193 – 2012

136,740 – 2013

136,482 – 2014

135,959 – 2015

Source: United States Census

Clark County’s population continues to drop, but area officials say the numbers appear to be stabilizing.

New census figures released last week estimate that Clark County’s population has dropped by more than 2,300 residents since 2010, putting the area’s total at its lowest since 1962 when the population was 135,656. In 1971, the population reached 160,000.

Clark County’s population was an estimated 135,959 in 2015, according to population estimates.

The area lost 523 residents between 2014 and 2015 and has continued to lose an average of about 500 residents annually since 2010, according to census figures.

But while Clark County has consistently seen population declines in the last 20 years, Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said the numbers appear to be stabilizing.

“It’s about 500 people. That is significant, however, we recognize the change in the population trend is going to take some time. It’s not going to turn around overnight. It’s about the approach to which you take to deal with that,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said efforts by Greater Springfield Moving Forward, the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and upgrades to area parks and other facilities by National Trail Parks and Recreation District will eventually reverse the population loss.

The chamber of commerce has worked to reverse the trend, Hobbs said, by marketing the area’s location and quality of life.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the population loss is likely due to the large number of older residents who live in Springfield but move out of the area to warmer climates during winter months.

In addition, he said the area has more deaths than births, Detrick said.

He and Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes also said the loss of jobs during the economic downturn played a role in the decline.

Detrick said he plans to propose an economic incentive for new residents who buy a home in the community.

“I’m discouraged by it. It’s one of the top three things that we need to address here,” Detrick said of the population loss.

Lohnes said the majority of the county’s population loss has occurred in the city of Springfield.

He said the loss of jobs in the area in 2008, 2009 and 2010 played a role in the decline, but Lohnes recognized the decline has continued for years.

Lohnes said there are not enough new apartments and housing being built in the area.

He said an incentive for residents who buy homes here is a good idea, and he noted efforts by the chamber and other groups on strategic plans to revamp South Limestone Street and Interstate 70.

“Things are starting to turn around slowly,” Lohnes said.

Faith White, who was recently at Snyder Park in Springfield with her niece, said improvements made to the park makes the area more attractive.

White and her niece, Faith Sherlock, played on the slide and other playground equipment at the park.

“For the parks around the reservoir, put something similar to this around,” White said.

Investing in jobs and quality of life, Detrick said, will be the key to increasing the population in the future.

About the Author