Five million Coloradans

Despite the recession, Colorado continues to draw newcomers — so many in fact that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state’s population topped 5 million for the first time last July. That’s more than double the 2.2 million folks who lived here in 1970, and a hefty jump from the 4.3 million people who resided in Colorado just 10 years ago.

There are native-born Coloradans, but a great many of us who live here now arrived from somewhere else over the past few decades. And, much as many of us might like to shut the door behind us and keep more immigrants from arriving, that’s not going to happen. If it did, it would be a disaster for the state. One need only look to states that people are fleeing, such as Michigan, to see the problems they are facing. In addition to serious financial problems, Michigan may lose a congressional seat after the 2010 census is complete.

But, while a modestly growing population is better than a declining one, it still presents problems. Most of Colorado’s population growth has occurred along the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Among other things, that has prompted a demand for more water, and that means Front Range types are continuing to cast their eyes toward the Western Slope for more of our water. It requires the continued vigilance of organizations like the Colorado River Water Conservation District and our state lawmakers to fend off the worst of those efforts.

The growing population has also snarled traffic in many areas. We on the Western Slope aren’t exempt from those problems, even if they are primarily on the Front Range. Ask anyone who has driven to Denver on a busy ski weekend. Taxpayers in this state will have to soon address the serious road and bridge problems, or face much more critical transportation problems.

Swelling prisons, increasing Medicaid costs, demands for new schools and additional government services, the turning of agricultural land into residential subdivisions — all are consequences of our state’s continuing growth.

So are a diversified economy, a highly educated populace that continues to attract high-tech industries and highly creative people.

The fact there are now 5 million of us is both a blessing and a curse.


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